Iqbal Khan started his career with television and it is that one medium he has not been seen in for a few years now. That doesn’t mean the actor is not busy. Web shows have kept him occupied for a while and now, he also has a couple of films like ‘Jalsa’, co-starring Vidya Balan and the Punjabi film ‘Rabb Di Meher’ slated for a release sometime next year.
In this interview, he talks about his upcoming projects, working with Vidya Balan, the love he keeps receiving for his debut show ‘Kaisa Yeh Pyaar Hai’, the rise of the OTT platforms, quitting social media and more.
You recently finished shooting for ‘Jalsa’ and ‘Rabb Di Meher’. Was it difficult to juggle between the two projects?
I finished the schedule of ‘Jalsa’ first and then, went to Punjab to shoot for ‘Rabb Di Meher’. So, there was no overlapping as such. In ‘Jalsa’, all my scenes are with Vidya Balan. I really enjoyed working with her. She is a wonderful human being and is extremely professional. Suresh Triveni, the director of the film, is a gem of a human being. It was one of the best working experiences I have had so far.
‘Rabb Di Meher’ is your first Punjabi film. You shot on the outskirts of Jalandhar for several days where there was barely any mobile network. How was the experience of working on this project?
It was great fun! I had gone there a few days before the shoot was about to start so that I could prepare thoroughly for the film. It was my first Punjabi film, so I wanted to spend a lot of time with the script and get the dialect right. Tomorrow, if I am offered a Bengali film, I would spend at least 3-4 months in Bengal to understand the milieu of the film and get a decent grasp on the language. I have studied in boarding schools close to Chandigarh. I have heard Punjabi very closely. Though I don’t speak it fluently, I understand it completely. I worked very hard on my dialogues. Whenever you see the film, I assure you that you won’t feel that I am not from Punjab.
You had a great run in the OTT space with shows like ‘Crackdown’ and ‘The Bulls Of Dalal Street’.
Working in the web space has been a very good experience so far. I finished two web shows recently. I shot for ‘In Cold Blood’ in Mussoorie. The other show, ‘Uddham Gadh’, was shot in a village called Tawa near Chittorgarh in Rajasthan.
You have not done a TV project in a while. Any plans of getting back to the medium?
I have not done TV in five years as I have been very busy with web shows and films. Every time a TV show was offered to me, I didn’t have the dates. I am just interested in doing good work. I don’t compare the different mediums we have. I don’t have a problem with TV. I have done shows which have run for 2-3 years but I never got bored of doing them as the characters keep evolving. They keep reinventing the story once every 6-7 months. Doing web shows are definitely more creatively satisfying. You have already decided that the audience is intelligent and you don’t spoon-feed them.
Recently, you made the decision to quit social media. What prompted you towards taking this step?
There are many factors. I am a very private person and most of the times, I have nothing to post. If you support it on social media and you get trolled for it, then I feel there is no use on being on social media. People are not mature enough to respect each other’s opinions. A lot of people say that these days, you get work based on the kind of following you have on social media. I don’t think there is any truth to it. Since I have gone off social media, I have shot one web show and two films. A serious filmmaker will cast you because of your talent as an actor and not because of the number of followers you have on social media.
One of your earliest appearances was in the Falguni Pathak music video ‘Indhana Winva’. ‘Kaisa Yeh Pyaar Hai’, your debut TV show, catapulted you to stardom. It’s been more than 15 years since the show was first aired and it is still remembered fondly by fans.
‘Kaisa Yeh Pyaar Hai’ was a pretty magical experience. I would give a lot of credit to Ekta Kapoor for the success of the show. The kind of passion she had was incredible. There was nothing in her life apart from work. Sometimes, she would stay awake for an entire day. When you work very hard to achieve something, the results show. It was a very different show for that time. It was a very young show with a rockstar as the protagonist.
You have played so many memorable roles over the years. Which is that one role that is the closest to your heart?
Sometimes, the roles or the projects that don’t get their due recognition are closer your heart. I did a show with Balaji called ‘Pyaar Ko Ho Jaane Do’. It was a finite series with 100 episodes. Mona Singh and I played the leads. I played a sleeper agent who comes from a neighboring country, lives with a family and his heart goes through a transformation. It was very brave of Ekta to make a show like that for television.