4 AC­TORS WHO’RE NOT HE­ROES, BUT ARE STARS!

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - ananya.ghosh@htlive.com Fol­low @Ananya1281 on Twit­ter

On a sunny sum­mer af­ter­noon in Mum­bai, HT Brunch brings the best-known char­ac­ter ac­tors of re­cent times to­gether to dis­cuss the in­equal­i­ties of fame and the sweet smell of suc­cess

Not many ac­tors can boast of four con­sec­u­tive hits in one year. But play­ing­markedly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters in Gur­gaon, B areilly Ki B arfi, New­ton and Anaarkali of Aarah, Pankaj Tri­pathi won the crit­ics’ nod and box of­fice num­bers.

Nor can one ex­pect a three-fil­mold ‘sup­port­in­gac­tor’ to hogthe lime­light in a film boast­ingth­ree of Bol­ly­wood’s top stars. Sanja Leela Bhansali’s Pad­maa­vat had Ran­veer Singh, Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone; but the next best thing to Ran­veer’s pow­er­house Khilji was Jim Sarbh’s bril­liant por­trayal as a ho­mo­sex­ual slave-gen­eral and Khilji’s paramour, M alik Ka­fur.

Last year, Vikrant M as­sey, the quin­tes­sen­tial ‘hero’s best friend’ got a sud­den up­grade with Shutu, the un­likely hero of Konkana Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj. And then M anav Kaul, pos­si­bly the most suave Bol­ly­wood vil­lain af­ter Vinod Khanna, turned all cute and lov­able as he played the hero-hus­band to Vidya Balan in Tumhari Sulu.

Can it be that Bol­ly­wood is fi­nally shift­ingthe spot­light from ‘hero’ to ‘ac­tor’?

WHAT’S CHANGED… “I know I’m not in a po­si­tion to pick a nd choose” - Vikra nt Ma ssey

“Ear­lier the veg­etable ven­dor in my neigh­bour­hood would look down upon me, and now even he sug­gests that I wear bet­ter clothes and comb my hair as I’m a film star,” chuck­les Pankaj.

Af­ter last year’s suc­cesses, Pankaj has the breath­in­groom to choose his roles, rather than ac­cept any­thing that comes his way. “I’d sel­dom read scripts be­fore sign­ing; now I in­sist on one. The au­di­ence has put so much trust in me, I can’t fail them,” he says.

For Vikrant, who started off as a TV ac­tor, the last year was huge. “I’d not ex­pected things to change so fast,” he says. “But I am not delu­sional. I know I’m not in a po­si­tion to pick and choose.”

For Jim, 2017 was less re­mark­able. He had a small role in Death in

the Gunj, and Raabta was a dis­as­ter. “I hope Pad­maa­vat has changed my ca­reer,” he says. “I only got vil­lain roles, and now I am re­ally hop­ingI will get more in­ter­est­in­groles.”

For M anav, Tumhari Sulu was the kind of film Jim is wait­ing­for. “I was try­ing­not to do another neg­a­tive role,” he says. “I didn’t want to get boxed in. So, I sat at home for al­most 18 months. Then I au­di­tioned for Tumhari Sulu, and now I’m get­tin­gall sorts of roles!”

BYE, BYE HERO? “When it comes to bea uty bia s, Bol­ly­wood needs to ca tch up with the rest of the world” - Jim Sa rbh

De­spite as­tound­ing­suc­cesses of char­ac­ter ac­tors last year, Jim doesn’t be­lieve Bol­ly­wood has changed. “Even now a B aaghi 2 does more busi­ness than a Mukkabaaz,” he rues. “We can’t deny that beauty bias is a huge thin­gin In­dia. I think we need to catch up with the world there.”

But there is hope, says Pankaj. Scriptwrit­ers to­day are cre­at­ing more well-rounded char­ac­ters. “In the Ramayana, Ram is the hero. But Lak­sh­man can also be­come the hero if the scriptwriter wants,” he says.

M anav agrees and for Vikrant, this is just part of a cy­cle. While he be­lieves it’s too pre­ma­ture to say that char­ac­ters are the new he­roes, he points out that Hindi films never had a dearth of good char­ac­ter ac­tors. “There was al­ways a Pran or a Bal­raj Sahni, or an Om Puri or a Naseer saab. They paved the way for us,” says Vikrant. “In be­tween, the qual­ity of our cin­ema had hit rock bot­tom. To­day, we’re mak­ing good films again and dig­i­tal plat­forms are help­in­gus get more vis­i­bil­ity.”

On the flip­side, says Pankaj, if your con­tent isn’t good enough, the au­di­ence will switch to some­thin­gelse.

HAIL THE SCRIPT… “Cha ra cter a ctors do jus­tice to the roles a nd they a re a lso pocket friendly” - Pa nka j Tripa thi

“To­day, writ­ers come from smaller cities like Luc­know and Bareilly, and their sto­ries por­tray these parts of In­dia,” says M anav. “Films do­ing well to­day are dom­i­nated by the script. A good script re­quires a good ac­tor to pull it off. We are in the right place at the right time.”

It helps that pro­duc­ers in­vestin­gin smaller films want a good re­turn and look for ac­tors rather than stars, muses Pankaj. “At the end of the day, no­body wants to lose money. Ac­tors will do jus­tice to the roles and are also pocket friendly,” he ex­plains.

THE MIL­LION DOL­LAR QUES­TION “Wha t I a m of­fer­ing deter­mines my price” - Ma na v Ka ul

Film­mak­ers do­ings­mall films are get­ting­bet­ter bud­gets than be­fore, says Vikrant. Hav­ing­said that, adds M anav, ac­tors are paid what they’re worth. “If they need me for a role, they’ll give the money I de­mand, but I need to cre­ate that need,” he says. “I love the bru­tal­ity of this in­dus­try. What I am of­fer­ing deter­mines my price.”

Jim laughs. “You can squeeze them for more money, but only if you are worth it,” he says.

Ev­ery­one al­ways wants more, grins Pankaj. “But If you are chas­ing money, you’ll be in trou­ble. I love to act and I am get­ting­good roles. What else can I want?”

BULLISH AT THE BOX OF­FICE… “Films a re not sup­posed to be lulla bies” - Pa nka j Tripa thi

M asala movies will never lose their charm, the four ac­tors agree. “For most view­ers, movies should pro­vide an es­cape from mun­dane re­al­i­ties of life. We need to ac­knowl­edge that for the com­mon man, cin­ema is en­ter­tain­ment,” muses Vikrant. But Jim points out that there need be no con­tra­dic­tion be­tween good cin­ema and en­ter­tain­ingcin­ema. “In Hollywood most scom­mer­cial films are con­tent driven,” he says.

M anav agrees. “Look at Dan­gal. It is an out-and-out com­mer­cial film, but what sto­ry­telling,” he says. “Aamir Khan has cracked that for­mula. M ake a ~ 100 crore film, but keep the heart and mind in the right place.”

Com­mer­cial Hindi films keep sin­gle-screen the­atres run­ning. “We all want to do main­stream com­mer­cial cin­ema, but it should have an in­ter­est­ingstory. Films are not sup­posed to be lul­la­bies. Film­mak­ers don’t want the au­di­ence to doze off while watch­ingth­eir films,” says Pankaj.

“In theRa­mayana, Ra m is the­hero. But La kshma n ca n a lso be­comethe­hero if the­scriptwriter wa nts” - Pa nka j Tripa thi

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