#16 Jaideep Ahlawat - Light Through The Prism

Jaideep Ahlawat has been in the film industry for over 10 years but only got the well-deserved spotlight with the series - Paatal Lok which released on Amazon Prime. He talks to us about his unfulfilled dreams of becoming an Indian Army Officer, his first day on the sets of his first signed film and how he got Paatal Lok, a series that changed his life.

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Transcript

I always wanted to be an Indian army officer. That's the first thing first. So till my graduation, that was the plan. But that didn't work out somehow. Adamant on becoming an Indian army officer. Too much. Too much adamant about that. Too much adamant about that. Think that was the reason. When it did not happen, I went into irritation and anger towards yourself. 

 

That was Jaideep Ahlawat. He's been in the film industry for over ten years now and has acted in films like Rockstar and Gangs of Asipur with more prominent roles in Aliyabad Starar Razi and Sharukhanz Rais. He talks to us about his dreams of becoming an Indian army officer, his rise to fame in the industry and how he got the prominent role in the very famous series Patal. This is his story.

 

Hey guys. I'm Aamer Khan and this is the Zed Medium Podcast. A podcast that talks to people and about them too. We take out the most significant experiences of an individual and package it in the form of a story, sharing those with you. 

 

We narrate people's journeys in the simplest way we can. There's a new person every episode. So do check out the previous ones. I'm sure you'll find someone to relate to. Let's start with this one, shall we? 

 

Jaideep was born in a village near Haryana, which is very far from where he currently stays, Mumbai. His early childhood was spent there before he moved to the city where he completed his high school in model school before doing his bachelor's and Master's in literature. 

 

His parents were teachers, his father taught English and so literature was a big part of his life growing up. But more on that later. 

 

Okay, so Jaideep did not have acting on his mind for a very long time. His initial plans were to become an Indian Army officer but called Fate or something else. He ended up getting rejected not once, not twice, but thrice and finally gave up on his lifelong dream. 

 

It was heartbreaking. Especially when you believe you're different and you're meant for something. But that's something after a point seems very far out of your reach. Ten years. So this was right out of college that you pursued acting or from your childhood. So if I had to ask you whether in your childhood this is what you imagined yourself to become or was it something completely different? 

 

Jaideep: I always wanted to be an Indian Army officer. That's the first thing first. So till my graduation that was the plan. But that didn't work out somehow you were adamant on becoming an Indian army office to much too much adamant about that. Too much adamant about that. I think that was the reason. When it did not happen, I went into irritation and anger towards yourself because you believe so much in you that you could crack this and that did not happen. It doesn't go with your maybe ego. If you say very light. 

 

No, you put yourself in, you feel worthless at that point of time. I think that was the trigger to start theater, because theater gave me the medium to let go of those destroying nature towards yourself. It suits you down, it calms you down, taking all those emotions out of your body, maybe for some other character. And people are loving it. 

 

Did you get rejected, like, from attending? Three times? Almost. So you applied not only once? No, three times. Wow. And there are people there I've known my friends and seniors or maybe juniors who have done that in maybe fifth or 6th attempt. Right. 

 

Aamer: So at what point did you say this is not happening. This is a moment in my life where I don't know if I'm going to get it or not. I should probably move to looking towards something else. 

 

Jaideep: See, there was only one chance left because of the age. So I knew there was only one chance. And I think I was not maybe not ready to accept that I did not apply for it. It's gone in vain. I don't know, I just dropped out, never took an admission for any other further studies or something. And I was in a very I was not into people or nobody, just in talking to people, locking himself up at the time and not wanting to meet others. 

 

Aamer: It's a situation that has happened to many of us when things haven't gone our way. And as much as people say otherwise, it is okay. It is okay to be upset, to have early failures in life. Failures are only a part of the journey. They're not the end. We have that instance of his life to thank for what was to come for him at a later stage in his life.

 

Aamer: In fact, the angst, the irritation, the selfdoubt was expressed in another way, and that way was choosing theater at the time to divert his mind and to express himself in a way that freed him from what he was feeling after being rejected. That is where he discovered his love for storytelling. Discovered because he had been learning about literature for a very long time now. Yes, because of his father, he was introduced to a number of books that helped guide his acting. 

 

But the most beautiful part of what he says next is not only about acting, it's about what goes behind, conveying that particular story that's only on paper to the actual screen that we watch it on. From a very young age, you've been around people who have done literature. Your mom, your dad, for example, have always pushed you towards literature, or this was your own choice, that you wanted to do literature. 

