Actor Abhay Verma Talks About Playing A Transgender In His Debut Film 'Safed'

Actor Abhay Verma Talks About Playing A Transgender In His Debut Film 'Safed'

He also speaks about preparing for the role, appreciation for his work in the web series Family Man 2 and more

Dinesh RahejaUpdated: Saturday, January 27, 2024, 10:40 PM IST
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Abhay Verma |

Abhay Verma’s voluminous, carefully tousled hair brings to mind current Hollywood heartthrob Timothee Chalamet; and not just because of the visual similarity. The young Indian debutant belongs to the same category of contemporary actors who bravely navigate strait-laced roles as well as characters whose sexuality would make their seniors baulk. Timothee broke through playing a gay teenager in Call Me By Your Name and has gone on to play the lead in sci-fi blockbusters like Dune.

Abhay first won notice as the tortured youngster who kidnaps a girl in the web series Family Man 2 and is now winning praise for his debut film, Safed, in which he plays a eunuch. Unlike a conventional actor, Abhay didn’t think twice when he was offered the role of a transgender, instead, he says he instantly saw the role as a “blessing”. He emphasises, “For a 25-year-old boy from Panipat like me to get the lead role in Safed, I wouldn’t have let go of such an opportunity.”

From the onset, the actor was all gung-ho about the film because it allowed him to “explore myself” as well as give a positive message to society about the acceptance of the ‘other’. Brimming with the confidence of youth, he had no qualms about taking on a difficult role. Spiritedly, he points out, “The appreciation people showed me after Family Man 2 gave me the boost to impress people in some different way. It is the zamana of young people like me... the youth of today are changing nations!”

Reviews have commended Abhay’s portrayal but ask him about his acting process, he calls it “a summation of a thousand things”. He was the first to be cast in the film which was a “blessing” according to him. He explains, “My preparation started with assisting director Sandeep (Singh) sir for a year and a half before the film’s shoot. Being passionate about my job, I sat in on all the script sessions and music sittings... which helped me imbibe the character.”

Abhay reveals that most of the eunuch characters in the film are not played by professional actors. “They are real transgenders from Banaras. A month before the shooting started, I went there and I made some good friends with them. We used to have lunches, and dinners in a group and we used to dance together as well as roam the ghats. So, I wasn’t alien to the world when I started shooting.”

Incredibly, the film was shot in exactly 10 days. “Our budget and resources were very limited so we would shoot three scenes a day. This is the most rewarding thing for an actor — I have not just acted in the film but I have lived the life. Safed is a nude film — it required every actor, especially, me to be nude (emotionally) in front of cameras so that I can perceive the beautiful nature of transgender.”

The actor is hearteningly sincere about his advocacy for a better understanding of transgenders and their rights.

Abhay candidly admits that time has changed his perception. “When I was little, I was scared of them because of the loudness of the love they give. But while growing up I realised it was only fair for them to share love with us, because they are full of love. After making good friends during Safed, I found them helpful and open. All they have is love but we are the ones who are filtering them out based on our egos, our inability to be as loving as they are.” His attitude towards people of different sexualities is clear-cut: “There should be no disparity whatsoever.”

Abhay hopes to carry his sensibilities into his future projects too. “My path is creativity... The more difficult the role, the better. An actor should be malleable. After seeing Aamir Khan in Ghajini, you almost don’t recognise him in Dangal. I would like to be on that path. In Safed, I can look pretty, but I can also tailor my look to my character’s demands.”

Finally, however, what is most important for him is when viewers say they were “moved” by his performance. Ask him to capture in a nutshell what he has learnt from his character and Abhay thinks carefully before replying: “I felt that the pureness of love is missing in my generation, it is too focused on physicality. But acceptance and love is the basis of life.”

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