Pranay Pachauri made his acting debut as one of the leads in the teenage drama ‘Time Out’. Though the film went largely unnoticed, the actor kept moving forward and made an impression with his performance in multiple films, webs-series and TV shows. Pranay is seeing a lot of appreciation coming his way post the release of ‘Guilty Minds’, a digital show that started streaming on Amazon Prime Video a couple of days ago.
Shubhrat Khanna, the character you played in ‘Guilty Minds’, had many layers to it. You had to put on quite a bit of weight to look the part. What other preparation you had to do to play this character?
My character Shubhrat Khanna is a well-educated man who comes from an influential family of lawyers in Delhi. I wanted to play the character as authentically as I could, both mentally and physically. In order to look the part, I decided to start shaping the exterior of my character first. I decided to put on some weight. My character had to look like he is from a khaata-peeta khandaan. Also, as a lawyer you hardly get time to work much on your physical appearance as you are sitting and researching on multiple cases. To look authentic, this is what I decided to go ahead with. Then, I started the process of creating his interior world, tapping and understanding this character’s mind, his insecurities, why he is doing what he is doing and what is his vision. All of this really helped in humanising him and this paved the way for Shubhrat the character.
Your maternal and paternal grandparents were lawyers. Therefore, it must have been quite a special experience to play a lawyer on the screen.
Both my paternal and maternal grandparents are not alive today and I would have loved for them to see me portray this role but the reviews from my family have been uplifting. They have thoroughly enjoyed the show and that gives me immense happiness. I had prepared for law entrance exams at a point of time and helped me understand the terminologies. While I couldn’t go ahead with a career in law, I am glad I got to play one on screen.
The series was shot during the pandemic. What are the kind of challenges you, along with the team, had to face?
We have fought all odds. There was a gap of 9 months in between the shoot and everything seemed uncertain. From Covid-19 to relocating back to Mumbai amidst the pandemic, we dealt with a lot of things. We used to do a lot of reading sessions online through Zoom calls. The team had to face a lot of delays and logistical issues as most of them were scared to shoot with so many people around. However, for the love of creating good content, we all came together and worked hard day and night to make sure that we put in our best. Amazon Prime Video and our producers, along with the directors, have been super supportive and extremely encouraging towards this show. I feel extremely blessed to have worked with such people.
It’s been several months since ‘Shershaah’ released and the film continues to garner accolades from the audience. Any special memories of playing Rifleman Yashpal and working on that film?
‘Shershaah’, as a film and as an experience still feels surreal. To shoot in Kargil for two months at 13,000 feet, with all our equipment and gear which weighed 12 kilograms in total, seeing Pakistan at a distance for real, recreating the entire war sequence – I have some incredible memories of working on the film. It took us two weeks of shoot on a 50-degree inclined hill. It would give us goosebumps shouting “Durge Maata Ki Jai”. We had such emotional moments. There were moments where it all of it felt real. Wearing an army uniform does something to you. The entire film was so special. I have clear memories of the time when we were shooting the climax of the film where my character gets shot. As a part of an action sequence, I had to literally throw myself off a rocky slope because I get shot by a sniper and the impact throws you off your feet. When we were taking the shot, I threw myself off the rocky slip only to land directly on a rock which hit me right in the rib and I thought I was done because I could feel the pain but we went ahead and shot it 3-4 times. For me, that was as real as it could get. I used that pain to channelize into anger and frustration for my character and I didn’t know how I did it but the uniform does something to you. It gives you a lot of courage.
From playing a high-school heartthrob in your debut film ‘Time Out’ to playing a tough lawyer in ‘Guilty Minds’, how do you look at this journey?
As I am evolving as a person, so is my craft and my understanding of human emotions. This, I feel, reflects in the characters I play. It’s like I am growing up on screen. I always wanted to be a part of this industry because essentially I am a storyteller and I love the art of filmmaking, cinema and the impact it leaves on our society. I only hope as I keep evolving, so do my characters, the roles I pick and projects I do. I hope I am able to layer them accordingly because to create and bring something to life is the most powerful feeling. There is a quote from Mahabharata where lord Krishna says, “I am in everything and everything is in me”. I believe in the same philosophy as an actor. I wish to play characters that empower me.
Tell us something about your recently announced show ‘Crash Course’.
‘Crash Course’ is a warring drama between two coaching institutes of Kota. In the show, I play a physics professor. This role is extremely close to my heart because I am a nerd and I share the same love for physics and science as my character. Secondly, I believe we need more people like him in the education arena as good teachers shape the future of our country. Crash Course’s release date is most likely to be announced in a couple of weeks and I am very excited to see how the audience reacts to it.