From comedy to villainous roles, Deepak Dobriyal has played varied characters on the big screen.
He has been in the industry for almost two decades. And while many might consider Maqbool, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, as his acting debut, it was, in fact, an episode in the television series Bhanwar that was his first brush with the silver screen.
Bhanwar was a docudrama that aired between 1998 and 1999 on Sony TV. It was based on real-life court cases and pathbreaking judgments by Indian judiciary.
In our series this week, Dobriyal goes down memory lane and shares how he came on board this mini-series that also marked his association with Irrfan Khan.
1. How did your first acting project, TV show Bhanwar, come to you?
Rasika Tyagi, the casting director of the show, used to watch my plays in Delhi. She was very good at her job as whoever she introduced in Bhanwar including Irrfan Khan, Vijay Raaz, Aamir Bashir and me, everyone suited their roles so well. So, Rasika ji had helped me a lot. She got me work here and there, including Bhanwar. I had become an emergency actor for TV18 (production house). If any actor got busy, I was suddenly cast in his place. I got decent money for it. So this way I came on board Bhanwar too.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
There were four guys who commit a crime. I played one of the suspects. Irrfan Khan played a fraud lawyer who wins the case. The story was something like that. My first scene was some court scene where we are arrested and brought for a court appearance.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
Yes, I was nervous. And today when I see it, I feel it was ridiculous acting! I knew nothing and it’s better nobody watches it today (laughs). That’s how you feel for the work you have done in the beginning of your career. You just don’t want to talk about it. I feel so shy looking at it today, though now it’s done. But then I think it’s better to keep that in mind to know what we did back then, for some confidence today.
There were no retakes as such. It was a one-take scene. Because I did theatre, I did not have the sense of characterisation and how to act in front of the camera.
4. Who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
My first scene was with Irrfan Khan. It’s so surreal that I began my career with him only. Even when I entered films with Maqbool, it had Irrfan bhai. So yes, we have a long friendship. When I once reminded him of Bhanwar, he was surprised. I said, “So you thought we got associated post Maqbool? It was actually Bhanwar, if you remember.” He said, “Oh you were that guy?” I said, “Yes. I know nobody would recognise me now.” He said, “Nobody recognised me too!” (laughs)
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
Redoing a role would mean doing it from zero again. People might think that I will do it in a better way today. But if I actually redo it, I will do it as if it’s come to me for the first time. I would try to know him better first. Today, I have understood the process and I believe in that more. Today, I would want to see where I can find that character. I won’t say I will play it hundred times better, but I have got to know his journey. I will get through his backstory. That’s how a character is created in the process. If you create it beforehand, it will become limited and won’t have that much range.
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6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
Nothing as such! In 11th or 12th grade, when we were deciding future plans, my friends suggested why don’t I try acting as my expressions were so good, in both drama and comedy. So that idea struck me. Then I did a play and called the same friends. It was like a community play on some religious subject where I played a negative role. When I met my friends after the play, they were laughing. I thought I acted very well but they said it was pathetic. They joked that I should be thankful that at least I stepped onto the stage. I did feel hurt but it was because of them that I took the challenge and kept getting better.
I watched a lot of Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh, Salman, Ajay Devgn films as they ruled commercial cinema that time. Then I also saw regional films and parallel cinema on television. I loved how despite not understanding the language, these films communicated through simple beautiful moments where you understand the human expressions. I kept those visuals inside me for so many years to keep the fire going. I also watched English movies with some friends during my Delhi days. So all of this combined pushed me to become an actor.