Mira Nair’s adaptation of the epic Vikram Seth novel A Suitable Boy has been the talk of the town ever since its UK premiere in July. Mainly for three reasons — because of the source material, the versatile cast and the filmmaker herself. Joining the talented and familiar faces is debutant Mikhail Sen who plays the reserved, celebrated writer Amit Chatterji in the series.
Mikhail has previously done quite a bit of theatre, both in Mumbai and the UK. He is currently living in the UK and recently spoke to indianexpress.com about his big debut, working on a Mira Nair set and more.
Excerpts from the conversation:
What do you have to say about the appreciation the show has been getting?
The reactions here have been phenomenal. People have never seen India the way it has been portrayed on the show. In such international projects, India has always been shown from a western lens. It is surreal, this feeling. I am not very active on social media. I didn’t realise the impact it would have, especially in the UK. I have gotten messages on Twitter and Instagram from people I don’t really know, saying just how wonderful the series is. They are resonating with my character Amit. I am just trying to enjoy it all.
Do you identify with Amit Chatterji on any level?
He is very complex; several things are going on with Amit. He is almost a celebrity writer, very celebrated in the Bengal of the 1950s. So in terms of his public face, he is quite confident. But when he was being his artistic self, that’s when I could relate with him. There is a quietness to him, a sense of searching. And when he meets Lata, he finds what he is looking for, and of course, the fact that I am a Bengali and Amit is a Bengali. Plus, my grandfather was a poet as well, so that connection helped.
What was the casting process like?
I have an interesting backstory. My grandparents gave me the book (A Suitable Boy) for my 15th birthday. The inscription inside the pages was, ‘To our suitable boy.’ And it is funny that 10-12 years later, I am playing one of the suitors. I was doing a show in London and Mira Nair was in the audience. So I went up to her and told her I auditioned for the show and then the next thing I know, I was auditioning again, this time with Mira. It was really being in the right place at the right time. I told Mira and Vikram (Vikram Seth) about it later, and they were also a bit stumped.
What was it like working on a Mira Nair set? Were you at all intimidated, seeing how this was your acting debut?
Mira is a very collaborative director, so you are not scared to talk about work or your character. She is very happy to get your opinion because that is when you really craft your character. It was a massive set, a team of 110 actors, 400 different people in the crew, so to get that experience as my first experience was really special. Of course, I had to adapt to it very quickly. And it was kind of intimidating to be surrounded by such lovely artistes, but then everyone was so warm and welcoming. We got along really well.
Are there any plans to work in the Hindi entertainment industry?
I am a Bangalore boy, did my college in New Delhi, and was also in Bombay a couple of years doing theatre. So of course, India is still home. I just want to work everywhere. I am six months here (in the UK) because I have a visa which allows me to do international work as well. But some really interesting work is coming out of India, be it Paatal Lok or Made in Heaven, such fantastic shows. So yes, I do hope to collaborate with Indian makers in the future.
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