(Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/HT)
(Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/HT)

‘People have an insatiable appetite to hear stories’

Actor Neil Bhoopalam talks about theatre, films and the advent of online platforms
By Sanskrita Bharadwaj | Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2020 08:22 PM IST

Actor Neil Bhoopalam, who is more popularly known for being a theatre actor than a mainstream Bollywood actor, has acted in several prominent plays such as Nadir Khan’s A Few Good Men, and Hamlet — The Clown Prince by Rajat Kapoor. He’s also been part of films such as Shaitan (2011), No One Killed Jessica (2011), NH10 (2015) and more. In a telephonic interview, the actor opened up about his journey into theatre, films and web shows.

Edited excerpts

Did you receive any formal training in acting?

No, I learnt it on the job and I continue to learn on the job. I did consider training for a bit but then I was like, I am going to spend so much time zeroing in on where I am going to go study, and when you go away it can be counterproductive at times.

As an actor, is there a reason why you’ve stayed away from doing more films?

Well, Amitabh Bachchan has spent 50 years in this industry and by the grace of god, he is still going strong. So, there is no hurry to do a lot of work. It is important to keep doing work. But I like to not do too much in too little time. The second thing would be, how opportunities come my way. Post Dev D (2009), I saw a rise in ‘hatke’ sort of movies. You didn’t need a star to tell a story, that’s when Shaitan and No One Killed Jessica also came about. By then, NH10 was out, the medium changing already, and that’s when OTT platforms were on the rise. I know how much I need to work per year and you will never find me not doing anything for a whole year.

What do you think of OTT platforms?

The phone is such a small device but it is a super computer. It has given rise to work. People have an insatiable appetite to hear stories, and I am very thankful that I’m a professional storyteller. It doesn’t matter whether you’re putting up a show on stage or acting in a film, or you’re doing a web series or television. As an actor, I’ll act and I’ll perform, and I envision a career which will keep crossing all these mediums.

Which medium do you enjoy the most?

Each one sort of has its own rhythm of performance. I am comfortable on stage because I do a lot of theatre. Film is really enjoyable because you do three minutes everyday of actual eventual footage. OTT and web shows are fun because the stories are ones you won’t say in a two-hour format, but each working day is a lot. I wouldn’t say it’s tiring but it’s a fair amount of work in a shorter span of time.

Do you think there is “good writing” happening in web shows?

My job is to perform. I like them. I don’t watch a lot, I tend to watch whatever’s playing at home. Once in a while, I get engrossed as well. We’ve got quite a gambit of stories. A lot of people are also adapting novels, that’s a trend and we are seeing a lot of literature coming to the fore. I have no complaints with the kind of writing that is happening. There are many more women writers today. Now, that’s an interesting space.

Do you think theatre, over the years, has evolved in India?

One evening in Bangalore, about eight to 10 years ago, we had gone back to our director’s house after a performance, and they’re very literature-heavy people. We were having a chat about this topic. Now, there is a purdah, earlier, there was a lot more freedom on what you could say on stage. I think people are wary of what they say on stage. It’s a tad limiting. You have to think twice. One needs to be a bit mindful, you can’t just go out and say what you want to say. Maybe that’s where the challenge is, and I think this is how it’s been for a while. You will often hear a discussion backstage about something on the lines of ‘Do you think this would go down well with the crowd?’.

What are you currently working on?

There are a few projects I am working on, one’s a web show, the other is a film based on the life of fashion designer Masaba Gupta. I am also working on the second season of Four More Shots Please!

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