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Gulshan Devaiah on 10 career-defining roles


Sometime in the early 2000s, Gulshan Devaiah shot for an English-language film made in India which also featured Waheeda Rahman, Girish Karnad and Anuj Sawhney in principal roles. The film, unfortunately, never saw the light of the day and Gulshan had to wait a few more years to make his debut in cinema.

In the year 2011, Gulshan made his big screen debut with the Bejoy Nambiar directed ‘Shaitaan’. The same year, he was also seen in Rohan Sippy’s ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ and Anurag Kashyap’s ‘That Girl In Yellow Boots’. In these many years, Gulshan has portrayed a wide range of characters in several films and shows. On his birthday today, the versatile actor speaks about the process behind portraying some of the memorable characters he brought to life on the screen over the years.

Devi Lal Singh – Dahaad

Devi Lal and his wife shared a very interesting equation. They were two very different individuals and would disagree on several things. While Devi Lal was a fairly rational and progressive person, his wife was a little orthodox and narrow-minded owing to her conditioning. She is a good person but her conditioning has led her towards having a narrow-minded worldview. I guess it is safe sometimes to be that way. At a social level, a lot of women find it safer to accept the status quo. Going against it could lead to their existence being challenged. With this series, I got the opportunity to do something different. Usually, I get to play negative characters or ones that have grey shades to them. This time, I got to be an out-and-out good guy. Of course, he is also flawed like any other human being. It was good for the kind of diversity and versatility I wanted in my career. He is a nice guy who does not come from an urban setting. He is an average person who just tries to do the right thing. He does not always get to do the right thing because of the circumstances around him. He is very unhappy in his marriage but he tries to keep it going.

He is human and succumbs to the power of attraction. He is attracted to his colleague Anjali Bhati (Sonakshi Sinha). When he is having sex with his wife, he fantasizes about Anjali Bhati. The remarkable thing about Devi Lal is that he is not a remarkable person. He consistently tries to do the right things. Most people fail to do this. We do not prioritize doing the right thing. Our ego, selfishness and emotions come in the way. In a lot of ways, it’s a role model character for people. I related to the character and enjoyed playing it. I also got the opportunity to play a man in uniform. While growing up, I would see films in which the lead actor would wear a uniform and beat up everyone. Because of that, I also wanted to play a cop in a film or show someday. It was a silly fantasy. In ‘Dahaad’, I was wearing a uniform most of the time. It was also quite different from the kind of cops we see in Hindi cinema. He was more real and humane.  

Karan Chaudhary – Shaitaan

I could not relate to KC on any level. It was totally against my grain. That’s also one of the reasons why it was interesting to play this part. In hindsight, I got the pitch of the character wrong. It was written in a certain way. The way it came out was a result of mishmash of different ideas and circumstances. I developed the backstory of KC in my mind to understand him better. KC is the kind of guy who is born into a rich family. His family must be comprising of business people. They, perhaps, came from another state and settled down in Mumbai. His father or grandfather might have come to set up a business.

KC is somebody who takes everything for granted because of his economic status. As an actor, I feel I fell short of revoking it. It still worked because Bejoy put it all together quite well. My inspiration to play this character was Alex DeLarge, the character which Malcolm McDowell played in A Clockwork Orange. He was an anarchist. KC is not really an anarchist. KC pretends to be brave and unfazed by the situations around him. But, actually he is not. That is a façade he creates so that people accept him. When things go wrong, he bails out. I think that is one thing I managed to get right. I had another opportunity to portray KC, I would play him a little differently.

Mandar Ponkshe – Hunterrr

‘Hunterrr’ was a coming-of-age film. It was not difficult to play this character. I was just a little conscious while playing him. I didn’t want to get it wrong. By the time I got the opportunity to do this film, I had gained some experience as an actor. Harsh had been working on the idea seven years before he got to make the film. It was a lower middle-class milieu. I found that interesting. Mandar Ponkshe is a very self-conscious person. He thinks he is incapable of asking women out. He thinks he is incapable of asking women out. He comes with a set of rules and ideas on his own which helps him indulge in promiscuous activity. Doing such things makes him feel good about himself. He has seen his scoring with women. He feels you will be a man among men if you do all this. He does not understand concepts like acceptance and love. Somewhere, he did not grow up. He remained in his teenage self. He grows up towards the end when somebody like Tripti (Radhika Apte), who is completely out of his league, agrees to marry him. He starts wondering why somebody like her wants to marry him. He thinks she would get somebody far more successful and handsome than me. Because I embraced that quality, I think it made the character more likeable. It made him less creepy. Owing to the things he does, he would easily come across as a person who is a pervert. I was conscious about not playing him like that.

