Pyar Ka Dard Hai’s Nakuul Mehta: I was supposed to do a film with Penelope Cruz’s sister Monica

But when the Indo-Spanish production fell through, the Haal-E-Dil actor Nakuul Mehta – now popular as TV’s Aditya – shifted loyalties to the small screen and got back in the game called acting

A few months ago the Barjatya-owned production company Rajshri launched a new TV show, Pyar Ka Dard Hai…meetha meetha pyara pyara and despite the clutter of family shows on the idiot box, the slow and sugary love story has already built up a large fan following.

And ever since the show went on air there’s been one more name added to the long list of good-looking guys on the small screen. That gave us enough reason to take a long ride to the far-flung suburbs to visit the extravagant sets of Pyar Ka Dard Hai… where Nakuul Mehta, now a household name as Aditya, was shooting with his reel life grandfather (Mukesh Khanna), mother (Manasi Salvi) and friend (Disha Parmar).

After wrapping up a crucial scene, the light-eyed model-turned-actor takes his first break in a long day. As soon as he gets comfortable we begin talking about the show and audience response to it. “It’s been quite encouraging. Actually, I am being modest, it’s been very good,” says Nakuul and has an afterthought: “One thing that every actor craves for is that people recognise you and see your work, and that didn’t happen with my first film (Haal-E-Dil).”

Nakuul tells us that after PKDH, every time he’s out shopping, women of all sizes and shapes have walked up to him for autographs and photographs. And that’s a big deal. Why? “I realised it’s important to be a working actor, otherwise you are an actor in theory. And I realised that after Haal-E-Dil. If you do a film but it doesn’t get a wide audience you’d like it to get, you’d still be an unknown entity. At least now people can judge if I am a good actor or a bad actor, or whatever,” says Adi aka Aditya.

After the debacle of Haal-E-Dil (also starring Adhyayan Suman and Amita Pathak) in 2008, Nakuul signed an Indo-Spanish production opposite Penelope Cruz’s equally sexy sister Monica Cruz. But the global economic recession thwarted the young actor’s international aspirations. “There were a few more exciting projects that unfortunately didn’t happen. And I just realised, there’s no point waiting for something to come to you.”

That’s why the Mumbai born and bred lad accepted the TV show, is it? He says, “I share a longstanding relationship with Rajshri – they were the first production house that called me after seeing my first few ads and we have been in touch since then – so I said yes to the show. Also, it was for Star Plus and Koshik Ghatak (Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi fame) was directing it, so I thought it was a great platform.”

But isn’t the shift from the bada parda to the small screen viewed as a demotion? “Honestly, I stopped worrying about all that after a year of my film’s release. Just because I have done a film, I didn’t want to put myself on a pedestal like a lot of other actors do. Then I won’t grow as an actor or as a human being,” says the 2011 National Ballroom Champion, and quickly adds, “Just because I am doing television doesn’t mean that this is all I will do. I can do theatre next year, and do a film five years from now. I don’t know. So I am not seeing it as demotion, I just see it (TV show) as a good platform and scope to do my stuff (acting).”

He smiles. “Also the thing with films is that your film may get good reviews, but if it doesn’t work (at the box office) and you are an outsider, then that’s it. It’s really hard to get good work after that,” says Nakuul. “But if you are good on television and you stand out in the crowd, then there is work.”

So what’s the experience like, playing the young and brash Aditya in PKDH…? “It is fun playing Adi, but he is very different from me. His ideas of life and understanding of relationships are very different. I am a people’s person and I love my family. In terms of portrayal, it was very different and that’s why I thought it was a great role. My character in Haal-E-Dil was similar to what I am in real life.”

And how is Nakuul handling the telly world’s grueling shoot schedules? “TV is much more challenging. As an actor I was much more relaxed on my films because you have your dialogues, screenplay way before you go on the sets. And I like that time. But when I got on to work here (TV), it is different. There were times when I get my scenes a while before the shot is ready. I am someone who can’t work like that. But after putting myself through this struggle for five months, I noticed that I have became easy as an actor,” he explains.

On that note the interview ends. The busy actor has to get ready for his next shot for an episode that gets telecast a day after our rendezvous. And since Nakuul asked for the life of a working actor, he definitely isn’t complaining about long hours on the sets.