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I worked as a doorkeeper, a hawker, a kirana store helper and a PCO booth operator: RJ Pak Pak Deepak from Radio Mirchi

Deepak Sharma, an alumnus of ACFA Jalandhar, who is popularly known as Pak Pak Deepak, says ‘shuruaat karo’ is his life mantra

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Hailing from Phagwara, Punjab, the Radio Mirchi jockey is best-known for his segment, ‘Mirchi Murga’, where he calls people and plays pranks on them. Pak Pak Deepak’s on air presence brings a lot of happiness and flavour in the listener’s life. In a candid interview, Deepak, who is also an actor and writer, talked about the struggles he went through in his life and revealed the importance of staying grounded. Edited excerpts:

Please take us through your life journey till now.

I swear by my personal mantra, ‘shuruaat karo’. Sometimes we worry too much about the outcome or results before embarking on a new journey or starting a new chapter in our lives.  I believe just focus on what you need to do and do it, cast your worries aside. Talking about my journey, I was born in a lower-middle class family and lacked the basic amenities of life. Our constant struggle was to make both ends meet. To support my family, I started doing odd jobs during school summer vacations. I was in class 10 when I bagged my first job as a PCO booth operator. My work timings were from 6 am – 11 pm. I was supposed to be paid Rs 1,500 per month, but on a couple of occasions I got late opening the booth and as result the booth owner paid me Rs 1,300. I worked there for two  months. In the subsequent summer vacations, I worked as a doorkeeper at a jewellery shop where I was not given a stool to sit. I was specifically told that I can’t sit even when the customers are not there. I also worked as a hawker selling bed-sheets and as a kirana store helper where I had to move heavy silos of food grains from one floor to another. However, I didn’t become bitter or resentful due to hardships.

Tell us about your tryst with comedy and stage performances?

Every year there used to be a big Ramlila event close to my place. I found out that characters in Ravan’s Sena who were tasked to wake up Kumbhkaran from his slumber were given apples, cold drinks and other eatables to revive the mythical giant with the aroma of food. I thought if I managed to bag a small role in Ramlila, I would at least get free food. I had a word with the director and pleaded with him for a minor role. He said as of now there are no vacancies and I had to wait till next year. I was in class 10 then. In the meantime, the director asked me to pick up the broom and start cleaning the stage and the surrounding area. So to have a free apple I had to clean the entire area. I observed that during Ramlila, the transition (the process of moving from one scene or set to the next) used to consume a lot of time. I somehow convinced the director to give me this window to entertain the audience with my humour. He agreed and when I cracked a few jokes the audience was rolling on the floor laughing. After that, I was called every year to perform during Ramlila. Later, I requested the director to also give me a role in the play. Finally, I was asked to play Ravana’s wife Mandodari. I was extremely nervous. I was in a woman’s getup and I thought that the audience would tease me. I was given a dialogue and when the time came to deliver it I couldn’t muster the courage to step in front of the audience. The director had to push me and I landed on Ravana’s feet. I was so tense that I delivered my dialogue in one breath.  

How did you get your first big break?

After school, I started participating in youth festivals and received wide appreciation from my skits. I also got enrolled in the Apeejay College of Fine Arts (ACFA) to pursue B A. However, I didn’t pay much attention to studies and concentrated only on youth festivals and other performances. I was under the impression that the college will promote me without studies. As a result, I failed in my first year. The next year I couldn’t take exams as I had to do road shows for two months. The organiser promised me that he will pay me Rs 60,000. In the third year, I participated in a TV comedy show. So, you can say I failed for three consecutive years. I finally opted for another course in ACFA called Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA ). It was then that I studied with full dedication and scored more than 90 per cent.  

How did Radio happen?

I was least interested in radio as the face of the host is not visible. However, I came to know that Radio Mirchi provides free coffee to candidates during RJ auditions. So, I along with my dozen of friends went for the auditions to guzzle free coffee. We ended up drinking 3-4 cups of coffee. I had no interest in the audition so I was helping one of my friends in the script writing test, but Radio Mirchi didn’t select anyone as they got to know that there was widespread cheating in the test. After that, I started performing for a TV comedy show and when that show got over the money dried up. Finally, I went for RJ auditions. In the interview, I was asked ‘What kind of movies do you like watching?’ I said ‘I watch all kinds of movies.’ ‘Even Hollywood?’, the interviewer asked, I said ‘No’.  ‘Why?’ asked the interviewer. I said, ‘Unme gande scenes hote hai’. He said not every movie has such scenes and there are good movies too, for instance Titanic. I replied, ‘Gande kaam to usme bhi hone thay lekin jahaj doob gaya’. Listening to my reply, he started laughing uncontrollably and didn’t ask me any further questions. I got selected immediately. Gradually, I fell in love with the radio. I also introduced Radio Mirchi Murga in Punjabi and it became an instant hit. I also got a break from movies due to Radio. A person came to our studio for movie promotion. I told him that I am interested in script writing and would love to write for movies. He informed a director about it and the director came to the studio unannounced. The director asked me ‘Can you write a movie script?’ I said ‘Of course’, even though I had not written a movie script prior to it. He gave me a scene and asked me to write the script. That director was so impressed with my writing that he immediately took me to a producer. The producer too gave me a scene and asked me to write a script. He was also mesmerised with my writing. That’s how I got my first film, ‘Bade Changay Ne Mere Yaar Kaminey’ (2014). I also managed to bag a critical role in the film. I have also done multiple stand-up shows abroad.

Does one become egoistic when surrounded with fame and wealth?

A person who has risen from the dirt will always stay grounded. I never get fussy when someone asks for a selfie or autograph as this is what I wanted all my life. I thank God for giving me this opportunity. You only lose your equilibrium and become egoistic when your fame and popularity starts declining. However, fans must understand that it’s not possible for your stars to always oblige you with selfies or autographs. For instance, I was at a funeral when someone asked me for a selfie. I chided the person as there’s a time and place for everything. This doesn’t mean I have an ego or I think of myself as superior to others.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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