From shar­ing de­tails about play­ing Shere Khan, his fan base and star­dom, the ac­tor bares it all...

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - City - - FRONT PAGE - Sa­marth Goyal ■ sa­[email protected]

Bri­tish ac­tor Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch needs no in­tro­duc­tion. The 42year-old’s great looks, act­ing ver­sa­til­ity and com­pelling charm has earned him a ded­i­cated fan fol­low­ing around the world. (The love he re­ceives is quite cult-ish, if you ask his fans). How­ever, the one who has pulled off com­plex char­ac­ters like iconic Bri­tish de­tec­tive Sher­lock Holmes, and su­per­hero Dr Strange with ease, doesn’t know “enough” about the mas­sive fan base he has around the globe.

“I am flat­tered by the num­ber of fans who love me and the work I do. [But my knowl­edge about them] is not enough,” says Cum­ber­batch over the phone in his deep voice, from Lon­don.

He adds, “I am full of grat­i­tude, awe and some­times con­fu­sion that I have got some ar­dent and loyal fans around the world.” He also tells us that he would love to show his grat­i­tude to his fans in In­dia when he comes back to the coun­try! Yes, he said “come back” re­call­ing the time he spent in In­dia when he was still a teenager.

“I re­mem­ber teach­ing Ti­betan refugee kids just out­side of Dar­jeel­ing, when I was 19 years old. I re­mem­ber I was in In­dia for five months. I tried to ex­plore the coun­try in that time. I re­mem­ber go­ing to Kan­pur, and from there go­ing to Nepal,” he tells us.

And that’s not all that there is to this In­dian con­nect. He will now be heard as Shere Khan in the film Mowgli, based on Rud­yard Ki­pling’s The Jun­gle Book.

His de­sire to visit In­dia once again be­came stronger when he was shoot­ing for Dr Strange (2016) in Nepal, back in 2015. “We shot the first part of the movie there, and that was the start of it. Reach­ing there, all of us got the feel­ing of where the char­ac­ter is rooted — in mys­ti­cism, ori­en­tal tra­di­tion and East­ern wis­dom. You know, I was heav­ily bearded, and had very heavy makeup. I looked noth­ing like what I do. And even then, peo­ple recog­nised me from day one!” he re­calls vividly.

“To see that amount of love from Nepal, which is not that far away from In­dia, I did think to my­self that it will be great to come back to In­dia,” he adds wish­fully, “One day, per­haps, it will be great to come and ex­pe­ri­ence all of that on my own, and say thank you to a few fans there [in In­dia].”

I re­mem­ber teach­ing Ti­betan refugee kids just out­side of Dar­jeel­ing, when I was 19 years old... I was in In­dia for five months BENE­DICT


In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with HT, Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch dis­cusses the up­com­ing Net­flix film Mowgli where he’s the voice be­hind Shere Khan. He also talks about his fan fol­low­ing across the globe. Ex­cerpts:

Un­like pre­vi­ous ver­sions, Mowgli gives a ra­tio­nale be­hind Shere Khan’s mo­ti­va­tion to kill him. How did you ap­proach the role from that per­spec­tive?

I am glad that peo­ple can see the ra­tio­nale be­hind his rea­sons. I don’t think peo­ple’s ac­tions ex­ist in a vac­uum. There are rea­sons be­cause of which things hap­pen. To an­swer the ques­tion, I was fas­ci­nated by the story of a wounded tiger, [who is] mo­ti­vated by pride and jealousy and is locked in on re­venge. So in many ways he is a tragic fig­ure in a way and he just can­not get out of that. In the case of Smaug, he was just mo­ti­vated by ve­nal greed. So, it was a sin­gu­lar tra­jec­tory. Shere Khan had a lot of lay­ers to him. From a phys­i­cal per­spec­tive, I knew that there would be lot of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity re­quired, so I was in shape for that. We used a crutch that was smaller than the other crutches, to cre­ate the limp for Shere Khan. What was also im­por­tant was to sound like this crea­ture, who is look­ing for re­venge. So, I used the word ‘man’ [in­stead of hu­man] and made it more an­i­mal­is­tic. Be­cause that word, sort of is his trig­ger, and that breeds in the ha­tred that he has for hu­mans.

You have crazy fans across the world. Does it fac­tor when you choose your roles?

My fans are loyal and they know they are in for a ride. I like to sur­prise them as much as I can, and that sort of thing keeps me on my toes, rather than fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful film for­mula, or do­ing things I en­joyed be­fore. And, I think fans like that. It’s not like, me against them, or they are like, don’t do this and [in­stead] go in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. They know that I am not go­ing to lis­ten to that, or [their] ca­reer sug­ges­tions [for me]. And hon­estly, I am re­ally grate­ful for that kind of loy­alty.

You have be­come one of the big­gest Hol­ly­wood stars in a very short span of time. What would you like to say to that?

I am frankly sur­prised by all of it. I mean I knew that some of the char­ac­ters I played will get a lot of lime­light. I mean 70 odd peo­ple had played Sher­lock be­fore me, but I still knew that play­ing Sher­lock will get some kind of at­ten­tion. So, I am not sur­prised by the fact that some of the roles that I played got at­ten­tion. I am shocked and sur­prised that be­cause of them, I got so much at­ten­tion.


Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch is noted for his por­trayal of Sher­lock HolmesPHOTO:MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS

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