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Interview: Gagan Dev Riar couldn’t crack Scam 2003 audition at first, producers said ‘maza nahi aaya’

Gagan Dev Riar talks to HT about challenges of working on Scam 2003: The Telgi Story, being open to working in more films and his love for theater.

Gagan Dev Riar has gotten slimmer and jokes that he needs to look good for interviews for the web series Scam 2003: The Telgi Story, in which he plays the titular role. He gained 20 kgs for the role of Abdul Karim Telgi who was convicted in the stamp paper scam of ₹300,00 crores. The actor has now opened up about how he didn’t impress the producers at first but worked hard to finally grab the role for which he was actually the first and only choice. Also read: Scam 2003 The Telgi Story review: Show lacks the daring of Gagan Dev Riar’s performance as Telgi

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Gagan also opened up about a very difficult fight scene which left him with severe bruises but confessed that at the time of filming, he didn’t even realise that he was actually hurt. Read more about how this Khalifa from Sonchiriya went on to become Telgi. Excerpts:

You don’t really look like your character in the Scam 2003 trailer. How did you land the role of Abdul Karim Telgi?

I’ll take that as a compliment. Those were Covid times and I was lazing around in my house when I got a call from Mukesh Chhabra who said that they are considering me for a lead role. Until then, I had not led a story. I auditioned but he said “maza nahi aaya (I am not impressed). I said give me 3 days time, I’ll prepare for it and will come back. I went back and tried a few things. when I was coming out of my second audition, his car was coming into the office. He looked at me and said, “done”. I was like, “okay, thank you.” Then I went grocery shopping and that’s when I received Hansal (Mehta) sir’s call and he said it was a very good audition and I was selected. I was standing in the middle of the road and didn’t know what to do. I was happy and excited.

Watch: Here’s how Gagan Dev Riar turned Abdul Karim Telgi in Scam 2003: The Telgi Story

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Did you read Sanjay Singh’s book Telgi Scam: Reporter’s ki Diary?

No, I didn’t. I was asked not to get into anything that could make it look like a caricature. So I had to approach it from another point of view, from a very simple perspective of not thinking of him as a criminal or or a scamster, but to think of him as another human being who’s hustling to make it big in the city. He was much more emotionally charged than how people perceive him, because our story also talks about the other side and is not exactly about the scam. It also talks about where he came from, his family, his emotional side, his master, the criminal side which we know and also the people who were involved. A scam on this level cannot happen without the involvement of many people in it. The idea of the entire series is that you see it from different angles and not only what we have been reading in the newspapers.

What are your comments on Pratik Gandhi’s performance in Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story because obviously, this one will be compared to that season?

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about it, but there is no comparison. Pratik Gandhi is a phenomenal actor and he did something amazing with Harshad Mehta. I’m not playing Harshad Mehta, I’m playing Abdul Karim Telgi. So I just hope that people like whatever I worked upon and they give me, if not more, at least equal amount of love.

You come from a theater background and are an excellent actor. Still, did you face any challenges during the shoot?

Actually, there are a lot of action scenes in the series. We got hurt a lot although we took very good precautions. There are also some emotional scenes which definitely gave me goosebumps or I had to go to places in my mind where I’m not comfortable. As an actor that’s your job when you have to relate to certain emotional tangents. It was mentally and physically quite challenging.

Would you like to share a specific scene?

I remember there was a physical fight scene between me and my friend and the room was very small. It was evening and due to limited camera angles, we had to shoot that scene many times. By the time I did it for like the 6th or 7th time, I was tired, my heartbeat was up and I did not know how to breathe. I was like, ‘Are we done yet?’ And the director said, ‘okay, you take your time, but we need to do it one more time.’ And I said, ‘Oh my God, one more! I can’t.’ But we had to do it.

I didn’t realize it then, but the next day, there was a black bruise mark on the side near my ribs. It took some days for the pain to go away. That was quite challenging but I had to continuously shoot with that pain.

So what is the working style of Hansal Mehta who has developed the show, and director Tushar Hiranandani?

They have a very different working style but they complement each other very well. Hansal sir believes in keeping it very simple and Tushar’s style is very stylish. The series is a very good mixture of simple and stylish. It’s very real but it also has a filmy quality and masala to it. They both gel very well together.

You hardly work in films and shows? Does theater attract you more?

I mean, I didn’t ask any. I’m not stopping anybody from contacting me. Theater does attract me. I love theater and I cannot survive without theater. Even if this becomes a big hit or I become a big star, I’ll keep doing theater. I never actually went out and distributed my photographs like I was not hungry for that. I just kept doing my work. Whatever work came my way, I did it with honesty and dedication. That’s all.

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