Ashutosh Rana on Sonchiriya, Milan Talkies, and working with younger stars like Ranveer, Ali Fazal, Taapsee
Ashutosh Rana opens up on how Sonchiriya featured his most intense character since Sangharsh and collaborating with Tigmanshu Dhulia on Milan Talkies
Ashutosh Rana is one of the few actors who has managed to pull off a range of negative roles; he remains etched in people’s memory as the most terrifying, and iconic, villain of the '90s, with his breakout performance in Dushman (1998) followed by Sangharsh (1999). The National School of Drama-graduate (1994) has come a long way from his Swabhimaan days in the mid-nineties, when he became a household name.
With a slew of releases (both in Hindi and several South Indian cinema) and commercial blockbusters like Dhadak and Simmba, Rana’s career has taken a sudden leap making his schedule insanely hectic. Firstpost caught up with the actor for a chat on his recent release, Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya, his upcoming film, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Milan Talkies (15 March) and working with Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan,Janhvi Kapoor and the younger generation of Bollywood actors.
You had a great run in 2018 with Simmba, Dhadak, Mulk which continues this year as well…
I have always tried to not repeat the character I have played, and when you are in search of different characters then you have to patiently wait. Even if I am playing a villain, each character has different intensity, mentality and ideology and hence it remains etched in people’s mind. For instance, in Simmba, my character’s energy is suppressed, he is a hawaldar (police constable) with no power but he maintains his principles and integrity while standing against the tide. Every actor wants to explore himself or herself and wants to be remembered for the work they have done.
When I started my career with films like Dushman, Sangharsh, Shabnam Mausi…these films were considered off-beat and now the same genre of films have become mainstream, so for actors like us, a lot of opportunities have opened up. I am working non-stop and the industry has also been very nice to me. Even after 25 years, they still feel that I have the capacity and capability. Also post-2016, I geared myself up and fortunately most of the films worked commercially as well.
What was interesting about Sonchiriya and how has the film impacted you?
I was in search of a story like Sonchiriya. After Sangharsh, I feel this is the most intense and powerful character I have played, also the kind people expected from me. I play a Dabangg character. On one side there is the film and on the other side is 'Virender Singh Gujjar'. Films on dacoits, baaghis (rebels) are interesting subjects and to be a rebel, there are many reasons. Then, Abhishek Chaubey is one of my favourite directors. He has full faith in his story, characters and actors. He is a delight for any actor. You feel enriched working with him. Also the ensemble casting with Manoj (Bajpayee), Sushant (Singh Rajput), Bhumi (Pednekar), Ranvir (Shorey)..these are all wonderful actors. There was no need for me think whether I should accept it or not. The film was shot in extreme weather conditions, in extreme cold and heat, and the biggest problem being that it was dusty everywhere. In such times you don’t depend upon saadhan (device/instrument) but on sadhana or discipline (laughs).
I enjoy my work, and I am the kind of actor — I am with the character until I am playing that part and as soon as the film is over, I move out. I find that process quite simple and easy.
You and Tigmanshu Dhulia are collaborating once again for Milan Talkies...
Yes, I am playing the head of Panda (priest) and the hate-spewing leader driving a wedge between the two young lovers. I had worked with Tigmanshu on Haasil . He is my senior from the National School of Drama and if you respect and have faith in your director then you are confident that he or she will extract good work from you.
You are working with quite a few young talents like Ranveer, Sushant, Ali Fazal and girls like Taapsee, Sara, Janhvi, Shraddha Srinath...
All these youngsters are very well prepared and know what they want from life and the profession and also how they want. So if you are so wise and understanding, then obviously you will reap the benefits in this industry with such stiff competition and be the stars that shine forever. I borrow their energy and thus become new and updated. I am one of the fortunate actors whose age doesn't increase but whose edge is getting sharpened by spending time with these youngsters. Their approach, whether for life or for profession, is different and they educate us.
How important is commercial success and box office figures for you?
If your work reaches many people then the happiness you get increases multi-fold but it doesn’t make any difference to my fee. I never calculate all that and hence as an actor I have never quoted a fixed price. I was never fussy about money. It all depends upon the subject and the capacity of the producers. Some may have Rs 10 to offer and some may have Rs 10,000, both are welcome. I never make a deal because of money. I give my 100 per cent and later what happens is the film’s destiny.
What is your take on the debate on nepotism and ‘outsiders’ in the industry?
If you are ‘accusing’ some actors as the product of nepotism then one should also look at their family history because at some point of time, their parents were also outsiders. Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Prithviraj Kapoor…are all outsiders. Legacy often continues. My children will definitely get the advantage from what I have earned and it is very natural. They will get an opportunity but after that, it all depends upon their personal capacity. How to make use of the opportunities available is that individual’s responsibility. Ambani has a big empire, so obviously his children will take over. It depends upon their children whether they will make the most out of it or not. So I don’t think too much about nepotism.
What is it that keeps you going and has your acting process undergone any change?
I only believe in the mantra — live in the moment. I never go with the pre-conceived notions and since I am connected to the truth of the moment, you can see that liveliness and newness in my characters. I have rarely had any severe ups and downs in my career. Profession is a part of your personality. If you are connected with yourself then you are connected to your profession as well. So, do business as if it was your life and live life as if it was business. I love my life and respect it. It entirely depends upon you on how you will use or misuse the portion that comes into your life and destiny and that is how you become fortunate or unfortunate. I want to make use of every moment given to me and that is what gives me happiness.
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