Actor Namit Das speaks to Bulbul Sharma about his upcoming miniseries, A Suitable Boy, working with director Mira Nair for the second time and his debut as a music composer.
Actor Namit Das belongs to the family of musicians and has been trained in classical music by his father, also a popular ghazal singer, Chandan Dass. Das, who has already established himself as an accomplished actor through his work in films like Wake Up Sid, Sui Dhaga and Pataakha, among others, is all set to make his debut as a composer through director Mira Nair’s miniseries A Suitable Boy. The 35-year-old also plays a character, Haresh, in the series adapted from the novel of the same name by Vikram Seth.
Das spoke to Guardian 20 about composing music for the series, working with Mira Nair and his upcoming projects.
Q. Since you come from a family of musicians, how did acting happen?
A. It was because of the college that I was in, St. Xaviers in Mumbai. It had a very active theatre scene on those days. I always wanted to sing but somehow singing never gave me the right signs. But I did not shy away from stage and that’s how people noticed me. And out of the blue I became an actor.
Q. You are also a trained classical singer and an active music composer, so how would you like to define your musical sensibilities?
A. For me, more than the composition the words are important. Hence poetry sung or sonic poetry is what I am most interested in. Also, I am highly influenced by the poets of the ‘60s & ‘70s. I would love to give music to all these words. They are such beautiful thoughts and I feel they need to be sung.
Q. Your next acting project is Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy. What drove you to the character, Haresh, in the drama miniseries?
A. There was some divine intervention that led me to this character. I think I was destined to play Haresh. The moment I finished reading the book which was in late 2015, I knew I wanted to play Haresh. I think I asked the right question to the universe and it gave me an answer that I wanted to hear. Life is kind. And I am happy about everything the way it has turned out.
Q. Besides playing a character in the series, you are also making a debut as a music composer with A Suitable Boy. How was the experience?
A. Mira is so specific about whatever she wants. I don’t know what will remain in the final edit but most of these compositions were folk in nature. It was truly a learning experience. Also composed something that my mom wrote so that was another collaboration that turned out interesting.
Q. Would you like to compose music for Bollywood films as well?
A. Yes, of course. Goes without saying. Why wouldn’t I?
Q. This is your second time working with Mira Nair. You had earlier worked in Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001). What do you think about her filmmaking craft?
A. Mira is such an instinctive director. I had a ball of a time working with her. I consider myself really lucky to be part of this project. Mira puts in so much love and dedication behind everything that she does. It almost reaches an unbelievable state. I am in awe of Mira Nair. I don’t think she is a person. I think she is energy! We lovingly call her “Mirabai” sometimes. She is truly dedicated to her art form.
Q. You are both an actor and singer, so what are you more passionate about?
A. I love both. I love creating. I need to be constantly engaged. The fact that I am answering these questions is also a point of creation for me. I don’t think I see music and acting separately. It’s two sides of the same coin. The vocabulary might be different but inherently I feel I am trying to achieve the same thing with both the mediums. And that is some sort of expression—a voice and with that a story.
Q. What are your musical influences?
A. Indian classical music, specifically North Indian classical. And if you want to be more specific then I love thumri. There is so much expression to it. Every phrase that the artist improvises has so much beauty.
And recently I have developed a craze for blues as well. But long way to go in understanding the details in it. I think I am connecting on an instinctual level at the moment.
Q. You have been a part of quite a few web series and TV shows. So do you agree that web will soon become an alternate space and replace TV?
A. Hasn’t it already become? But I do feel both will co-exist. You can’t have a wipe out of something as strong as television. If you look at India, there are many areas where connectivity is still a problem. And hence I feel that the two mediums will co-exist.
Q. What are your upcoming projects?
A. Really excited about A Suitable Boy that comes out this year for BBC One. A web show called Mafia for Zee 5 and a crazy comedy called Bahut Hua Samman. That’s an ensemble film in which I am opposite Nidhi Singh.