Gurfateh Pirzada on playing a rape accused in Netflix’s Guilty: ‘The only way I could do it was by believing that I didn’t commit the crime’
Gurfateh Pirzada will soon make his Bollywood debut in the Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt-starrer, Brahmastra.
[some spoilers ahead]
To play the character who is accused of rape was a tough call for newbie Gurfateh Pirzada who debuts in Netflix and Dharmatics' (Dharma Productions’ streaming wing) Guilty, premised on the #MeToo movement.
Directed by Ruchi Narain, the campus drama delves into the story of a small town girl Tanu (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor) who accuses Pirzada’s character Vijay Pratap Singh (VJ), a rock band frontman and college sweetheart, of sexual assault. “Obviously there were inhibitions to be playing a potential rapist. It was tough to humanise it and even more tough to comprehend how a rapist feels. How do people, after crossing the line and doing something so heinous and cruel, live life normally. The only way I could do it was by believing that I didn’t rape. It was a revelation for my character that he committed the crime only during the climax when a fellow student says he witnessed it. That was the only way I could do it (play the part). It was tough among sleepless nights, losing my voice a lot of times and a lot of trauma,” says Pirzada.
“Even when I auditioned for the film I wasn’t told anything about my character. I was not even told whether I have committed rape or not. I assumed that I haven’t done it and that is how I auditioned. It was the duality of the character -- you know that something wrong has happened but you hold this belief that I can’t do it and I have not done it. That is what is played in the film. The director liked this approach,” he adds, furthering, “And the hardest thing was not being judgmental about your character and then to try making it believable because you have to completely change your thinking -- how you have been brought up, raised, that this is right and this is wrong. But then, it was also interesting getting into the psyche of a complex character. Being a politician’s son he might be entitled and privileged in many ways but there is certain humaneness to this guy. I had a lot of conversation with Ruchi trying to find the core of him. But yes, damage of playing such a character is always there.”
While Pirzada, who has been struggling in the industry for six to seven years, believes that it is important to play challenging parts rather than just a romantic hero, he does give away that newcomers don’t have much choice when it comes to roles that they would really like to do. “Even as we talk about playing exciting characters, there are actors who would still not agree to do such roles. VJ’s part was offered to a lot of people but they refused probably because #MeToo is a very sensitive topic. I, too, was scared thinking that what if people hate me, what if I get typecast, but then, beggars can’t be choosers. I don’t belong to any film family and I have realised that there is a risk of waiting for too long. You might lose a good opportunity. I want to be liked by the audience first and I am glad that people are appreciating my performance. Performances are key in films like this one. People are talking about it and that is the best thing to happen. But at the same time, I don’t believe there are any negative or positive characters. Every character has its own flaws and I play that character,” says Pirzada, who will be making his big Bollywood debut with a “meaty and primary” role in Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt-starrer and Ayan Mukerji directed super-hero fantasy Brahmastra.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Guilty explores themes of consensual sex, victim-blaming, class divide, privileged and powerful perpetrator, complicit system and more. “Consent might be different for me, it might be different for you and for everyone else. There is no set example of consent because different people act differently. Guilty is a very relevant story because these things do happen in colleges. Just one wrong step and it cannot be reversed. In fact, it happened in my school when I was in seventh grade, wherein a guy overstepped the line and the incident changed his life. What we have shown in the film is very close to #MeToo. Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison which is a big step. The work culture has to be redefined in the smallest of businesses. Eventually now I feel that I am glad to be part of Guilty. I want to do films that are relevant and may bring about a change in society,” he concludes.
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