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BEING BAD… And Loving It!

The Hindi film industry’s Bad Man aka Gulshan Grover, who has played the baddie on screen umpteen times, talks to Shweta Kulkarni about the fading image of larger-than-life villains and his humble attempt to bring back the quintessential hero’s nemesis in his upcoming film Behen Hogi Teri 

The trailer of Behen Hogi Teri gives us a glimpse of your villainous streak. Can you elaborate on your role in the film?

As you know, the film deals with a strange situation a lover finds himself in, where all he wants to do is tell the world that the girl is not his sister and that he is in love with her. 

As the story moves in a particular direction, my character ‘Ghappi dada,’ the most-feared person in the area, makes an entry. He is someone people have not seen but only heard tales about, and as soon as Ghappi dada appears onscreen, the film takes a different dimension.

He is a representation of the dashing, terrifying villain you had seen in earlier films but who has disappeared from the screen lately. However, we have kept the character relevant to today’s times but he still has that larger-than-life quality, that menacing presence of the earlier villains.

Being fearsome and threatening on screen can be quite challenging. How have you managed to do that over and over again in your career?

You are absolutely right; it’s very difficult to make the audience believe that you are bad. I have learnt it from the works and from interacting with some of the great villains of Indian cinema. Whether Pran saab, Amrish Puriji, Prem Chopraji, Amjad Khan saab, Dannyji… so many of these wonderful villains who created that fear, who would cast a spell on the screen…

I also believe that to be a good villain, you have to be a very good actor because your screen time is very limited. Your act is predictable as the audience knows the end result and yet you have to create fear, an aura, and that is possible only if the person playing the villain is a very good actor. Some of the great villains of Indian cinema, like those I had mentioned and Kanyalalji, Jeevanji, Ajitji… so many of them were tremendous actors who were able to create this, film after film. I learnt from them and created a style and a brand of my own.

Over the years, larger-than-life villains have slowly started vanishing from contemporary subjects…

I agree with you, it is a fact. This was another reason why I did Behen Hogi Teri, as it provided me and opportunity to bring back that earlier villain. With the help of the director, I have worked on this character and brought back that essence. The audience has been missing these characters even though there is a logical reason for their disappearance.

Cinema reflects real life, and, therefore, writers write characters that are similar to real life. But there are no characters like that in real life any more. Yes, the bad guys are still lurking around but they are camouflaged, they blend with everyday people. You can’t make out who is good and whose is bad. It is only at a certain stage that you discover, ‘Oh my God, that was a terrible guy!’

In contrast, in the past, a bad guy would be identified and seen, his presence would be felt. With Behen Hogi Teri, we have tried to bring back that villain in an intelligent way. This might create more opportunities for that iconic villain to return to the screen in a newer form.

You have worked in over 400 films. What keeps you still excited about this medium?

I just love working, acting is everything to me. It doesn’t matter how many films I have done. All I have done is being completely passionate about acting. God has been very kind to let me continue doing this. I am continuously getting challenging roles, not just as the bad guy but even positive roles. I have even played the husband of heroines in films. For instance, in Jism, I played Bipasha Basu’s husband; in Souten: The Other Woman, I played Mahima Chaudhry’s husband.

Apart from that, I have also done different kinds of roles in films like I Am Kalam, which got me so many awards and even earned me a nomination for a National Award.

Having done so many movies, what are the factors you consider when signing a film?

Every actor looks at a combination of things – how the film is positioned, who the other actors are, whether the role is significant in terms of taking the story forward. So I choose my projects on the basis of these things, and very importantly, I have to like my role and feel the passion of the makers, in terms of how passionately are they involved with the film.

Apart from Behen Hogi Teri, what are the other projects that you are working on currently?

I have lately been doing a lot of world cinema. In fact, I was the very first commercial actor to start the transition from Bollywood to Hollywood. Not the first Indian actor but the first commercial actor. And now I am working in world cinema.

I will be the first Indian actor to work in a Polish film in a lead role. The film is called Nie Means Nie (No Means No), I am working in a Malaysian film called I Am Not A Terrorist. I have worked in an Iranian film, an Australian film and I am currently working in a Canadian film. So I am working in different countries, doing different kinds of cinema. It is an exciting way to learn more about cinema, acting and different cultures.

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