Rohit Roy has been in the industry for many years now. He has ventured into several styles of cinema, be it regional Indian films or mainstream Bollywood movies like Shootout At Lokhandwala.
Now, the multi-talented Rohit goes back to his roots as he makes his Gujarati film debut in I.M.A Gujju.
Rohit speaks with Filme Shilmy regarding the film and his career.
From the first glimpse, I.M.A Gujju seems to be a thrilling film. Tell us a bit about the plot?
It is believed and there is the stereotype that Gujarati people are only interested in business/making money and eating Dhokla fafda gathiya etc.
This film will be the pride of every Gujarati individual because it’s about them standing up when it matters the most.
Let’s not forget that Sardar Patel and Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) were both Gujarati.
It’s not often we get to see a war/patriotic film with Gujarat’s angle. Is this what persuaded you to do I.M.A Gujju?
Yes, absolutely. That’s the main reason why I said yes to I.M.A Gujju.
Very rarely actors get to play such interesting roles in their entire career.
Lots of people asked me why a regional film close on the heels of a blockbuster like Kaabil… well you have answered that question for me!
You play Indian Army Major Siddhraj Sinh Jhala. How did you prepare for the role?
I didn’t really have to prepare for it.
Without divulging the character, let me just say that Jhala has been given unfair treatment for a line of action he took a call on when terrorists attacked and that left him disgruntled.
Hence, the sardonic character. And when he gets a chance to serve the country again, he does exactly what he did earlier and this time is commended for it.
So, it was easy to play really because we are all meted over something unfair in our lives which leave us unhappy and when we are awarded for our work, there is a look of achievement in our eyes.
It wasn’t very tough to play Siddhraj Sinh Jhala.
Did doing Paltan recently help with your preparation of the role?
Every role prepares you for the next.
I would say playing a Major in LOC: Kargil prepared me for Paltan and that in turn prepared me for I.M.A Gujju.
Interestingly, they are all pretty diverse roles and characters in spite of playing major in all 3 films.
I can safely say that playing Jhala has been the most satisfying creatively because of the shades in him… You will have to watch the film to understand what I mean.
This is your first Gujarati film and since you’re originally from Ahmedabad, you must’ve felt quite at home?
Oh, that was the cherry on the cake in a manner of speaking. We shot the entire film in Ahmedabad and now I’m back to promote it.
Ahmedabad will always be home for me. All my friends are here and all the places I grew up in and so many memories are right here in this city.
To top it all, we shot the college portions in my own college, St Xavier’s.
It was so nostalgic to see my professors come to meet me. I just take this moment to thank all of them.
You’ve worked in both regional and mainstream cinema.
Besides the languages, how does the filmmaking style contrast between both styles of cinema?
Every region has a distinct style or shooting and performing.
The style of shooting differs based on budgets of course and the acting pattern changed because of the milieu and fabric of that particular region.
But as far as I am concerned, I don’t change my style too much coz people have seen me over the years in Hindi cinema and have come to accept the style as my own.
So, I borrowed a few mannerisms from Gujarat in terms of speech and let the rest be as I have always been.
I didn’t want to overthink it.
Regional cinema seems to be undergoing a revival.
Given your experience of working in the industry, what do you feel is contributing towards this major change?
It’s simple, India is made up of several diverse regions with each having a special flavour.
We are like a big mass of land with different ‘gadhs’ surviving individually and at the same time as a whole.
Thus, Hindi cinema takes care of the whole and regional cinema gives us a distinct personality and existence, hence, the pride in being regional.
In turn, it’s a good thing. Films are the only place where regions happily coexist.
The digital space is becoming a popular mode of entertainment. How do you hope to become a part of this?
I have already finished my first web series called Memories with Vikram Bhatt which turned out to be a runaway success.
The audiences loved my portrayal of media maven Siddharth Sareen.
I am feeling so good that 2 very diverse works of mine, namely Kaabil and memories, on two vastly different platforms found traction with the audiences.
Speaking of Kaabil, it was nice to see you and Ronit together. When can we see the Roy brothers together on-screen again?
Soon, hopefully. I am working on a script which has a superb role for him. But it’s too early to talk about it so let’s see.
As actors, it could happen anytime really.
Lots and lots of people are thinking on the same lines so I wouldn’t be surprised if our next chat is about a film or web show we are working on together! Fingers crossed.
There are many feathers to your hat: acting, direction, hosting and production. How challenging is it to balance multiple roles?
Not challenging at all, honestly.
I love all the ‘feathers’ and am grateful that God has given me the opportunity to explore all of them with some sort of expertise in each one of them.
Although if you ask me my favourite role, it is that of a director.
Nothing comes close to the creative satisfaction I felt when I shot, edited and readied Rice Plate (in the anthology film Dus Kahaniyaan) and saw the response to my work.
I don’t think I need any awards.
The biggest and best award was Shabana Azmi ji and Naseer Bhai’s (Naseeruddin Shah) testimonial to my directorial abilities to all and sundry!
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I have never planned anything in life, ever.
Post my college, I haven’t planned a single thing.
Now, I don’t know if that’s good or bad but as in cinema, so in life, I take it as it comes.
I don’t study too much and improvise in the given situation. I’m what one might call, an improvised human being.
I love that life throws me situations I haven’t planned for and tells me to deal with them to the best of my abilities.
Failure and success are a part of it, but I carry on.
Like they say, life is a box of chocolates…. some sweet and some bitter, but I enjoy both in equal measure.