I have known Pavan Malhotra personally and through his work for close to 30 years. Back then I knew him as married to Aparajita Krishna. Pavan would occasionally visit his sasural. The two separated, and he later got married to Aparna.
It is, however, his work that I am most fascinated by. Incapable of a bad performance, Pavan is a living hurting embodiment of the neglected talent that prevails in Hindi cinema where privileged children of producers and directors are given chance after chance (after chance…) to make an impression.
Pavan needs just one shot, just one frame to excel. He is the kind of actor our star-system discourages and decimates out of fear of being outshone.
Watch him in the five finest films of his career so far:
1) Salim Langde Par Mat Ro (1989): Saeed (Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai) Mirza gave Pavan his first full-fledged main lead, title role and all. Prior to this, Pavan gained home-grown popularity through the serial Nukkad, where his character Hari was a hit. Salim Langde required months of preparation — Pavan had to walk, talk and behave like a young Muslim from Dongri who reforms from ruffian to responsible, after he gets to know about the plight of Muslims during a communal riot. To add to the character’s woes, Salim also had a limp in his walk. Pavan looked every inch the Muslim boy fron Dongri. He was far more convincing than Naseeruddin Shah’s Albert Pinto in Aziz Mirza’s film on the marginalisation of minority communities.
2) Bagh Bahadur (1989): Pavan’s toughest role to date. He played a cityslicker with a normal life who heads home to his village every year to play a tiger on stage. Pavan convinced director Buddhdeb Dasgupta that only he could portray the tiger-man. After intense preparation, Buddhadeb regretfully informed Pavan that he would not be doing the role. Pavan was acutely wounded. By then, the role was his. And nobody else’s. Pavan fought tooth and nail like a tiger and got the part. It is the most animalistic portrayal I’ve seen by a human being, filled with hunger anger and regret. A masterclass.
3) Black Friday (2004): Anurag Kashyap’s desperately dark exploration of the plan to blow up Mumbai had several exceptional performances, none more so than Pavan who played Tiger Memon with a reined-in ferocity that was at once menacing and chilling. Each time this multi-actor ensemble allowed him a voice, Pavan ripped the screen apart. Wonder why Kashyap never worked with Pavan again. Not much into groups and camps, Pavan has always chosen to walk alone, like a true tiger.
4) Children Of War (2014): Set during the Bangladesh war of independence in 1971, Pavan Malhotra played his most heinous vilest role. He was brilliantly evil and slimy as the man who believes that if Pakistani soldiers rape and impregnate enough Bangladeshi women, the separatists and freedom fighters would stop dreaming of their own homeland. Malhotra was so despicable and ruthless he made Ralph Finnes in Schindler’s List seem like a saint.
5) Grahan (2021): A web series portraying the persecution of a minority company, Grahan places Pavan on the other side of Children Of War, as a victim of state-sponsored brutality. His eyes and his body language are that of a man who has seen so much pain in life, it doesn’t scare him at all. In the climactic courtroom scene, Pavan just had to stand and let his eyes do the talking. Here he becomes an embodiment of every persecuted community in the world. How do you do it, Pavan?
Image source: Instagram/pavanrajmalhotra