Actor Pankaj Jhaa is thrilled with the response coming his way for his work on the latest series "Maharani" as he believe this success is a result of his hardwork of over a decade.
Headlined by Huma Qureshi, the political drama is created by filmmaker Subhash Kapoor. The series started streaming on SonyLIV last month.
Jhaa, who plays a minister on the show, equated the acclaim for his part in "Maharani" with winning a "big prize", after a string of appearances on shows like "Balika Vadhu" and "Kyunki Jeena Isi ka Naam hai".
"The success of 'Maharani' has empowered me, reinstated the hope that people might see my work and offer me more interesting parts. I wasn't expecting this response. I hope this makes people see my craft. I feel like I've won a big prize," the 35-year-old actor told PTI.
Jhaa said the spotlight on him is hard earned and has validated his struggle.
Born in Bihar to a conservative family, which wasn't entirely supportive of his acting dreams, Jhaa finished his English Honours from Muzaffarpur in the state and moved to Delhi in the early 2000s in the pretext of enrolling in mass communication.
In the capital, Jhaa started doing theatre and credits actor theatre director Dilip Shankar for spotting and nurturing his craft.
Though he never enrolled in mass communication, Delhi opened up acting doors for him, including an appearance in filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's "Delhi 6" in 2009.
"I didn't earn this overnight. I realise today, why actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manoj Bajpayee took so much time to achieve the stardom they have today. It's a long journey. The process of scanning actors in the Hindi film industry is not transperant. Favouritism is common in the industry," Jhaa said.
The actor, who has been in Mumbai since 2009, said it has often happened with him that despite a good audition, he was sidelined because the makers wanted to go for a more "known face."
"It takes 12-15 years just to prove that you're a good actor. When this happens, of course you question yourself, the system, its process. It's frustrating. If someone comes to Mumbai from any acting institute, everyone should go through the same process.
"There should be some fairness in it. This is a major reason why talented people take time to just get noticed. But I don't have any regrets," he added.
"Maharani" happened to Jhaa at a time when he had no work.
While the process to look out for exciting roles was on, he hit a roadblock last year when the coronavirus induced nation-wide lockdown was announced.
Jhaa, for whom the first three months of lockdown were "easy", soon started to feel restless and, along with his wife, moved back to his village Araria.
"I didn't have any work, so I started shooting videos, recording a podcast to keep myself busy there. When I got the call for the show around August, I taped my audition and forgot about it.
"Two months later, I was informed that my audition has been selected and they require me in Bhopal from November for the shoot!" Jhaa said.
The actor recalled being "extremely nervous" before the shoot as he wasn't told in detail about his character, Diwakar an educated minister who has his own journey on the show.
"A workshop had taken place in Mumbai but I could not attend it because of the lockdown. So, I had to directly land in Bhopal for the shoot. I was scared because I didn't know how to prepare for the role. I did my bit of research, but nothing truly helped.
"Finally, on the day of the shoot, minutes before my take, Subhash sir told me to refer political strategist Prashant Kishor for the character. I did a few a retakes to get it right and finally got the 'sur' of the character. I am grateful for the opportunity," he added.
Next, Jhaa has filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane's Netflix series "Stardust" and director Madhur Bhandarkar's film, "India Lockdown".