Ashwath Bhatt claims his love for cinema dates back to his childhood. An NSD passout, has also did an acting post-graduation course from London until breaking into the field with theatre.
Known for starring in films like The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Gangster, Haider, Phantom, Raazi and Kesari, Ashwath was also seen in Netflix web show Leila earlier this year. His upcoming project is 99 Songs.
The theatre artiste-turned-Bollywood actor recalls his first brush with on-camera acting and how it was technically very different from performing on stage.
Here’s what Ashwath Bhatt shared about his debut film project and how he came onboard.
1. What was your first acting project? How did the project come to you?
The first film I was cast in was called Mahotsav – The Grand Festival which never got released. I was playing the lead in it, and Biju Viswanath was making it. He lives outside India and I think he is back now. He was the DOP of K Balachandran and other big shots in south. Somehow, he contacted me. That time I was with German Theatre Company, working on Flying Fish. I was going down south for a show, and he said come to Chennai. I met him at some hotel. He kind of made me do a few things. He said ‘You are the 49th actor I auditioned for this part’. I don’t want to mention, but some who became big names, later on, had also auditioned for that part. He said he did not get that vibe from them, and I was doing this part. He said, ‘You are Mithilesh Desai for me.’ Within I think one month, I was shooting in Achrol in Jaipur for 25 days straight. It was 2006.
The film’s story was very different. It was about this filmmaker who is settled outside. He comes to his mother’s funeral and then he wants to conduct a film festival in the village. Then what kind of things happen to him formed the crux of the movie. It was kind of a dark situational comedy.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
I remember that our camera team got delayed. We panicked, but then it was okay. It was all acting and a bit of happiness because finally, you are facing the camera. That time we were shooting on film, not on digital. So when the action would happen, the camera would make that noise and suddenly for a second, you will think how am I going to concentrate with this noise. But then as an actor, slowly you learn with time. Of course, the camera is silent now, digitised, but that time it was a big challenge. Then you remember all the films you have watched and have huge respect for all the actors, even those who could not act, because they had to do things in front of this whole big box and especially close-ups. You are emoting, and there is a camera in front of you with that noise. And you have to act like that, imagine!
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
I did not take many retakes because we did not have much of film stock. So I had to get the first take right. I have its DVD because it went to many film festivals. It was a nice, decent film. But when I see myself today, I cringe seeing what I did. It was so over-the-top because I came from a theatre background, so it was too much. I should have controlled yourself.
4. And who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
Good rapport! Danish Iqbal was from NSD, and he was playing my friend. So he was my first co-star, and there were other people who I knew at that time. Some are doing television now, and some are doing other stuff.
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5. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
We watched Amitabh Bachchan’s masala films. My mother was a great film buff. She was a first day first show kind of woman that too in Kashmir. I remember watching those Kumar Gaurav films at Palladium or Regal with my mother who was a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra. I think that is where it comes from. Of course, when you grow up, you see a lot of good cinema and you see a lot of people inspiring you. My personal favourite has been Sanjeev Kumar because in one film he was playing an old man, in the next film, he was playing a young lover of the same actor, and in another one, he was the brother. So at one time, he was playing so many relationships with this one woman (Jaya Bhaduri). Then he could play ages very easily. His comedy had an intensity. So somewhere I am deeply influenced by the way he approached acting. On stage, my all-time favourite is Mark Rylance. He blew me away the first time I saw him in London. I was a student and he came to perform at Lamda. Many times I have cried seeing him perform, seeing how naturally he does that.
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