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"Tanuj Virwani 2.0: An Appetite for Success"

Cover Star of the Month Actor Tanuj Virwani in conversation with the Editor of Luxpresso: Deepti Chandak

What inspired you to become an actor?

I was always creatively inclined. But maybe because I was always the shy kid and introvert, I didn't think I had what it takes to be in front of the camera. So, I thought I should get into something like writing, direction behind the camera. But when I was an assistant director for over 2 years, I was in close proximity with a lot of actors. I was literally the only person between the actor and the camera and that's when I realized that this is something that interests me and intrigues me. I found it very exciting. The director says action and you get into that character and the director says cut and you transform into something else and the switch goes off. You go back to what you are are in real life. It's just the exploration of human beings which I find deeply satisfying and exciting to a great extent and hence, it was a no-brainer for me.

You've portrayed a variety of characters in your career so far. How do you approach character development, and what techniques do you use to bring your characters to life?

I think whenever you approach a character, there are certain things that you look at. One is how you physically embody that character and the second is what is the emotional journey that the character is setting out on. You need tremendous clarity of thought because whenever you are shooting a web series or film, we don't do it in a linear pattern. We keep going back and forth. So you have to perform scenes in a way so that it doesn't look like it has been performed in isolation. I definitely look at everything. It's always a challenge. But yes, the deeper you dig and the more backstory you come up with, it helps you and after a point, you are not even acting but reacting. So, that's the school of thought I come from.

What has been the most challenging role you've played, and how did you prepare for it?

I think every role has its own set of challenges attached to it. But if I had to pick one, it would be 'Tandoor'. I had to physically transform myself for this and secondly, it is based on a real story and character. So, I had to play it in a way that it doesn't glorify the character or the actions and at the same time, you have to give an authentic account of things. There's nothing heroic about what he did but still, you need your audience to be invested in that particular character for that to be able to fly. So, I had to take myself to some dark places. I am not a method actor and at times, I am quite harsh on myself. So, I sometimes take experiences from my real life  and portray it on camera. While it gets the job done, it takes a lot out of me. I am not sure if that's the healthiest approach but it's the only approach I know. So yes, Tandoor for me is right up there.

"Inside Edge" has been a successful web series. How was your experience working on a digital platform, and do you see any major differences between working on web series and traditional films?

Yes, Inside Edge has been very gratifying to me as an artiste. It is single-handedly responsible for giving my career a second lease of life. As an actor, when the script, setup, cast and technicians are good, you don't feel any major difference between a web series or a feature film. But yes, we usually have higher budgets for films so that the sets are more lavish and the sets are fancier. Also, if on the web, I am shooting 7-8 pages in a day, I am shooting 4-5 in a day for a film. It gives you a little more time to get a grasp of what you want to achieve on that particular day. But I also feel that if you have clarity of thought, then it shouldn't be a stumbling block. The one cool thing about web series is that since it's longer, there's a lot of good screen time and also a lot of time for you to kind of get a better understanding of the entire character graph.

Your recent film projects have explored various genres. Is there a particular genre or type of role you are keen to explore in the future?

I get asked this question very often. I am lucky that I have done rom-com, comedy, drama, thriller and action. There are a couple of genres which I haven't had the luxury of doing yet. For example, horror is something I want to explore. Also something historical, be it India during the British era or the Mughal Empire or the Maratha Kingdom. Those would be really fun and interesting. A proper period historical costume drama is something that would definitely revitalize me as an actor.

Acting often involves intense emotional scenes. How do you mentally prepare yourself for emotionally demanding roles, and how do you unwind after filming such scenes?

Like I mentioned in my earlier answer regarding Tandoor, there are certain characters, setups and everything that take you to a different world. You have to be extremely strong mentally to be able to cope with such characters. The most important thing is that I consciously try to never judge my character. Because, if I judge my character as the actor while I am portraying, I am not being that person entirely. Until and unless I ensure I don't judge my character, I will never be able to do complete justice to my character. As far as unwinding is concerned, you just have to switch on and switch off. It is easier said than done, but with experience, you get the hang of it. The more you bifurcate properly between real and reel life, the more you get used to it. It's all about the mind and having clarity of thought. 

