Abhishek Banerjee says, “What happened this year feels like a dream. It was full of surprises.” The actor, who played one of the year’s most popular characters – Hathoda Tyagi in Pataal Lok, was also seen in projects such as Kaali 2, Bhonsle and Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Abhishek spoke about the success and adulation he received due to his performances this year, balancing the dual job of an actor and casting director, and what changes did the lockdown bring to his life.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Your Paatal Lok character Hathoda Tyagi was memorable. How was 2020 for you?
As I had planned it, acting was supposed to happen to me at around 40. But it came 7-8 years in advance, when I did Stree (2018). So, I didn’t get time to adjust to the new phase. The trailer of Pataal Lok came out on my birthday (May 5). I was obviously very hopeful about the show, but I didn’t expect such a huge response. From then on, my life completely changed. All the praise I received was a culmination of years of dedication towards my craft.
As an actor, you always want to be known by your character. Even though I wasn’t cast in Mirzapur 2, many remembered me from Season 1. They said they missed Compounder. It is important what I do next so that viewers can move on from Hathoda Tyagi.
How did you react to all the memes around Hathoda Tyagi?
I didn’t understand the concept of memes initially. So, the first time I saw the Thor meme, I thought people were making fun of me. Later I realised they were doing this because they had fun watching me as Hathoda Tyagi. Then I started enjoying it too. Also, coincidently, Thor is my favourite superhero.
How did you cope with the lockdown?
I completed Aankh Michoni and was supposed to start my first Bengali film in March. But then the lockdown happened. All of us, especially in our 30s, have been working for a long time without paying heed to our personal lives and families. So, March-April was depressing as I didn’t know what to do at home. It took a bit of time to get used to such a life.
Casting Bay also worked on some of the biggest projects this year (Bandish Bandits, Bulbbul, Pataal Lok, Mirzapur 2, Panchayat, Lootcase). Now with acting in full swing, do you find it challenging to balance both jobs?
Honestly, there was pressure even before. When I started acting, that was the first time I stopped being in office. For two and a half years, I was casting on WhatsApp and video calls. Suddenly, during the lockdown, the entire world began casting like that. Of course, my team and basic core is very solid. I keep an eye on the casting process too.
When you get a casting project, do you now look for roles for yourself more?
It’s like the coach might be a good player, but doesn’t mean he’ll play the match himself, even if he wants to. If someone wants to cast me, they tell me upfront. I auditioned for Pataal Lok only after the makers asked me to. I would have never imagined myself as Hathoda Tyagi.
The way you approach your characters and projects, has it changed in the past few years?
What has changed is the greed for doing meatier parts. I want to do parts which have more time and relevance. For me, the story is of prime importance. I want to be more choosy with scripts. But I will also do commercial films because I love that.
What change did 2020 bring in you?
You have doubts about yourself as an actor, thinking am I doing enough? So, all that fear vanished. Covid has taught us to live our lives with whatever resources we have. I know whatever I do henceforth is for me to have fun than to prove anything to anybody.
One good thing you’ll remember about 2020?
2020 has given much-needed attention to hardworking actors. That’s a huge change and a new beginning. People understand and appreciate acting more. There are so many in 2020 who have grabbed attention just because of their talent.
Read: Express Rewind | Jaideep Ahlawat
On the work front, how do you see 2021 shaping up for you?
Helmet and Aankh Michoni are up for release. There are anthologies for Netflix and Amazon too. I’m looking forward to Rashmi Rocket. It is a very different character.