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Not just a sidekick

ANUJ KUMAR
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Chat Vipin Sharma shares with ANUJ KUMAR the travails of being an actor

No fluffVipin Sharma
No fluffVipin Sharma

He is mostly the odd ingredient in our mainstream masala. When everybody goes hammer and tongs to make their present felt, Vipin Sharma effortlessly turns attention to himself. It happened last week in Satyagraha . When Manoj Bajpayee, a trained actor, was going over the top to reach out to the galleries as a corrupt politician Balram Singh, Sharma, playing an equally slimy character Gauri Shankar, was showing how it could be done without wearing the expressions on the sleeve. “Acting in such films is like driving through the Mumbai traffic where many people are unnecessarily honking,” quips Sharma as we talk about the standards of acting in mainstream cinema. “See, acting is one profession where you don’t have to do what your designation suggests. An engineer is supposed to do engineering, but an actor should not act. He has to constantly struggle to minimize the acting part. Unfortunately, many don’t understand this in our industry. Perhaps that’s why many still call a supporting actor a character artist. It is an archaic term which has lost its meaning.”

A product of the National School of Drama, Sharma worked with Shyam Benegal for some time before getting disappointed with the acting scenario in the country and picking up a job at Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. “There I was introduced to Meisner training. “It suited my understanding of acting. Developed by American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner, the technique lays stress on moment-to-moment spontaneity through communication with other actors in order to generate behaviour that is truthful and honest within imagined or fictional circumstances.”

Sharma returned to India when he learnt that his friend Amol Gupte was directing a film. “He and I had assisted Ketan Mehta on Mirch Masala . When I came to know that he is directing Taare Zameen Par , I asked him if I could me of any help. His wife said Amol was in fact looking for me to play the role of the Hindi teacher. When I read some portions of the script I felt the boy’s father’s role was much more interesting. But Amol told me that Aamir Khan already had some names — like Atul Kulkarni and at one point they even considered Anil Kapoor — in his mind and that my skin colour won’t go with that of Darsheel.”

When he insisted, Amol asked him to read one scene and give an audition. “I apologised to the folks I was staying with and prepared the whole night but next day when I went to the studio I didn’t find Amol. I requested his assistant to shoot my audition but he said you are not being considered for this role. Again I pleaded and he relented. Somehow, Aamir got to see the tape and he liked it.” Why was he so adamant? “One day during one of the meetings with Aamir I had casually asked him does this father remain a villain till the end or has he been given scope for redemption. Aamir said he does realise his follies and eventually breaks down. At that moment I had made up my mind because the character had a range to explore.”

Sharma was noticed for his performances in Paan Singh Tomar , Gangs of Wasseypur and Inkaar , but slowly began to realise that he was being considered for roles of “a certain length”. “My attempt is always to make the character as human as possible. Even if I play the villain my effort is that people should realise that they have seen such a person somewhere. However, I have realised that writers and directors are trying to slot me in roles of a certain length.” Without blaming Prakash Jha, Sharma says in Satyagraha , there was a scene where Gauri Shankar exposes Balram Singh. “Now, the scene was edited out because had it been retained perhaps I would have become the main villain of the film in the eyes of the public. Prakashji doesn’t show the complete script to the actors and goes scene by scene. He might have realised later that the scene was not going with the bigger picture that he envisioned.”

Now, he is writing a script which he is planning to direct himself. “I believe most of our films are made from the first draft of the script. After watching Satyagraha I felt if a few more drafts had been written the film would have made a bigger impact, but then you never know; a large section of the audience like films made from the first draft where the emotions are basic. We still go with lines like yaad hai teri daadi kya kehti thi ….By the third or fourth draft such lines go out of the window as they take visual form,” says Sharma, adding the overall scenario has, however, improved and citing examples like Paan Singh Tomar and Kahaani .

This week Sharma will be seen donning the uniform again in Ahishor Solomon’s thriller John Day. “I am playing the role of a corrupt police officer, who is actually innocent at heart.

He doesn’t even realise when the system turned him into an immoral being. It is an interesting territory to explore and after Taare Zameen Par it is my most fleshed out character.” Well, we are looking forward to the FriDay!

From the sidelines:

Supporting acts which have left a mark this year:

Anupam Kher in Special 26

Divya Dutta in Gippi and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Zeeshan Ayub in Raanjhanaa

Barun Chanda in Lootera

Siddharth Basu in Madras Café

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