Shedding the anti-hero image, Tahir Raj Bhasin takes a walk down romantic lane as he talks to Nikita Wadhawan about his new web-series, new-age relationships and next Bollywood film
He may have played a bad boy on screen twice in a row but actor Tahir Raj Bhasin is far from his dark brooding character. Although he does have a bad boy charm, he is very eloquent and has a knack for engaging conversations. His menacing portrayal of the kingpin of a prostitution racket in Mardaani was followed by another impressive turn as an anti-hero in the espionage thriller Force 2 (2016) which also earned critical acclaim. And now in a web series ‘Time Out!’ he will be playing a romantic hero opposite Sarah-Jane Dias which he says was a refreshing change. “It was the first time that I was working with an actor that was not intimidating,” says Tahir. Excerpts from the interview:
From playing an antagonist twice in a row, you have now moved on to a romantic character, what did you enjoy playing more?
As an actor I was in a relationship with my part. You are asking me to choose between an ex-girlfriend and a current girlfriend. I was in love with Walt (Mardaani) and now I have moved on.
You also had an intimate scene with Sarah (Jane Dais), was it awkward filming it?
Yes, when you view the scene it looks very romantic but when we were shooting it, we had around 40 people around us. I can now say that making out with Sarah was as hard as being chased by John Abraham in Force 2. The scene required different skill sets.
What would you rather — make out with Sarah in front of 40 people or chased by John in Budapest?
(Smiles) This puts me in an awkward place. I wish in one film I could make out with a pretty actress and then be chased by John. If directors are reading this, they can cast me in an anti-hero part with that has a romantic angle.
What were your thoughts about entering the digital space?
It great that such story is out on a digital platform as it can get to today’s audience, it might not be something that the target audience might want to pay for in a theatre or watch with your in-laws but it you may want to see it on your way back to work. They can live vicariously through someone else rebellion.
This series explores the concept of an open relationship, which is not a very popular idea in India…
I knew people who are in such relationships but what are the rules. You are dating a girl but she is allowed to date other people, so can it also happen in marriage and will it appeal to the Indian mind-set? That is what is great about such a space where you can explore such concept without censorship.
Do feel a sense of pressure since this is the first time that you will be a lead in the project?
There are two kind of actors you can be. One where no one expects you anything from or you where people have an expectation from. I would rather than be the latter. I thrive of the pressure to see if I can actually play this, will they buy it if I am playing a lover boy?
In ‘Mardaani’ were you intimidated by the fact that you would be opposite Rani Mukherjee?
During the audition when it was down to 3 boys we knew that Rani would be watching this and I like that pressure as it pushed me to do my best. It was intimidating initially when we stated shooting but I used that as she has to be intimidating as a cop and I have to be cocky guy trying to over-power her.
Then you moved on to Force 2 as an anti-hero again, were you apprehensive that you are offered only grey roles?
I refused seven films between Mardaani and Force 2 as they were similar to Walt. While Mardaani was really dark, Force 2 was a move towards grey as my character did have a little bit more sense of humour. Also, two films is a really short time to be typecast.
What have you learnt from your last two outings?
The lead actor sets the tone of the sets and I think that people work better if they are relaxed. So I was a clown on the sets and I love to make people laugh.
Talking about your next film ‘Manto’, how was it working with Nawaz?
It is like being in a free acting class. You get to see how an actor like him handles a period film within that space, and he is lot of fun.
Is Nandita Das very strict on sets?
When you are handling a movie like Manto, you have a lot of responsibility to portray another person life story accurately. She pays attention to minute details.
How would you look back at the time when you were struggling for work in Bollywood?
Struggler has a negative connotation to it as it denotes that someone may or may not make it. I came with a rebellious that I will be a Dharma or an YRF hero in a month or so. But it took me three and a half years of screen test and auditions. If I wouldn’t have gone through that period I wouldn’t be able to deliver the way I did in Mardaani, I would have taken it for granted.