Whatever works with the audience is commercial cinema: Vineet Kumar Singh

Actor Vineet Kumar Singh got noticed for his work in Bollywood with films like City of Gold (2010) and Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). However, it was his act as Shravan Kumar, an aspiring boxer, in Anurag Kashyap’s 2017 sports drama Mukkabaaz that actually made people sit up and take notice of him. The film was not only co-written by him but also marked his maiden lead role.

Now after a couple of projects later, the actor is looking forward to his next release Aadhaar. Ahead of it, in an exclusive chat, he talks about his cinematic journey, how life has been after Mukkabaaz and the rise of the character actor while hoping that people would go watch Aadhaar as it would give him the strength to experiment. Excerpts:

Aadhaar revolves around the government’s scheme. How easy or difficult was it to act in a film like this?

When I heard the script, I found it very interesting. I signed it after Mukkabaaz. The film is not just about an Aadhaar card and there are deeper meanings of the title. I play a potter in the film. The film delves into their understanding of life and that’s something one needs to do. The situation about an Aadhaar card then arises and the characters then figure out the things as per their levels of understanding and education. It is made with the right intention and will make you laugh and cry at the same time. There is nothing shown that should be problematic and it has received much appreciation at MAMI and BUSAN film festivals.

Tell us about your learnings in the years post Mukkabaaz...

Before Mukkabaaz, it was a very different struggle for me and I had not attained what I came in this city for. So, I started writing it and it took me 4-5 years to do so. But the film, after release, has certainly managed to give back almost 10 years of my life. After the film, I have more options and I am free to experiment. Yes, I am now learning different things and that experience is like a bank for me.

Do you think it was only Anurag Kashyap who could do justice to Mukkabaaz? How difficult was it to approach him with the script?

I would like to work with him again and again because he is fabulous. In fact, I feel he is a new director with each of his films. His approach towards each project is different. As an actor, I have learned a lot from him.

For me, Mukkabaaz was extremely important and I thank Anurag Kashyap for thinking that this film could happen with me. Previously, I had been approaching filmmakers directly, but I understood the practical and commercial differences that came with making a film with me. So, I had not gone to Anurag with his script directly but decided to pitch it to Phantom Films. Albeit, I told him that I am pitching it to his company. So, he asked me for the script and after two weeks, I got a call from him saying that he’s making the film with me. I finally heard something that I was dying to hear from the past two and a half years.

Has Bollywood really changed and is ready for actors like you to play the lead of a film? Or is commercial cinema still star driven?

You must have seen Irrfan Khan’s film ‘Hindi Medium’. So whatever works with the audience is actually a commercial cinema. It all depends on the audiences’ taste. Earlier, the filmmakers used to pick foreign locations for their films, but now most of them prefer to shoot in smaller Indian cities with a rural feel because that’s the kind of stories that are working today. So, that change is coming.

Are you willing to explore other genres like romance or comedy? And what about OTT?

I have also grown up on the kinds of films that everyone around me has seen in his/her childhood. So that memory is still alive. Only later in life, I started exploring different kinds of cinema. So, I want to focus on maintaining a balance. My upcoming Tamil film ‘Thiruttu Payale 2’ is a commercial film. As far as OTT is concerned, I want to explore it more if I get good opportunities as you can have more screen time on that medium.

You’re an MD in Ayurveda and were a national-level Basketball player. Did you ever feel that you had something to always fall back on?

Actually, it is a problem to have an option. When you don’t have it, it is either a do-or-die situation. The internal fight is more because if you are feeling low, you tend to think that you have a degree in hand so why are you struggling! I always had to remind myself that acting was my call and that’s what I am supposed to be committed to. My struggle has been extremely long. However, these bad times have made me stronger.

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