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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Vikrant Massey: A Cinematic Chat with the ‘Chhapaak’ Actor

Vikrant Massey is a supreme talent. From a very young age, he has an affinity towards the performing arts which is a major reason that has contributed towards his current success as an actor. 

He began his journey as a dancer – associated with Shiamak Davar. 

But soon dancing took a backseat as he received acting opportunities on television and was subsequently seen in successful shows like Balika Vadhu, Baba Aiso Varr Dhoondo and Qabool Hai, to name a few.

His stint in cinema is fairly recent and he began with supporting roles in well-known movies like Lootera and Dil Dhadakne Do. 

Slowly and steadily, we have seen him in realistic and authentic projects such as A Death in the Gunj, Lipstick Under My Burkha as well as the web-series Mirzapur, Made In Heaven and Criminal Justice.

Next to be seen in Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak alongside Deepika Padukone, his career is heading for a more prominent and promising turn.

Filme Shilmy chats with Vikrant to discuss how realism and society attract him towards his style of cinema. 

In what way did dance help to you in discovering that actor within you?

More than acting, I would say dance helped me identify myself most importantly.

It gave me a sense of liberation and euphoria when I was on stage and the very fact that I started off dancing when there were like thousands of people in front of me, it really made me feel great.

The adrenaline was just something else.

Dancing made me feel great about myself, I realised that the euphoria within is magical and acting happened far later.

The fact that I was a dancer and I did small skits in school, my affinity towards the performing arts was curated by my teachers and principal – who identified that I could excel in the field.

So dancing helped me to get in touch with myself, especially at the crucial age of 13/14 where one is just about getting to understand life.

Your acting career began with television and now you’re making waves in cinema and the web-space. How satisfied are you the way your career is going so far?

I’m very satisfied. I had never really planned anything in life as I’m not someone who sits down with a pen and paper to plan things.

I am someone who goes with the flow and I believe whatever happens has better plans than mine.

Whatever comes my way, if something excites me I will take it up – without thinking too much about it being good for me equity or whether it can get me more brand value.

I am more than happy with the way my career is shaping up.

It is always the direction I aspired to take – be it web or cinema.

I’m really fortunate with the fact that there is consistency for everyone to see and the adulation/love which is conformant with what we do is only getting better with the time.

Usually, when actors explore different mediums, there is the talk of ‘transition’. Has there been a ‘transition’ for you as well?

If at all there is a form of ‘transition’, then that is towards realising better content and deliverables.

The transition we are talking about is in the positive direction because whether it’s web or cinema, as I said, love and respect are getting better with time.

Today, I am a happier person than I was and I sleep sounder.

I really don’t think the medium determines how good you are as an actor.

I’m also a by-product of Indian television, had it been otherwise, I wouldn’t have been doing the things that I am doing.

Whether it is theatre or a web-series (which is booming like never before), it is a great time for creative artists.

It’s not just a great time for actors, but also for the people who have the urge to create something unique.

In an interview, you mentioned that your inspiration is ‘society and the world we live in’. What do you mean by this and does that impact the roles you choose to do?

Definitely, they do impact the role.

When I say ‘society’ and people around us, I mean to say about looking through the many layers cinema attaches between reality and what we see on screen.

When I say that my inspiration is ‘society’, I say it with the good and bad.

Generally, what tends to happen is that cinema or in the entertainment industry, there are many layers and sub-layers attached to ground reality – to present it in a way which is lucrative for the audiences to watch.

So that it is enticing for a community to watch in a theatre. By stating that society is my inspiration, I really want to cut through the many layers we attach.

I want to have a direct relationship with my audience. The layers attached to it for presentation is like a dish.

I want to serve my dish organically to people. With A Death In The Gunj, Criminal Justice or Mirzapur, the world that my characters have been a part of worlds which exist… Which you and I are aware of.

But these are areas we wouldn’t want to tap into because it could be unpleasant and that’s when old adage comes in to play that the ‘truth is bitter’.

