I love playing the common man: Vikrant Massey
He was born and raised in Mumbai, in a middle-class family of four; entered the film industry via dance and then TV. His big break was Lootera (2013), but it was the role of the quiet, troubled Shutu in A Death in the Gunj (2016) that made audiences sit up and take notice of Vikrant Massey. Last year, we saw him shine in the Amazon web series Mirzapur.
In his next project, Chhapaak, a film based on the life of acid attack survivor-turned-activist Laxmi Agarwal, he stars opposite Deepika Padukone. Massey, 32, plays a journalist turned activist. “I love playing the common man,” he says. Excerpts from an interview…
You’ve played quite a few subdued, intense characters. How do you prepare? Is there also a process to evict a character or debrief after a particularly intense role?
Every character has its priorities, its path, its trajectory. So you prepare differently for each. The common thread in all the characters I have played so far is that they are human, flawed; not larger than life. I want the audience to always see a bit of themselves in me and relate to my character. And for that I’ll try any method of preparing.
What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do for a role?
In [the Hotstar original] Criminal Justice, I went completely nude in front of the camera. I’d never done that before. I was extremely nervous and it didn’t help that there were 20 or 30 crew members present. But it was what the script required, so I had to get past my discomfort.
The scene was meant to represent how dehumanised you become, going through this in jail, and I think I felt a tiny bit of those emotions while shooting for the scene.
But I think it’s great that at this very early stage in my career — I’m just five years old in film — I’m getting to experiment; and the results are good, so I have nothing to complain about.
What’s your favourite character, from among those you’ve played?
Shutu. Playing Shutu demanded a lot of me, internally and psychologically. It got to the point where my parents sat me down and said, don’t do this film. My mother was crying, saying ‘look what you’ve done to yourself’. I had begun to look very haggard and had lost a lot of weight. I became quieter overall. When people loved me in the film, I laughingly reminded my mom of that. But truly, only I know what the character demanded of me.
The hard work has paid off. You have some really dedicated fans. What’s the craziest thing a fan has done for you?
In 2008, while I was shooting a TV show, a woman came all the way from Odisha to Baroda to meet me. It turned out she was newly married; she said she had run away and wanted to marry me! We had to call the local police and it turned out her family had filed a missing person’s report. I was just 21 at the time and frankly, it was terrifying. It felt like I was in a movie.
Have there been a lot of dramatic changes to contend with, as you became famous?
My life has changed for the positive. Having so many well-wishers makes me feel like I’m not alone. What more could a person want in life than this?
What’s next for you?
Well, we just finished shooting for Chhapaak and I’m off to London to watch India play the World Cup. I will then start shooting for AltBalaji’s Broken But Beautiful 2. I have a couple of film projects, but it’s too early to say anything about them.