It’s commendable and slightly surreal to think of what actor Adarsh Gourav has managed to achieve in the past few months. His stellar turn in the Priyanka Chopra Jonas-produced The White Tiger has earned him plaudits globally, which has even translated into a BAFTA nomination in the Lead Actor category. Given that actors working in Hindi cinema don’t usually have a history of successfully and comfortably transcending their cachet to a global platform, Gourav’s success comes as a breath of fresh air.
Before The White Tiger, the actor for instance, booked supporting roles in movies like Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan (2010), Ravi Udyawar’s Mom (2018), and in web-series like Leila (2019) and Hostel Daze (2019). Even his goosebump-inducing lead turn in Atanu Mukherjee’s Rukh (2018) came in an indie movie that flew largely under the radar. “Sometimes I feel like I’m living a dream and that someone will snap me out of it. I didn’t expect the global recognition to come this fast and furious. I got to work with the incredible Ramin Bahrani (the director), Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Rajkummar Rao. Sharing screen space with Raj bhai was particularly great because of the kind of work he’s done in the past 10-12 years. I met Priyanka for the first time at her house. I was so nervous on the way there because I’ve grown up watching her films,” he says.
The film not only feels timely but one that is needed. Gourav feels that it is relevant in the current climate. “It makes the privileged class shift uncomfortably in their comfortable seats. It also makes them more conscious and aware. It also questions popular beliefs like: ‘Surrender to your destiny’ and ‘everything is planned’. Although I don’t endorse Balram’s actions, I firmly believe we control our own destinies to a large extent,” he says. If anything, essaying the role of Balram has made Gourav a more confident person as opposed to a self-assured actor. “Confidence was always an issue. I would feel socially anxious. I was a confident kid growing up, but something happened when I was 18-19 and it changed. I started going into my shell and it became more and more difficult to communicate with people around me, owing to my social anxiety but now I feel that it is a lot better. I’m quite comfortable now,” he says.
GRAZIA: What’s a weird food combination you’ve tried?
ADARSH GOURAV: It would have to be paneer tikka and Chyawanprash. Yeah, not doing that again.
A psychological thriller shot at home and an International Emmy nomination for Best Performance by an Actor (for Made in Heaven) – it’s safe to say Arjun Mathur has had a remarkable 2020. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, he shot for The Gone Game and Netflix’s Home Stories anthology last year. The actor spoke to us about appreciating having a creative outlet for the uncertainty and anxiety that plagued us all, “It was really heartening to see that no matter what situation we found ourselves in, we always find a way to adapt. And, particularly, this creative fire that humans have is impossible to extinguish.”
Having experienced Covid personally, Mathur has been extra-cautious since his return to set, “I realised how vulnerable actors are, because once we’re on set and in hair and make-up, there goes the mask and there goes all protocol. But this is what we must do, and this is life. It’s best to adapt to it as soon as possible.” The actor is currently working on exciting projects like Lionsgate Play’s U-Special, which is a college romantic drama as well as season 2 of Made in Heaven. Mathur is also excited for the release of Lord Curzon Ki Haveli.
GRAZIA: Which TV show character would you like to swap lives with?
ARJUN MATHUR: Vincent Chase from Entourage.
Pratik Gandhi was undoubtedly 2020’s breakout star as Harshad Mehta in Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story. Although the seasoned actor has been a well-known name in Gujarati theatre and cinema, with titles like Ventilator and Love Ni Bhavai, under his belt, his foray into the web series space has been transformational. Talking about the show that changed his life, Gandhi says, “We, as a team, never thought that Scam would become such a big thing. But we were all sure that we were up to something really good, and that we’d be able to take pride in it.”
While the show catapulted him to fame, the actor believes his approach to work hasn’t altered, “When it comes to selecting roles, it always has to come from the heart. I must feel each and every emotion to portray it. And if I get to challenge myself as an actor or get to experiment and do something new, only then would I want to be a part of a project.” Gandhi is currently working on a few films and web series, including the comedy Woh Ladki Hai Kahaan? with Taapsee Pannu.
GRAZIA: Which TV show character would you like to swap lives with?
