There are some characters that remain with you even after the end credits roll. Guddu and Jagan are two such characters. Actor Namit Das share his experience of working in the recent releases Sui Dhaaga - Made In India and Pataakha
On the brief
All the people who have seen the films have said ‘great roles’, ‘great performances’, but very few have acknowledged that they are starkly different characters. They are poles apart, like chalk and cheese. Both these roles came to me at different times and they were also conceived differently. Pataakha was written when Vishalji (Bhardwaj) and I were in Berkley last year. We were working on Monsoon Wedding: The Musical, with him as a composer and me as an actor. He was actually writing the script at that point of time. When we were rehearsing the play, he said to me that he was writing something side by side for a film and that he wanted me to play one of the characters. At that point in time, I didn’t take it very seriously. There are lots of promises made that don’t go as intended. But this definitely went in the direction that Vishalji promised me.
With Sui Dhaaga, it was a completely different journey. My mom (Yamini Dass) got cast first as Amma. She called me and said, ‘Namit, lagta hai mera ho gaya hai.’ I was very happy that she got a Yash Raj film. I was not in the picture at all. I met Sharat (Katariya) in Juhu and congratulated him for casting a non-actor. He wanted me to practice her lines with her. He then said that there was another character that he would want me to play. He said, ‘Just come and meet us and let us talk about it.’ So I met him and he gave me a solid brief and said that there were nine or ten scenes. It was a very important character who changes the course of many things in the film. He also said that it all depended on how I played it and what I made the character out to be. That really got me. And I also felt, how many actors get the opportunity to be onscreen with their mom! This was an opportunity of a lifetime for me and we would be onscreen together for the rest of our lives. So even after 50 years people will see us together in Sui Dhaaga. I did it purely for emotional reasons, but it turned out to be an extended guest appearance.
On the roles
For both characters - I do this for all the characters – I needed to get my lines right. I always learn my lines. That is what I tell other actors: get your lines right. Communication with the director must be a two-way street. How the director sees you in the picture is vital, so you have to constantly fit in and adapt to the director’s vision. And if that is sorted, then you don’t really have to work too hard. You obviously have your own suggestions as well. There are times you feel that you need to do some things instinctively in a take. So you don’t stop yourself. And if your communication with the director is good, then you would do the right films. And that has been my process and the same goes for these two films.
On the directors
Working with Vishalji and Sharat was very different. I would like to talk about Sharat first. We have a relationship from before. He is a writer-director. He is brilliant with coming up with things on the spot. He keeps it very fluid till the last point. Until and unless he can see what is happening, he does not trust the scene at all. In that sense I have to give it to him that he trusted me in the things that I brought to the table. Like the laughter or the poking that Guddu does - he really trusted me. It could have gone overboard, but he said let us go with it. This sort of a feel for the character will work and it has worked. At the same time, as he is a writer-director, if an actor is doing something, he will help immediately. He will give you lines, he will enhance your performance, which makes it very exciting for anyone on the floor. But you have to be very comfortable with what you are doing. In that sense, Guddu was a tougher character to play, because I wasn’t sure how much should I do so that it didn’t look OTT. So he was the checkmark for that.
With Vishalji it is like he is reciting a poem. He has the magic of music with him always. He is not directing a film, he is directing a symphony where he is controlling everyone’s pitch beautifully. I have never seen a director who respects the actor’s rhythm so much. He never overlooks the existence of the actor. He maneuvers an actor so beautifully; you have to just go with it. He uses the actor as an instrument. You have to trust him. He is so calming on the set. He is like a father-figure, he is a friend and he is the captain of the ship. For Jagan, I didn’t have to do much except be comfortable with the lingo. He lets his actor be. His process is magical.
On the co-actors
In both films I was lucky to work with co-actors who are like family now. It was a very cordial atmosphere. Varun (Dhawan) and Anushka (Sharma) are extremely courteous to their co-actors. So were Radhika Madan, Sanya Malhotra and Sunil Grover in Pataakha. We were like a family in Mount Abu. We would chill after the shoot. Everyone respected each other’s space. No one trampled on anyone, which can happen in a comedy film. And that is why the film has turned out the way it is.
On the response
The response is overwhelming and it has not yet sunk in. People are saying that it is very rare that two films of the same actor have released and one of them has the mother as well. September 28, 2018 is a big day for us, for our family.
Some projects are in talks, but for now it is Monsoon Wedding: The Musical. We are going to do one more season for it in Qatar in January. I will be in Delhi for the next two months to prepare for that with Mira Nair and Vishalji. There will be a week of shows in Doha, Qatar. I am also busy with my music, my band. We will be performing in Bangalore and in Mumbai.
– Padma Iyer