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Ronit Roy: “As an actor, I am like a Thief”

After enthralling us with his acting chops on television and in movies like Udaan, 2 States, and more recently as the shrewd Madhavrao Shellar in Kaabil, actor Ronit Roy, who is once again impressing with his performance in Sarkar 3,tells Shweta Kulkarni that he is an “uneducated actor.”

In Sarkar 3, practically every scene of yours is with Amitabh Bachchan, which is also the first time you have worked with him. How would you define your experience? Were you ever intimidated by the sheer thought of sharing screen space with the megastar?

Intimidation happens in two ways, one is when the other person intimidates you or is trying to intimidate you, and the other is if you consider yourself inferior in any way. Mr Bachchan would never intimidate anybody, he is not that kind of person. Of course, he is legendary in terms of being an actor, and in terms of being a human being. He goes out of his way to make you comfortable and that’s a mark of a great human being. So even if there is some intimidation in your mind while working with Mr Bachchan, the moment he steps onto the stage, he makes you feel so comfortable that it goes away.

More than intimidating, the word I would use here is ‘challenge’. I found myself in a big franchise, directed by a director who I know for a fact is a genius. Every genius is a little mad but chalta hai. The point is that he is a genius and he is a very misunderstood human being. So working with a director like that, who has a huge body of work, from Satya to Sarkar, and then working with Mr Bachchan… the challenge is when you are cast in a role, which requires you to be with Mr Bachchan in every scene, the challenge is then to not let anybody down.

You have been given the job as an actor, and the challenge is to try and raise yourself to their standards, which is not possible. I mean, you can’t raise yourself to Mr Bachchan’s standards. Having said that, the best you can do to support the scene is to give your best. And Mr Bachchan, instead of being intimidating, made so many suggestions in so many scenes.

So, when you are shooting a film with Mr Bachchan, you stand in a corner, you watch, and you listen so you may learn. Hindi mein bolte hai hum sone pe suhaga. The icing on the cake comes when Mr Bachchan himself leads you. That’s the mark of a great human being and a great leader, where he takes his people with him. So instead of being intimidating or anything like that, Sarkar 3 has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

Are you the kind of actor who gets so attached to his character that he finds it difficult to let go?

I am not such an intelligent person, I am an uneducated actor. I didn’t go to acting school, so I don’t have a process, I don’t have a method, I don’t know how to act. I have not been taught how to act. I am always on time but I am a very troublesome actor. I trouble all my directors because I am not an educated actor, I ask a lot of questions, and the only person I can ask is the director. That’s why my directors get very hassled.

I also have a lot of suggestions, so when Ektaji (Kapoor) says on your cover page, ‘I am a child in a candy store (in BOI’s previous issue)’, I too am like a child, period. I am very curious to know from the director if I do this, then what will happen; if I do this; then what will happen; and if I do both, then what will happen; and if I don’t do either, then what will happen?

But I believe that the director has the best understanding of the script. An actor is selfish, so when an actor reads the script, he prepares only for his role. I haven’t heard of an actor who prepares for the other guy’s role too. They only prepare for theirs, dusra uska khud dekh lega.

But it doesn’t work that way for me. For me, I need to know, I can’t prepare because I don’t know what the other actors are going to do. If I prepare for my role and you do something different, then I don’t know how to react to it. So, till the last moment, even after the shot, even for the second take, I keep on asking the director what if I do this next… So, in that way, I am troublesome.

Well, then what is your equation with Ram Gopal Varma? He is known to use a different approach with different actors? 

Like I said, Ramu sir is a genius and a misunderstood human being because when he says something, it might look very superficial and frivolous but there is a very deep meaning to it. And it takes a deep understanding to understand what a genius mad man is trying to say.

Ramu sir is very courageous because he calls a spade a spade. If I don’t understand something, I keep my mouth shut. So first you need to get an understanding of what is transpiring before you react, and I do the same thing as an actor too.

Coming back to his dynamics with different actors, obviously with Mr Bachchan, his journey is different. I have heard Mr Bachchan say in many interviews that he has done maximum films with Ram Gopal Varma. One would have thought he had done maximum number of films with Hrishi da (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) but that’s not the case. So, obviously, his equation is different, they know each other.

