Sometimes, the success of a film does not ride on the strength of the lead cast alone; it is the supporting actors that take it up several notches. Recently, we saw quite a few strong films releasing in theatres and many supporting actors that wowed us as they essayed pivotal roles on screen. We spoke to Ashutosh Rana, who played a public prosecutor in Mulk. Here he is in conversation with Titas Chowdhury
On the brief
I was told that my character was that of a public prosecutor. The responsibility of a public prosecutor is to present the State in a correct manner, protect it and punish wrong-doers. The things that are brought forth to the people via the public prosecutor in Mulk are taking place in the form of debates that we witness at the national level. I was also told that my character was very hard-hitting and professional, with a pinch of emotion.
On the character
An actor has the liberty to present his dialogue in the way he wants to. If it adds to the rochakta of the film, then the director allows you to retain them. The final verdict in the film is based on the emotional outburst towards the end. Courts base their decisions on witnesses and proof, not emotion.
In the film, the verdict is given based on emotion and that gives a lot of contentment to the audience. That is because my character, Santosh Anand, makes the situation emotionally charged and takes the film to an emotional crescendo. My character questions their (the plaintiff) complete existence, does a postmortem on their caste, creed, religion and culture, and condemns them.
We have grown up watching Rishi Kapoor saab. He has done a wide variety of roles in a career spanning many decades. If you get to share frame with an actor of his calibre, then it is like working with someone who is an institution. Working with him was like being on a beautiful journey.
Kumud Mishra joined the film much later. When we were doing the courtroom scenes, he was not present. We were addressing an imaginary character in the room. That is challenging for an actor, because your power of imagination is put to the test. This was a blessing in disguise for me. Had Kumud been there then the outcome may have been different.
When you work with Taapsee (Pannu), her brilliance and honesty get reflected on you. I was surrounded by some amazing performers like Manoj Pahwa. When you are performing your scenes with them, how bad can you get? You automatically get affected by their brilliance. If you liked my performance in the film and you thought that it was effective, then I would credit my co-actors for that. I don’t think acting is reacting. I consider it to be a form of responding. When you respond to good actors, productions and subtext, then you will organically shine through. I feel so lucky. When they used to perform, it never seemed like acting. It seemed as though they were merely behaving.
On the director
When I came to Mumbai, I did a television series with him called Shikast in 1995. We grew up together. I am fortunate that I got to be a part of one of his best films. Since Anubhav (Sinha) was both the writer and the director, he was not confused about anything at all. When the captain of the ship is so clear, then things become easy for the actors too. Actors are like transporters. They transport the director’s thought, vision, point of view and writing to the audiences. He knew what film he is going to make. Hence, it became a very convenient process for us. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
On the response
I am getting zabardast response for my character. If you subtract Santosh Anand from the film, then where will it be! I am getting lots of positive feedback. I am happy that I have met people’s expectations. People thought that I took a sabbatical. But now, I appeared in two back-to-back films, Dhadak and Mulk. They are thinking that I broke the hiatus with aplomb. I was waiting for good opportunities to come my way. All this while, I was misusing my energy doing films left, right and centre. I am so happy that I am finally getting my dues. I have miles to go. I want to keep doing good work.
I am doing Simmba with Rohit Shetty, Milan Talkies with Tigmanshu Dhulia and Son Chiriya with Abhishek Chaubey. It is a good line up with diverse flavours of films.