Vikrant Massey on his role in Lipstick Under My Burkha, and ambitions to work with Aamir Khan
Vikrant Massey began his acting career at the age of 16, and has dabbled in theatre, dance, commercials and movies.
He could have got lost in the big maze of Bollywood, but Vikrant Massey has, slowly and steadily, found a firm foothold in an industry that doesn’t welcome newcomers easily. A few months ago, chances are that we knew him as Ranveer Singh’s friend from the 2013 release Lootera, or most recently, Arjun Kapoor’s friend from Half Girlfriend, but Massey hit the jackpot when he played the main character in Konkana Sen Sharma’s recent release, A Death In the Gunj. He played the role of Shutu, a reticent youngster struggling to come to terms with his father’s death, and it’s no mean achievement that Massey stood out despite being in the midst of actors as talented as Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin and Gulshan Devaiah. “Now, filmmakers feel that besides playing a hero’s friend, I can shoulder many more responsibilities,” says Massey from his tastefully done up house in Versova, Mumbai, which has walls dedicated to his books and DVD collections, and superhero figurines filling up the empty spaces around.
Not many know that Massey went back to doing television due to lack of film offers, post-Lootera. “For eight to 10 months, I was sitting at home and did some more television. Then, through Lootera, I bagged Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do (2015). After that, it has been a very seamless flow of work,” he says. Massey’s versatility is unmatched. On the one hand, he played an underdog in A Death In the Gunj, and on the other, he has portrayed a character with shades of grey in the upcoming film Lipstick Under My Burkha, in which he represents the patriarchal society. “It is a women-centric film; it talks about the regressive society. I am representing the majoritarian point of view. I took inspiration from my surroundings. There is a certain level of brashness and crudeness in a patriarchal society that I have seen and felt, so representing that wasn’t difficult for me. But yes, to be going against my own ideologies was challenging. That is the beauty of being an actor,” says Massey, who believes in observing and taking from real life. “No acting school can teach acting. The best way is to pick from the society, there is so much around. Whether I am doing Lipstick Under My Burkha, A Death In the Gunj, or Half Girlfriend, my common ground for research and preparation is observation from real life.”
It’s taken 14 years for the 30-year-old actor from Mumbai to get here. But he’s worked consistently through this time and continues to do so because he strongly believes that unless he works hard, no investor would put their money on him, and no filmmaker would give him work. “I have to deliver consistently, otherwise there is no reason why I should be getting these opportunities. I want to be like Irrfan Khan and Amitabh Bachchan who have won the faith of the audience and investors. It is a slow and gradual process,” says the actor. He was a chance discovery who began his acting career with television when he was just 16 and wowed the audience with his performances in tele-shows like Balika Vadhu and Qubool Hai.
Massey accepts that it is the commercial cinema that gives him more recognition and eye-balls, but he wants to tap into every possible domain. “When a so-called commercial film is released and it gets 1200 to 1500 screens, it definitely gets more visibility. A classic example is A Death In the Gunj; we got just about 200-220 screens after the shows were increased,” further adding, “I have done television, stage, dance, commercials and movies in the indie space. It’s a conscious reason, so that I get to play varied characters, and it’s working for me. Even after watching me on television for about 10 years people want to watch me on big screen and I am getting work there as well. I have also got to play the main protagonist in indie space,” he says.
Even as Vikrant bagged many offers before the release of A Death In the Gunj, the film has given him a further boost with several parts of main leads in films falling into his lap. “I will start three films by the end of this year, and those will release before the end of next year. One has light humor and two belong to the drama genre. Drama is my forte,” says Massey, who also wants to make his presence felt in the digital space. He is doing Excel Entertainment's Mirzapur for Amazon Prime and also a tele-film called Proxy for Sujoy Ghosh.
And the moment that he still cherishes is his telephonic conversation with Aamir Khan, who was deeply impressed by his performance in the ensemble cast film Dil Dhadakne Do. “Aamir Sir is very choosy and not easy to please... I couldn’t sleep the whole night he called me,” says Massey, hoping that some day he will be directed by Aamir. “He has directed Taare Zameen Par and if he decides to direct again, any actor would want to work with him. Why can’t I dream about it?” he says. But what stops him from meeting Aamir? “I am scared to even initiate that conversation because he is very busy. Even if I am able to send across a message but he is not able to meet me, or refuses to meet me, then I will have a heart-break. I would rather wait for destiny to play its part. Due to the fear of rejection I never initiated it; I am cherishing the memory of that one phone call, but I think we will meet some time,” he says with a laugh.
So what is Massey’s take on the ever discussed topic of nepotism? “It will be unfair to say that it doesn’t exist — it does. But free and fair opportunity exists equally. I see no reason for chest-thumping. Because I did good work, I have graduated from being the hero’s friend to a hero. Whether you are an outsider, or an insider or someone with all the facilities or none at all, if you can justify what is on paper in front of the camera then even if it takes you 14 years like it took me – you will reach there,” he says.
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