'My journey as an actor started to evolve when Web series started blowing out in a big way.'
'I lucked out because Inside Edge was one of the first big shows so that gave me a good platform, and led to more opportunities.'
'Web series have an ensemble star cast, and the characters are well written.'
'It's not only about a hero or a villain.'
It's good to be Tanuj Virwani these days.
The young actor is in the middle of a busy career, starring in Web series already on air and some interesting ones coming up.
He has even created a short film on his iPad during the lockdown.
Tanuj gives Ronjita Kulkarni/Rediff.com a peek into his life and says, "I feel I am in a better position today than I was two-three years ago."
How are you spending time during this lockdown?
The first few days were the hardest because nobody knew how long this would last.
Even now, it's like being in a tunnel and we don't know when we will step into the light. We don't know when it will end.
The first few days were also frustrating because living in a city like Mumbai, having a certain pace in life, it is so fast and evolving. And then, all of a sudden, there is no work to go to, no auditions, no interviews, nothing is happening!
After the first few days, I made an effort to fill up my days with something to do. There needs to be a sense of purpose in our lives.
You have made a film during this time.
Yes, it's called Urban Incarceration.
I made it on my iPad because I was feeling a little paranoid.
What is normal? We don't know anymore.
So I made something which I felt was therapeutic to me and I put it out there.
It is very relatable because it is something everyone is going through right now -- isolation and lockdown.
It is about the severe effect that one can have on mental health.
You have a lot projects coming up.
I was working on Cartel, which stars a lot of incredible talents. We were right in the middle of the shoot when the lockdown happened.
It tells the story of three brothers, and I play one of them. He is the mastermind. It's like the Michael Corleone character (in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather films).
We have been shooting for it since last October.
Then, there is Inside Edge season three.
We were done with the shooting of season three even before the second one came out. We were very hush hush about it.
There is a day shoot left, but let's see if that happens.
Then, there is Kamathipura, where I play a sex trafficker. That's my first negative character.
Are you happy with the way your career is shaping up?
Yes, the last couple of years have been very good.
I did not have an ideal start in the movies.
But it so happened that my journey as an actor started to evolve when Web series started blowing out in a big way.
I lucked out because Inside Edge was one of the first big shows so that gave me a good platform, and led to more opportunities.
Now, the focus is not just on one or two people. Web series have an ensemble star cast, and the characters are well written.
It's not only about a hero or a villain.
Your debut film Luv U Soniyo (2012) didn't do well.
Luv U Soniyo was a project that had been delayed for almost a year after we were done shooting.
By the time it released, I had already done a film called Purani Jeans.
So the setback of my first film did not affect me as much because I had another film at hand.
But when even that did not work out, it was very tough for me.
It makes you feel like where is my career going... you become unemployable because the roles offered to you are like the hero ka dost or some sidekick.
At that point I was like, damn, is this how it is going to be?
Then there was a phase of about 10 months when no work happened because I wasn't getting anything substantial.
That's when I did that film with Sunny Leone, One Night Stand.
People asked me why I signed a film where she is the main attraction, but the reason I did it was that I needed to be a part of a project where I would get a platform to get noticed.
At that time, her films were doing really well.
But that film also did not work out.
But the day One Night Stand released was the day I signed Inside Edge.
Sometimes I feel some things are preordained.
How did you deal with those setbacks?
I was younger, inexperienced and not very mature.
It was quite a shock, to be honest.
It looked so glamorous and you feel this is how it is going to be. People were waiting to see what you would come up with.
But then they were not happy about what they saw, and they were very vocal about it.
But whatever happens, happens for the best.
It made my drive stronger.
Earlier, I would concentrate on the end result and hope it did well. Now, my thought process is on things I can control.
So I need to be the best version of myself as an actor, give the director what he wants and be honest to the material.
Earlier, I would think about what people would think... would they like it if I did this?
But it's very difficult to determine what people like; there's no set formula.
So I don't focus on that now.
I've become very detached now.
How much has your mother Rati Agnihotri helped you?
I'm fortunate that my mother has been around for more than 35 years, and has been an active part of the industry. She has seen it from the inside.
She doesn't give me that much advice about acting per se, but more about how to conduct myself -- how to come across in an interview, to the fraternity.
You have to be very mindful about that.
Earlier, I would get misquoted in interviews.
Now, without being fake, I try to keep it as real as possible.
I watch my words.
I have realised it is important to have an opinion, but there is a way of saying it, and that's how she helped me.
Actors are not only asked about their acting, they are also asked about things happening in society. So you need to be well informed.
Tell us about your childhood.
It was very normal.
My mom had taken a long sabbatical from the industry after she got married. She didn't work for about 16 years.
I always saw her as a homemaker, not an actor.
Is her film Ek Duje Ke Liye your favourite?
No, it's not! I find the ending very depressing.
It is a well made film, of course.
I love Coolie very much, especially the egg-making scene.
Are you worried for your career becausse of the lockdown?
No. I feel I am in a better position today than I was two-three years ago.
I don't think we will go back to the way things were for a long time.
But I am sure film producers or associations will formulate a plan where we can have some safety on sets... maybe working with fewer people or having routine checks.
Honestly, I am more worried about the health and safety of my loved ones.
Like, I'd just got this forward about how normal it is to blow candles on a birthday cake but will people do that in a post-corona world?
Would people eat that cake?
Well, no one is going to do that!
Something that is so trivial and yet such a big part of our culture will acquire a whole new meaning after coronavirus.