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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

I’m an actor and I had an eye for actors: Abhishek Banerjee

Actor Abhishek Banerjee, who also does casting, drew from his past experiences to play a cold-blooded killer in Paatal Lok

Written by Alaka Sahani | December 20, 2020 6:20:09 am
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First Role: As the constable in Hawalaat, Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena’s one-act play, which was staged in 2003 at Delhi’s Kirori Mal College

Standout Act: Playing Hathoda Tyagi in Paatal Lok on Prime Video

SOON after Abhishek Banerjee finished shooting for Paatal Lok in June 2019, he left for a month-long trip to Europe with his wife, Tina Noronha. The actor had found himself uncharacteristically angry, anxious and even possessive of his wife when he was shooting for the web-series as the serial killer, Hathoda Tyagi. Travelling was his way of leaving behind the intensity the character demanded.

Mumbai was under lockdown when Paatal Lok’s release was announced this April. “The announcement brought back memories of Hathoda Tyagi,” recalls Banerjee, whose portrayal of the negative character brought him wide recognition.

Earlier, Banerjee has enjoyed appreciation for his performance in Ajji (2017) as Vilasrao Dhavle, Janna in Stree (2018) and Compounder in Mirzapur (2018). With popularity, however, came pressure. “One can no longer hide behind the newcomer tag and hope that a bad performance won’t be noticed,” says the 32-year-old. Banerjee’s talent for getting into the skin of a character became obvious during his first year as a student of English literature at Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College. He came to be known as “thulla” (a low-ranked policeman) after acting in the play Hawalaat. “Not many knew my name but they remembered my character. When people appreciate your play without realising you acted in it, that joy is incomparable,” he remembers.

Banerjee, who moved to Mumbai in 2008, got several blink-and-miss roles in movies like Rang De Basanti (2006), Dev.D (2009), Go Goa Gone (2013) and Bombay Talkies (2013). As he waited for acting opportunities, he turned to casting to earn a living. “I’m an actor and I had an eye for actors. I knew how to take briefs from directors,” says the co-founder of the agency Casting Bay, that has handled casting for Paatal Lok, Mirzapur and Bulbbul, among others. He will next appear in two upcoming comedy films, Helmet and Aankh Micholi.

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