After having done bit roles in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey and Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya, he will be seen as ‘Colonel’ in Sriram Raghavan’s Agent Vinod
From a theater background in Delhi and with Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, English Vinglish and Bombay’s Most Wanted on his resume, the talented actor has just got his first big break in a Bollywood commercial film. He speaks about how art can be a product and more…
How did you bag the role of ‘Colonel’ in Agent Vinod?
Actually, I was surprised myself when I was called to audition for this role. I asked Sriram Raghavan (director) how he found me. He said that I was heavily recommended to him by his friends and colleagues for the role. He had also seen me in one of the short films that I had appeared in and I guess I just got lucky. I am based in Delhi and I wasn’t keen on coming to Mumbai if my travel and stay wasn’t paid for, but thanks to the makers of Agent Vinod, everything went well.
Tell us about your role in Agent Vinod…
In Agent Vinod I play an ex-army man who is a hired hand, a mercenary who is good at creating bad situations for the spy. At this moment, as much as I wish to tell you about the film, the secret of ‘242’ (something that Agent Vinod desperately wants), I cannot, or I will be sued. (Laughs)
I remember when I was working with Naseeruddin Shah and Vidya Balan in Ishqiya, we clicked. Of course, I and Naseer bhai go back a long way (thanks to my theater background) and have great admiration for each other, but even with Vidya it just took me a second to break the ice. I say this, because I would like people to know that Agent Vinod is not my first experience of working with stars.
I think there is something about Saif’s royal lineage due to which ‘mehmaan-nawaazi’ (hospitality) comes naturally to him. Throughout the shoot both Saif and Kareena were very warm and accommodating and ensured that everyone was taken care of. Being such big stars, they didn’t have to do it for a newcomer like me. Everyone on the sets of Agent Vinod was treated with respect. I don’t know, maybe I just look old, and so earn that respect. (Laughs)
You have worked with independent filmmakers and now Agent Vinod – how different are the two worlds?
I have a problem trying to understand how art can be a product, even though I do understand that you need to add certain elements to pull in a crowd to watch a film on which so many people are depending on.
What kind of movies do you like?
I am more of a world cinema enthusiast, but of course I do watch the regular Bollywood films as well. Some of my favourite Hindi films are Rangeela, Rang De Basanti and more recently, 3 Idiots. The good thing about Bollywood movies is that they don’t take life very seriously – which is not the case with European films, where it is a matter of life and death! Sholay will remain an all-time favourite…
What are the other films in your kitty?
I’ve just shot for Mira Nair’s film The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Twenty years ago, I auditioned for her Buddha. The role went to someone else, though the film never got made and Bertolucci went ahead and made his Little Buddha. It’s a small role, but I had a nice time shooting with Riz Ahmed. Another very fascinating experience for me was shooting Aditya Bhattacharya’s film, Bombay’s Most Wanted. In this I play a cop who ‘invented’ encounter killing. The film is the most realistic take on Mumbai’s underworld, where we have dealt with the encounter killing part on the surface. I must say that I have been very lucky to get the roles that are coming my way!