Off Stage: Pavan J. Singh in The Good, The Bad and The Sholay

Pavan J. Singh (left) with cast member Ghafir Akbar during rehearsals.
Pavan J. Singh with cast member Ghafir Akbar during rehearsals.PHOTO: MISH'AAL

When he was just 14, Pavan J. Singh sat riveted by a two-man play in Kuala Lumpur starring Huzir Sulaiman and Harith Iskander. It was the start of his love affair with acting.

Now 36, Singh joins Huzir, 42, in the upcoming play The Good, The Bad And The Sholay.

The Malaysia-born, Singapore- based actor says: "I am in Singapore with Huzir as one of the directors of the play. I cannot begin to describe what an honour it is."

The play, which premiered at the NUS Arts Festival four years ago, will be restaged as part of Kalaa Utsavam, the Esplanade's Indian festival of the arts. The piece weaves playwright Shiv Tandan's experience of growing up in India and moving here, with scenes from the 1975 Hindi classic Sholay.

How did you get into acting?


  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio

    WHEN: Nov 26 to 29. Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm

    ADMISSION: $30 (excludes booking fee, call 6348-5555 or go to

It was Huzir Sulaiman, one of Checkpoint's joint artistic directors, who influenced me to become an actor. I was 14 years old when I watched my first play in Kuala Lumpur - Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, directed by Joe Hasham. The two-man play starred Huzir and Harith Iskander.

Seeing them on stage was electrifying. I was blown away by the energy of the piece. I didn't know what it was that I was watching, but I knew I had to be a part of it. I started to get involved in theatre and I've been in love with it ever since.

Describe your first show.

My first show was when I was in college in KL. It was an original musical titled Paradise Lost, based on John Milton's poem.

I played the lead, Lucifer, and it was quite a big production. I got a lot of guidance and learnt about theatre from some great teachers. It was an amazing experience.

The best part was that I got to wear a really sexy costume - black collared shirt, black slacks, black leather shoes and long, flowing silk cape. I looked like a vampire out of GQ magazine, which the girls found very attractive.

What's your favourite part of The Good, The Bad And The Sholay?

I love how the scenes from the film have been cleverly interwoven. I'm having so much fun playing characters from the film and recreating the epic Bollywood battle, and the chase-and-song scenes. I'm certain the audience will have as much fun watching as the actors have had in creating them.

What are your pre-show rituals?

I do the usual stretching and warming up of the body and voice. I find it essential to achieve a very calm state of being 'chilled out'. I always try to buy a cup of teh tarik and a chocolate chip cookie or a goreng pisang, and I find a corner to sit and relax. I'll have silly conversations with whoever is around and not think about the play an hour before going on stage.

What's the harshest criticism you have received and how did you deal with it?

When I was in my early 20s, my friends and I put up a comedy sketch. We were eager, but lacked maturity and discipline. The show had many good ideas, but was very poorly executed. We missed cues, had poor pacing and made it obvious that we did not work as hard as we should have.

As a result, we very deservedly received a terrible review in the papers, which destroyed the performance, with an entire column dedicated to how awful an actor I was, since I was the lead.

I received calls from family and friends for the entire week after, asking if I was okay after reading what was said about me.

The review made me realise how important it was to have discipline, focus and direction.

The article dissected everything that was wrong about my work and gave me a sense of what was needed to make good theatre. It made me realise how as an actor, I am performing for people who have paid hard-earned money and put aside precious hours to be emotionally moved... so I had better do a good job.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2015, with the headline 'Scathing review a wake-up call'. Subscribe