'The nervousness is to deliver and if we do well, the nervousness will be, what do we do from here.'
Kunal Kemmu can slip into any character effortlessly.
After proving his mettle in Bollywood, the actor has carved his niche in the OTT space, thanks to the successful Web series Abhay.
The third season of the cop drama starts streaming on April 8, and this time, the cast includes Vijay Raaz, Divya Agarwal, Rahul Dev and Tanuj Virwani.
In a candid conversation with Rediff.com Contributor Sameena Razzaq, Kunal says, "Abhay was my first stint with anything in the OTT space, so I do feel that to a certain level, I have been successful."
The first of a two-part interview with an unusual actor and human being.
When you take a franchise forward, how do you ensure your character doesn't appear repetitive?
I think there are a lot of departments, like the writing department and the creative team, who takes care of that.
They make sure we maintain the continuity because it's a long format show and it happens in real time within the show.
The challenge is always to keep it similar to what people saw before and yet, try to do something different, so that each season has its own interesting bits.
For me, I think the major effort of who Abhay Pratap Singh was, what was his body language like, what would make him tick, how would he behave... all this was put to test in the first season.
When the acceptance came from the audiences, we were allowed and asked to make the second season.
I played Abhay Pratap Singh with a lot more confidence and then finally in the third, I felt like certain parts I could just go on auto pilot because I knew exactly what I was supposed to do and that helped.
But more than me, it's the writing team, the direction team and the creative team that has to consciously make sure that a freshness is brought into the show.
Abhay has enjoyed an overwhelming response. Do you feel you have penetrated the OTT space successfully and all that nervousness can disappear now?
No, I think nervousness is always good.
Like every season, this season I have a nervousness of knowing that people are going to come and watch this with expectations.
In Season 1, they had no expectations and they were happy with what they saw.
Then they came with certain expectations which season 2 lived up to.
Now, with the trailer getting the kind of response that it's getting, I am sure they have bigger expectations.
So the nervousness is to deliver and if we do well, the nervousness will be, what do we do from here.
It's great that we have achieved a certain amount of success, and the true barometer of success on the OTT platform is to get commissioned for another season.
Abhay has been a successful franchise so far and we hope to keep that going.
It was my first stint with anything in the OTT space, so I do feel that to a certain level, I have been successful with this.
By your own admission, crime thrillers take a toll on the actor mentally, simply because the reality is too biting. So how do you switch off and stay clinical while performing and what if it haunts you back home?
I actually didn't say this is something that taxes you. I said there are certain scenes that emotionally drain you.
It doesn't need to be a crime thriller.
Even if you are doing an high density emotional scene, it sometimes drains an actor's energy.
At the same time, with crime thrillers and specifically with Abhay, because a lot of these crimes are based on true cases... I remember the first episode of the first season had crimes against children.
Even when I read it on paper, it made me very uncomfortable.
Thankfully, I wasn't shooting in Mumbai; I was in Lucknow.
The set was a long drive -- an hour-and-a-half -- from my hotel room.
I remember feeling heavy in the heart during that drive... because I couldn't stop thinking about that scene.
It was a gory and gruesome scene that we shot at 3 am on a cold winter night, it got a bit taxing.
But soon you realise you are making a fictional show and all this is make believe.
Then you get used to it because anything that happens for the first time is more hard-hitting, and also, not all the cases were based on true crimes.
So from there on, I was able to reach a point where I could switch on and off.
Comedy has always worked for you. So how did you land in the broody space like Malang, Kalank and now Abhay?
Even I ask myself that.
I am happy that I did.
I don't question the good things that happen, but it was interesting because at that point of time, I thought I was being typecast.
I was doing one comedy after another, but it so happened that although Malang, Kalank and Abhay happened to me in the very same year, they released at different times.
Your co-stars are full of praise for your down-to-earth, non celebrity attitude. How do you stay so grounded?
I don't think too much about it.
I don't take any of it very seriously either.
I don't get carried away with the happiness or the success that comes.
Also, I try to not get too affected by the failures.