'Pippa' tells an unconventional and inspiring war story: Actor Ishaan Khatter

In Pippa, directed by Raja Krishna Menon, the 28-year-old actor steps into the shoes of Captain Balram Singh Mehta of India’s 45 Cavalry regiment.
Actor Ishaan Khatter in 'Pippa'
Actor Ishaan Khatter in 'Pippa'

Actor Ishaan Khatter is in no hurry. He may be a decade old in the industry, but he only has six projects to his credit, including the newly released Pippa. The war film, which dropped on Amazon Prime Video on November 10, is inspired by real-life events from the Battle of Garibpur in 1971.

“I have not done too many films because I try to pick the best from the opportunities I get,” he says.

In Pippa, directed by Raja Krishna Menon, the 28-year-old actor steps into the shoes of Captain Balram Singh Mehta of India’s 45 Cavalry regiment who, along with his siblings, fought on the eastern front during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

“I have always admired Raja Menon’s work. Pippa’s script talks about a proud moment in our history, which the youth should be aware of. The film tells an unconventional and inspiring war story,” he says.

Evidently, the unusual is Khatter’s forte. Unlike many of his peers who seek a big production house to make an impactful debut, he went for a no-frills offbeat film like Beyond the Clouds (2017) directed by acclaimed Iranian director Majid Majidi.

Then, there was  Dhadak with Janhvi Kapoor, the Hindi remake of Marathi film, Sairat, which talks about inter-caste marriage and honour killing, followed by the more commercially mainstream Khaali Peeli, produced by Ali Abbas Zafar. The high-on-action film saw Khatter playing a taxi driver on the streets of Mumbai. It was, however, the 2020 Netflix series,

A Suitable Boy, an adaptation of Vikram Seth’s iconic novel that established him as an actor to watch out for. Paired opposite Tabu, he played the mischievous and love-sick Maan Kapoor to her sultry Saeeda Bai.

“I like roles that are out of the box, and allow me room to take some liberties with the character. I need to feel involved, stimulated and interested in the story without getting bored,” says the actor who, over the last two years, also starred in Phone Bhoot alongside Katrina Kaif, and Fursat, a 30-minute film by Vishal Bhardwaj, which was shot completely on an iPhone.

Citing another reason for his rather short filmography, he adds, “I don’t like changing my physical appearance while I am in the middle of a project. I like giving time to my characters. It’s an emotional experience.”

Playing Capt. Mehta fit the bill just right. It let Khatter explore a new world—that of an army man, with the action sequences taking the thrill quotient a notch higher. Explaining how he prepared for the part, the actor says, “Understanding the life of a soldier was a challenge. I felt a sense of responsibility and purpose immediately after I put on the uniform. Because I didn’t know much about the decade when the war happened, I studied about the period and the life at the time—the clothes they wore, their lifestyle and how they mingled in society.”

It helped that the real Capt. Mehta, now 78, was with the crew “all the time” to guide them, Khatter says. “In one of my first conversations with Balram sir, I had told him casually that I will be bombarding him with questions, and he had replied, ‘Young man, you should be happy to know that I am used to bombardment’,” says the actor, who will be next seen in a supporting role in the English language Netflix series, The Perfect Couple, starring Nicole Kidman and Dakota Fanning.

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