Nuance is everything in film acting, even when playing clichés. In Vasan Bala’s recently-released Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, Gulshan Devaiah doubles up as drunken master Karate Mani and his psychotic twin Jimmy. Mani is the brooder, dishevelled and subdued; Jimmy’s flamboyance is cynically cheery. We spoke to the actor about his preparations for portraying Mani. Excepts from an interview:
Mard is your second feature film after Peddlers (2012) with Vasan, and the first one to get a release. Tell us about your friendship over the years. It may sound boastful, but I’m like his Robert De Niro and he’s my Scorsese. I met Vasan while working on That Girl In Yellow Boots. We got to know each other better at the Venice Film Festival premiere of that film.
I noticed many commonalities between us. He’s a South Indian from Mumbai; I’m a Kodava from Bangalore. We are both an only child raised in middle-class families. We’re both loners. In 2009, I and Vasan worked on a short film called Talented, then teamed up for Peddlers. We share the same temperament towards cinema. Even if I don’t get his sensibilities sometimes, I trust him enough to go ahead with his vision.
You were recovering from a leg injury when Mard was offered to you. How did you manage to train for the action-heavy role of Karate Mani?
I had shattered a ligament on my right knee and had undergone surgery. I was determined to take a break for 8-10 months when Vasan offered me this film. He came and pulled me out of darkness, as friends do. The physical preparation for Mani was hard. People like Jimmy more because he’s entertaining, but Mani is closer to my heart. During the training process, my body would just break down because of cramps. The doctors told me I couldn’t continue like that, so I had to cut back on training.
Many fans have interpreted Surya (portrayed by debutant Abhimanyu Dasani) as an artist breaking free...
I wouldn’t limit that analogy to just artists, but all idealists.
There’s a purity in Surya. He views the world in black and white. He represents the child in all of us.
As we go through life, we lose that purity and become corrupt. That’s the takeaway of the film, to retain our purity as artists and human beings.
In Bollywood, it’s becoming increasingly hard to make and release a film. Business and art are not moving parallelly anymore. Smaller films are going straight to OTT. We can’t put the blame on anyone. We have to stand up and fight. Vasan Bala, Ronnie Screwvala, Anurag Kashyap — they’re all standing and fighting. It’s like cinema’s ‘100-man fight’.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am in Commando 3. It’s the complete opposite of the kind of work I usually do. Then there’s Hinterland, with Manoj Bajpayee. I’m also in a web-series with a major OTT platform.