A tall, brawny guy playing a cute and innocent dimwit – quite an uncanny casting, must say! Well, I am talking about Punit Talreja playing Hemant Ghotala in India’s first comedy show based on aliens – ‘Badi Door Se Aaye Hain’ (BDSAH) that airs on SAB TV.
This is his first show as a part of the lead cast; which means no viewer has ever seen Punit in his original avatar… I mean, how he speaks and behaves when he is not playing the goofy Hemant. And this is what creates an enigma about him! The conviction with which he plays his character on screen will never let you imagine the kind of person he is in real life. Is he sweet and innocent like his onscreen character, or is he flirtatious? Is he intense, or is he crazy? This is something that even I used to wonder! Then, one fine day, I saw him shoot. I saw the transition from Punit to Hemant to Punit. It was surreal! Extremely contrasting! They are as different as chalk and cheese.
Punit is very shy and reserved, and believes in keeping limited but true friends. In fact, when he decided to become an actor, he wanted to play intense or negative characters since he felt that his physique and introvert nature would complement those characters. He, at that time, never imagined that his first ever role would be that of a funny guy, which would make him really popular!
Anyway, here are excerpts from this popular newbie’s interview.
You were studying to become a Chartered Accountant. How good a student were you?
Till the age of 24, I was quite a disciplined student, and totally focused on my studies. I used to be an above average to good student.
Then what happened?
I was always interested in acting, but was in two minds about it. Coming from a middle class family, my parents wanted me to complete my CA course first so that it serves as a backup in case acting doesn’t work out for me. But I had a different take on it. I didn’t want a cushion to fall back on, so that the pressure keeps me motivated to work harder towards achieving my dream of becoming an actor. My family was quite supportive of my dreams. My dad told me that he’ll support me financially for a year; in the interim, if I do become an actor, great; else, I’ll have to take a decision on how I want to shape my future. But never did my family discourage me! I finally took a call, and here I am!
How were your auditions and initial tryst with the camera like?
I used to travel from Ambarnath to Mumbai suburbs for the auditions (almost three hours one way). Because of my unusual looks – innocent face coupled with a very tall, brawny physique – I wouldn’t be selected most of the times. But whatever I was selected for, I would go for it! I haven’t refused to play a body double or take up even one-day roles! So, this is how I started. In fact, I didn’t know the concept of shooting one particular scene multiple times. I gradually learnt everything from the auditions and these small assignments that I used to do.
How did you bag a role in ‘Badi Door Se Aaye Hain’?
When I went for the audition of ‘BDSAH’, the casting director gave me the script and told me that this (Hemant) is the character I need to audition for. I was surprised that he wants me to audition for a child-like character. I always wanted to essay intense or negative characters, and this was totally different. So I took this audition quite casually, and nonchalantly auditioned for Hemant’s character. Within two days, I got a call that I’ve been selected for the role. But they wanted me to audition again just to ensure that I can really act and it wasn’t just by fluke that I got through. This time they told me to enact Sharad’s character. The next day, I got a call that I’ve been selected. After I started shooting, I came to know that some other actor was almost finalised for Hemant’s character earlier. But since the producers weren’t really convinced about him, they decided to conduct one last round of auditions. That is when I landed up there! The producers liked me instantly. They sent my audition tapes to the channel, and eventually I bagged the role.
What was your family’s reaction?
They were the happiest people! Leaving a lucrative career option of becoming a CA was a huge risk I’d taken, especially considering my modest family background. A career in acting is quite unpredictable – if it clicks, it clicks; else, you keep on struggling. I am thankful to my family that they supported my dreams and had faith in me.
Among your co-stars, who are you closest to?
We all are friends. Many of us belong to the same age group. So we are always having a blast together. But I guess I’m closest to my ‘makeup roomie’ Vinay (who plays Sharad Ghotala), since not only are we both Sindhis, but also because our mindset matches. We both share a brotherly rapport with each other. Shruti (who plays Bhairavi in ‘BDSAH’) is not only my onscreen rakhi sister, but even in real life she is like a sister to me. We both hang out together whenever possible… movies, dinner, bike ride, et al.
What do you have to say about your show’s producers, Aatish Kapadia and JD Majethia?
Aatish sir is a mentor from whom I learn a lot. The character of Hemant is very close to his heart, and that’s what makes it even more special. Aatish sir gives the best narration in the world, I feel! He’s a genius of a person, and very supportive. JD sir is disciplined and a thorough professional. At the same time, he’s a very nice individual. I really like the way he carries off his hat… very stylish! Besides that, I respect him for taking care of us like a family. Bas mujhe paise thode kamm dete hain (winks and laughs)!
When you wanted to become an actor, you were keen on doing intense characters. What about now?
Undoubtedly, I’m enjoying playing Hemant, and I’m really happy that ‘BDSAH’ is being loved by everyone. Presently, I’m totally into this character and show. But I hope that someday I get to play a serious or negative character, like Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan or Naseeruddin Shah sir.
Any plans of getting into Bollywood?
Yes, definitely. Sabka wohi hota hai. But, right now, it’s nothing but ‘Badi Door Se Aaye Hain’.
We hope ‘Badi Door Se Aaye Hain’ badi doooooor tak jaaye, and Punit’s popularity as the endearing Hemant keeps on growing with each passing day. Before I end, here’s a confession – despite the fact that I interacted with him in person for almost an hour, I still can’t believe Punit is the same person who becomes Hemant on “Action”, and back to Punit on “Cut”!
To know some interesting trivia about Punit, click here: Everything You Wanted To Know About Punit Talreja AKA Hemant Ghotala