Think offbeat and few names come to mind. In his nearly two decades in the Hindi film industry, Vinay Pathak has experimented and entertained in a miscellany of roles, from Khosla ka Ghosla to Dasvidaniya, from Bheja Fry to Gour Hari Dastaan, each uniquely different from the other. Dabbling in different genres, he didn’t make the safest of choices, but came out a winner each time.
Today, in conversation with Flickside, Vinay Pathak reflects on what brought him to Bombay, his love for theatre, upcoming films and more!
What is Vinay Pathak like in person/off the camera?
I am an ordinary man. A very ordinary man! A whole lot more ordinary than you can imagine actually (smiles). Off camera, I am not playing a character hence there isn’t an imaginary circumstance. Vinay Pathak is like any other person really! Lazy, lulling, cooking, traveling, spending time with my children, family. The usual!
What brought you to Bombay? Why acting?
It’s exciting! Telling stories, different stories, through different characters. Living, breathing and playing so many different imaginary circumstances. It’s enthralling and highly gratifying too. It’s like accomplishing a coveted dream where you never leave the playground.
I was in a business school in my freshman year, in the state university of New York when I went to see a play “Equus.” It was a life-altering experience for me. I was enamoured beyond repair. I just badly wanted to be a part of the world I saw on stage somehow. The very next semester I changed my major, quit business school and joined drama school. I’d never wanted to do something so badly as this. And here I am.
What’s more satisfying? Theatre or films?
They are two completely different mediums. But both are equally exciting and satisfying. Theatre is physically more rigorous than cinema, of course, but the films’ challenges are as gripping and exhausting. I enjoy both equally really. I can’t extricate anyone out of my sphere.
What’s the first thing that should excite you about a script/film you sign?
The story! It has to be the story, how it’s told, how it’s written and going to be treated. But the cardinal is the story. In my opinion, no character could be loose in a well-written story. Followed by the script and the people involved. The director is the most important since it’s his/her vision.
Have you faced any rejections in the industry?
(Laughs) So many actually! Countless. But talking about it right now is fruitless actually. It’s all good.
Tell us about a role you declined and later regretted.
Rajat (Kapoor) offered me the role of the younger brother in Ankhon Dekhi which later was played by Rajat himself. I’d wanted to do another cameo in the film of the gambler don. He cast Danish in it. Although he was brilliant in it. And so was Rajat.
You’ve spent 18 years in the industry. What have you learnt about people/relationships here?
18 years, yes. It’s been wonderful. There are so many talented people here. And there are so many exciting new storytellers. Many of them are my close friends and for that I feel very fortunate and humbled to be very honest. It’s lovely to see newer talents, newer writers, directors, actors emerging every other day. And to see the variety of talents and what not. It seems our industry is finally breaking some stereotypes. And it’s lovely to be and feel a part of this transitory era.
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Of your filmography/plays, which is your favorite?
So many of those – Johnny Gaddar, Bheja Fry, Dasvidaniya, Chalo Dilli, Pappu Can’t Dance Sala, Manorama 6 feet Under, Badlapur, Mithya, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. However, Gour Hari Dastaan is very special and close to the heart.
Vinay, could you tell me about your upcoming projects – films/plays/acting/directing. In an interview you gave to Hindustan Times, I read that you’re planning to direct a film. Could you throw more light on this?
Island City and Mehran Amrohi’s Chidiya are two indies that are complete and are waiting to be released. There are a few I’d start shoot on later this year. I recently started an extensive tour of four Shakespeare plays in our clown series. They are all directed by Rajat Kapoor — As You Like It, Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear. I am a part of all four and it’s highly addictive and exciting to be a part of such wonderful ensemble. We recently did it all in Bangalore as part of the Shakespeare festival. 4 plays in a span of 3 days. Whoosh! It was a first for me, and I am still recovering.
I am working on a few scripts of my own right now. Writing and re-writing. Newer drafts. I am in the process already. I would definitely like to direct them. Hopefully soon. Let’s see when. Fingers crossed!
By Mansi Dutta