 

Jaideep: My mom and dad both are teachers now retired. Dad was an English teacher subject as a subject. So definitely his orientation towards literature was much better than mom as a student earlier, until my 10th class, the books which were available. That was most of the kind. After that, I think it became my habit as a student or a person to incline towards literature. Right. 

 

Aamer: So you've been, from a very young age reading a lot beat Hindi literature or English literature. You were always there learning about other people, about their work. And that formed a big part of your life. 

 

Jaideep: If I can say that, yes. Unconsciously, definitely, because I was not reading them to be an actor. But I love the storytelling. Short stories or plays. Most of them work in the but then during graduation or after graduation western literature or English literature. 

 

And for sure, because of that, it really helped you or me as an actor because now you have stories in your reference to compare. I can take this from this person. Exactly. Perfect. That works. That actually makes sense. So if I had to ask you what is the one thing you love about what you're doing at the moment? What would that be? 

 

Jaideep: I think the idea of storytelling it's not just acting. I think the entire collaboration of people to tell you a story in their own way that freedom is first of all, that freedom to say stories, according to you, is mesmerizing. And then you become a part of it is another interesting aspect of it that it's going through you, your face, your body. So you become like a prism. 

 

The light goes through you. The light has all the colors, but you can't see until unless you take it through the prism. That feeling is very much but we know that life is so important, they just don't see it. We see as a story and through us, as an actor, as a medium, they go through us. And that gives me immense pleasure to be a part of that story. You brought up a very interesting point here that says that the light which you only see that is the people working on the film. 

 

That is a script writer, the director. Exactly. The person involved in making a film is as important as the person who is portraying that character. Exactly. We are the last tools. Almost the last tools. Right. They have worked on it. They have worked on the story. They have worked on the screenplay. They have worked on the dialogue. They have worked on the costumes. They have worked on the sound design, music, songs, everything, they have worked on. Now they just want a medium. 

 

Aamer: Jerry was inspired to go for theater primarily because he happened to go and watch a play called Edibus whose director later became his guru. That's where the fire to act in place was ignited and he soon became a part of a local play called Poster. It was his first experience of what it looked like to be on set. And he loved the feeling of being able to tell a story. 

 

And this was nothing big compared to what he's currently doing. These were university competitions. It was a way for Jaideep to let go. That's it. His dream of becoming an actor actually started with a push from his guru. But he was an untrained actor, and he made sure he got some kind of training before even getting into the film industry. That's when he applied for film and Television institute of India in Pune. Yeah, so I thought of joining, and then somebody 

 

Jaideep: My guru also said and then I said, I still remember that I need training for that. And then he said that there's an issue called FDII. And then I read about it on the Internet and everything, and then I applied for it. How is that time in the institute like what? I think that was the best time, because when you reach there, you are one good student actor in your zone, where you were born or where you work, and you feel yourself very good in it. But when you reach there, there are 19 more people in your badge who are as good as you or maybe better than you from different places of this country.

 

 And suddenly you realize, oh, I don't know shit. I am just an actor who knows something about it. And that's the journey started from it's not just an actor as a film student, because first six months were only about how the films were made. I didn't sound direction post production, or maybe art direction production designing. So acting started after six months. 

 

The first six months for everyone is a collective schedule. The first thing that comes to mind after you've graduated from the institute and they've given you a certificate, what should I do next? How did you cross that? Were you out of a job for a certain amount of time? It was the exact same feeling as you said now. 

 

Because when you reach, when nobody cares about you, whose ever you are, it started from the very basic thing, where to live, the clothes, the auditions, every basic thing. I think the best thing happened to me because you are part of the institute. You've been together for more than two years in the same process. I think that helps you a lot. 

 

That helps you to sail through that zone of not knowing to do what to do or where to go or who to be. The uncertainty in the film industry is known to everyone. At any point in time, 98% of actors are out of jobs, which means that they don't have roles in films. 

 

Only about 2% of actors are what make up for what we constantly see on the screen and on social media. 

 

Aamer: The way Jaideep started, however, is how most self made actors start, with an uncertainty of what's going to happen tomorrow. As much as you think you know the industry, there is never a guarantee of it giving you a return of your investment. And the biggest investment is actually your time and your ability to handle rejections, humiliations and struggle every single day of your life. 

 

And so what you have to do is constantly meet new people and put yourself out there. And that's where Jaideep’s batchmates helped a lot. They had formed a group on WhatsApp that guided each and every one, where the auditions were taking place in the city and who would be the best fit for the role. Some of the batch mates that were on the group were Vijay Varma and Sunny Hinduja. 

