MUMBAI: Actor-casting director Abhishek Banerjee says after starring in back-to-back comedy films, he was scared of getting typecast but his role of the fearsome killer Hathoda Tyagi in the series "Paatal Lok" helped him break out of that image.
Banerjee, who turned 36 on Wednesday, has emerged as one of the most successful faces on OTT platforms with movies such as "Unpaused" and "Ajeeb Daastaans" post the critical and commercial success of the Amazon Prime Video neo-noir show.
The actor shot to fame with light-hearted movies like "Stree", "Bala" and "Dream Girl" that cemented his position as a comedy star but Banerjee had hoped that people will also take note of his dark role in the Marathi film "Ajji".
And now his wish seems to have come true.
"I was getting a bit scared of typecasting and felt why are people only offering me comedy? Why are they not able to see beyond my comedy? And that too, when I had done 'Ajji'," Banerjee told PTI in an interview.
The actor said he knew that not many people had watched "Ajji" but expected filmmakers to take note of his performance.
"I was wondering as to how I am getting the same kind of roles only to play and how do I break this. Thankfully, 'Paatal Lok' broke it for me. People started realising that I am not only good at comedy and that I can pull off different kinds of characters," Banerjee said, adding that a director's trust in an actor can help change perceptions.
"It is also necessary to take risks," he noted.
"After a time, you will get bored of doing the same thing, the audience and the maker too will get bored. So why not try and apply different rules with different characters?" Banerjee made his start in the world of entertainment as a casting director in 2015 and one of the rules that he abides by is to not repeat his actors in similar roles.
He runs casting company Casting Bay with Anmol Ahuja.
The actor, however, is quick to clarify that he will continue to balance his slate with all kinds of roles.
He is, however, more attentive towards what he is being offered to him now.
"I am paying more attention to the characters and I understand that there are some characters that are going to be easy, and some are not going to be easy. I am trying to strike a balance. I am not saying 'I am not taking up easy characters' because that's my bread and butter. But I will also experiment with roles."
With his career taking off with the 2018 sleeper hit "Stree", where he played Janna, a friend to Rajkummar Rao's character Vicky, Banerjee said 2020 was supposed to be his big year but with the coronavirus pandemic affecting every walk of life, some of his releases were postponed.
But things did change overnight for Banerjee when the trailer of "Paatal Lok" dropped on his birthday last year on May 5.
It made him believe in the universal law that "all good things take time", he said.
With 2021 bringing a more severe second wave of infections in the country, Banerjee, who has a slew of projects, including the Varun Dhawan-starrer "Bhediya", "Rashmi Rocket" with Taapsee Pannu and Karan Johar's "Dostana 2", said he is still hoping for the best.
As the only child in his family, the actor said his birthdays used to be a day of celebration but with the surge in COVID-19 cases, it will be spent in helping as many people as possible.
"Last year was very difficult because when the lockdown was announced, it was new for all of us. We had not seen anything like this. It was quite depressing and grim.
"Now it seems, this is how it is. And when everything is falling apart around you, you don't know how to celebrate your birthday," he added.