Gulshan Devaiah once again plays a bad guy in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film Ram Leela
Gulshan Devaiah is nothing like the leather jacket-sporting, muscle-flexing heroes of Bollywood he admired and grew up watching. But his different look and some luck landed him his initial offers, he confesses. Gulshan, who grew up in Bangalore, has to his credit critically acclaimed and commercially successful films such as Hate Story, Shaitan, Dum Maaro Dum and That Girl in Yellow Boots. November will see the release of his latest — Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela, in which he plays the bad guy. A fashion design graduate, who worked in the fashion industry for about 10 years, the actor talks about making inroads into Bollywood and working in Ram Leela. Excerpts:
From fashion to films… how did the transition take place?
Fashion is something I discovered, not planned. Having scored 52 per cent in Standard XII, I did not have many options. It was my friends who suggested I take up fashion designing since they knew I was good at drawing and painting. Once I got into it I realised I liked it but I secretly nursed the desire to become an actor. It was like those silly dreams most of us have and don’t know where to start. As a designer, I was making money and receiving awards too. It was only in 2006 that I decided I was going to slog and make enough money to pursue my dream. In 2008, I moved to Mumbai in search of opportunities.
For someone who lived in Bangalore, why did you choose Bollywood over the regional film industry?
Though I lived in Bangalore, I grew up watching only Hindi films. My musically inclined parents had over 200 cassettes of Hindi film music, and very few regional ones. My mum tells me that as a kid I was a huge fan of Shashi Kapoor, I have no memory of this though. But I do remember having daydreams inspired by the tough guy image of Dharmendra in Yaadon Ki Baaraat, though I am now nothing like that!
Almost all the characters you’ve played so far have a negative shade.
Initially, when you are new to the industry and trying to get some work, you make the best of whatever comes your way. I am still doing this; it’s not a conscious move. In 2011, three films of mine released and I played grey characters in all of them. Since I didn’t want to repeat myself I tried something different in each of the characters I portrayed. In Dum Maro Dum, for instance, my character speaks at a higher pitch. I was inspired by a guy I met in Goa who spoke like that. I do confess that I’ve been getting a lot of offers to play roles similar to or extensions of KC (his character in Shaitan).
How has it been working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali for Ram Leela?
Frankly, I did not consider myself worthy of a Bhansali film. Surprisingly, the casting took just 20 minutes! He had not even seen any of my films! Plus, I knew of him only through what I’d heard or read in the papers. I was really scared. But my wife and manager advised me to take it up and I went by their gut feeling. Now I am happy I did. I had a fantastic time on the sets. He was unlike what I’d read or heard of him. I enjoyed a certain freedom on the sets and he did not scream at me even on my bad day — the day I took 16 takes for a shot!
Now that you have realised your dream, how are you handling fame?
It’s not been all that crazy. Soon after Shaitan and Hate Story released, people started recognising me in airports and cafés. I didn’t know how to handle it. I became shy and was thrown off balance. I’d just do a “thumbs up”. It happened with Abhishek Bachchan too who came up to me and complimented me on my acting and I didn’t know what to say. I simply said, “Cheers!”