He stole hearts in Kutumb despite his cheeky portrayal as Pratham, and is once again wreaking havoc among female hearts as the oft-wronged Karan in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Neither role cast him as an archetypal chocolate hero, but the mild mannered Hiten Tejwani is today one of the most popular stars on TV.
He may not qualify for the title of a hunk; but he's a guy you' d like to take home to meet your mom. He gives the impression of that cute boy next-door, always ready to help you when you're down and out. Dressed casually, Hiten looks plain and down-to-earth, a no -frills guy. Marriage to co-star Gauri Pradhan has not dampened 30 year old Hiten's popularity but is soaring in tandem with the lady's own fan following. As he settles down for an interview with Seema Pherwani on the Kyunki… sets, his phone rings incessantly, a barometer of his mounting celeb status.
You have been introduced as Pratham in Kahiin To Hoga. Looks like you're still trapped in the same image?
I actually didn't like the idea of being introduced as Pratham. After all, how could a Christian character be called Pratham? And they just changed his name to Pratham John Baretto! Initially, they wanted to experiment with my entry in the serial, as it was showing signs of stagnation. There was no other track except Sujal, Kashish and Piyush and people don't enjoy seeing the same thing over and over. Pratham's role got a good response and it was decided to bring him back again. So, now Pratham has come in and he will try and get Sujal and Kashish married.
After having played the lead in Kutumb, why did you want to play a character like this? Aren't you scared of being overshadowed by Sujal?
Not at all, there's nothing like overshadowing. As an actor, I am clear that one has to do one's job. Whatever character you play, it's the audience who's the real judge. So, if you've to just walk on-screen in a shot, people can judge that kuch to hai. Also, as an actor I feel I need to do different kind of roles.
Kutumb was your real big break….
Ya, Kutumb was my real big break. Thanks to Ekta. She called me one day and told me that she was wasting me in Kahiin Kissi Roz. There were many who felt that I would not be able to carry off the role, but she had faith in me. Pratham was a negative and very egoistic character which was loved by everybody.
More than negative, I'd call it a rather cheeky character.
Ya. I would trouble Gauri, then she would get back and the tug-of-war continued. When the serial was on air we had young couples calling us up and saying that they do behave like this in the initial years of marriage. So, somewhere the serial struck a chord with the audiences.
But people didn't quite like the second part, where the love story was given a different treatment?
Ya, the second part didn't work. First and foremost, I believe that there is a minimal chance of people liking a love story. It has to be treated very well. Also, in the first part people loved the family and in the second part the family was changed.
Now Karan in Kyunki… has grown to be bigger than Pratham? How did that happen?
When Ekta told me about the character, she said Karan would be bigger than Pratham. I just looked at her and she said, 'Don't worry, I know you've done Pratham and I won't give you anything lesser. Initially, many felt Karan is a very negative character; same as Pratham. But Karan is negative for different reasons. And he has turned positive after a few incidents in his life, and somewhere along the way he has turned out to be Tulsi's son rather than Mandira's son.
With Gauri coming in as Nandini, now people are more clued in. Initially, people were very sure that they both will get married and then when that didn't happen, audiences are now more curious as to what will happen
So, which is a bigger character - Pratham or Karan?
Pratham was one of the biggest on Sony . Karan is bigger in the sense that it is now on a better channel .
Ya, better in the quality sense. I am not sure about how it's done at the telecast level or whatever; but when I watched Kutumb and now when I watch Kyunki…, it's different. The production house is the same, so definitely Karan is in a bigger and better platform.
So, what happens finally in Kyunki…, does Karan get married to Nandini?
Ya, Karan will get married to Nandini at a later stage. Bt Ansh will not give up so easily. He tells Nandini he will sign the divorce papers only if she gives him a chance to prove his love.
So, how long does the saga goes on?
Well, after a few months the show is all set to take a 15 year leap. So, the characters will still grow and I see the story going on for another three to four years.
Your other serial Kkoi Dil Mein Hai on Sony hasn't picked up so well?
Ya, that show somehow hasn't picked up so well. But the way I look at it, I have a few scenes in the serial and I put in my best. I am doing my job at the end of the day.
Aren't you looking at scripts from other production houses? Or do you have an exclusive contract with Balaji?
No, nothing of that sort. I was supposed to do Naam Gum Jaayega with Gauri, but that went off air. Then I did Miit directed by Anurag Basu on Zee, replacing Vikas Bhalla. But as of now nothing else.
Tell us something about your romance with Gauri?
Oh, we started seeing each other on the sets of Kutumb, one thing led to another and we landed up getting married.
Aren't you scared of losing out on your female fan following?
No, in fact our fans used to call us up and say that we make a very cute couple and life is so fast here that age does catch up, while rushing from one studio to another. Since, I have to get married someday, then why not now.
I am also in the process of considering film offers, so if it was not now then it would be four years down the line. I can't tell a producer, 'sorry, I can't sign a film because I am getting married'!
So, how's life after marriage?
Ya, it's nice. We are currently house hunting. We don't do much over the weekends except the normal eating out bit. Both of us love fish, so whenever Gauri has time she makes fish.
Do you have the normal Pratham-Gauri scenes as in Kutumb?
Oh no, You can say I am more like Karan. Very sensitive and caring. And I can get along with anyone.
What film offers do you have up your sleeves?
I have some lead offers and some good character roles. But I haven't signed any films yet.
So, will you give up television for films?
No, television has given me so much. Whatever I am today is because of TV. If things go well in the film world, and time doesn't permit then I will slowly and gracefully come out of TV.