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Back to films

Kumar Gaurav tells why he felt comfortable playing an indentured slave in `Guiana 1838'.


A FRIEND calls up to say the Bollywood actor Kumar Gaurav is in Thiruvananthapuram. That, definitely, is good news, especially in the most uneventful part of the State. The actor agrees to an interview. But a few hours before the appointed time, you learn he's lost his glasses. Gaurav refuses to come over for the interview without them. So when he reaches in time for the interview, you can't help heaving a sigh of relief. The one-time idol of teenagers is in a bright yellow shirt and jeans and his glasses are tucked in his pocket. Gaurav says with a smile, "Without my glasses I wouldn't be able to see you, so I rushed off to buy a new pair."

He adds with an impish smile, "Actually, I'm quite blind without my glasses."

Gaurav aka Bunty is 40-something and well more than two decades past his star-making role in `Love Story' (1981). Gaurav was last seen in Sanjay Gupta's `Kaante', a film, "inspired" by Quentin Tarantino's `Reservoir Dogs'. After that, there has been little news on the Kumar Gaurav front. Which makes it the right time to ask Gaurav - the oldest star-kid on the block - about what's happening in his life.

His career, says Gaurav, is definitely looking up these days with meatier roles coming his way, especially after `Kaante'. While `Kaante' was a "great experience", it was also something quite different from the Bollywood films on Gaurav's CV. "The film was shot at Los Angeles and wrapped up in a 40-day schedule. To work with an American crew was indeed a great learning experience," he says. The slick flick failed to make the desired impact, but whatever faults it may have had - and critics were quick to point them out-it dared to be different. "Kaante' was a good film backed by a good team effort," says the actor. The film bombed; what went wrong? "Probably it did not do well because it catered to a rather urban crowd; not the aam junta (masses)," he observes. "I follow my heart and do whatever I feel is right," he says. With views such as these, you wonder whether it is time the actor took the big leap and went global. Almost every actor worth his salt is doing that - working on international co-productions. "I'm going international," he informs you. A movie that illustrates Gaurav's age and places him in the company of a crop of international actors is `Guiana 1838', directed by Rohit Jagessar, a third-generation Indian born in Guyana. The film muses on the arrival of Indians in Guyana and the abolition of slavery during the 19th century. Many Indians were shipped by nefarious means on `Hesperus' from Calcutta and taken to Guyana to work in the sugar plantations. Gaurav plays the central character, Laxman, an indentured slave, in the film. "I've done enough `bubble-gum' films and have decided to do only those films where I get to act and create a character I believe in. Unless I believe in my role I cannot convince the audience to believe in it either and this is why I've chosen to work in this film," says Gaurav.

Jagessar's film, an independent production, tracks the struggle and hardships of the slaves in the plantations. `Guiana 1838', was shot at Berbice and Corentyne, where most of the sugar cultivation is done. Gaurav chose to work on what he calls a "global film" because he was fascinated by the subject. Much before the shooting began, he was given a bound copy of the script to pore over, says Gaurav. "I had time to brush up on history. Anyway, history, was never my strong point at school," he grins. And what was his favourite subject? "Geography, because I love travelling." Perhaps, that explains why he ventured into the travel and tourism business in 2000. It was not because he didn't get any offers for films that he turned to business, Gaurav says. One the other hand, it is because he has always been enamoured of the sea that he decided to invest in the travel business, he tells you.

"I have two passions in life; acting and travelling. In films, we sell dreams. In travel, we help turn dreams into reality. I decided to combine both my passions effectively. I do films whenever an interesting role comes my way and devote the rest of my time to the business." It was on one of his tours that Gaurav's tryst with the Maldives began. "The Maldives is what I call home. So a few years ago, Aman Bhatia and I started Island Holidays, a general sales agency (GSA) for the Maldives," he says. The conversation veers to business. "We've just tied up with The Great India Tour Company, with a view to promoting Kerala. Health tourism is fast catching up and we plan to introduce more of health packages in our tour concepts," Gaurav says. There are no short-cuts to success. "I learned it quite early in life," says the actor, who's busy with the script for his directorial venture `Sach', a "mind-game thriller". "I've learned different things from each director I've worked with and I treasure what I've learned... " says Gaurav. With humility like that, he can't go wrong.

SMITHA SADANANDAN

Photo: S. Mahinsha

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