ASHWATH BHATT chats candidly about Raazi, playing Manto for around 20 years and his love for the craft of acting with Ankit Shah.
What made you choose Raazi?
The script was amazingly written and who would anyway say, ‘no’ to Meghna Gulzar? The way Meghna told us how she was going to handle the script and the movie gave me confidence that I was in the right hands.
How challenging was it for you you to play a pakistani army officer?
I would say every role is equally challenging because you want to do amazing work in everything you do. The screen time doesn’t really matter. The references help you but at the end what matters is how you perform. The real challenge was recreating the Pakistani Army Officers of 1971. The uniform was really different and the bodyline was not the same as well. Meghna researched about the uniform in great detail and was also particular with each pronunciation. I haven’t seen anyone work with that kind of detailing.
How was it working with Vicky kaushal and alia Bhatt?
It was absolutely fabulous working with Alia and Vicky. Both are dream co-stars to have. I was fortunate to be working with Vicky or Alia or even Arif sir or Jaideep. Everybody was warm. Alia was so very warm. She had no airs about her and she was so chilled out. Vicky and I gelled so well. I have seen Masaan and I loved Vicky in the movie. It was great seeing everyone contribute to a scene. It teaches you a lot as an actor.
Can you share some anecdotes from behind the scenes?
We were stuck in Patiala during the riots that had taken place during the entire Ram Rahim controversy. We couldn’t even move out of the hotel gate. There was a table tennis court in the hotel, so Arif sir, Shishir sir, Vicky and I decided to play table tennis. It became like a Raazi Championship. While we were playing, we got to know that Shishir ji was a state champion for table tennis aur wohhu med ho d hoke hume ha ra rahethey. While we were playing, we referred to each other by our character names. We also hosted terrace get togethers and used to pull each other’s legs a lot.
How was it working with arif Zakaria?
I have been a huge fan of Arif sir since I was a student because when I was in school Chunauti had released and it was amazing working with him. The best thing about him is that he completely changes with every frame. He just brings such versatility to the screen. Even Meghna was awestruck at the way Arif sir performed. His transformation was amazing and the way he performed, every actor should see and learn. We are still in touch
post Raazi, you are also starring in Manto, how was it working with Nandita Das and Nawaazudin Siddique?
I know Nawaz bhai from our days at the NSD and I had met him many times during the filming of Manto as well. Whenever we meet, we debate about world cinema, good films and good actors. We also would debate about politics and other issues in the world. Manto is really close to my heart as I have played Manto for close to 20 years on stage. I’ve been to Pakistan and have done huge research on Manto. I have actually slept in the same bedroom in which Manto slept in Lakshmi Mansion in Lahore. What I find amazing about Manto is that he was unapologetically and he tried his level best to teach people about the ill effects of Partition.