'Breathe is a show that I will always hold close to my heart'
Kabir Sawant – the brooding, angry cop in Breathe: Into The Shadows has become quite the favorite among audiences. What reactions from audiences have surprised or shocked you?
I have always believed that character is more important than screen time. Kabir’s character is not just my success - it is the success of the whole team. I am glad to see that the audience is loving my character on the show. The credit for the phenomenal character Kabir Sawant goes to all those who have worked very hard and done a fine job of shaping the character. If I can be selfish for a second, I would say I am extremely thankful, touched and numbed to see this kind of response. In all honesty, I have never received such an overwhelming response to my performance in my 14 year career span since my television debut – it is a humbling experience.
You are a man of few words in the show. Elsewhere you have said that in Kai Po Che, you wanted lesser dialogues – what is it that draws you such ‘quiet but strong roles?’
There is no preference towards a silent role as such. Personally, I am mad about acting and it brings me pure joy to come in front of the camera and play the role created by so many geniuses behind the screens with conviction. With Kabir Sawant though, the way he intertwined with my personality and resonated with the audience was special. The dark and gripping character is what attracted me towards this rollercoaster ride.
In all honesty, I have never received such an overwhelming response to my performance (in Breathe) in my 14 year career span since my television debut – it is a humbling experience.
From television to films to digital platforms – you are one of those actors who has done the transition with ease. How did you do this – were there or are there any doubts where you choose one medium over the other?
It was never a cake walk for me to enter the Hindi film industry and experience this transition. However, Breathe is a show that I will always hold close to my heart. I have been connected to Breathe for four years now. I believe, there's no difference in the three platforms in terms of performance because the entire process is the same. It's never like we do less for OTT or do slightly more for films. We equally put our 100% irrespective of the medium. The difference can be seen in terms of the audience reach and ultimately, It’s good to be part of different spaces so that you are engaging with different kinds of audience.
Is OTT helping actors and content creators find more opportunities and not deviate from their acting skills? For eg., you don’t have to learn to dance if you want to be hero...
Between films and television, OTT has come as a boon for actors and content creators both because they are not restricted by the choice of audience and the game is open. They are free to experiment with the content, explore the stories that they are doing and for actors, there are brilliant and varied roles available. It is a good situation for both the makers as well as the actors. It is not deviating an actor from his acting skills but offering much more to play with.
As a teen it has been reported that you took off on a 500cc bullet from Gwalior and your trip ended in Mumbai where you grabbed a TV role. At the height of your TV career, when you were barely 24 and making lots of money, you quit TV and went to The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York to study acting. Are you an impulsive person and how has this positively or negatively impacted your career in showbiz?
Each twist and turn in my life has made me who I am today. I don’t regret any decision I have made till date and look back at each moment with pride.
Each twist and turn in my life has made me who I am today. I don’t regret any decision I have made till date and look back at each moment with pride. I took off on a 500cc bullet from Gwalior and ended my trip in Mumbai; and that is how I discovered my passion towards acting.
My stint in television gave me a chance to make mistakes and learn from them and eventually lead me to study acting. The time at acting school made me discovery my inner peace and helped navigate my path towards films. Despite the critical and commercial success of Kai Po Che, it has not always been an easy road. But each milestone in my life is a reminder of the journey I have embarked on and it has been a wonderful experience.
You have been quoted as saying “I have done jhaadu-pocha and bartan in people’s houses. I have been a security guard...” How have all these experiences shaped you as an actor? Did money and fame after such experiences take on a different meaning for you?
Well, I am an avid mountaineer so will try to give you mountaineering references – my time at La Martiniere was like Mount Everest; and then an avalanche hit my life with a series of setbacks. I ran away from home, took a job as a security of a showroom and did many other jobs to earn my living and I am proud of the journey and my humble beginnings. Imagine the number of characters I can play on screen if I can do so many jobs!