Netflix allows a film to breathe: Actor Anirudh Tanwar
The actor is all set to make his debut with Netflix's Rajma Chawal
In Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal — a new Netflix India Original film released on November 30 — veteran actor Rishi Kapoor plays a widowed father who uses social media to bond with his emotionally-distant son, portrayed by debutant Anirudh Tanwar. The comedy-drama explores the role of technology in both widening and lessening the generational gap between parents and children, as Kapoor repurposes the defunct Facebook profile of a young girl (played by Amyra Dastur) to strike up a friendship with his son. Rajma Chawal had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October, followed by a screening at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Initially intended for theatrical release, the film was picked up by Netflix India in the wake of its aggressive Hindi-centric programming.
Anirudh, who quit his career as a commercial pilot in 2012 and moved to Mumbai to work in cinema, considers OTT platforms the way of the future. “Nothing compares to the reach and popularity of Netflix. Initially, I too had fantasies of watching my debut on the big screen with people coming and hugging me outside theatres. However, when I see the response Rajma Chawal is getting on social media, I feel very fortunate to have debuted in the digital space,” the actor tells us.
Excerpts from the interview:
Unlike your character in the film, we hear you aren't very savvy with social media in real life, while your co-star, Rishi Kapoor, is a big rage on Twitter…
It's very funny, yes. We are both exact opposites of our characters. I’d never been on social media before doing this film. I'd go to everyone on set and ask them to teach me certain things about Facebook. Rishi sir, on the other hand, did everything on his own and never allowed anyone near his phone or screen.
Bollywood is finally sitting up and acknowledging the power of streaming platforms. Many big stars and directors are working on these platforms. How empowering is this change for a debutant?
In the theatrical space, there's a lot of noise for the first two-three days but everything dies down really quickly — at least in the case of films with new actors. On Netflix, however, a film is allowed to grow. Once Rajma Chawal began streaming, I got messages from everyone I’d ever known in my life — including teachers and friends from my school days — who told me they had seen and loved the film. The timing was lucky for us since Netflix doesn't have too many Indian Originals at the moment. So everything gets consumed instantly. I think audiences are really hungry for Indian content on streaming platforms.
Will you be willing to return to the digital space for your second film — or will you be looking for a theatrical release?
If another streaming project comes my way, I'll happily go ahead and do it. Right now, I am just looking for two things. Firstly, I want people to see my work and notice me. Secondly, I want to push myself to the next level by doing more challenging work.
One of the reasons audiences seem to trust the newer generation of stars — such as Rajkummar Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana — is because of their smart script choices. As a newcomer, do you think it's important to build a certain credibility with the kinds of films you do in the future?
Absolutely. There's a lot of hard work and time that gets invested in making a film, so when you commit to a project, it better be something you truly believe in. Before Rajma Chawal, I was offered two to three films which were very run-of-the-mill, which did not appeal to me. When I read the script of Rajma Chawal, I realised it had genuine emotional elements to play with. Looking ahead, I want to do something that's in a similar space. That said, I want to work consistently and not sit around waiting for the best material.
Your father, Gulab Singh Tanwar, has co-produced Rajma Chawal. How did that come about?
We own a family aviation business. But my father always had a passion for cinema, so he moved to Mumbai and started producing films like Parched (2015), Te3n (2016) and the Ladakhi children’s film, Chuskit (2018). When I moved here to pursue a career in acting, my father told me to find work on my own and not depend on him. I gave multiple auditions and also assisted on films my father was producing. I met our director Leena on the sets of Parched and she decided to cast me in Rajma Chawal. At that time, my dad was not a producer of the film. When we completed the film and my father saw the rushes, that's when he decided to co-produce it.
What was his reaction to your performance, considering the story too revolves around a father-son dynamic?
He was in tears and said that he finally saw consistency in me. Our relationship is very different from the dynamic you see in the film. We are best friends and can share almost anything with each other. I feel good that I have finally fulfilled my dream and made him proud in the process.