Mukkabaaz actor Vineet Kumar: My friends were opening hospitals and I was eating less to afford train tickets
Anurag Kashyap’s latest directorial, Mukkabaaz, is being appreciated for its bold take on issues like cow-vigilantism, mob lynching, casteism and similar social evils facing our society right now. Actor Vineet Kumar Singh, who plays the lead role in the movie and also wrote the original story, says the different layers in the film are all present because of Anurag.
“I knew about the politics, caste bias and power struggles in sports associations but the other socio-political angles are completely Anurag sir’s,” Vineet tells Hindustan Times. “I had seen such sportsmen very closely as I have played basketball at national level. After Ugly, I started getting similar roles so I thought of writing. People only talk about winners but I wanted talk about the talented sportsmen who never make it because of various reasons -- be it politics or ego clash. I have seen how coaches force trainees to do their household chores,” he adds.
Talking about struggling in the film industry for 17 years, Vineet says, “It was both struggle and development. The journey was a bit longer than I expected. I came to Mumbai to participate in a talent hunt in 2000. I won the competition, got the movie Pitaah (Sanjay Dutt-starrer) and I thought I would be made once the film released. The film released and flopped. I was not prepared for the failure. Things I had never imagined were happening to me. I had no godfathers in the industry. The people I knew were either doctors or players.”
So how does someone with no godfather approach a filmmaker? “I either knew people through the newspapers or the watchmen. I used to go to these swanky offices and say that I wanted to meet the owner. The watchmen would ask if I had an appointment and shoo me away when I replied in negative. The watchmen started recognising me and they used to shout from across the road ‘nahi hai’,” Vineet says.
The actor decided to pursue his education as he struggled in the tinsel town. He is a qualified doctor with an MD in ayurvedic medicine. “I used to maintain the right balance between studies and struggling. I also kept a parallel register of my attendance to ensure I completed the minimum requirement. I used to accompany a senior who was working in a Mumbai hospital during his night rounds to cover my missing classes.”
“I only studied for my father. My papa is a mathematician and uncle is a statistics professor. To even say that I want to become an actor was nothing short of a revolution in my family. Only my sister and brother loved every act of mine. When we were kids, I used to perform behind closed doors on terrace and they applauded,” he adds.
Not many know that Vineet also worked as assistant director in six films and in Bhojpuri TV shows. “Mahesh Manjrekar asked me to assist him. I worked in six films over six years and then I thought this is not why I had come to Mumbai. Finally, I quit direction. Then I started whatever acting assignments came my way including Bhojpuri serials. I thought koi bhi director Bhojpuri serials to nahi dekhega and I will earn some money.”
Remembering his days of struggles, Vineet says, “I used to sneak into Poddar Medical College and live there. I would sneak up to the terrace when someone came to check and Mumbai rains were always an issue. I used to skip a roti to ensure I had money for the local train ticket. While my classmates were shifting to Europe or opening their own hospitals, I was struggling in Mumbai. My father used to say ‘Hariyo na himmat bisariyo na ram naam’. Little did he know I would apply it in my own life. Luckily, I approached Anurag at the time when he was casting for Gangs of Wasseypur. He asked me why I hadn’t approached him earlier. I said ‘aap kaam dete medical degree pe?’ (Would you have offered me a role with just a medical degree?). He started laughing and said ‘accha kiya’ (Good that you didn't approach me earlier).”
Vineet spent almost two years training for his role as an aspiring boxer. He claims he started his MMA training in Mumbai when he was approaching producers with his script of Mukkabaaz. When Anurag decided to direct the film, Vineet says he sold off all his belongings and left Mumbai the same night. He then trained in a Patiala village for boxing where only the coach knew he was an actor. It took around five months before Vineet got the reflex of a boxer and could tactfully duck a punch.
"My coach was surprised as developing neuro-muscular reflex is difficult after a certain age. People quit boxing in the age when I began training for it,” he adds.
Mukkabaaz hit theatres on Friday and has collected Rs 4.04 crore over the weekend.