Karate Mani – Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota

Working with Vasan (Bala) is always a pleasure. Except for ‘Peddlers’, all his films are set in a fantasy world. Pratik Parmar was our martial arts trainer and we trained extensively with him. He taught us how to fight in front of a camera. I wanted the character to have a distinctive style. I wanted my fighting style to have a karate style to it. I wanted to be sure about how I hit my punches and create my blocks. Radhika (Madan) and Abhimanyu (Singh) had a flamboyant style of fighting inspired by Jackie Chan’s movies. Finding the character happened slowly. I focussed more on finding the soul of Karate Mani. He is a broken man and is drinking away to death. The one person he is emotionally attached to Supri (Radhika Madan) whom he has brought up like his daughter.

Jimmy – Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota

This was the first time I played two different characters in a film. Because of Karate Mani’s injury, his father became softer on him. This led to Jimmy drifting away from his brother. Jimmy feels Mani took his father away from him. He does not have the intellectual ability to understand many things. When the discussions and training processes were taking place, I thought of interpreting Mani and Jimmy as two dogs who are identical. Jimmy is like a ‘gali ka kutta’ who will pace up and down and keep saying, “yeh meri gali hai”. Mani is the kind of dog who will remain on a particular spot.

Abhishek Bhane – Duranga

He is not an easy person to understand. The show has the kind of story which makes the audience looks at him suspiciously initially. His father was a psychopath and murdered but he did not inherit those traits from him. His sister murders somebody to protect herself and Abhishek takes the blame upon himself to save him. He is the kind of person who will do anything for his family. It’s just that he does not know how to express or show love. He seems distant and cold and rather difficult to be around with. One couldn’t be subtle as the show was not like that. I did not watch the original source material. The first and the second season of the show are very different from each other. His evolution is more on the emotional side. Slowly, he began to understand certain concepts.

4 Cut Atmaram – Guns & Gulaabs

Just like Vasan, Raj & DK love creating fantasy worlds. In my head, I was in a Sergio Leone western. He is like a gunslinger. The only thing is that he does not carry a gun but a rampuri chaaku. He was designed like a mysterious character. Therefore, it was a lot of fun playing him. You don’t know who he is and where he comes from. The unpredictability of Atmaram is what makes him interesting. You feel he will do something but he doesn’t do that. I am obsessed with the idea of breaking rhythms. I did that a lot with this character. My hand positions and walk were greatly inspired from Sergio Leone films. We never get to know Atmaram the person but that is not the point of the story either. The mystery should have been intact. You don’t know whether he is saying the truth or not. I stole it from ‘Joker’. Every time, Joker tells a different story on how he got his scars.

Commando 3 – Buraq Ansari

I had seen Hansal Mehta’s ‘Omerta’. In the film, Rajkummar Rao played a terrorist. There is an interesting backstory of how he gets onto this path. He came from an affluent family, received good education but still got radicalised. He was consumed by his ambition. I liked the way Raj played it. It was based on a real character. My character was completely fictitious. I used what I saw Raj do and figured out how I can use the same concept for Buraq Ahmed Ansari. I imagined that Buraq came from a very influential family. You don’t really know if he is from India or Pakistan. His father or grandfather might have settled down in the UK. He just decided that it is his life’s mission to go down in history as a hero. He is so consumed by the idea that he doesn’t mind dying. Now, how does Vidyut Jammwal beat up somebody who is ready to die. I found that interesting. Actually, he is selfish. Whatever he is doing, he is doing for himself.

Nandan Bakshi – A Death In The Gunj

‘A Death In The Gunj’ was the greatest ensemble I was ever a part of. All of us were living together. We shot for 35 days in the peak of the winter season in Jharkhand. It was difficult but a lot of fun at the same time. The film spoke about the ideas of masculinity that were prevalent during those times. I was not a grown up man in the ‘70s but you get some idea from your uncles and fathers. I also thought it would be nice for Nandan Bakshi to not be a manly man but to be consumed by the idea of how a man should behave. He constant berates his cousin for being ‘sissy’. Vikram, is one of those loud, rough and brash men. He is a typical ‘70s Marlboro man. Nandu is actually a responsible person but he wants to into the idea of masculinity. The character was based on Koko’s (Konkona SenSharma) father but my interpretation was a little different.

Bhavani – Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela

Moving from Anurag Kashyap to Sanjay Leela Bhansali was quite drastic. They belong to different schools of filmmaking. While working with Anurag, there is a sense of scarcity. Sometimes, you have a location only for a few hours. At times, certain resources are not available. When you go to a Bhansali set, there is no scarcity. Whether he wants blue rains or pink sky, he gets it (laughs). Prior to that, I had done films where one had to make do with limited resources. ‘Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela’ gave me the opportunity to do a lot of interesting things. Wearing gold jewellery was fascinating. The process was slow which comes from a certain style of working. Bhansali would shoot a song for two weeks. Sometimes, three scenes would be shot in a day. Since everything was so time-consuming, your patience could be put to test. Once you adjust, the process becomes very enjoyable. It was a life-changing experience for me. Versatility is not only about different types of projects. It is also about working in different types of working environments. One has to adapt to the sensibilities of the storyteller.


Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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