 

As a matter of fact, they're still in touch today. And along with auditions, they sometimes help each other prepare for roles. That's what friendships in the film industry does. They are a tightly knit group who are always looking out for each other. However, there's very little that even a close friends group can do to secure a role in a film. Rejections were and still are plenty. 

 

And while Jaideep lost count after a point, the only thing that separates someone who makes it in the industry as opposed to someone who doesn't, is the determination to continue trying. And once you've cracked it, doing it the second time becomes much easier. Right. So what was your first break in the industry as the smallest role that you could have possibly gotten, but he still managed to get it. What was that approach? 

 

Jaideep: Signed film. Very small room, big stars in that. That was my first sign film. And then we were shooting that film and presentation. She just gave me another film called Katharinaa on the sets of Agosh, which started after Agosh and came earlier than a Gusha, became my first release. Right. How is the feeling on the set with such big personalities around you as the first time? 

 

Aamer: Now you're in the industry for about ten years, definitely. But the first time, do you remember that first feeling where you're seeing these big personalities in front of work so hard? 

 

Jaideep: I think there were so many mixed emotions that time. You feel happy about it, you feel very content about it. Then you try to control yourself, then it's going out of control. Then you are a little scared. Also how you want to do your job. So many mixed thing. But I think that helps you as an actor, as a trained actor, because you go back to your training. 

 

It's okay, you're done. I will take it as a class thing, as if I'm doing something in class or rehearsing something, and that's how it is. And if you have a good director, you sell through, that's not a problem. But when you start this, of course the field comes now it started, and it started pretty well. 

 

Aamer: Jaideep went on to have roles in many films over his ten year career span. But the past two years have been very significant in his life. The hard work put in all those years finally paid off when he starred in the series Pattaloke. What we can say was his first claim to fame, for which he even won a film Fair OGT Award for Best Actor. Patal Lok was a series where everything changed for you. I'm asking now because I really don't know. 

 

Jaideep: Yes, definitely. Before that, of course, I have worked with amazing directors and some good films. Starting from Dan so Basic from by Rakhasha. And then I did commander. Then I did a film with Vishuru from sir. Then a big film came rising. So Patalok is one project which changed everything. When you bought Patal Lok and they told you you're going to be the main lead of The Police Officer in that, that must have been a very different feeling, right? Because when I read that, I completed it and within 30 seconds I had two thoughts. One, it's going to take another four or five years or maybe for someone to show faith in you. 

 

So it happened within like 30, 40 seconds. And then I realized, yeah, it's going to be a good journey. Let's start. When you went to audition for it, did you ever have I am one of the luckiest actors in this industry that I never auditioned for Patal lok. It just came to me. It could have gone to anybody in this industry, but it came to me. 

 

So this and the team. So this is the creator of the show. His first choice was always for that. Of course, Amazon or other people were kind of looking for options also as an opening date. But I think the creators first was always me. Because maybe he has seen something in me from Gangsubasi, Pure Razi, any other work he has seen. 

 

And because the area is Delhi, which has so many people, the story belong to a place where I'm from. So that also helped me a lot to get that part. 

 

Aamer: That's a case of hard work. Meeting opportunity, meeting preparation. Of course, Jaideep had put in the effort. He was ready for what was to come in a series like Patal lok, and he was offered the opportunity. He didn't even audition for it. What he considers luck was actually an opportunity that was in the making for a very long time. 

 

And he delivered amazingly in the series. One thing that came with success of the series was fame. People started getting to know who he was. They started wanting to see him on screen. They wanted to know who he was as a person. His followers on different social media platforms grew and there was something that people liked about him. 

 

But with fame, it is very easy to lose sight of what actually matters, and that is the love for the profession, for acting, for storytelling. And Jaideep has a kind of a sense of how to handle it and why. There have been only a few names that have been able to remain in the industry after so long. This is his take on it. 

 

Jaideep: I think what traps people is the same. Once you start living a certain lifestyle, it's very hard to leave that, because that's a very comfortable so you can't imagine yourself out of that. That's a one big trap. It can happen to anyone, including me. I'm not saying that I'm out of that track because being a famous face and people know you, people love you and they want to see you, and suddenly, if you're not having all of them, it can do disasters to you. 

 

It might do disasters, but it helps you in a way if you don't think it like that, if you don't consider that fail forever, you believe that it's not going to stay forever, right? What's going to stay forever is my thing towards this profession, at times came out. 

 

Even if you are very successful, even if you are very economically, you're amazing, but people will stop watching you on screen. Why? There are very few actors who you can watch and you are watching for them, like for 20 years, 25, maybe 30 years or 40 years, because they are still in love with the craft. And that love for their craft comes to us and we love them. 

