Neeraj Kabi doesn't mind going the extra mile to make the characters he plays on screen look as believable as possible. From portraying Mahatma Gandhi in Samvidhaan: The Making of the Constitution of India to playing an erudite Jain monk, Maitreya, in Ship of Theseus and the antagonist Dr Anukul Guha in the recently-released Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, Kabi makes sure that every character excels on screen. "I immerse my mind, body and soul completely into the character I am playing. That's how I work. At the end of the day, when people compliment your performance you feel triumphant," says Kabi. The actor spoke to HT City. Excerpts:
How did you manage to earn the role of Dr Anukul Guha/Yang Guang?
Dibakar (Banerjee) gave me a call the very next day after Ship of Theseus released. He praising my performance asked me if I would act in his next. He was going out of Mumbai at that time and told me, 'Please wait and don't commit yourself to anyone. I will be back in a week and we'll discuss the character'. (Smiles)
Was it difficult playing the character?
It wasn't that difficult. Interestingly, the character travels from one end of the rainbow to the other. Such roles can't be played without research. You need to understand where Dr Guha comes from and how he becomes Yang Guang. The character played in my mind throughout the shooting. That's very crucial, as I always try to live with the character I play to develop and discover more details about its psyche. So, while playing Dr Guha I never tried to be the villain, I became the villain.
Dibakar Banerjee is known to be very particular about the shots he cans.
He is a very organised and methodical director who has everything on paper. He literally sketches every scene, which helps an actor understand the frame. He is extremely well read. I had a similar experience when I worked with Anand (Gandhi) and Shyam Benegal while working in Ship of Theseus and Samvidhan. They enlighten you at every step.
The character too has been appreciated a lot.
The response has been overwhelming. I am still receiving congratulatory messages. Someone said, 'We are absolutely speechless after watching you in Ship of Theseus and now in Byomkesh'. There are many others who are saying, 'Don't do TV serials and commercials. Just keep doing these kinds of roles only'.
Has this role opened avenues for you in mainstream Bollywood?
Avenues opened right after I did Ship of Thesus but doing films where there is big money involved or has big stars involved is not the reason I came to Mumbai. I believe in quality films made by the likes of Dibakar, Imtiaz (Ali), Zoya (Akhtar) and Vishal Bhardwaj.
Will you also be part of the sequel to Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!?
There were plans of a sequel much before we started working on this film. I don't know if the sequel will happen but if it does, my character will be there.
You already have quite a few films in your kitty.
Yes, I play a cop in Amit Kumar's Monsoon Shootout where Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the villain. It's currently doing the festivals rounds. I am also doing Meghna Gulzar's Noida, written and produced by Vishal Bhardwaj, which releases in October. The film is based on Arushi murder case and the cast includes Konkona Sensharma, Irrfan Khan and Tabu. I am not doing any plays now, as I am busy with the film projects.