His goofiness on screen made every person root for him, but it was his dedication and blind affection that had girls wishing they were at the receiving end of his affection. Meet Sumeet Vyas, whose portrayal of Mikesh Chaudhary in the webseries, Permanent Roommates, in 2014, made him an internet star. Vyas’s portrayal of Mikesh, an engineer and boy-next-door, who goes to great lengths to woo his girlfriend charmed the viewers. His signature goofy smile and catchphrase of “whats up”, became stuff of memes. “I tapped in the goofiness of every average man. Permanent Roommates worked because we were not telling a larger than life story, but something that was very slice of life. There is goofiness and chaos in romance. No one talks about the practical goof ups. When you are down on your knees and proposing to a girl, jeans gandi hoeygi yaar, ghootna bhi dard karega. And if you are trying to do this in a Mumbai building, there will be the kachrewaala as well, eavesdropping,” says Vyas, referring to the opening scene of Permanent Roommates. We meet Vyas in a Delhi hotel, when he visited to shoot for Veere Di Wedding, a production co-starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor and Swara Bhaskar.
Coming up is his first solo release, Ribbon, next week. He plays Karan, a young professional dealing with marriage, an unexpected pregnancy, professional pressures and living in Mumbai. “I like realistic content. I took Ribbon because the story had everything that we see around us — childbirth, pressures of society, EMIs and keeping the romance going. The film traces the life of a couple in a certain span of time and we, as actors, also evolve in the film,” says Vyas.
But Karan is a far cry from Mikesh. The bespectacled Karan oozes an intensity and his demeanour is more controlled.” Rakhee Sandilya, the director, is a documentary filmmaker and she brought this new method. She had the script and screenplay ready, but there were no set dialogues, they are largely improvised. She would give us — Kalki and me — a situation and make us react. In the promo — a scene where she tells me that she is pregnant, we tried five different variations. There was another instance where we are having this intense scene and Rakhee sent a guy over with tea, ‘ki chai aa gayi’. You react to it — you are always in character. The film was almost like a theatrical exercise for me,” adds Vyas.
Vyas, was born in Rajasthan, but the family shifted to Mumbai. Raised in Bhayander, a Mumbai suburb, he had no inclination to act. “Studies was also not my cup of tea. Out of a sense of revolt, I took science in Class XII with aspirations of becoming an engineer. But I sort of quit studying after Class XII,” says Vyas, 34. He began working for a editing studio, and, one day, he attended a play in which his father, an NSD graduate, was acting. He became hooked to the stage. “I worked with Nadira Babbar for six years, Manav Kaul, Aakarsh Khurana and Atul Kumar. I have also directed a few plays,” he says.
Acting stints in TV shows gave him economic sustainability, allowing him to pursue theatre. “I would work for eight-10 days, make money and then keep doing theatre. There was also this period of one-and-a-half years where I played the lead in a TV show, Palkon ki Chaon Main since everyone around me lamented that kya rakha hai theatre main, TV karo. I played the good guy — veg khata tha, aur veg sochta tha. A TV hero is the most boring character to play,” adds the actor.
What followed were small but noticeable performances in films such as English Vinglish (2012) and Aurangzeb (2013). Vyas was then introduced to TVF by actor Kunal Khemu and he approached them for work. “They told me they are trying this new thing called webseries, and the shoot was supposed to last a week. I would be get paid Rs 25,000. It’s another story that the shoot went on for two months and I got some more money after the season finished,” says Vyas, who also acted in a web series called Tripling, which he co-wrote. Produced by The Viral Fever (TVF), Permanent Roommates, comprised 20-30-minute episodes, a new format at that time. “At that time no one had thought that viewers will sit and watch half an hour episodes on YouTube. The first season was shot on 1D and 5D cameras. Given the low budget, we shot in a godforsaken building in Mira Road (Mumbai), which had a lot of CID and Crime Patrol shoots. Uss flat ke har kone main ek khoon hua hai. The second season, given the phenomenal response of the first one, the budget got way bigger,” says Vyas. It’s been a long journey since then. Now, he is playing the love interest of Kareena Kapoor’s character in Veere Di Wedding, which will release in May 2018.