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Paatal Lok actor Abhishek Banerjee: Never thought of Hathoda Tyagi as a dark character

Abhishek Banerjee on playing Hathoda Tyagi in Paatal Lok, his rapport with Jaideep Ahlawat and casting for the Amazon Prime Video web series.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
Updated: May 28, 2020 8:30:30 am
hathoda tyagi paatal lok abhishek banerjee Abhishek Banerjee plays Vishal ‘Hathoda’ Tyagi in Amazon Prime Video’s Paatal Lok.

Abhishek Banerjee’s turn as ruthless killer Hathoda Tyagi in Amazon Prime Video’s latest web series Paatal Lok is being lauded by critics and fans alike.

“Because of people’s love, Hathoda Tyagi has become a character which I’ll remember for a long time,” Abhishek said during a recent live session from the Instagram page of The Indian Express Entertainment.

During the live, Abhishek revealed how he interpreted the character of Hathoda Tyagi. He also talked about being the casting director for Paatal Lok.

Here are excerpts from the interaction:

Hathoda Tyagi left an impact despite any dialogue or expressions. How are you reacting to all the reviews? 

When you are a talkative and expressive person in real life, it definitely gets difficult to play someone who is so silent. But I’m so happy with the reviews. Now, I want to see what more I can do.

How did you react when you got to know that you will be operating (read killing) with a hammer? There are so many memes that call you Desi Thor.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this character would create mayhem with a small hammer (laughs). I’m loving all the references of Thor and John Wick.

To play such dark characters, you need to feel them internally. Was it ever difficult to come out of Hathoda Tyagi?

I never thought of him as a dark character. For me, he is Vishal Tyagi who avenged the rape of his sisters. So for me, he is a hero despite committing murders. I never felt his anger, rather his pain. I used to cry at times. Once I started crying during our workshop. I never had any complaints playing him.

You also doubled up as the casting director for Paatal Lok. And one of the high points of the show was its brilliant cast. Take us through the process

It feels great when you get to contribute in a show or a film in several ways. When you see lesser known actors coming in small roles and leaving an impact, you feel like they are your babies.

But who would’ve thought that singer Anup Jalota can also act? Even actors like Jagjeet Sandhu (Tope Singh/Chaaku) and Mairembam Ronaldo Singh (Mary/Cheeni) were so well cast.

Anup Jalota was the best casting. He was amazing because nobody could’ve thought that he can act, not even us if we hadn’t seen his Bigg Boss video. The casting of Mairembam Ronaldo who plays Cheeni was also amazing. She is a transgender person from Manipur. It was her first acting project. We have broken several barriers, cliches and that has been amazing.

Let’s talk about the casting of Hathoda Tyagi.

I had to audition for Ansari. It is a very good character as you can see the amount of love Ishwak Singh is getting. So I knew Ansari is gonna be great and I’ll play him nicely. When Sudip Sharma got to know this, he laughed on my face and said, ‘Have you seen your eyes? They are so cunning. You really think we’ll let you play Ansari?’ (Laughs) I told them that I played Jana in Stree and he was a good guy, but I couldn’t convince them. I let it go thinking I’m not going to get any role, so I thought of concentrating on the show’s casting. They came back to me and asked me to try for Hathoda Tyagi. I couldn’t understand why they wanted me to play Hathoda. He had no lines. Then as it happens, you start reading again, and when I understood the character as a whole, I got convinced. That’s when I gave the audition and got selected.

Also read: Paatal Lok actor Ishwak Singh: It’s a trance when you get a part like Imran Ansari

Did playing Hathoda Tyagi change you in any way?

It made me happy. Middle-class people have loads of complaints about their life but after playing Hathoda Tyagi, I realised that we are very privileged and lead a very peaceful life.

hathoda tyagi hathi ram paatal lok Abhishek Banerjee and Jaideep Ahlawat in a still from Paatal Lok.

How’s your rapport with Jaideep Ahlawat?

We have know each other for several years. We both were new to Mumbai once. I got into casting, he began acting. The casting for ACP Agnel Wilson (Randeep Hooda’s character) in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai was going and we called Jaideep bhai. He gave such a killer audition. I had an actor and casting director relationship with him for several years. I always called him for some or the other role in every film that I was casting. I was so happy for him after Raazi. When Sudip sir came and told me that he was thinking of taking Jaideep for Hathi Ram Chaudhary’s role, I jumped and said of course. Maybe because I knew his journey, I was so sure that he could pull this off.

Also read: Jaideep Ahlawat on Paatal Lok success: We were shocked for initial two days

How was it working with Anushka Sharma as a producer?

This is my third project with her after Phillauri and Pari. We have a very close relationship with Clean Slate Films. Both her and Karnesh (Sharma) are sweethearts. They give you a lot of love and support. They back the right content.

What is your take on projects that have political undertones?

Whether you believe it or not, you have to understand the politics. In every script, there is a political bend that the writer has included. Whether you like it or not, is on you. But it’s very important to know that politics. It depends on your general knowledge and awareness, what kind of a political person you are and how aware you are. It cannot be like you know a little bit of it and you can manage to play the character. In Paatal Lok, everybody is right in their own place.

Post Paatal Lok, do you feel your responsibility to pick good roles has increased?

Earlier, my only concern was that people should accept me as an actor, then it would become easy for me to convince any director. Now, people have taken me as an actor and so I can concentrate more on the selection of stories and filmmakers.

Your next is Kaali 2. Tell us more.

Kaali 2 is my first Bengali project. It’s a bilingual show, shot in both Bengali and Hindi. It’ll release on ZEE5 on May 29. I’m playing a drug lord. Those who had complaints that I barely spoke anything as Hathoda Tyagi will see me speaking non-stop here.

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