'Their sensibilities are far more mature and complex than men's. I have to be very careful while working with them.'
Neeraj Kabi, who rose to prominence with his performance as an ailing monk in Anand Gandhi's breakout film Ship of Theseus, has earned much praise for his turn in Meghna Gulzar's Talvar.
A trained actor and acting coach, Kabi plays the bereaved father of the slain child in Talvar, which is based on the twin murders of Arushi Talwar and Hemraj Bansode.
Kabi spoke to Subhash K Jha about the film and working with lady directors.
Did you do your own research or only relied on the material provided to you?
Both. The material provided was only the foundation of my work. This led to very exhaustive research of written as well as visual documents on the case since 2008.
I read everything I could lay my hands on. But I have not yet read Avirook Sen's book.
Do you think Arushi's parents are guilty?
As an actor, I have portrayed a neutral stance on the case with three different perspectives in the film.
If I were to take a stance as early as this, it would be unfair to my craft as well as the film. I would rather reserve my opinion for some other day over another conversation.
The film takes a critical view of the media's role in influencing public opinion. How far do you agree with that?
The media plays a huge role in influencing public opinion, especially the broadcast media as it is more accessible to the people.
Any biased or sensationalised portrayal of a real life incident can be hazardous to its subjects.
People jump to conclusions instead of analysing things. A responsible media can be a boon to society.
The film raises these questions very powerfully, at times with its dark humour.
What was it like working with Konkona Sen Sharma, recreating the trauma of parents who have lost their only child?
Konkona is an experienced actress and a very sensitive human being. She is also a very generous and accommodating actor. Her instincts are very strong as a performer and it was a pleasure to work with someone like that.
I am a preparatory actor. I do a lot of homework before a shot. Here we were with two varied methodologies creating a jugalbandi.
To add to this, we are parents in our respective real lives as well. So all these elements just fell into place for us when it came to portraying this enormous tragedy.
You are now shooting with Gurinder Chadha for Viceroy's House, your second film with a female director. How different is it to be directed by a woman as opposed to a man?
I am on my toes when I am working with a woman director. Their sensibilities are far more mature and complex than men's. I have to be very careful while working with them.
It is more relaxed with male directors as, being a man, I can get a sense of what they want from my performance.
I play the role of Mahatma Gandhi in Viceroy House.
Photograph: Virginia Rodrigues