Bard of Blood's Vineet Kumar on playing an undercover agent in Balochistan, and how he trained for the role
Viineet Kumar explains why Netflix's India Original, Bard of Blood, produced by Red Chillies Entertainment, was the digital debut he has been waiting for.
In the seven-episode spy drama based on Bilal Siddiqui's 2015 book of the same name, Viineet plays Veer, a RAW intelligence officer who was sent on a covert mission in Balochistan years ago, only to be forgotten by the agency.
However, under the guise of a truck driver (and also an opium smuggler to stay close to the Taliban), he has survived, whilst concealing his identity in Balochistan.
He continues to send information to RAW though there has been no response for years.
(Firstpost was invited by Netflix to conduct interviews from the sets of Bard of Blood in Rajasthan in March 2019)
I keep looking for Viineet Kumar before realising the Mukkabaaz actor is already seated in front of me, ready for our interview on the sets of Netflix's India Original Bard of Blood.
In the seven-episode spy drama based on Bilal Siddiqui's 2015 book of the same name, Viineet plays Veer, a RAW intelligence officer who was sent on a covert mission in Balochistan years ago, only to be forgotten by the agency. However, under the guise of a truck driver (and also an opium smuggler to stay close to the Taliban), he has survived, whilst concealing his identity in Balochistan. He is an eternal optimist, who continues to send information to RAW though there has been no response for years.
"He has blended into the population in Balochistan. He has learnt their language Pashto, their songs. He has even become a functional addict since he deals in the opium trade. But in the show, a situation comes before him where after years, he has the option to go home. He loves his country. That's why he does his job everyday sincerely despite no response from the agency. But now that there's a window, he's desperate to go back to India," says Viineet.
Naturally, Viineet, along with fellow actors who have played spies in the show, Sobhita Dhulipala and Emraan Hashmi, had to undergo rigorous training before the shoot. "We trained under real commandos, who also train RAW agents. The most fascinating takeaway from that was I learnt how a spy needs to use his head as much as the various combat techniques. Till that time, I thought the gun has to be pointed at one's forehead demonstrating a fake gun with his fingers on my forehead]. But I realised during the training that if someone does that, they probably don't know how to use a gun. Because a gun has to be kept at a distance, out of the person's range so they may not snatch it away," says Viineet.
"If I have to go from here to there [indicating two nearby points], I will move very differently if I have a block or an AK-47 or nothing at all. Also, the way I advance will also depend on my personal rhythm. Since we all have different upbringings, we have different thought processes and rhythms even if we're in the same profession. But while sticking to my rhythm, I have to ensure my team members aren't severely injured or killed because of my move," adds Viineet.
However, having operated alone without anyone's orders in the past few years, Viineet points out his character is not a team player. That is why he struggles to align his personal goal with that of his new mission, and those of his team members.
Viineet also appears in contrast to everyone around him on set — giving the interview in his full get-up. It is because he has taken to not only the costume but also the body language and temperament of his make-believe character so well that I failed to recognise him in the first attempt.
With kohl-rimmed eyes, a dense beard, a black head scarf, and a baggy salwar-kameez, Viineet looks like one of the Balochistanis. Unlike Emraan and Sobhita's characters, the audience never gets to see Viineet's character in his original avatar, presumably when he is operating on his home turf, or in his pind in Punjab.
He claims after the critical acclaim for his central performance as an Uttar Pradesh boxer in Anurag Kashyap's sports drama Mukkabaaz last year, he got as many as 200 film offers. Viineet also adds he reads at least 30 pages (45 minutes of screen time) of every script, more as a practice to polish his imagination. However, he zeroed in on only a few scripts like Reema Kagti's historical sports drama Gold from last year.
"I was looking forward to doing a streaming service show for the longest time. But I wasn't getting the right combination of factors. When Bard of Blood was offered to me, I had no reason to turn down the role since it was Red Chillies Entertainment (owned by Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan) and Netflix joining forces. Also, for me what's very important is to find the heart of my character. With Veer, I could see what was in it for him."
Unlike his character though, Viineet did not have to make an attempt to blend into a crowd he did not belong to. In spite of living a life that is not his for years, Viineet considers himself fortunate enough to live many lives within the one he has chosen for himself.
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