Amit (Sadh) is at the other end of the spectrum, he is very talented. Ramu sir and Amit Sadh are friends, and I am in between, I am neither here nor there. So my dynamics with him are different. I have never felt that he has led me to the pool and pushed me and let me drown. In fact, he has gone to the point of telling me how deep the pool is and even the temperature of the water before telling me to jump, and that too only when I am ready.  And if I have jumped in the way he likes it, he has said, ‘I really liked your jump’; and if he didn’t like my jump, he has said, ‘Try and jump in another style.’

So every director, especially an interesting director like Ramu sir, will have a different set of dynamics with different actors. Some directors have a fixed way ki yeh chaiye, but Ramu sir is not like that; Ramu sir has a very infectious style. He is always shimmering, bubbling and there is something always going through his mind. He is on his toes physically and mentally. So, yeah, one needs to keep pace with him, otherwise you get left behind.

Apart from Sarkar 3, you have another interesting project, Lucknow Central

The film is set in a jail, as the name suggests, in Lucknow, and there are these five people who come together with a set agenda. But the set agenda is not actually a set agenda, it is something else. So there is an agenda within the agenda. And because it’s a central jail, the jailor realises that they have an agenda within the agenda. He is the jailor, after all, and that’s what I play.

Some would call my character a villain but he is not really one. Like in Udaan, people used to call me the villain but I disagreed because when I read the script I didn’t find anything villainous about the role. He wants his son to settle down in the business that he has set up. And there is nothing wrong with wanting his son to take it forward.

Similarly, I do not consider myself a villain in Udaan although I did accept the best negative award; the jailor here is not the villain. You might call him the antagonist, it’s actually the other five guys who are antagonising him. Basically, he is a jailor who is doing his job very well.

Besides that, Lucknow Central has a lot of layers; it’s about five people who are from different walks of life. One man whose dream is shattered finds himself behind bars and gets the chance to relive that dream. So, Lucknow Central is about characters, it’s about people and music is an essential part. And, of course, where there is jail, there is freedom. So it has lot of sub-layers. I think it will be one of the best films of 2017. It is cinema in its true essence.

After Lucknow Central, we will get to see you playing a father again in Munna Michael.

Yes, but totally contrary to the father I have played in Udaan or the father I have played in 2 States. It is completely different and hence it’s difficult to explain that role. Let’s just say he is the serious matter of the film but there is not a serious bone in his body. So, it’s pretty much like me in real life but very different from what I have played in the past. My look is different, the way I speak is different.

Interestingly, despite stating that you don’t have a set pattern to your acting, you have managed to make every character you have played, your own. How do you accomplish that?

They called Bruce Lee ‘the Master’ even though he was never the master of anything. Bruce Lee had established a system called Jeet Kune Do, where there is no system. He felt that if you master an art, you are bound by the rules of engagement of that particular art. So he picked up good things from everything and he kept practicing it till it became his own. Hence, he developed his own style.

I am like a thief, I am not Bruce Lee, of course. There are so many good actors, there are so many great teachers of our craft, so why should I stick to one? There is no need for me to stick to one. Earlier, I wanted to go to acting school but I didn’t have the money. Now I have the money to pay the tuition fees but I don’t have the time. But, in my own way, I still study and I take the best from everybody, what I agree with, what I consider practical, which I can apply and learn. I practice it and I come out looking intelligent, but it’s actually not me.

Other than an interesting line-up of films, we recently heard that you are keen on getting into production. Is that true?

Yes, I think a time will come, very soon, when I want to tell stories. I am not the kind of a person who is inspired to make 250 crores. I will probably make a film for two and a half crores. Acting is a 2,000-year-old art and there is so much you can learn about it. But there are other dimensions to cinema that I would want to explore. There are stories that I want to tell. There are times when I read things and get very inspired, and feel that one should put those words to film. People should see it, not that I want to make stuff for myself…  I might act if there is a role for me and if I feel extremely passionate about it, I might direct it too. But these thoughts are in the seeding process, very nascent right now.

So, are you currently looking at scripts?

No, it’s not so clinical that humare paas yeh financer hai, kiske pass script hai, acha lao, this suits that actor, usko sign karlo and now let’s make a film, and let’s earn 250 crore. It’s not like that. Like I said, it is about telling stories. I have no money right now but I have the intention, so we will see where it all ends up.

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