Chhapaak especially is a socially important project. What do you hope to achieve from this film?

It is a socially relevant film and is something which is a part of our society – but the issue and idea of ‘acid attack’ is something which people are aware of but are yet ignorant about it.

Here, we are talking about a woman who has gone through this disastrous and grim episode in her life and how strongly she comes out of it is an example of people to seek/relate with it.

I hope people enjoy watching the film and learn from it.

The most that I look up to about – especially Meghna ji is that she’s a perfectionist.

The first thing that struck with me is that both her and Deepika are great human beings who are exceptionally talented. They are great first persons.

I’m really lucky and glad to have spent a certain time in my life with such wonderful people.

Trust me, in this film, there is more than the idea of being just ‘Deepika Padukone’ – I can definitely vouch for that.

The definition of a ‘hero’ is changing and so is the idea of ‘commercial/mainstream’ cinema. What do you feel is contributing to this difference?

A lot of things have mish-mashed into each other lately.

I never want to de-credit people for the number of followers they have on social media, but prioritising Instagram followers over talent is just ridiculous.

If you are hiring someone on the basis of their social media presence rather than the skills that they have, I think that is a very dark alley you are entering.

I don’t associate myself with is.

As for the changing definition of ‘commercial/mainstream cinema’ was eventually bound to happen.

Today content consumption has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Nowadays, everything is seamless and there are no boundaries as there is access to all kinds of cinema.

What I see today is a universal story. When you create content, you don’t just cater it to your society or people, but you know that there will be people from other cultures and traditions also watching it.

You want to make it relatable for them as well and that’s when the idea of creating something ‘global’ in nature develops.

The idea of ‘heroism’ still exists and I wouldn’t deny that a huge chunk of it will always be there because that’s what we are known for, but the density of it is getting marginalised slowly.

If toxic masculinity has sort of evaporated from our fraternity – in terms of the films and stories – is because of the collective awakening of our society.

We all are sensitive towards issues today and so we must be. There is so much information available at a click, we really want to maintain a harmonical balance between reality, business and people we cater to.

It’s a continuous process of evolving with time and finding your means. One just has to constantly upgrade themselves.

Being of someone without any filmy connections, did you ever feel the impact of nepotism when you broke through into the industry? If so, how did you overcome it?

I never denied the existence of nepotism. It exists everywhere.

Anyone who’s attained a sustainable lifestyle through hard-work or any other means would want to persevere it and pass it on. I would do that too.

At the same time, when I walked into the field, it was there, it is there and will probably exist tomorrow as well.

The beauty of the profession I am in is that it is the most robust, democratic community we have and voice our views.

But at the same time, there are fair and free opportunities for everyone to try. So did I.

I did almost a decade of television and I’m 5-6 years old in films. My present has been better than my past and I’m sure my future will be even better.

It’s only because of the fact that I probably possess something which is different and people want to see it/associate themselves with me.

But don’t you think the nepotism is getting out of hand?

When we talk about results, the only thing that survives is how ‘good’ a product is.

If it is good and worth our time, it will work. But if it doesn’t work, it probably means that it lacked something.

Even if a producer’s son who wants to be a hero, people will like him if he’s good. But if he isn’t, then nobody will.

It is the pure talent that drives a person to success.

I think it is only going to etch itself deeper into our film industry.

Many of your forthcoming films are directed by strong female filmmakers and you’ve worked with some of the finest actresses in Bollywood. Do you feel this rise in women-oriented content has been a long time coming? 

Yes, definitely. We’ve always had women-oriented content since before, it’s just that there weren’t too many takers for it.

But now it’s a constant evolvement which has taken place in the last 10 years.

The quantity of female-centred content is increasing but it was always a long time coming and it still is a long way to go.

There are still many things that need to be addressed. 

Being a heartfelt performer of his nature, we are sure that Vikrant will continue to impress us with his work in the near future. 

Chhapaak is set to release on February 2020.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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