Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

There’s no doubt about that fact that acting is in his genes, but speak to Vivaan Shah and you realise he’s also got an in-depth knowledge about various art forms and the passion for it from his parents. He also calls a spade a spade. His new film, ‘Laali Ki Shaadi Mein Laddoo Deewana’ has just hit the theatres and Vivaan talks about being Laddoo, and confesses it’s a tough time for artists. All this and more in this candid chat…

“We’re going through a landscape which is a complete chaos and we need to maintain our sanity in that”

‘Laali Ki Shaadi…’ gives a very funny, quirky vibe – what did you like about it?
The plot intrigued me a lot, the twists and turns of the plot, it’s very old-fashioned, classic story-telling, that’s the brilliance of it. The story really kept me hooked. When I read the script first, I really enjoyed the humour of it, and also the characters. There are so many amazing characters in the film like Sanjay Mishra’s character, Saurabh Shukla’s character, I found them very interesting. Even my character, he’s a very dishonest kind of person. Laddoo is a very dishonest kind of guy but you still find him endearing. That’s the challenge – how do you make someone who is a con-artist, endearing and someone people sympathise for? I feel like this is the kind of movie which is a throwback to classic, old-fashioned, which Hindi cinema was known for. We’ve been a country that told us stories in a very interesting way, with a lot of emotions and drama. This is a very classic, traditional kind of a film with a modern progressive touch.

So, how do you go about your character when you want to make people root for you, despite a certain bad side?
The reason behind that is that, as an actor, you’re never supposed to judge the character. Even if you’re playing a bad guy, you’re not supposed to judge him; you’re supposed to understand him. Even in Laddoo’s case, I tried to understand why he is dishonest and the reason he’s like that is because of the situations in his life. He’s always had a tough life, he’s from a small town, he’s from a very poor background, so he’s had to struggle and be a wheeler-dealer, all his life. So as far as money is concerned, he’s trying to do better and get ahead in life. He’s very ambitious, very selfish; he has not seen any other side. Both Laali and Laddoo – it’s a classic romance of two youngsters who are very lost in life, who don’t have a direction.

What has been your biggest take-back from the film?
With this film, I’ve learnt tremendous amount, working with Saurabh sir and Sanjay sir. I really cherish the time I got to spend with them. I really look at them as gurus, mentors. I became their disciple in these two-three months that we were working and working with them was truly an experience which I cherish the most on this film.

How do you look at your choices when there’s a ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’ and at the same time a ‘Happy New Year’?
I go by the flow. As an actor, you have to do what comes your way, you can’t be too picky, choosy and you can’t take yourself so seriously. I’m just grateful that I’ve got to do these movies, and gotten the opportunity to work with people I’ve worked with. What kind of role or character I’m choosing, is not in my hand. This mentality of trying to plot and plan your career – my parents told me not to do that. They told me accept the work that comes my way with open arms, of course, with a certain quality but not be too closed. They told me to be open to all kinds of roles and that’s the most important thing.

Your parents and their work must be having a huge influence on you?
Everything I do is completely influenced by them – right from the theatre work to the film work. I am what I am because of them, and they’ve introduced me to all the different kinds of art, whether it’s cinema, music, literature, and painting. They’ve educated me in many ways which has given me a very good stead. All the stuff I’m interested in, all the work that I want to do, comes from them. Their influence on me is tremendous. Whatever they’ve taught me, I have to apply that in my work, that’s the most important thing I feel.

Is it important to strike a balance between doing something for a learning experience and seeking appreciation for what you do?
I’m not expecting any appreciation from anyone. I’m a very stoic person. I think, very early on in life I learnt how to be stoic, and what stoic means is basically to maintain the same expression when someone is abusing you and praising you. That’s a very important thing and I learnt that from boarding school. As much success you’re going to face, you’re also going to experience that sort of failure and unhappiness. I’m already grateful for what I have, but I’m not expecting to be praised by anyone like that. In today’s day and age, success and appreciation is very frivolous. Earlier, it used to have some merit and value, now everyone praises blindly and criticises blindly also. So, I don’t understand when to take what seriously. The idea is to not get blinded by praise and not get affected when everyone is criticising you. In today’s day and age, the need to be stoic is much more. We’re going through a landscape which is a complete chaos and we need to maintain our sanity in that.

Is that why you’re also quite detached?
Yes, because after my first film I was really upset thinking why aren’t people appreciating the film as much. I thought ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ was such a masterpiece. To this day, even when I watch it now, I feel the audience was wrong about it. It was a good film, and I was so emotionally invested in it, so I was really upset. That’s when I realised that you have to be detached from your work. You have to be equally receptive to criticism and to praise. Especially in today’s day and age, where social media has become so strong and everyone has become a critic. You have to accept that.

Is there any particular approach towards honing your craft?
Criticism is a very important part of the creative process but that’s constructive criticism, not the criticism that unfortunately, people in our line of work are used to. In terms of improving my craft, I’m really interested in cinema and even in theatre, and in the history of these two mediums so I’m always a student, and sort of a scholar and I’ve studied about these two mediums. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learnt, just from studying old movies, from reading old plays, it really opened my mind up. And again, another sad thing about this digital age is that people don’t read. But, we have to enlighten the audiences rather than cater to them, we have to increase and improve their intelligence, it’s our responsibility as creative people to do that. Every medium of art has been there to create evolution, not to create de-evolution. It’s our duty as artists to enlighten the masses.

What is the driving force at this point towards the things you want to achieve?
I have so many things to do but I don’t know when I am going to accomplish it. There are so many dreams but I don’t know when I’m going to be able to fulfill those dreams because the world is in a very strange place right now. Especially for artists, it’s tough, be in theatre or cinema. The multiplexes today aren’t given us shows, so I don’t know how will the things I want to accomplish happen? Every day is a challenge, how do you find the inspiration to go and work? We’re working in very discouraging and demoralising times. I don’t think the whole digital age has had a good influence on art. It’s become tougher for young artists to make a movie, release an album, or write a book, it has become tougher than it used to be and the reason for that is digital evolution.

It’s ironic considering the popular opinion being – it’s a great time to be in cinema?
There is great stuff happening. I saw this movie ‘Anarkali of Arah’ and it was so good, it gives you hope. But yet at the same time, the quantity of such movies being made is much less. People are not going to the theatres; they are busy watching Netflix and things on the internet.

What else are you working on?
After this, I’m doing a film in which I’m playing a voice artist, that’s going to happen pretty soon. It’s too early to talk about it, there’s no title on that. It’s not announced yet. It’s a remake of a Korean film, and it is very light-hearted. It’s a film about a ventriloquist and a blind-lady. I’m currently been doing voice-training for that.

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