The weight of a character

Upen Chauhan talks about playing an Army Chief, and the physical transformation he undertook for Sam Bahadur.
Actor Upen Chauhan.
Actor Upen Chauhan.

Actor Upen Chauhan, who plays the former Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan, Tikka Khan, in Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur is a talent to be reckoned with. As he shares some insightful details about the character and the experiences on the sets of the film,  TMS also gets a peek into behind the scenes of the film.

Chauhan says that the film’s treatment of the character introduces an interesting personality pitted against the protagonist, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw (played by the versatile Vicky Kaushal). The story presents him as a menacing character, who crosses paths with Manekshaw at multiple stages of his life. “The character is presented quite mysteriously in the film while also highlighting him as a constant potential threat,” Chauhan tells us. 

He also shares his experience working with Vicky bhai, as he endearingly calls him. “I mainly shared scenes with him. One of them was the boxing scene for which we trained together regularly. I felt really good working with Vicky Bhai. The first time I met him, I realised there was no pretence. He had an honest smile and when he would hug, he would do so genuinely,” he shares, adding, “He is also very inclusive and always indulges with his surroundings, along with his co-actors. He also values his work and is cooperative with others.”

Playing Tikka Khan required Chauhan to go through physical transformations, wherein he had to alter his weight to play an older version of the character.  Talking about the preparation for such a task, Chauhan mentions, “Physical transformation was a key requirement for this role. And when one has to undergo this process, the intention for the transformation is constantly directed towards looking more like the character.

Also, the process was an everyday affair. This further strengthened the intention of transforming into the character and hence helped in the facilitation of developing the character subconsciously,” he highlights.
Chauhan sheds light on working with director Meghna Gulzar as well. “It was an amazing experience working with her. I was taken aback by her and used to constantly think,‘How can a person, for so many years, be consistently working on something every single day?’ Her clarity, focus and conviction are features to be reckoned with. One can see calmness in her as well and a strong passion for her work. She treats all her actors equally and even now if and when I meet her, the same vibe exists. It doesn’t feel like the project has gotten over and we have moved on.”

We also learnt about Chauhan’s fashion choices. “I prefer wearing comfortable and loose clothes. My interests and backgrounds in design and art have helped me hone my aesthetic sense as well. Additionally, I believe that the more comfortable you are in your clothes, the better you will feel at a particular moment. This would lead to an ease in your presence in that moment which in turn helps you enjoy it further.” 
Talking about fitness, Chauhan highlights that it is vital to sleep and wake up at the right time and one’s daily eating habits play a key role in deciding the fitness level. 

As we ask Chauhan what he would take home with him from the experience of playing Tikka Khan, he adds, “I took home with me the belief that whatever goal I’ve set, I can take action towards the same with clarity and conviction. 

Additionally, working in this movie has given me some great relationships greater vibes and the realisation that I can play characters of different ages.

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The New Indian Express