My character’s name is Walt (similar to Walt from Breaking Bad) who is very cold-hearted with a sharp business acumen. He had a very rough childhood as he grew up in a red light area where his mother was a prostitute. He grew up watching women being mistreated and earning very little money for their services. Having grown up in such surroundings, he starts his own business in child trafficking and and also runs a drugs and weapons business and anything that brings in money. He does not believe in societal norms.
I have been living in Mumbai for the last four years, trying to find a footing and have auditioned for every casting director and ad agency. Two years ago I met Shanoo Sharma from Yash Raj Films, who I had given my photographs and demo tape to. After being shortlisted for four to five films, I was finally selected for Mardaani. I went through five rounds of audition over two months and was finally selected for the role.
I started acting at the age of 13 in school. At 15 I joined Barry John’s professional theatre training institute in Delhi. In college I did workshops under Aamir Raza Husain who is a renowned theatre personality. Finally at 22, I decided to move to Bombay. I have previously done commercials for Samsung, Mahindra, Canon to survive and pay my bills in a city like Mumbai. Advertisements also opened up avenues to meet film-makers.
I was excited since I had waited for this day for a long time, but I was also nervous because when I reached the set there was Rani Mukerji and a crew of 400 people. I had mixed feelings, and was overwhelmed and excited at the same time. My first shot was the phone conversation which my character has before the interval. Shivani’s husband has been beaten up and he says ‘Khabar sunke bahut dukh hua, sach bolun toh rona bhi aaya mujhe.’ The shot was taken at 7 am in Connaught Place in Delhi during Holi. Since Pradeep Sarkar is a perfectionist, even the extras were choreographed and made to walk in perfect coordination. It took us six hours to get that shot.
My biggest takeaway is how to remain calm under pressure and to be patient. It was very chaotic when shooting in Delhi since we were trying to shoot in places like Chandni Chowk. It required a lot of effort to remain calm in an environment where it seemed like a riot could break out any minute. Another takeaway for me was working with Rani Mukerji who is not only an inspiration, but also challenges you as a co-actor.
It has only been a few days since Mardaani has released. There is a lot of talk, but I am unable to talk about what is in the pipeline.