 

You know that this is going to happen. This has happened to some people that they fell out of love with the craft, but they fell in love with the fame aspect of it. How do you make sure that you're not distracted by confusing people loving you for your fame rather than people loving you for your acting? Like how you think about life, how you think about acting. You don't need to remark a line about it. 

 

See, there are two things. One is your personal life, where everybody's your life friend or whatever, your family friend, whatever, and then there is a screen. So you do that as your thing, but you live life also. It's not I cannot go around all the time gel hair and everything. I cannot do that. I just cannot do that. He's managed to keep his personal life separate from his professional one. 

 

Aamer: And sometimes what can be seen on the outside isn't necessarily how a person is 24/7 Jaideep, apart from the life of Bling, photographs and media presence, is actually a person who loves to lie down once in a while and binge watch movies and TV series to enjoy from them and to learn from them. COVID was the only time, I think, when he got the chance to go over as many movies as he possibly could. But even covid took a heavy toll on everyone that wanted to go out and work. After all, how many movies can one watch without eventually getting bored? 

 

He learned from certain stories and characters in movies or TV series, as he learned from literature when he was younger. And when films or series came his way, he used a certain basic process to get into that character. But Lockdown definitely was a time, and still is a time that no one wants back in their lives. How is everybody managing and coping during the times after copied, when everything opened up and you're allowed to work? I think everybody was waiting for that. 

 

Jaideep: It was too many days to sit at home. Everybody was waiting to work because it's frustrating to be at home for so long and not willingly. Willingly staying at home is a very different thing. But under the pressure, staying at home, it's not about industry. I think everybody was waiting to go out and just be around people and feel social about life. Yeah, it's always great to meet people. As for us, that's the thing. As an actor, that's the thing. You need to meet people. You need to see them maybe not talking to them, but you want to see them walking around in life. 

 

That's your food. Yeah. So how has your schedule been impacted because of this? I think you've been supremely busy now. It's been because everybody was waiting for just to open up and start working. After Pathalok, this was a time when people started working and then there was scripts only you can't take them. It's too difficult to read them all. When I started working, it's been a year now from last January. 

 

I started first after the lockdown, and in a year I have completed five projects, including two web series. Do you have a different process of getting into character whenever you're playing a character? That depends on the screen. The script also on the script definitely depends on the script. But I don't think I have a different process to do that. 

 

The basic process is almost the same because you need to understand the store, you need to understand the screenplay, you need to understand the entire flow of this. But the basic process is to understand what script, what storyline is, what mental status of the character is, and their graph, their understanding towards life. 

 

I think that's very basic from a person who is struggling for so long and who will readily accept any script that comes his way just for film. You went from that to a person who now has to say no to certain people that you would love to work with, but you don't have, unfortunately, the time to do that. I have to say so many people say no to so many people, not certain people. I feel bad that I have to say no to some script which I loved it, but I cannot do because I have committed my time to something else, right? Otherwise, I say no to every single day. 

 

Every single day I say no. And that feels bad also. But I cannot help it. I just cannot help now, these days, if somebody says, there's a script we are shooting this year, I just asked, when are you planning to shoot that and that's how it is, but it feels bad, but you have to say it, otherwise you can't keep people hanging in hopes. 

 

Yeah, life in this industry really completes full circle. One day people are saying no to you, and the other day you're saying no to them. It's ruthless, but anyone who loves it for the craft of acting or storytelling has gone on to do well in it. 

 

Aamer: If there's one thing to take away from Jaideep's journey, it is his determination to always be on the hunt for the next opportunity. There's a lot left for him to do in this industry and on this journey of his and it's pretty interesting to listen to what's next for him. So, in this journey of yours, what's next? What are some of the things that people should expect seeing you in some of the projects, if you can discuss those? 

 

Jaideep: Well, I have finished a film called Maharaj. That is possible. That's going to be releasing very soon. There's a web series with BBC which is coming very soon. Then just finished the film with an action hero. That's not come shooting 

attachment. And then we're going to start season two schedule to release it next year because we are going to start to shoot this too. Yes, season two. We're going to shoot maybe the entire next year. 

 

Aamer: Hey, if you like that episode, share it with others. You never know how you sharing it could impact someone in the most difficult of times. You never know, you might just share something life changing for someone else. And yes, the common drill. Follow us for the latest updates on LinkedIn and Instagram. We're here to stay, we promise, and we're bringing a whole lot more for you. See you in the next one. Stay tuned and goodbye for now.