Even though he is a big star in the telly land, Bollywood is still waiting to discover the prowess of the phenomenal actor Bhanu Uday, who will be soon seen in Nandia Das’much-talked-aboutt film Manto, which is based on writer Saadat Hasan Manto’s life. Not the one to shy away from hard work, Bhanu Uday goes into a pensive mood and recalls about how he bagged the prestigious film and the kind of preparations that he had underwent in order to get into the skin of his character in the film, besides other details about Manto, which has already started making waves globally.
Your performance as the legendary actor Ashok Kumar in Nandita Das’ Manto has been the talk of the town. How did that happen?
While I was prepping up for my show ‘Saam Daam Dand Bhed’, I got a call from Honey Trehan’s office stating that they wanted me to play the role of the filmstar Ashok Kumar in Manto, for which I had to audition the next day. I knew that my real challenge was that, even though I did not look like Ashok Kumar, I had to be convincing in the audition. That’s why, I was smart enough not copy everything of Ashok Kumar in the test, because I knew that if I did his mimicry, not only will I not get the part, but I will also come across as a terrible actor. That’s why I decided to do the scene truthfully as me, but not as Ashok Kumar. In other words, I was totally myself during my test.
So, was Nandita Das convinced with your audition?
Even though Nandita ma’am liked my performance, she gave me time to get into the character fully. After that, I started watching all of Ashok Kumar’s films for full two weeks.
Manto sees you playing the young Ashok Kumar. Was it tough?
Oh yes. Most of the people were well versed and knew the older Ashok Kumar. And because the film was being made for India as well as for the international audiences, I had to be very perfect with my performance as Ashok Kumar. Even if it went over the top, the people in India would have recognised me, but, the people in Cannes would probably say and feel as to ‘what the hell was going on’. It was an extremely fine line that I had to walk while playing the role of young Ashok Kumar. That’s why I used to repeatedly shoot myself as young Ashok Kumar and send the videos to Nandita ma’am. She, in turn, used to send me
Is it true that Nandita Das had suggested that you take help from a mimicry artiste for the role?
Yes. But, I thought that it would be great if I play a real person rather than mimicking Ashok Kumar, as that would have made my character look very caricaturish. That’s why, I showed my version of my character to the mimicry artiste and he was very happy with it. And since this was the first time ever that I was playing a real life character, I decided to be in my character throughout even when I was not shooting. All my interactions I had with Nandita ma’am, it was like Ashok Kumar. And when Nandita ma’am got me introduced to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, he understood that I was in my character and he told Nandita ma’am about the same. The moment I mouthed my first line, she cracked up telling that I did a great job. Her words came as a big relief to me. Post that, I had a wonderful time working with Nandita ma’am and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
We all know what a fine actress Nandita is. Tell us, how she was as a director?
She is such a warm, beautiful and nice director. I had even told her, ‘You get everything done the way you want to get it done. But your power is not an overt kind of power… it’s like the power of a mother. That way even the actors feel empowered.’ I had a glorious time working with her. I can proudly say that she is definitely one of the best people to work with. The best part about Nandita ma’am is that you feel that she is a part of your team and not sitting to judge your work. That’s why you feel the sync with her, which is a huge thing for the actors. On the first day of my shoot, she came to my vanity van and asked me about how I was doing and said that everything is going to be ok. A relaxed atmosphere on the sets is extremely imperative if you want to create good work. And Nandita ma’am offered just that.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and you are both pass-outs from the National School of Drama (NSD). Did that connection help?
Even before Nawazbhai became a huge star, he was already a star amongst our NSD circles. We always knew that he was someone who was very special and someone to look up to all the time. Even though I had met up with him a couple of times before the shoot, I was not sure if he would recognize me on the sets. To my pleasant surprise, he immediately recognized me and kind of took me under his wings. Whatever time I spent with him, was a splendid and a memorable experience.
What has Manto taught you?
Before doing the film, I never thought that I was the kind of guy for whom playing a real life character was his forte. But after doing the film, I think that playing a real life character has become my forte (smiles). The film gave me the process and way of playing any living or dead person. The film opened up a completely new world of acting for me. What I also learnt from the character of Manto, was that he was totally fearless. He was even ready to go to jail for his beliefs and works.