With the release of Guns and Gulaabs and Dahaad, both releasing on OTT platforms within months of each other, actor Gulshan Devaiah is enjoying his time in the limelight. He is one of those numerous actors whose acting prowess has received its due in recent times, with the coming in of OTTs and the scope for longer narratives with neatly fleshed out character arcs.
In the latest Raj and DK-directed Guns and Gulaabs, Devaiah plays a freelance assassin from Bombay, 4-Cut Atmaram, so named for the eponymous ‘four cuts’ he lethally inflicts upon his victims. In the short part he essays, Devaiah makes a lasting impact.
At the moment, he is busy with an upcoming theatrical release, Sudhanshu Sarias's Ulajh, with Jhanvi Kapoor.
In an interview with THE WEEK, Devaiah discusses his work, quirks and more...
Dahaad did very well for you and could be termed as a turning point in your career.
Yes, may be. I must thank Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar for it. I had tested for the part; did two scenes which Reema really liked. Post that, I was given all the episodes to read. It was good for my career. I gelled really well with everybody right from the beginning. Most of the meetings were with Reema in the beginning and then I was introduced to Sonakshi (Sinha). So I knew this was good. I think it has been astronomical for Vijay Verma (the one who played the lead in Dahaad) and the rest of us come below that. But the praise has been unanimous for the entire cast of Dahaad.
Your latest, Guns and Gulaabs with Raj and DK, is also receiving much acclaim. You worked with them previously on an anthology, Unpaused.
Yes, that is right. So they first approached me directly actually. And upon reading the script, I thought the character I was given was short, but whacky. They gave me freedom to interpret so many things about the character. I think my character falls into the 'spaghetti-western-ish' era. All characters are quirky with a distinct sense of humour, and they have a unique perspective on things. Since the whole show is set in the '90s, it does draw a lot of inspiration from the pop culture of that time.
Your career graph so far is representative of the diversity you chase as an actor.
Yes, except for horror, I think I really am open to doing anything. I think it is fun for me to try different things. It becomes fun to be part of stories that cater to different sensibilities. So I have a (Sanjay Leela) Bhansali, Anurag Kashyap, Raj and DK, Rohan Sippy, Dibakar (Banerjee) and a whole bunch of new directors. I make sure I never get bored of my own acting because then it shows and starts affecting your work.
You've been around for quite a while but we are getting to see your acting chops only in the last few years. Do you think there is more work now than ever before?
Definitely. OTTs have brought in a huge load of work. But in terms of films, I think the film that worked really well for me right in the beginning of my career was Shaitaan. It was widely appreciated and publicised so much. Viacom publicised the hell out of it; they spent more money on publicity than the actual film. That really benefited me as an actor. And then the next film which worked for me was Hunter. These both were theatrical releases, which cemented my place and position in cinema.
Also, the pressure of box office success, which is prevalent in cinema, is absent on OTT. A lot of people can tell different stories with freedom, and so we have all got a lot of opportunities now more than ever. In fact, OTT has helped revive the careers of so many yesteryear stars. So I was talking to somebody from MX Player (an OTT platform) who did a show with Bobby Deol and apparently, it did really well. Through it, Deol found his audience. His appeal went far beyond what it was when he was a 'movie star.'
What is your dream?
I don't know. When I was a child, I was fascinated with what I saw. I was fascinated with male roles in uniforms. I did that also. I know many people have their favourite directors but I feel that I may be unconsciously limiting myself if I make a list that I want to do this, I want to do that. I am totally okay with not knowing what I want to do, as long as I know if I should do a certain role or not when it comes to me. As long as I have that clarity to take that decision I am okay. And I don't mind it being the road less travelled or not travelled at all.
After a long time you have the privilege of choosing scripts?
I've had it for a while, I think right from the beginning when I moved here because I also started working when I was 30 years old. So I think that I had to give myself enough time to mentally mature and understand things, learn the craft and be more confident. I was a very self conscious person when I was much younger. So I have to first figure out how to be okay with being myself. And then once you start being okay with yourself and your inadequacies, you develop that inner confidence.
Tell me what kind of an actor are you on the set?
I sing filmy songs, crack stupid jokes. It just helps me relax. It does get in the way of other people sometimes, like some of my co-actors sometimes have to say, 'Please, can you have some quiet here please?'
Do you think you could have essayed Vijay's part (negative role) in Dahaad as easily as he did?
Very easily. I think either of us could have played their part. He could have played the cop and I could have played him.
Does your family watch all your films
Yes. And my father keeps admonishing me to behave myself during interviews. I think he saw one of my recent interviews in which I said I have a crush on Sai Pallavi and he kind of said: 'why are you saying such things?'. So I think now when I go back, I will get a lecture on this one. I will listen to what he has to say. I don't see anything wrong in being attracted to someone as long as I am not stalking that person. I'd love to do a film with her. She is a wonderful actor. And she is a wonderful person and very different in comparison to other actresses. So let's see, hopefully in the future, whenever she decides to make a Hindi film or something, I hope I'm lucky enough to be cast opposite her.
Have you chased stardom?
I wish I was a huge star by now. In 2011, there was a lot of attention I was getting because three films of mine released. But I could not handle it back then. Right now I could handle overnight stardom, far better. But I don't know if I'm going to get it or not. It is a gift that people give and it just happens.