PRATIK GANDHI: He-Man.
Vijay Varma got his breakthrough with a memorable performance in 2019’s Gully Boy. For the actor, 2020 proved to be busier than ever as he was part of several projects, including Zoya Akhtar’s Ghost Stories, Imtiaz Ali’s She, Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy, and season 2 of Mirzapur. While the actor has found himself constantly occupied with work through the pandemic, he has managed to find a balance with his personal life as well, “Earlier, work was the only source of happiness for me, but I managed to kind of understand that work is not my entire life. So, I’m working, but I’m also taking time off to spend it with family, to travel, to engage in activities that bring me joy or that are more important in life.” Isolated due to the lockdown, Varma has also recognised the importance of interacting with people, “I realised that I’m actually a very social person, and I’m not as much of a loner as I assumed myself to be, and that I really needed people.” The actor has a line-up of exciting projects this year, like the movie Darlings, with Alia Bhatt and the web series Fallen. Varma is also excited about his recent sci-fi comedy, OK Computer.
GRAZIA: What’s the most ridiculous thing you’d buy if money wasn’t an issue?
VIJAY VARMA: A theatre.
Since she made her international debut back in 2018, young cricket prodigy Jemimah Rodrigues has steadily proven herself to be a rising star. From hitting double centuries to making her international debut for India at the age of 17, Rodrigues is a charismatic allrounder on the field, and off it. With the restrictions of last year, the young cricketer felt restless and yearned to play. While she began training at home, she missed the ground, “The first thing I did when I was on the pitch was to just stand on the grass and breathe. I took that for granted before and it was nice to get back to that feeling, which was why I fell in love with the game to begin with.” Rodrigues, who also missed the camaraderie of playing a team sport, says she cherished the time she got to spend with her family in lockdown. Now, she’s happy to be back in action and excited to win more matches for India.
GRAZIA: What’s the most ridiculous thing you’d buy if money weren’t an issue?
JEMIMAH RODRIGUES: Maybe a time machine, just so that I could go back and relive moments from my childhood.
When a video of her hulahooping to Genda Phool in a sari went viral last year, it was an unexpected moment for young flow artist, Eshna Kutty. She had a creatively charged 2020 as the video proved to be a breakthrough moment for her career. “When I blew up, I blew up with people and it was a very wholesome thing, and so that made me very conscious and mindful about the kind of impact that I had on an audience. I felt a responsibility to be more professional and put out content more systematically,” she shares, as she talks about trying to keep the artist in her alive while flourishing as a content creator and entrepreneur.
Kutty also experienced personal growth through the lockdown as she grew kinder towards herself and spent more time with her family and cats. Now, with a verified Instagram account and a fresh new startup, called ‘Hoop Flow’, Kutty aims to use her influence to propagate hoop culture in India.
GRAZIA: If you had your own kingdom, who/what would be printed on the currency?
ESHNA KUTTY: Probably cats.
Ali Fazal has played some memorable characters on screen – from the iconic Guddu Pandit in Mirzapur to Abdul Karim, alongside Judi Dench, in Victoria and Abdul. The actor had an interesting 2020. With OTT content flourishing in lockdown, Mirzapur season 2 was met with rave reviews from its everexpanding cult following. “Mirzapur turned into a crazy pandemic of its own kind,” Fazal says,and we completely agree, Currently, the actor is excited about the release of Death On The Nile, the Hollywood adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, which boasts a stellar cast, but was postponed owing to the pandemic.
Fazal believes last year changed a lot for him on a personal note. Talking about his approach to new projects, he says, “I used to read scripts and be like ‘yes, let’s do it’, but now I’ve sort of calmed myself down. I can’t say no easily, but I’ve started to not care a little.” He also believes he’s now in touch with his vulnerable side, “I don’t think I’m as strong as I thought. I had my first panic attack because of certain things, and I didn’t even realise how powerful the mind and body are. So, a word of advice: Be responsible for the environment that we create outside because that invariably affects us personally.”
GRAZIA: If there was a conspiracy theory about you, what would it be?
ALI FAZAL: I work for Elon Musk.
AMBIKA NAYAK AKA KAYAN.A
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