Like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy start discovering each other during the course of Pride and Prejudice, actor Neil Bhoopalam says the characters played by him and fashion designer Masaba Gupta in Masaba Masaba also gradually warm up to each other in the new series.
The scripted series is based on real-life moments from Masaba’s life and follows her unique background, the diverse worlds she straddles across fashion and family, and her foray back into the dating world.
Bhoopalam plays Dhairya Rana, an entrepreneur who is an investor in the designer’s label House of Masaba.
The friction between Masaba and Dhairya resembles the tension between the two lead characters — Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy who fall for each other after they get past each other’s shortcomings — in celebrated author Jane Austen’s iconic 1813 novel.
Asked about the parallels, the 37-year-old actor told PTI, “Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice would be quite an apt reference for the character. They (Dhairya and Masaba) get to know each other more in a slow and gradual way. Whether he is a potential love interest or not is something viewers will have to watch out for.”
The Netflix series, which marks Masaba’s acting debut alongside her mother, veteran actor Neena Gupta, is a tongue-in-cheek, breezy and an equally meta take on real people playing fictionalised versions of themselves.
Bhoopalam, known for films like NH10, Shaitan, Netflix anthology Lust Stories, and Amazon Prime Video series Four More Shots Please!, said the part fact-part fiction format of drew him to the series.
“The ratio between fact and fiction keeps fluctuating. You’re not hiding behind the character. If you do stand-up comedy, it would be still you doing comedy. But if you’re playing a character of another name with another style, that’s easier in some way. It’s very difficult to play the person you already are.
“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable being themselves in public. How are you going to do that knowing that there’s a camera in front of you and that you will be captured?”
The actor was all praise for Masaba, the “natural performer”.
“She is also bogged down by the baggage of performance. There’s a certain rhythm of a performance that is accepted and necessary for that kind of showcasing.
When one performer works in one particular medium for a longish time, they start taking up the grammar of the performance. Masaba does not have that, so she is still very fresh with her performance,” he said.
This is also the first time Bhoopalam worked with director Sonam Nair, best known for TVF series The Trip and the feature film Gippy.
Nair is a family friend of the actor and he hopes Masaba Masaba is the first of his many collaborations with her.
“Sonam is just too cool and has a very quirky sense of humour which you can tell in her writing and social media posts. I’m amazed at the way she looks at life and what interests her.”
As someone who straddles the worlds of cinema, television, theatre and web, Bhoopalam said he likes to strike a balance across mediums.
“Every monsoon, I do a new play because I can rehearse for 40 days without having to go for a shoot. I get perhaps one movie or series every year…
“People love stories, they love never-ending stories. They love to be invested in watching eight seasons of one show. So I like to have my fix of all the mediums because I learn from one and put it into the other. Theatre is the one I use the most,” the actor said.
But Bhoopalam said there is nothing gory in store for Dhairya in the six-part series.
“There is some heartbreaking stuff that happens to him without going morbid,” he quipped.
Masaba Masaba also features Rytasha Rathore and Smaran Sahu. The show debuts on Netflix on August 28.
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