Sunday, July 25, 2021

“Being a good actor isn't easy and I always want to be seen as a good actor,” says Amitriyaan

A qualified engineer by profession with a post graduate degree in Advertising & PR, Amitriyaan  has had quite an interesting journey in showbiz. Best known for his impactful performances in ace film maker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s 'Delhi 6' to RGV’s 'Satya 2', Sangeeth Sivann’s '332' or AR Rahman’s 'Atkan Chatkan', Amitriyaan’s recent release is an investigative thriller 'Tandoor' – an original Ullu series. On a rainy evening over cups of coffee, Amitriyaan bares his soul and his love for music, guitar and Christopher Nolan's style of filmmaking. Johnny Depp, Leonardo Dicaprio and Uttam Kumar's work inspires him a lot, he told Mohan Das, Chief editor of Films & TV World.

Mohan Das: From Delhi 6 to Tandoor, you’ve come a long way. Tell us something about your journey.
Amitriyaan: I started off doing small roles in movies – the start of which was Delhi 6. To me it was an opportunity to work with such a great director Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra and an excellent ensemble cast headed by Waheeda Rehman ji. Following this I started getting such similar ones but I was more into doing Hindi theatre. To survive I did freelance copywriting as well as took up teaching guitar. It was Sangeeth Sivan and Ram Gopal Varma who realising my potential gave me a lead role in their movies. But unaware of the moves of this industry, I couldn't cash in anything as per industry pattern. Later on I went on to do some meaningful regional cinema and enjoyed the versatile characters I got to perform – be it in Rajwade & Sons or Naanthada and Aasud. It was the musical drama Atkan Chatkan produced by A R Rahman that brought me back into Bollywood. My work was well received and critics and audiences appreciated it too. With digital content ruling the roost now, I got into the digital world of webseries with Peshawar where I played a psycho terrorist, something different than what has been tried before. In my recent release Tandoor, my character is very positive – a pure soul who believes in selfless love.

MD: Money, fame, glamour... what brought this engineer to the big world of movies?
Amitriyaan: After completing my graduation in polymer engineering I got into theatre and later movies only out of unrealistic illusional passion for the art and craft of acting. A desire or say the greed to live different multiple kinda lives in one life - even if it's for a while in front of camera on-screen. That creative satisfaction and pull was too magnetic and in a way lured me into movies and none of the things you mentioned. Had it been a conscious choice, I would have encashed on the opportunity after Satya 2. Who doesn’t care for name, fame and money? I’m no different. Having said that, doing versatile roles is my prime focus and rest are secondary.

MD: Was it a conscious choice to opt for Advertising & PR and then make a foray into movies?
Amitriyaan: I did my graduation from small town in technical field of engineering and I wanted to get into anything creative - especially writing as I had the flair for it. Moreover, I wanted to enjoy the college life of Mumbai. So I enrolled for my post-graduation diploma in advertising from K C College and started working for an ad agency as a copywriter. Initially, acting wasn't even in my mind. It was a conscious decision later that prompted me to join theatre and enhance my skills before trying out in movies.

MD: How did your parents react when you changed your profession?
Amitriyaan: I always wanted to be into some creative field, but coming from a family of professors, doctors and engineers, I just had no choice but to follow. However, my father promised me that if I complete my engineering in First class, he will never interfere in my choice of career. That was the motivation and I did secure. He did keep his promise, but at times doesn't understand my career choice. In fact, they were shocked when they saw me on-screen for the first time. They still get amused seeing me perform some weirdo characters.

MD: You have worked with big names – from RGV to AR Rahman. How was the feeling of working with such stalwarts?
Amitriyaan: I agree that I was in awe of their persona, but didn’t let it hit my head. But I’m happy that I got to do a variety and showcase my versatility as an actor under these renowned names. As I said, doing versatile roles is my prime focus and I want my acting to do the talking. I always try not to repeat a character or any role I have already done earlier, even if it is well received by audiences and critics. Fortunately these projects offered me unique roles the way I had desired.

MD: Manyaa to Rajawade & Sons - Tell us something about your journey into Marathi cinema.
Amitriyaan: To be honest, after Satya 2 I found myself jobless as three of my films in lead roles got stuck. I had just kick started my career and was very happy to be doing lead roles in all these projects. But the projects being held up made me face a different reality altogether. Mentally, it was my worst phase and I was totally clueless how to go about it. But as the saying goes, when god closes one door, he opens another. It was during this phase, I was offered a Marathi movie Rajwade & Sons produced by Atul Kulkarni. Initially I was hesitant if I should do a regional film having started my career in Bollywood. But I fell for the amazing character. The film turned out to be a cult classic and it got me recognised in the Marathi industry as well. I was offered many such similar roles (as it usually happens in our industry) but I didn't find them appealing and went to accept a very different and challenging role in my next project Aasud. Having worked in Hindi and regional cinema as well, I have consciously decided to do both as regional offers more unique range of characters.

MD: You also did an Ukranian film. Tell us something about it.
Amitriyaan: It was an experimental docufiction based on ISIS and terrorism. We shot mostly in Kashmir, Himachal and in Ladakh region. I played a very amusing character of a terrorist who is basically a poet at heart but is forced to get into terrorism out of familial pressure. That dilemma of being a Poet vis-à-vis a terrorist was a bit challenging. I guess all must have faced such dilemma in their lives at different levels when they perhaps wanted to be something else in life but were drawn into terrorism for reasons unknown.

