It has been the year of Gulshan Devaiah. The actor left a soft imprint with his portrayal of Devilal, a conscientious cop, in the otherwise bleak world of Dahaad. Next was the goldenly goofy, Chaar-Cut Atmaram, the mysterious contract killer in Raj and DK’s crime comedy series Guns and Gulaabs.
Squeezed in the middle was Devaiah’s only theatrical release this year, 8 AM Metro, in which he played a sensitive man coping with a tragedy. Devaiah is an actor who immortalises his characters (is Atmaram alive?) but off-screen, amid his satirical takes, he is also known to speak his mind on social media.
We speak to the actor about what the industry taught him over the years, how he once got trolled by a Kangana Ranaut fan and if there is going to be a second season for Guns and Gulaabs.
Your profile description on X has a film dialogue…
Oh yes. It’s “Mera sense of humour bohot achcha hai. Aapko dheere dheere pata chal jayega (My sense of humour is very good. Slowly, slowly you will realise).” It’s Kangana (Ranaut’s) dialogue from Queen (2013). I guess I put it because I laugh at my own jokes, just how Kangana does in the film.
Do you like Kangana Ranaut as an actor?
Lately, I haven’t seen much. I guess the last film I saw of hers was Judgemental Hai Kya (2019). I loved her performance in Queen. She was also great in Tanu Weds Manu (2011). Her acting was both a good performance and also entertaining.
And off screen? You seem like a person who would disagree with her point of view
On social media, I only troll people I know. I have met Kangana a few times but I don’t know her that well. I guess disagreements can be there. I haven’t taken her name but I have disagreed with some things she has said in the past. I even got trolled for it. I remember when Thalaivi (2021) was released I commented something about why she should be doing the Tamil dubbing for the film also. One of her fans wrote to me something like “your film’s collection can’t even match the parking collection of the theatre in which Kangana’s film releases.” I was floored by this comment (laughs). He put me down with such swag.
Does social media trolling affect you?
Sometimes it does get overbearing. Especially at the time of the (COVID-19) lockdown. People didn’t have much to do but to spew venom online. Social media wasn’t a conducive environment for discussion and debate and people were arguing only to put each other down. I mean it’s ok to have differing opinions. Even I want my notions to be challenged. How can anybody think that they know everything? There can always be a dignified way to oppose. But social media can be a vicious cycle. You say something and the other person opposes you and so on and so forth. I feel for some people online, there will be no existence if there is no opposition.
To me, you seem like an actor who does everything slowly and nicely. It’s almost Zen. Were you always like this or is it an acquired calm?
I remember as a child I was very restless. My father used to call me the “little worm” because I never sat in one place. I had a lot of energy. But once I came to Mumbai, I realised I needed some calm in my life or else I’ll get tired soon. I needed to preserve my energy to focus it in the right direction. Some people have the ideology of ‘I’ll rest after I am dead’, but for me thehraav (calm) is more important. Moreover, the film industry is very subjective. Just being good is not good enough. You have to be great. But more than that, you have to be smart if you have to leave a lasting impression on people.
Smart as in?
There are a lot of things. I’ll give you an example, there is nobody who has met SRK and doesn’t have a story to tell of him. When Shah Rukh meets anyone, he creates a memory with them. Even I have such a memory. When I first met him, he was gracious enough to drive my car from the parking lot. Now I don’t know if it is some sort of strategy or his natural behaviour but that is something everybody should learn. I observe these qualities in people and try to imbibe them.
Let’s talk about Chaar-cut Atmaram, what did you think of the character when you were first presented with him?
I remember Raj (Nidimoru) had called me to read the script. I asked him if it was a villain-type character. He said yes. I told him, I was steering away from antagonist roles after Commando 3 (2019). I knew if I read the script, I wouldn’t be able to avoid doing the character. I still read it and as expected, I liked it. Then I called Raj and said, “it’s good but am I in season 2?” He said, “Yes, yes.”
So, there is a season 2 of Guns and Gulaabs...
No, no, I just asked Raj at the time about my character (laughs). I don’t know if there is a season 2 or not, Netflix and Raj and DK have to think about that.
I remember you once said that you hide behind your characters. Is it still true?
No. I am happy with who I am now, so I don’t need to hide. I remember during Shaitan (2011), I was comfortable with doing the performance and playing the character but not with doing promotions as Gulshan. But then I realised I needed to change. I thought, if I am not happy with Gulshan how will others be?
Are you comfortable with film promotions now?
Yes, very. It is a different kind of performance for me (laughs).