'I have grey hair and won’t fall under the hero category'
...says filmmaker-turned-actor Vikram Bhatt, who talks to us about his upcoming action-thriller web series Zindabad, in which plays a RAW agent
Known for his chilling horror films like the Raaz series, 1920 and Haunted 3D, Vikram Bhatt is one of Bollywood’s most unconventional personalities who believes in honing his creativity in myriad ways. The filmmaker, who has created several web series, stars in the lead in the upcoming action-thriller series Zindabad
Excerpts from a conversation:
You are now a leading maker of web series in India. Why the transition from mainstream Bollywood?
Not transition, but addition. Web series are in addition to the films I am making. Over the years, the first screen of choice has changed many times. First, it was cinema halls, then television, then computer screens and now mobile phones. You have to be where the throng is, which, in this case, is on the mobile phones.
Where did the germ for your upcoming web series Zindabad come from?
The idea of Zindabad is the idea of every Indian. In the wake of atrocities, we all feel, "Why can’t we just go across the border and get the perpetrators, like America does?" What if someone woke up one day and had the gumption to go across saying, "If the state does not do it, I’ll do it on my own"?
So it comes from a very common angst of the people. That’s why I think everyone likes the promo, because all of us, at some point, would have felt that emotion.
So how does the story unfold?
It’s about a drunk security in-charge who lives on the first floor of a building, which has a nursery on the ground floor, with the kids making a lot of noise. He is always at loggerheads with the kids.
One fine day he wakes up to find the school shut and is delighted at first. But he finds out that the kids had gone on a picnic and there were bomb explosions in the train in which they were travelling, and all of them, including the teacher, have died. He is shaken up because there is a compassionate and patriotic side to him. The pain of seeing them dead brings out his old side and it's revealed that he was a top RAW operative fifteen years ago, who burnt out. He turns into a one-man-army on a mission to go across the border and get the man who did it.
You've been a renowned filmmaker. How did you decide to explore acting through this project?
I don’t exactly remember what it was that made me decide to act in this web series. But I am at a stage in my life and career where I am having fun with what I am doing. I have toiled hard since the age of 14, which is nearly 35 years now, and I am like a kid in a candy store thinking, ‘let's do this, let's do that'. I am acting, editing, directing, and enjoying my profession, finally. The beauty of the digital space is you can do things without someone interfering. No diktats, no money bags telling you whom to cast, and most of all, there is no one between you and the audience. It has basically finished the middleman.
Who are your inspirations as an actor?
I’ve been fortunate to learn from the best. I have assisted and directed films with Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty —all stalwarts. I've also dubbed for many actors. But, having said that, I think when you actually face the camera, your intrinsic self comes out. At that moment, if you’re a fake or real, it will show. It's like lighting a cracker. You don’t know how it’s going to go off. Acting is a spontaneous art. A lot of people feel it’s a studied craft, but for me, it's all about feeling.
Do you think you've finally found your calling through acting?
I think I found my calling in being able to tell a story. I write, direct, produce, act.. all of which are a part of the larger picture and expressions of a story. Producing or directing gives me as much joy as acting. My joy is in being able to tell a story, whether I do it as a director or an actor, doesn’t matter.
Besides, there is not really a market for fifty-year-old actors. Sure, there are others who are fifty-plus and pretend not to be. But I have my grey hair and won’t fall under the hero category. I can be a character actor at most.