Eijaz Khan: I am tasting life for the first time in a fulfilling way

The Shubh Vivaah actor gets candid about the failure of his show, how he was left penniless last year and his life-changing visit to Dharamshala

Eijaz Khan’s come back show Shubh Vivaah has flopped, but the actor is pretty calm about it. When I meet him at his Bandra home, an elderly woman from the building next door yells, “Don’t go around beating up women!” Eijaz grins and waves back. As we settle down for the interview, I am eager to know if he gets reactions like that often. “Plenty,” he replies. “First reaction I get from her (gestures to his girlfriend Natalie). She has told me, ‘You will never do anything else where you are beating up anybody.’” Natalie chimes in, “Everywhere we go people tell us, ‘Please don’t beat Saroj, please don’t beat Saroj.’” Adds Eijaz, “If I do it once because I am mad about something and then I go apologise, then it is justified. Here for everything I am slapping her. Eventually I tie her to a chair and beat her up. Dude, if you have to say that this person is inherently a bad person, he has his own set of justifications, then show that. Otherwise the character becomes weak.”

What do you think went wrong with Shubh Vivaah?

Initially I was very confused. To get one job done, there were 20 emails going back and forth. I guess that’s the way some production houses work. I am used to something else. There were some creative issues initially, because I wasn’t promised an all-out negative show. I knew this character would have negative shades, but I thought there would be some rationality to it, some justification. All of a sudden I am in love with the girl, all of sudden I am not, main Ma ka bhakt hoon (I support my mother). All of a sudden main Sarla se pyaar karta hoon (I am in love with Sarla). So the character was characterless… I don’t know, I wasn’t comfortable with it, I wasn’t convinced with it, I think that’s why I couldn’t convince the audience.

So you weren’t happy with your own performance.

No. Every three days my character is changing. How can I convince myself about the scene that I am doing? Firstly I have to convince myself, only then I can convince the audience. How can I do it? I am thinking, ‘Two episodes back I said this, now I am saying this’.

The instability of the character… was that the only thing that went wrong with the show?

I don’t know. I am not going to sit and dissect it. Nobody knows what works and what doesn’t. Have you seen Saath Nibhaana Saathiya? They had one whole episode about daal mein namak kam tha. That works! I don’t know what works and what doesn’t work. Sometimes realistic shows work, sometimes they don’t. Shubh Vivaah has been a super duper hit in five different languages. Why didn’t it work (in Hindi)? Never know. I think, for instance, if Akashdeep Saigal had done this role, he wouldn’t have got these reactions.

You have an image.

I am a ‘good son’, ‘good brother’, ‘good husband’. My father was also astonished. ‘How could you say yes to something like that!,’ he asked. Arre, I didn’t want to do the same thing. That’s why I left television and started doing movies. That’s the reason I am doing television again, because it is so different and I get to challenge myself. I had fun doing it while it lasted – I was playing a rustic character and not the polished, rich, spoiled character I have always played.

Was it difficult for you to switch?

No, no. All my emotional channels are open. I can do whatever I want. I have done negative roles earlier in my career too. Even in Balaji (Telefilms). I remember in Koi Dil Mein Hai I actually raped my wife. That was the first instance of marital rape on television. But I was justified in doing it. I am very spoiled and then I feel bad about it and make up with her. There was a certain endearment to the character. Here there wasn’t.

NEXT: Eijaz Khan: Ekta Kapoor is redefining films