POPULAR TV STAR KARAN TACKER TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW ESPIONAGE THRILLER AND BIG ACTING PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
by ASJAD NAZIR
THERE hasn’t been much to celebrate in 2020, but one of the big success stories has been drama serial Special Ops.
The fast paced thriller has received positive reviews and pulled in viewers ever since it premiered on streaming site Hotstar in March.
Masterminded by acclaimed director Neeraj Pandey, the show also marked a welcome return to acting for massively popular TV star Karan Tacker after seven years and showed he has lost none of his pulling power. The big budget thriller has reignited his passion for acting and looks set to be a stepping stone for the small screen star to make a leap to cinema.
Eastern Eye caught up with Karan during the Covid-19 lockdown to talk about his acting return, Special Ops, future hopes and inspirations.
How are you handling the lockdown and what have you been doing to stay sane? Well, that is a tough one, considering it’s been so many weeks now and India has been tight on the lockdown. Staying sane is becoming a real challenge because you are constantly trying to figure out a timetable and routine. That gets mundane quickly because you are doing it within the four walls of your house. But primarily, I’m trying to exercise twice a day. I work out in the morning and do a run in the evening within the building because that is the only place we are allowed to.
What else have you been doing? There is a lot of reading I have been doing and recently, I signed up for some online master classes, which I have been watching. I am doing whatever keeps my mind going and keeps me productive.
A ray of light during these dark times has been the massive success of Special Ops. How much has that meant to you? It has meant a lot, Asjad. It’s unfortunate that it has come at a time of this pandemic, but it has been really welcoming because everyone has watched it and the response has been absolutely overwhelming. Anybody that I was ever in touch with has kind of watched the show and called me. So for an actor, this kind of praise is really validating. It has been really nice and the show has been largely appreciated. All credit to our fantastic director Neeraj Pandey. I’m looking forward to good times to roll now.
You talk about acting, but why did you take a long break from it and do you regret it? No, not at all. With the field I am in, there is a constant need to reinvent and do things that you have not done before, so that your work kind of stands out and everything you do looks different than the others. There was a stint that I did on TV, and somewhere I felt it’s the maximum potential I can pull out of this for me to kind of grow as an actor. That is why, I sort of put a pause on working on TV in terms of acting. There was a whole lot of content being made that I couldn’t relate to, so I started hosting and enjoyed that.
Tell us more… Simultaneously, I was looking for my next big thing to do, which would resonate the way Special Ops has. My constant need has been to work with great makers because my job is so collaborative. I’m not the best actor, but if I can get a great director who can kind of pull that out of me, it can really better my craft.
Did you feel that you were part of something special when working on Special Ops? Yes, most definitely, because when you are working with Neeraj Pandey you know it will be interesting as it is written really well. When I read the script I thought it was fantastic. When we went on the floors and saw the scale, I was like ‘man, this is large’. At that time, you just get sucked into work so quickly that you do not stop yourself to realise most things. It’s only after you are done and people talk about it that it kind of hits you, and you realise that it was that big and we have gone to these exotic locations. So, you do feel you are part of something special, but it is difficult to stop and take it all in.
What was the most memorable aspect of shooting it? The entire schedule we shot internationally was really memorable. Waking up at 4am everyday, doing these long hours, not getting tired, and getting to work again the next day with the same zest; it was special because it made me realise my love for acting. It has made me realise my love for being in front of the camera, performing, saying lines and discussing scenes. That realisation really kicked in with this show. Quite frankly, in the last one and a half years, I’ve figured what I want from my acting career specifically. I’m glad my first foot forward was with Special Ops.
Is big budget serial Special Ops a turning point for you and a step towards cinema? It could be! That is not really my intention. I don’t pick a project because it might be my stepping stone into another industry. I primarily pick a project in isolation; who is making it, what is the script and what does my character contribute to the larger story. If that snowballs into me doing a film that would be amazing. But having said that, I would still want to do a film not for the heck of it, but as long as it’s with a great maker. That is my only agenda.
What will be the master plan going forward when lockdown is over and have you identified any projects? I would like to answer that with a simple yes, but there are so many other factors that all need to kick in simultaneously for me to do my next. I have locked on to a project, but when that will go on the floors it is very difficult to say because of the current given situation of the pandemic. Nobody knows where and what is happening. You will definitely see me soon again, but how soon is a tough one to answer.
Do you have a dream role? You know, Asjad, it is very difficult to have just one dream role. There is a whole bunch of things that I definitely want to do. I really enjoyed being part of this whole action-drama with Special Ops and would love to do it again. I realised my love for hand-to-hand combat and for action in general. There is a sense of music in me, so I would like to do a musical. Intense is something I enjoyed, and if I get something in that space again, doing an internalised role, I would enjoy that.
Are you able to see yourself working in the west? I would love that. In fact, it would be amazing if Special Ops could snowball into that because it released simultaneously in the UK and USA. If that kind of pulls in work from these two countries, it would be fantastic.
What have you enjoyed watching during the lockdown? There has been a whole bunch of films I saw, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which is based on a book. It’s an old film I wanted to watch. Gary Oldman is fantastic. There is something about the silences in the film that communicate so much. It’s a cool watch. I also watched Moonlight. I saw a really nice Indian show on Amazon called Panchayat, which is a sweet story of a boy who goes to a village. This whole time is so demoralising that I want to watch upbeat and happy stuff, so I binge watched Modern Family. I also watched all the seasons of UK show Top Boy.
Which actors do you most admire? There is a whole bunch of actors that I admire. From India, I love many– I really enjoy Ayushmann’s (Khurrana) work. Then there is Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Vijay Verma – there is a cool bunch of actors that have really popped up in the recent years in Indian cinema. Internationally, there are a plethora of people I love watching, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I love Natalie Portman and am enjoying watching her masterclass. I am trying to do as much as I can to keep my mind sharp through this time, so I don’t go into a lull.
Your fans have stuck by you, how much does that mean to you? They mean everything to an actor, not just me. Every actor is as good as the people that watch their work. Whenever I come to the UK, even though my acting work has not come out in a while, people recognise you and want to get a photo, which is really humbling. So, the fans are amazing, they are a big driving force for every single actor to go out there to achieve more and do more. Knowing that your fans are consuming you in different ways is really very inspiring.
Apart from fans, what inspires you? There is a whole bunch of things that inspire me. The dream that I have for myself is what inspires me to begin with. What inspires me is the expectations of my family from me. The twinkle I see in my mother’s eye every time she is watching my work really drives me. Even when I was watching Special Ops with her, just the way she was glued to the TV and the way she was consuming it, got me overwhelmed. That my entire family is kicked about watching Special Ops inspires me a lot.