In recent years, there has been an increasing trend of actors going an extra mile to prepare for their onscreen characters. The latest to adopt this method-acting technique is Neil Nitin Mukesh, who borrowed from his retired Major General uncle, to portray Major Rodrigues, in Vishal Bhardwaj’s forthcoming film, 7 Khoon Maaf.
Interestingly, Neil plays the youngest husband of Susanna, essayed by Priyanka Chopra in this screen adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s novel, Susanna’s Seven Husbands. Predictably, the actor discarded his shabby look to transform into a suave army major, complete with a moustache, sharp suits, aviators and a narrow-brim Fedora hat.
But just styling himself doesn’t guarantee convincing portrayal of a character. So to adopt the body language and mannerisms, Neil visited his retired army Major uncle to imbibe the characteristic traits. “Naturally, his uncle was thrilled that Neil was playing an army man in a movie. Uncle also sat him down and took him through the life of an army man; thereby justifying why they are the way they are,” reveals a source close to the actor, adding, “He also disciplined Neil in the habits, attire choices and attitude of an army man that helped him immensely to get inside the mind of Major Rodrigues.”
So when Neil began finalising the nuances of his character with Bhardwaj, the director was quick to note that his actor was on the same page as him as far as personifying the character via his body language, style, voicing and dialogue delivery were concerned. Our source further adds that the director and his actor both envisioned Major Rodrigues as someone who is extremely well spoken and strong, along with being hot-headed.
The transformation was so stark that when the actor arrived on the sets on day one, the director failed to recognise him, judging by his appearance. Confirming the surprise on his director’s face, Neil recalled, “Yes, Vishal sir asked one of his assistants to call me for the shot, when I was standing right next to him. He and the rest of the crew actually didn’t recognise me. That in itself was such a good feeling.”