Posted: 04 September 2004 at 6:22am | IP Logged
Revenge of the Nerd
Courtesy: Screen India
Posted online: Friday, September03, 2004 at 0000 hours IST
Weird, goofball, nerd. These are a few adjectives Gaurav Gera has collected in the past 10 months. Fortunately they apply more to his character Nandu in the popular serial Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi than in real life. After a rather harrowing shooting schedule , Gaurav finally has a day off and settles down for a lengthy chat about his journey as an actor and more.
he first time I ever went on stage for a debate my tongue decided to freeze," reveals Gaurav Gera over a steaming cup of cappuccino and a huge grin pasted on his face. "Beyond, 'Hi a very good evening to all of you. Today we are going to discuss the topic blah blah...' I couldn't say a word," he says ruefully. For Gaurav, that was merely a not-so-okay beginning, not the end to his spot under the limelight. He comes from a family that has nothing to do with the film and TV world (Anil Kapoor is a relative too far removed to be claimed), yet Gaurav knew this is where he wanted to be.
He pursued a course in fashion and worked for a while without any real interest in the business of clothes. "It all began when I came to Bombay for a holiday once," says Gaurav. "I fell in love with the place immediately. But he knew that making Mumbai his base at that point was not an option and returned to Delhi where he joined a theatre group. "My dad really didn't take me seriously when I told him that I wanted to take up acting as a career and I felt bad. I actually stopped meeting people because all they had to ask me was what I was doing with my life and career."
By hobnobbing with the typical Mandi house 'arty' crowd by the day and rehearsing for English plays in the evening, Gaurav took himself very seriously as a performer. He plunged full-fledged into many musicals that were produced in Delhi including a version of Westside Story. But then he tore a ligament in the leg and had to take a break. It was at this time that he also dabbled in radio also playing a character called Dr. Dega. "This phase was interesting because I was doing a lot of crazy things," he recall with a grin. One of the strangest things that he did was to get hired at a big shot's party as a prankster. His job was to stand behind people and imitate their actions so that the onlooker could not but help laughing. "I also had to stand there with this very questionable piece of clothing hanging out of my pocket and whenever anyone would point it out to me I would put it back into my pocket with a very straight face," he chuckles. "It was some guy's idea of a joke and I enjoyed cracking it for him".
Eventually, Gaurav landed in Mumbai and continued dancing for musicals like The Man of La Mancha and many of Suneeta Rao's live shows. He gradually got offers for commercials and became a known face in ads like Nestle Munch, Fair & Lovely among many others. That was when sitcom Life Nahi Hain Laddoo came his way where he played a character who looks uncannily like Nandu (his character in Jassi...). "Well I think that the similarity begins and ends with the fact that both have extra large spectacles and that's it," he states.
Gaurav recalls that he wasn't too pleased with the character sketch given to him. "I thought Tony and Deeya were making fun of me because the character sounded too stupid. But I decided to take it up anyway. It was only when I landed up on the sets did I realize that I was playing the lead role," he remarks.
Life Nahi Hain... was followed by another comedy, Love Mein Kabhi Kabhi...which was pulled off air in about five episodes. Similar thing happened with Sanskruti which was terminated abruptly. "I took a beating when that happened. I felt nothing was going my way."
Then destiny struck in the form of Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi where he plays the plain Jane protagonist's geeky friend Nandu. "To tell you the truth," he says sheepishly," when Tony and Deeya narrated the idea to me I genuinely thought that the show was called Jassi And Nandu or something like that. You know, two misfits who are trying to struggle through his wicked world. Eventually the truth dawned on me," he grins. But playing Nandu has been the best thing to happen to Gaurav so far. The serial is immensely popular, with all the characters becoming household names. While Jassi's get-up is exaggerated with huge glasses and dowdy clothes, Nandu too is not left far behind with baggy trousers, oil-slicked hair and a trademark sling bag around his shoulders. "If you look carefully you will see that Nandu is a male version of Jassi," laughs Gaurav. "A funnier, weirder, sillier version that's all."
Taking a huge gulp from his second cup of cappuccino, Gaurav explains that though he doesn't necessarily identify with the character he enjoys playing it nevertheless. "I draw inspiration from real life. Some of Nandu's gestures are very similar to those of a close friend," Gaurav reveals. Although he did watch the original Columbian production, he decided not to go with the original character's body language. "He seemed more convulsing and jerky and it looked a little unnatural."