In addition to acting, you've also been involved in producing. Can you tell us about your experience transitioning into a producer role and how it has influenced your approach to acting?

I mean I have produced but only short films. They didn't require much budget. But yeah, once you produce something with a relatively meager amount of money, you understand a lot more. There needs to be clarity of thought and an economy of vision. For example, you are doing a particular scene with a certain setup, it can be told with 5...say for example, a master , mid, close-up, oss, and a dolly shot to kind of close out the scene. That should be it. Instead of doing extra, you are spending more and taking more time. Instead, you can use that time to shoot something else. So, what usually people think of achieving in 60 days, if I can achieve in 45 days, there's a huge amount of production cost that's being saved. So, if you work with sound actors, technicians, and individuals who know what's expected of them on a set, you eventually save a lot of money.

Collaborating with directors and fellow actors is crucial in filmmaking. Can you share any memorable experiences working with specific directors or actors that have significantly impacted your career? 

Firstly, I would have to give a lot of credit to someone who's tapped the inner potential in me to a great extent, and that would be Karan Anshuman, my director of Inside Edge. He was able to unlock my true potential in a great way, due to which, I was able to get better at my craft. Also, a lot of credit goes to Akshay, my 'Code M' director. He gave me a lot of freedom in terms of the character being on paper. He allowed me to play with the characters with freedom. He gave me the boost to bring life to my character and also mentioned that until and unless I feel every bit of the character, the dialogues flow naturally from my tongue, it will just be stilted dialogues and nothing else. That's very, very important. Apart from that, I would also like to give a lot of credit to my 'Cartel' Director Suryash who's literally held my hand and walked me through the entire process. Everything that Major Bhao does in Cartel, right from his sunglasses to the way he moves his fingers, taps his feet, the dialogue, whether he is blinking or not blinking, he is rolling his sleeves, how does he drive the car...the use of gun, all sorts of minute details were taken into consideration properly. So yes, I guess it would be these guys who really helped me elevate my performance and take it to the next level.

What advice would you give to aspiring actors who are trying to break into the film industry?

One piece of advice I would give is that you have to stay consistent. You cannot work hard for two days in a week and expect the results to happen. Secondly, don't ever take failure to heart or success to your head. We give several auditions, but even the best actors don't get through everything. Because, it's not about how good or bad you are. What matters is whether you are perfect for that character. Also, don't try to be someone else or mimic someone else. For example, I am a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor. But if I act like them or be like them, it won't work. You need to be the best version of yourself. Focus on the process instead of being too engrossed about the results. If you strive for excellence, eventually, you will be there. Just stay dedicated.

Lastly, can you share any upcoming projects or goals you have set for yourself in your acting career?

So, this looks like an interesting year that's shaping up. There's Yodha that's coming up on 15th March and it has Sidharth Malhotra, Disha Patani, Raashi Khanna. I'm very excited about that. Then, I have this web series called 'Murshid' with Kay Kay Menon, and it's a father-son story with a very cool backdrop of Mumbai from 2000's. Then I got this film called 'Johnny Jumper' with Brijendra Kalra, Zakir Hussain, Zarina Wahab and Vijay Raaz and I am playing the title character. I also have an untitled show for applause, and it's got Rahul dev and Mustafa Burman in it. Also, there's a very cute 'rom com' called 'Puppy Love' that has Nikki Tamboli, Divya Agarwal and Tridha Choudhury. I have also done a short film with Gajraj Rao called 'The Interview' that is currently doing the rounds at the international festival. So, these are some of the projects I am doing. Apart from this, there's Splitsvilla X5, which I am hosting with Sunny Leone. Apart from all this, there are a few things that I can't talk about right now. But yes, let's see how things move.


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