Raazi actor Ashwath Bhatt: After Haider, I was offered roles of terrorists
His clowning acts in theatre and too-good-to-be-true dramatisation of Manto have kept stage audiences entertained, and now, actor Ashwath Bhatt’s acting prowess garnered a lot of praise after he was seen in Meghna Gulzar’s latest film, Raazi. Remembered for his portrayal of a terrorist Zahoor Hussain in Haider (2014), Ashwath plays Mehboob Syed, the elder brother of Vicky Kaushal’s character in the Alia Bhatt-starrer.
Narrating how he got to play a part in Raazi, he says, “Jogi Malang — the casting director of the film – called me when I was travelling. I sent him a self-audition based on the rough script that he had shared. Later, I told him that I need to send a better audition video, but he refused saying, ‘Nahi nahi… perfect, perfect’. When he realised that I was unconvinced, he revealed ‘Meghna ko pasand aya hai. Ab tu jake Talvar (2015) dekh le’. That’s when I realised who I was being auditioned for,” says Ashwath, who is presently shooting for the Akshay Kummar-starrer Kesari.
So, was working with Meghna one of the reasons that Ashwath agreed to be part of Raazi? “I was choosy from the beginning. After Haider, which I did because I had been a great fan of filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj’s work, I was offered dozens of terrorist roles. And I wondered why? I understand that there are a lot of constraints in commercial cinema [when it comes to casting actors]. But, just because I’m a Kashmiri and I play such intense characters well doesn’t mean that I should get all terrorist characters. Like in Omerta, they show a terrorist, too, but if you get to play a character like what Rajkummar Rao has got, then it’s worthwhile. I was offered Omerta, but I refused because they were asking me to play just another terrorist,” says the actor, who has worked in Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012), Kabir Khan’s Phantom (2015) and Oscar-winning Danis Tanovic’s Tigers (2014).
In Raazi, however, Ashwath agreed to play an officer from the Pakistani forces. “Because to me it was about playing an officer from the armed forces; it didn’t matter if the officer was in the army of India or Pakistan. The character has to be substantial,” he quips.
“In fact, very few people know that I have been to the Pakistani cantonment as part of a German theatre company, and otherwise also on several occasions. So, I have closely seen the armed personnel in both the countries, and the conditions and pressures under which they work. That’s why I could relate to the story of Raazi, which shows how we get stuck in situations. Also, a film is a director’s medium. So, before taking up a role, I ask the director how much of it is going to get edited. I didn’t have to ask Meghna because her process is very different. I knew from the very beginning that my part is integral to the story,” says Ashwath, who is excited to be part of 99 songs, a musical film written by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy and AR Rahman.
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