‘I am still a struggling actor, looking for different roles’

‘I am still a struggling actor, looking for different roles’

By Taru Bhatia | | 27 August, 2016
Vinay Pathak.
Vinay Pathak has become Indian cinema’s archetypal comic actor over the past few years, with some remarkably successful films to his name. He speaks to Taru Bhatia about his career.
From being the creator of the popular ’90s Indian television series Hip Hip Hurray to working in critically acclaimed independent films like Khosla Ka Ghosla and Bheja Fry, Vinay Pathak has really come a long way. Here, he speaks about his experiences as a theatre artist, TV producer and comic actor extraordinaire.

Q. Tell us about the character you play in your upcoming movie  Island City?

A. I play the role of a diligent office worker who wins the “Fun Committee Award”, which entitles him to an entire day of fun at work. It makes him reluctant to leave his cubicle, following which  things start to happen
to him.

Q. What were the challenges you had to face during the making of the film?

A. Making a film is a new challenge every day, but for me it’s about doing a good job of it. I have always been asked to do comic, funny roles but this is a bit different. This is neither funny nor comic, not even a very serious role. The character I am playing is one of a diligent officer but there is also humour to the whole character. The challenge was to bring out what my director wanted me to do and at the same time do something I truly believed in.

Q. How do you feel about Island City winning several awards at various film festivals before its pan-India theatrical release?

A. I am not surprised at all. I was the first one to be blown over when I read the script three years ago and I actually haunted Ruchika [Oberoi] to make a film out of it. She was worried about funding but the movie has finally been made. I think it should have won more awards; it has in it the elements of black comedy, which we usually don’t get to see much in Indian films.

Q. How much have you thought about promoting Island City since it’s an independent film?

A. We just found out about the release date, so we are doing all that we can. It’s a wonderful film and we want everybody to watch it.

Q. You have worked in off-beat movies like Khosla Ka Ghosla and Bheja Fry. How different is Island City from the movies you have acted in so far?

A. No, its not different. It’s like any other indie film struggling to get made, struggling for viewership, struggling for sponsorship, struggling for a good release, struggling to find a good show among the big commercial films because finding a show is itself a
challenge.

Q. You mentioned before that you usually do comic roles, so do you think you have been typecast as a comic actor by most Indian directors?

A. Of course! No doubt about that.

“Making a film is a new challenge every day, but for me it’s about doing a good job of it. I have always been asked to do comic, funny roles but this is a bit different. This is neither funny nor comic, not even a very serious role. The character I am playing is one of a diligent officer but there is also humour to the whole character. The challenge was to bring out what my director wanted me to do and at the same time do something I truly believed in.”

Q. Would you then want to break this mould and try and do something different in the future?

A. Absolutely! I like doing different kinds of films. After Khosla Ka Ghosla, doing Dasvidaniya was a challenge for me. And after Chalo Dilli became successful, finding a film like Gour Hari Dastaan and then Island City was a huge struggle.

Q. Do you prefer satirical films more than other genres?

A. I prefer a good script. I don’t mind if it’s a satirical story or a humorous one. A good script is important. It’s as simple as that.

Q. You have worked in many capacities, from a Bollywood actor to a theatre artist to a TV presenter to being a producer as well. Which have you most enjoyed doing?

A. I don’t know if  being called a “Bollywood actor” is the right term for me in the Indian film industry. I am more of a “labour guy” in film business. People outside India consider Bollywood as “song and dance films” and I have not been part of such cinema. I don’t condemn such films, though. For all the other labels you mentioned, they just came my way.  I don’t think I have sat and planned or sketched my life, including my career, and who knows, tomorrow there will be new turns and twists. All I can say is that, it’s been fun so far.

Q. Currently you have been doing a lot of theater. Do you enjoy the stage more than the screen?

A. No, nothing like that. It’s like whatever comes my way, I do it. I love theater that’s why I do it. I love cinema that’s why I do it. Once in a while I do television also. I enjoy doing live events, that’s why I do it. It’s not like I prefer one over the other. They have their own place and importance.

Q. In your entire career span, is there any one film that you have most enjoyed working on?

A. All of them. Bheja Fry is lovely and closer to me because that movie changed my world, my life. Dasvidaniya is closer to my heart because it was the first and only movie I have produced so far.  Pappu Can’t Dance Saala I did because Saurabh [Shukla] wanted me to do it. I had most fun doing it. Aaja Nachle is very close to my heart because it was Anil Mehta’s first film. He is one of the most diligent and greatest artists I have known. I cannot select one and say, “That film has been dearest to me”. Even Gour Hari Dastaan has been an important film in my life where I got to play a very serious role — that of the journey of a man from the age of 40 to 80.  So I think it will be unfair to pick and chose one.  But yeah, these are the films that I hold closest to
my heart.

Q. Your first role was that of Vinny in your TV series Hip Hip Hurray, if I am not mistaken? Could you talk about the series?

A. Well, I wrote that series.  I did a workshop with the kids and then I wrote it. I am the original writer of Hip Hip Hurray, including its title song, screenplay and dialogue. I created Vinny for myself. 

I am still a struggling actor, I feel.  I am still looking for different roles. Tomorrow if I become a director, then it will be big change in my career.

Q. What are your future projects?

A. I have a few movie projects in the pipeline and something interesting in television as well.  But I am gonna take a lot of time before I finalise anything. So right now, work is in progress.

 

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