Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR
Well-known theatre actor Sumeet Vyas, who is also known for his unconventional work in movies and digital content, is seen in the latest release, ‘Ribbon’ opposite Kalki Koechlin. In a brief chat, he speaks about the film, theatre and what drew him to writing…
What did you like the most about ‘Ribbon’?
What I really liked about the script was the relatability factor. When I heard it, it felt that a part of it was my story, or it could be anyone’s story. I loved the approach with which Rakhee came in. The way she wanted to make the film. She’s a documentary film-maker so she wanted to make it as real as possible. The way she wanted to shoot also was different. She just didn’t want us to say our lines and say it. She wanted us to really be our characters.
How much has theatre been an influence even while working for films and web-series?
Theatre is my first love and it has raised me in a way because I started doing it at a young age and my early years have gone into that. So, it was a huge influence in my life. But more than anything else, it’s the discipline of theatre which you carry forward in any other form of acting. The discipline about your craft, what you are going to say and make it as believable as you can. A lot of it comes from that. The whole experience felt very theatrical. We had such long takes in it. So we had to rehearse the whole scene and have long takes of 5-10 minutes. And every take was different because there were no set dialogues. We were just told that this is the kind of situation you need to have, these are the kind of dialogues or resolution that has to happen, so now it’s up to you. So, it was left on to the cameraman to get the scene together. We wanted to achieve that. When you watch the film, you will feel like you are sitting in someone’s drawing room or someone’s bedroom and observing the couple. So, it had to be that real. Training in theatre and the experience in theatre really helped. We are trained to be in that situation. We are trained to improvise and be present in the moment.
Also, did the common theatre background helped in the bonding with Kalki?
Yes, and I’ve known Kalki because of theatre. Because we belong to the same community. We kept bumping into each other. We’ve never worked together before this. Again there’s a certain level of comfort, when you know you’re coming from the same acting background.
For actors like you who believe in work that brings a certain value…how easy or difficult is the modern-day scenario?
There are more opportunities in today’s times because there are larger possibilities, and audience which likes to watch the kind of stuff that we do. Earlier, the urban audience was a very limited number. Now the urban audience is a huge number. Now the fact that, a ‘Fast & Furious’ can make a 100-crore says a lot about the kind of people who live in the urban set-up and who are open to new kind of content. Having said that, it’s still difficult. I can talk about myself. I still let go of a lot of work because I don’t believe in it. I know I won’t be able to do justice to it if I don’t believe in it. So, that struggle is always there. To wait for the right kind of opportunities to come. Which is why, I started writing in the first place because I didn’t want to do a lot of acting work which came my way because I didn’t believe in it. I needed to have some other avenues where I could express myself.
“As an actor you have very limited or very one-dimensional contribution to a story. As a writer, you have a wholesome contribution to the story”
Does writing reflect your own personality?
It definitely does reflect my own taste. I wanted to find an avenue where I could tell a story my way of how I see things. Because as an actor you have very limited or very one-dimensional contribution to a story. As a writer, you have a wholesome contribution to the story. Which is what drew me to writing. It started off as an exercise where I wanted to write and see how people react to it. And then I genuinely started enjoying it. I don’t want to make writing into a money-making business. I don’t even discuss money before I start writing the first, second draft of the script. I want to do it because I enjoy doing, not because I want to get paid for it.
While the digital medium has come up like never before, theatre still hasn’t lost its charm…
There’s nothing better than watching an actor live. You can listen to a song with earphones but there’s nothing which beats hearing the singer performing live. As far as films are concerned, I see sort of a divide happening where people go and watch spectacular films. Before I go & watch a film, I need to be sure that it’s going to be a good film, a complete experience. Like I saw ‘Secret Superstar’, I loved the film. I watched the film because I heard great reviews about the film. There are only two ways in which I go and watch a film – 1. It’s going to be a visual spectacle like an ‘Avengers’ or ‘Bahubali’ where it’s going to be about the experience of watching it on big screen. Or if I watch great reviews about the film then I want to go and watch it in the theatres. I will not just go and waste my time, or just gamble with that. That’s what’s happening. If you’re making a mid-budget or a lower budget film then you better get the story right, performances right. It better be something new, something intriguing which catches people’s fancy. You can’t go with a so-so kind of a script.
Will direction follow next, after writing?
I definitely want to direct. I just haven’t found the time to do it. Direction requires a lot of time and energy, so I’ll have to put my acting and other work on hold, to direct something. Because you’re sort of doing everything as a director. But that’s definitely on the wish list and it’ll happen very soon.
So after ‘Ribbon’ and there is ‘Veere Di Wedding’ and then ‘Tripling’ which we will start writing now. And hopefully, ‘Permanent Roommates’ second season will happen next year.