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Monday, December 11, 2023

Avinash Tiwary: “Life Truly Offers More Than You Can Dream”

Avinash Tiwary is a silent, superlative talent that explodes on the big screen.

Don’t believe us? Then watch his performance in Imtiaz Ali’s Laila Majnu as the obsessed, star-crossed lover. His performance leaves you stunned.

For eight years, he worked in theatre before he worked in Anurag Kashyap’s TV series Yudh, in which he played the antagonist to Amitabh Bachchan. 

Subsequently, he made his Bollywood debut with Milind Dhaimade’s directorial debut, Tu Hai Mera Sunday co-starring Barun Sobti and Shahana Goswami.

Premiering at BFI London Film Festival, the movie and his performance received critical acclaim… Marking a new entry in his acting career.

But the major project Laila Majnu did not do as well as expected – in terms of the widespread viewership and numbers.

However, his performance has proven to make him an eligible actor to take this industry by storm.

In a special interview with Filme Shilmy, Avinash reflects on Laila Majnu, his acting career and nepotism in Bollywood.

Laila Majnu was one of your most emotionally intense roles yet. How satisfied are you with this?

It’s been such a long time of making into films and getting an opportunity where I could be a lead protagonist of a movie.

It came after a long wait. I was on board but the film did not take off until two years so kept waiting for it and eventually it released.

By the time it finally came to me, there was no joy left. It was more of a relief.

While doing the film, it was such an immersive process and thankfully Sajid and Imtiaz sir was there to guide me throughout.

Imtiaz was around and he would often hold my hand though I would have to work on my own.

Sajid and Imtiaz sir has been the driving force.

My job was to give it my all considering that I waited so much for this.

I jumped straight into it and put everything that I knew.

The process was satisfactory. I cut off from the world as the part demanded that.

To play a self-destructive and obsessive lover is a challenging task. What preparations did you undergo for it?

When I got the script, we first started reading. Initially, the whole idea was for Qais to be a bit more muscular and more heroic.

But we were supposed to shoot the second-half first and for that, I grew my hair/beard for 4-5 months.

I was also pumping muscles so that I could become the guy in the first half.

However, when we did the look test… Because we were starting from the second-half, it did not look right as he looked beefed up and the get-up wasn’t working.

At that time, we only had 17 days for the shoot so we started panicking, didn’t know what to do.

The next thing I know I completely stopped eating as there was no other way out to lose all the muscle.

My diet reduced drastically. I lost about 12 kgs in 17 days.

It also takes a deep level of understanding to grasp Imtiaz Ali’s vision and writing. How did help you in portraying Qais?

Everyone goes through a break-up in life. Eventually, they are able to make that adjustment in life to move on.

What if a person is unable to make that adjustment and doesn’t work for him? When it lasts long enough, it can drive you to the crazy side.

That was the starting point for us. From there on, it happened naturally for us.

The script was written so well. Sajid and Imtiaz sir kept saying that most of what we read in the script is from the actual folklore of Laila Majnu.

The beauty of this film and for me personally, is that the story of the 7th century, has been adopted in today’s time, whilst maintaining the classic dignity of that story.

That is one of the biggest achievements for me.

As an artist, being a part of this whole process was very enriching.

We keep saying that Qais was in love and his heart was broken, but for me, he lost his faith and belief in everything.

He felt so strongly that Laila was there with him and that there is no other reality.

But when he realises that she’s not there, he starts questioning every belief in life and when that happens, he tends to lose who he is.

Love was important but the whole faith he has in himself and life, he starts doing that.

How do you feel about the way the film has fared at the box-office?

Honestly, when the film was coming up I didn’t know what to expect.

Considering we’re all newcomers and didn’t know what reception we’d get… That only happened when the reviews started pouring in.

I remember that Monday was doing much better than Friday which only meant that the film had grown on its word of mouth.

Somewhere, I would’ve wanted the film to be marketed better so that it could’ve been reached out to more people.

If it lasted one more week in the theatres, there would’ve been a different space altogether.

I truly believe, that over the whole four months since the film released, it has made every ‘Best film/performances of 2018’ list.

As far as the media is concerned, they have been very kind to me after a film. But I would’ve wanted more people to watch it

The film may obviously not make the money now, but it will keep reaching out to people.

You’ve always fascinated critics with your performances. What style of roles appeal to you the most? What is your dream role?

I have always enjoyed flawed characters. If you see Tu Hai Mera Sunday, I found my role Rashid quite flawed and had an unconventional life.

Then if you look at Qais, he was flawed as well. He turns into a mad guy. So there has to be something that I can dig deep into explore and express.

I’ve been acting for almost 15-16 years, be it theatre or television. I now think that I’ve been able to work on the craft of acting. 

So I know how to say what I have to say, but I still need to figure out what I want to say. This part I really want to explore now.

I’m looking for as varied and deep-rooted characters as possible so I can grow as an artist and let the world know that I am here.

Your first notable role was in Anurag Kashyap’s TV show Yudh. What was the transition from the small screen to big like for you?

I decided that I wouldn’t do television until Anurag Kashyap and Amitabh Bachchan decided to do something like Yudh.

So if they decided to go on television and do something new, who am I to not do that?

I just jumped on that opportunity to be able to play an antagonist to Mr Bachchan.

I couldn’t have thought of it in my dreams!

Life truly offers more than you can dream… I still remember reading that script and couldn’t sleep for nights. I didn’t imagine myself doing this. 

As for the ‘transition’, it’s pretty much the same.

The whole crew on Yudh were film members so it never really felt like I was working on television. 

The emotions are the same, I don’t think that changes from medium to medium – unless if it’s specifically designed for the small screen where the story/screenplays change.

I don’t enjoy or think I’m capable that much to play the same character on a daily basis, I’m limited there.

You broke into the industry without any filmy connections. How do you feel about the whole nepotism debate… Just because it happens in every industry, does that make it justified?

It’s a very natural instinct to do and provide for people we love and who are own.

I wouldn’t have any issues with people who have this privilege because if I had it, I would make use of it, to be honest with you.

My problem is with the audience. Not many people really put this out there, but it is a fact.

The problem is with the audience, I’m saying that if a person (who is somebody’s son/daughter) does a good job, please do stand up and applaud them.

I have no problem at all.

But when that individual hasn’t even uttered a word and the world suddenly puts them on a pedestal – that is something which I cannot understand. 

It’s sad. The machinery has a lot to do with it as well, which is inside the industry.

But it is the audience. If you don’t go and watch that film, that person would not make money and (subsequently) not become the star that they become.

Somewhere the audience is responsible for it – in terms of the whole ‘nepotistic’ debate. 

I don’t think it will stop anything. Tomorrow if I become popular and my kid wants to do films… Why shouldn’t I support them?

Sure they (star kids) might have it easier and ahead of the race at this point in time, but I’m here for the next 25-30 years.

I don’t know if they will last that long (laughs). That’s how I look at it.

I’m not playing the game for this very moment, but for the future years. 

Finally, what can we next expect from you?

I’m doing this one Netflix film for a production house which is owned by a female star so that’s one project we’ve completed

My other venture is Girl On The Train for Reliance Entertainment, for which I’ll be shooting in London.  

It already seems like Avinash’s career is heading for a strong, upward trajectory and hopefully, it will only get better as days go by.

We are certain he will continue to impress the world with his talent and acting prowess.

Here’s wishing him all the very best for his future projects!

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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