Hemant Choudhary is elated as his two latest releases – OMG 2 and Taali – have both fared well critically, as well as with the audience. However, things were not always as rosy. In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Hemant talks about the scenes being edited out of films on the pretext of “best interests of cinema”. He also talked about his experience of working with actors such as Pankaj Tripathi and Sushmita Sen. (Also read: Krutika Deo recalls getting ₹10 in alms during Taali shoot)
Parts edited out of films
Asked about his scenes being cut from films at the editing table, Hemant said, “I had a cop’s role in Emraan Hashmi-Akshay Kumar’s Selfiee. I had three scenes and eventually, they were all cut. It feels bad, it hurts. (Asked if he was informed about the cuts) No information. But, you understand when you are not asked to come for the dubbing. Their favourite line is ‘it is for the best interest of the film’.”
Hemant, however, confirmed that payment was not an issue during Selfiee and he got his payments within a week of the shoot. “But the important part was the scene was not there, and it matters a lot for actors like me (who are yet to make a big name). I was disturbed for a week. Even Ronit talked about it, many scenes are cut in films for whatever reasons…what can we do?”
Hemant’s recent theatrical release (OMG 2) was at the centre of controversies ahead of the release. The Akshay Kumar-Pankaj Tripahti-starrer film had to undergo several cuts and could only manage an A certificate even after those. Talking about the censor cuts in OMG 2, Hemant said, “There was a scene in the class where I explained something and drew figures. I scolded a student who asked a doubt and that sequence actually intimidated Pankaj’s onscreen son. That scene was censored. That was supposed to show our double standard – how even a biology teacher refuses to explain it to the kids, but expects them to understand everything. The corridor scene (that was retained in the film) was my second scene. But it is fine, if it worked for the film.”
Hemant also said that initially, the team of OMG 2 wasn’t sure of going for a box office clash with Gadar 2. However, he added it was compulsion for OMG as the Shravan month (Lunar calendar) would’ve ended soon. “We knew Gadar 2 would start well and OMG 2 will pick later on word-of-mouth. When we saw advance booking numbers for Gadar 2, we were very scared. But it was shocking to see how OMG 2 stood strongly in front of Gadar 2 right from the start. Now people will say we knew that the film would work and that is why we released it with Gadar 2. But it was their compulsion. They wanted to release the film in Shravan as the film’s theme is based on Lord Shiva.”
Talking about his experience of working with Pankaj, Hemant added, “My first scene was with Pankaj ji and it where his son is rusticated from the school. Pankaj ji is so humble. He does not need to express that he is such a great actor; simple, modest and grounded person. I pray that I get to work with him much more and grow as an actor.”
He also recalled shooting amid the deadly second wave of coronavirus pandemic. “We shot OMG 2 during the peak of second wave of Covid-19. Shootings would often be pushed for a month or so because we had many kids and each time someone would test positive, we’d cancel shoots. Of course, Akshay sir’s dates were not changed.”
Hemant has a limited but important scene in Sushmita Sen’s Taali. Her signature dialogue ‘Taali bajaungi nahi bajwaungi (I won’t clap for them, they will clap for me)’ is seen soon after a confrontation with Hemant’s character during a TV debate.
“We shot the scene for two days – in a 9am to 9pm shoft – in a medical college auditorium. For the shoot, Sushmita ma’am used to take 2.5 hours to get into that getup (of transgender activist Gauri Sawant). It must be so painful. Everyone in Bollywood has praising her and the show. I am sure it is genuine appreciation, and not just Bollywood stars scratching each other’s backs. I salute Sushmita ma’am for doing such a role at this stage in her career.”
Films to TV and back to films
Hemant started his onscreen journey with films in the 90s. He was seen in JP Dutta’s Border before life took him to the world of TV shows. Talking about the differences in the industries, Hemant said, “I am no authority or institution but according to me, TV content is regressive in today’s time. In TV, you are supposed to work more, and be paid less. Except for Anupamaa maybe, no one knows who plays what in TV shows. It is frustrating. TV used to be big earlier. I remember I even cut ribbons and inaugurated places when Kumkum worked.”
Starting in early 2000, Hemant has worked in several popular shows including Kabhi To Milenge, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Devon Ke Dev…Mahadev, Siya Ke Raam and the recent show Kundali Bhagya. He was also seen in Prakash Jha’s Aashram.
He added, “For actors like us, films offer space to experiment and are easy to do after working in TV. In TV, they hardly experiment or go for new talent. In web shows and films, below-stranded acting can never allow you to survive but an average actor may survive in TV. Never in films.”
Hemant also said that he had to switch from films to TV shows in the early 2000s to earn enough money for his family and survive. “I started with the popularity of a new kind of TV post-KBC. But after 10 years, it was a regressive phase and I was late in realising the shift. I should have switched in 2010. I had to make that shift (from TV to films) for the sake of my creativity.”
“During the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, I introspected and realised I wanted to get out of the rut so I decided to work in projects that creatively satisfy me. In two years, I got OMG 2 and Taali and there are a few other projects I cannot name right now. TV was safe – work in shifts and get a cheque every 90 days or so – but that is no fun,” he concluded.