When 16-year-old Karan Hariharan finished watching The Dark Knight, he got the answer to a question that bothers ambitious teenagers: What should I be? Being the son of legendary playback singer Hariharan, he, too, was into art. But not music. As a four-year-old, he had appeared in his father’s music video, Halka Nasha. But more than the music and his father’s singing, Karan was thrilled about shooting for the video. The film set, with its props and people, beguiled the little boy. He continued performing at school, home, and on stage with his father. But he wasn’t sure if he wanted to pursue acting seriously until he witnessed Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight. “That day, I told myself, ‘I’m going to be an actor. I don’t want to do anything else with my life,’” recalls Karan.
Ten years later, Karan has starred in his first-ever lead role on screen with Pyaar Hai To Hai, directed by Pradeep R.K. Chaudhary, another debutant. The film, which was released on October 20, is a “dream come true” for both.
“When we filmed the first shot, [Pradeep] asked, ‘Karan, if you don’t mind, could you please wear my shirt?’ It was a very emotional moment for me because, as an actor. I felt like I was not just performing in my director’s first film but also carrying his hopes and dreams with me,” recalls Karan.
Karan’s journey to becoming a lead actor was not a sudden leap. He had a diverse range of experiences in the acting world, having performed on stage and worked as a supporting actor in short films and advertisements. “But doing a lead role is a totally different experience,” he says.
“While playing my character, Arman, I developed a profound understanding of acting. The limited dialogue in the film required me to convey emotions through physicality and expressive eyes, a process involving extensive preparation. I also delved into dance, a discipline outside my regular training. I worked with choreographers to master the necessary movements and fluidity,” he adds.
Two years at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles helped him hone his craft. They broke some common misconceptions about acting. “For example, if your character is depressed, you need to become depressed in your own life. That’s not actually necessary. Instead, I’ve experienced that pain at some point in my life, and the key is to recall those emotions and make them believable on screen. That’s where your training comes into play,” he says.
His background in music helped, too. “In filmmaking, certain scenes have a ‘Sur’ or tone. In a scene, capturing the right tone is essential. To grasp the ebb and flow of a scene, knowing where to insert a pause or quicken the pace is crucial for an actor. So, my knowledge of music certainly adds value to the craft,” he says.
Most of this musical knowledge, he grasped from his father. “But what I’ve truly learned from my dad is his unwavering work ethic,” he says, “Even today, he continues his ‘riyaz’ (practice) in the morning, which has been an inspiration for me. I’m fortunate that art is held in the highest regard at home. So, we all provide honest feedback about performances because we constantly strive for and encourage self-improvement.”
So, when Hariharan told him, ‘I didn’t see you at all. All I saw was your character,’ Karan was lost for words. “It was one of my unforgettable moments.”