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From playing terrorist to young Modi

By RAJUL HEGDE
June 14, 2021 13:20 IST
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'I wouldn't say it's difficult to enter the film industry because Hindi films have evolved, and newcomers are always welcome.'

Abhay Verma played Kalyan aka Salman in The Family Man 2.

The 22-year-old actor first made waves on social media when Akshay Kumar launched the first look of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film on Narendra Modi.

Yes, Verma will play young Narendra in Mann Bairagi.

Verma tells Rediff.com Contributor Rajul Hegde his story: "I started off as a junior artist in Super 30. When I look back, I pat my shoulder for the way I have crossed the path."

You have received praise for your role in The Family Man 2. Did you expect that?

Honestly, that wasn't in my mind when I was shooting for it.

My priority was to do my job effortlessly with passion and hard work.

I was a bit scared of the results, but thankfully, that's come out in my favour.

I am really enjoying what people are saying about Kalyan/Salman.

What is the best compliment you have received so far?

The greatest compliment was from my mother. She rarely speaks about my work though I can always see the appreciation in her eyes.

This time, she said she was really proud of me.

Do people recognise when you step out of the house?

In COVID times, it's difficult to recognise with masks on, but since I have a peculiar hairstyle, people do point at me and ask if I'm the same person in The Family Man.

Some even ask me to show my face (laughs).

Recently, I had to take off my mask to have an ice cream and a couple walking by was thrilled to see me!

It feels nice to be a part of such a big series. Getting recognised is like a cherry on the cake.

Was it dicey to play a negative role considering that you have been in the industry for barely three years?

I don't think that way.

I take it as a challenge.

When people see my face, they tend to feel how cute and innocent I am.

This character was something not expected from a face like mine.

He's a terrorist, but also a lovable guy.

He has to be innocent in his way so that Dhriti's character can fall in love with him.

 

How did you get this role?

When Season 1 of The Family Man came out, everybody was talking about it. I hoped to get a part of the second season.

Later, I was thrilled to receive a call from the casting director's office.

I went with all my nervousness, and the audition was done in two takes.

I thought it went bad, so asked if I could give more takes. But they said no, it was fine.

I was surprised when I got a call saying that I was selected.

How tricky was it to play the dual character?

There was a lot of preparation because it was about two characters, Kalyan and Salman.

My directors (Raj and DK and Suparn Verma) have a unique and simple way to make the actors understand the feel and the zone of the scene.

It was because of their effort that I was able to pull off the slight difference between the characters.

Even the co-actors were inspiring and motivating.

Any regrets that you didn't get to share a scene with Manoj Bajpayee?

I have shot the series with limited actors.

Though we didn't spend much time on screen, I have had two-three long conversations with Manoj sir before and after the shoot.

He has had a massive impact on my personality because he is admirable and I have been idolising him for a very long time.

I could literally see him turn into Srikant Tiwari the minute the director called 'action'. That switch was amazing, something exceptional to see.

What was the equation like with Ashlesha Thakur (Dhriti)?

Ashlesha is a very dear friend of mine.

She is sweet and hardworking.

We enjoyed the intense scenes as well.

People have said that Ashlesha and I compliment each other in the show.

We knew each other from before the show as we would bump into each other during auditions.

You play a young Narendra Modi in your next project, Mann Bairagi.

Mann Bairagi is a film associated with Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

He is one of the top film-makers and getting to work under him is something I have always dreamt of.

The film talks about two-three incidents which our prime minister has been through. It's an inspiring story.

The youth must see the movie because it deals with the confused state of mind in the age group of 20-23.

How did you prepare for the role?

Prepping for this role was a learning and inspiring process as I met some of his (Modi's) real life friends. And

I haven't had the chance to meet him in person. The COVID situation has shelved that plan.

I am looking forward to meeting him perhaps when the movie releases.

I hope to touch his feet and take his blessings for my upcoming projects.

You have appeared in many commercials with Bollywood's big stars. Which has been your memorable ad?

I have been worshiping Mr Amitabh Bachchan for a very long time.

While shooting for a commercial with him, I was awestruck when he entered the set.

He offered me some almonds from his pocket before the shoot.

I kept looking at his face and the nuts in my hand. I was confused whether to eat them or preserve them!

Tell us about yourself.

I did my schooling and college from Panipat, Haryana.

I had enrolled myself for a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) degree, but left it halfway through as I was certain that acting was my final destination.

Three years ago, I moved from Panipat to Mumbai to follow my passion.

My elder brother Abhishek Verma (seen above with Abhay and their mother) is also an actor and is working in the television show Aapki Nazron Ne Samjha and has been my backbone in following my dreams.

How did you enter the industry?

I started off as a junior artist in the film Super 30.

Then luckily, I got an opportunity to do some commercials with Mr Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Alia Bhatt.

It was followed by acting in Mann Bairangi and The Family Man 2.

Working as a junior artist was a learning experience.

When I look back, I pat my shoulder for the way I have crossed the path.

How difficult is it to get work in this industry?

It depends on will, confidence and destiny.

I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time.

While I was doing ads, I was looking at acting opportunities.

Since commercials were helping me make a living, my quest for an acting career was keeping my dream alive.

I wouldn't say it's difficult to enter the film industry because Hindi films have evolved, and newcomers are always welcome.

You are only 22 and co-producing the film, Swatantra Veer Savarkar.

Age is just a number.

I believe age and creativity have no connection as one believes in his/her craft.

Apart from acting, I am looking forward to exploring the process of film-making.

I am co-producing the film with Sandeep Singh. It is directed by Mahesh Manjrekar.

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RAJUL HEGDE / Rediff.com
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