MD: How did Peshawar happen? Any interesting anecdote?
Amitriyaan: I guess I got Peshawar due to my work and look in Atkan Chatkan. A friend from production recommended my name and pics to the director and he liked it. He wanted me to play a brutal aggressive antagonist, but after the script reading and doing my characterisation, I felt I could add more layers if I treat my character as psycho unpredictable guy. My director Jehangir Irroni loved the idea and even allowed me to write and add one scene while shooting which I thought could enhance the character graph. I asked them to get me a cutest kid from the school where we were shooting and then let my director read the scene I wrote. It was about playing happily with that cute kid and then suddenly killing her by shooting in-between her eyes. Audiences hated my character for that scene and I felt I have achieved what was required.

MD: Tell us about your recent release 'Tandoor' based on the infamous Naina Sahni Murder Case.
Amitriyaan: Based on Naina Sahani's brutal murder case in late 90’s, I am playing a parallel lead with Tanuj Virwani and Rashami Desai. The way it is presented, looks engaging and interesting due to non-linear narrative. Directed by Nivedita Basu, the best thing about her is that she knows exactly what she wants from a particular scene and then gives her actors the complete freedom to deliver. She doesn't restrict them to perform in limited set boundaries. And I love such creative freedom especially when the director is calm and observant like Nivedita. I hope people like my work in this.

MD: Heard you had an all-women squad of producers and the director.
Amitriyaan: As I said, Nivedita Basu is an excellent director. Speaking about our all-women squad of producers, I would say we were lucky to have such free-spirited producers like Chitra Vakil Sharma and Chandni Soni. They are such positive energy and they managed to create a great atmosphere, which made everyone comfortable while shooting - from actors to technicians to spot boys. We shot this during the pandemic and our producers took the best care for us. They are very professional but at the same time something is very homely and genuine about them which is very rare in our industry.

MD: What is more important - the role and script or being in the lead?
Amitriyaan: For me it's always about the role first - then comes the script. It’s important for me to understand my scope as an actor to make it unique, engaging and different.. Regarding lead or parallel or character, I never fell for that kind of trap – to be demanding and keep waiting for lead roles only. I always go for amusing characters and don’t mind doing a lead or parallel, till the time I am able to play a character with due honesty.

MD: Method acting or instincts - What is your personal best quality?
Amitriyaan: Quoting Ram Gopal Varma, ‘I feel there are only well acted or badly acted roles and no such thing as a good actor or actress.’ Having said that, I believe it should be a combination of both - method acting and instinct - as an actor needs to understand the inner layers and psyche of the character and prepare it accordingly. Later these preparations should be completely forgotten thereby becoming the character. But also letting your subconscious mind be totally awake could help your instincts to deliver something amusing while performing. My personal best quality is a combination of both, I would say.

MD: You are without any godfather in this industry. Do you wish you had any?
Amitriyaan: Earlier I used to be proud that I am a self-made man in this industry without any godfather or big connections with casting lobbies which casts actors only from certain region and circle. But to be honest, now I feel things would have had been different had someone really guided me at the start. Though I  have made a place in this industry, it has been a long and ardous task. Had I any godfather, I could have been able to use these 14 long years more efficiently in doing my kinda cinema and versatile roles. Earlier it was better to get acknowledged for your work and get cast when real filmmakers were actually involved in choosing their actors, but last few years, the corrupt system of casting by a couple of powerful agents, monopoly, artificial hammering of celebrities through agencies on audiences have diluted the real popularity and have just enhanced the fake fame. Looking at this all around, I wish I had some support so that I could focus on my art passionately instead of seeing myself lose work due to no connections. But in the end, what matters is - Yes! I am happy, to have shaped my career my way!

F&TV World: Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio to Uttam Kumar - Any stylistic elements you have imbibed from them?
Amitriyaan: Johnny Depp's acting always made me realize to dare and do extreme roles. I like Leonardo DiCaprio because he could have been a typical romantic star but he chose versatility over stardom. Uttam Kumar made me realize that an actor can be natural and intense even in a commercial set up without getting into an out-n-out arty zone. There is so much to learn and I am trying to evolve by understanding as much I can. Hopefully, someday I get to do interesting roles and leave my indelible mark on my audiences.

F&TV World: What's been your most memorable moment, as an actor, so far?
Amitriyaan: During the premiere of my film Rajwade & Sons, I was roaming around the theatre due to anxiety about how people would react to my work. It was interval time when my producer called me to meet Nana Patekar. He had come to see the film and wanted to convey personally how much he loved my work and characterization in the film. He advised me not to change my style and continue the way I act, saying it's very natural. It was a thrilling and memorable moment for me with such good compliment coming from a veteran versatile senior actor as Nana. Later after the film was over, Amol Palekar personally told everyone how much he found my performance effortless. I was on Cloud 9 as through this film I received the congratulatory acknowledgment of the two most senior actors/ directors on my performance. It just made my day!

F&TV World: How would you like to be remembered as?
Amitriyaan: I always want to be seen as a good actor - An actor who could bridge between the lead and the character, someone who merged the gap between the two!

To infer, then, on a personal note: Amitriyaan is a sincere, humble and valiant maverick who's got a lot of potential as an actor. I’m sure he will be remembered as one. I on behalf of Films & TV World wish him all the best....
Mohan Das
Chief Editor

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