The best thing about Nandu, according to Gaurav is his child-like cuteness. "This comes in very handy for me," he quips mischievously. "Even if I fumble in the dialogue it can be passed off as a normal Nandu stutter. I don't even have to speak very pronounced shudh Hindi because that is the way Nandu speaks." In the serial, Jassi's dad Billoo, played by Virendra Saxena is fiercely protective about his daughter when it comes to men excepting Nandu. It is almost as though the family doesn't regard him as a male but merely as Jassi's childhood companion and confidante. This kind of uncomplicated and platonic relationship is rare to come by not only in television but also in real life. With a brow wrinkled in thought Gaurav muses. "I don't really have such a close female friend in real life so I don't know what it means to be so close. But Nandu and Jassi are best friends and it is interesting that Nandu hates the advent of new men in her life like Armaan or Purab."
One is curious to know what kind of relationship Mona Singh(Jassi) and Gaurav share off-screen and Gaurav reveals. "She is great fun to work with. Initially it took a bit of warming up, but owing to the fact that she is 'Jassi' she grew into the character very fast. The character spill-over happens off-screen also and we now share a very warm equation." Commenting on Virendra Saxena whom Gaurav looks up to, "Billoo may not respect Nandu but I get the feeling that Virendra Saxena definitely respects Gaurav Gera as an actor." Gaurav also has only good things to say about his other co-stars like Apurva Agnihotri, Rakshanda Khan, Parmeet Sethi and Manini Dey. "I can't be on back-slapping terms with them because they are all senior to me in terms of experience. But we have all become very good friends." He continues after a small pause. "For instance when you meet Rakshanda for the first time she may come across as a little aloof. But believe me that is only a front she puts up. In reality she is very cool."
Jassi/Mona Singh is required to be in her on-screen costume for all her public appearances, be it a beauty pageant or an awards ceremony. On couple of such functions one could spot Gaurav accompanying Mona in his Nandu get-up. Did he feel strange doing so? "Well, it felt quite strange to be going out in my Nandu costume. But the interesting point is that after a while I forgot to be myself and turned into Nandu. It is difficult not to. There was a party after the function and I had a blast. Trust me, as Nandu I can get away with anything." he says cheekily. Point noted!
The recent Vivek Oberoi-Aishwarya Rai romantic comedy Kyun Ho Gaya Na marked Gaurav's debut in Bollywood. He plays Vivek's friend in the film and has a small but significant part to play. Says Gaurav, "As always I landed this role too, purely by audition." On being asked about his experiences working with stars like Rai and Oberoi, he has a few things to say. "Vivek was very helpful. Aishwarya is a very sweet person, not over-friendly but she goes out of her way to make you comortable. For example she would come on the sets and make it a point to say 'Hi, How are you ' and things like that." Remarking that the director Samir Karnik was fun to work with, Gaurav goes on to mention how awed he was of Om Puri with whom he shared a frame or two. Unlike every Tom Dick and Harry who believes he is going to become the next superstar, Gaurav is very matter-of-fact about his Bollywood aspirations. "I know I am not a 'dude' or a dashingly handsome guy. But give me a good character role and I know I can make a mark." Gaurav theorises that it is very difficult for a TV actor to adjust to a film set-up. "In TV you pack in as many scenes as possible in one day and in films it is just the opposite. One can spend up to three days shooting for one single scene," he reveals. "It is easy to get listless and frustrated sitting around and waiting for your shot to happen. But since I have some experience with ads shoots which function very much like a film shoot I could manage."
Right now, the story in Jassi... is moving forward quickly and Gaurav suddenly finds that he is very busy shooting day and night. Offers are pouring in from many quarters but he prefers to be choosy. "I have realized one thing. It is better to do a character role in a hit serial than play the lead in an unknown one," he remarks. "Similarly I think it is easier on oneself if you are playing a character role in a daily rather than the main parts. The kind of hours the lead actors have to put in is crazy." "I can't work like a maniac," quips Gaurav. "When I am not working I am hanging out with friends at barista, cook, chill...basically live", he says with a relaxed smile.
Gaurav has picked up one interesting project which he is very excited about. To be produced for the new soon-to-be launched STAR channel, the show is on the lines of Saturday Night Live, which was immensely popular in America. The show has regulars like Mike Myers and Rob Schneider doing their bits everyday and is hosted by a different celebrity every time. "The same concept is applied here with people like Cyrus Broacha, Cyrus Sahukar, Kunal Vijaykar, Darshan Jariwala, Delnaz Paul, Manini Dey and ofcourse yours truly. It will be a different kind of television experience and I can't wait," he gushes.
The talk veers around to the much awaited transformation of Jassi. Refusing to comment Gaurav says evasively, "It's bound to happen sooner or later." Then he brightens up and shoots this query as the last word in the interview," Hey, everyone is interested only in Jassi's transformation. Doesn't anyone want to know if Nandu will get a makeover?"
Edited by MysticaMagic - 04 September 2004 at 6:23am