How I became a Hollywood villain, Priyanshu Painyuli writes
Growing up in Bengaluru, I dreamed of going to Mumbai someday and becoming an actor recognised for his craft. This was more than a dream, however. It was a path I was clear about, and my hard work got me roles in some really good films.
But I am quite new to the camera. And when, this early in my career, I was told I had been cast in a Russo Brothers’ film, I had to cross-check several times that it was for real.
The Russo Brothers are the makers of The Avengers: Infinity War. Obviously I had no idea how to react because I am a big fan of Marvel films and when I watched Thor fight with Thanos, it wasn’t as though I was thinking, “Hey! My next film I’m going to be the bad guy opposite Thor!”
When I was finally convinced that Joe Russo and Sam Hargrave had actually liked my audition, I was on top of the world. But the very next second I realised something: this was a 100 per cent professional Hollywood film. I would have to up my game as an actor and give it 110 per cent.
On the set
From day one, everything had been planned and explained to everyone. They make you very comfortable and ask what would help you perform better. Sam is a cool and calm director, and in our first chat about my character, he clearly explained how I should approach the role of Amir Asif. Unfortunately, there was a slight issue: I don’t speak Bangal [the Bengali spoken in Bangladesh], and all my dialogues were in the local Dhaka dialect. But Sam was confident that I would take care of the language easily, and that gave me a big boost of confidence.
So the prep was great: clear approach and lots of language training. But the real gangster attitude for my character came from the costumes of heavy gold jewellery and shiny, pointed shoes, which I would never wear in real life!
Go fly a kite
My first day of shooting was in Ahmedabad. We were on the rooftop of a small three-floor building surrounded by buildings of similar height. On other rooftops, kids were flying kites and aunties were sitting together and chatting. I was focused on my dialogues and as I was rehearsing, a kite went past me. I tried to draw their attention and indicate that they should stop flying their kites till my shot was done. But I was completely ignored. In fact all day the rooftops were filled with kids playing and aunties chatting, and I thought they were mad, hanging around on their terraces in the crazy heat.
Only at the end of the day was I told that all those people were junior artists, placed there to convey a feel of a crowded city like Dhaka. They were just doing their jobs. You only realise what a large scale production entails when you experience one.
Sadly, I don’t share screen space with Chris Hemsworth in the film, though I never stopped telling the team – in good humour – that since my character was the one stopping him, I should be pointing my big gold gun at him in at least one scene. He should have to deal with the real villain, not just the villain’s army!
But I did meet Chris in the hair van where I was getting my hair fixed for my scene and he needed his bread trimmed. He walked in, took his seat, and began chatting with me immediately, about the city, about India and about the music he was listening to. In between, he sang out loud in his heavy voice. He sings well.
Then I had to head back, so I said, “Nice meeting you, see you on the set,” and he said, “Yeah, sure.” We fist bumped and then realised we didn’t have any scenes together so we just wished each other luck for our respective shoots.
I had thought I would be starstruck by him given the fact that I am a huge Avengers fan. But he was so humble and relaxed that I didn’t even feel that I was meeting a global superstar.
I learned so much from the cast and crew of this film. I learned about myself as an actor too. I could tell you it was amazing, wonderful. But actually, it was an experience I just can’t explain. It was my first Hollywood film. Not many actors get such an opportunity.
But I am aiming for the opportunity again. I am about to audition for Irishman 2 for Netflix.
(Author bio: Priyanshu Painyuli plays the role of a Bangladeshi crime lord in the Russo Brother’s film Extraction featuring Chris Hemsworth)
From HT Brunch, May 10, 2020
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