Which was your first major break in the industry and what influence it had on your career?
LSD was my first major break with Dibakar Banerjee and it taught me how to create a space for myself and be someone who can carry an entire project on his shoulders. Within months after LSD, I got my first TV show – Gunahon Ka Devta and soon after that I was entrusted with huge projects such as Rangrasiya and Siya Ke Ram. It also gave me the learning and confidence to make my own film.
You have played a transgender before supreme court’s verdict on section 377. What was your reaction on the decision?
Writing and filming for Khejdi, wherein I play a transgender, made me understand the thought process of this community and the society as well. Society has to be more accepting and accommodating and transgenders need to embrace their identity with grace. Verdict on 377 is a welcome change but it’s just a beginning. Mindsets need to change which no law can enforce, only people can do.
How do you choose your projects? What matters to you most – content, team or the broadcasting channel?
When it comes to TV, as I have studied the medium closely, I look for the content first and the need of that kind of content in TV space at that time. I try to see the scope of my character and how long I would be able to keep it interesting for the audience. Then comes the broadcaster as every channel has a certain market reach and a particular type of content works well on a particular channel, though one can never be sure of it. Teams are not very consistent in TV, but I do like to see the team which is setting up the show.
You have played some larger-than-life characters such as Lord Ram and Prithvi Vallabh. How do you prepare yourself?
Playing such roles always comes with one big challenge – How different can I make it from my last one and from the last portrayal of that character on screen? My process is inside-out, I try to get the psyche right and everything else just follows. I start seeing the character in totality, even I work on my physical appearance accordingly. I gained almost 15 Kgs in muscle for the role of Prithvi Vallabh. To play the character of Ram, I had leaned up and worked on shoulders and arms to achieve the look of an archer’s body.
You proved your talent as a dancer too by winning Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 7, how much effort did it take on your part?
I was shooting for Rangrasiya simultaneously and used to shoot for 12 hours and then travel to rehearsals in the night. Dancing is anyway very demanding physically and I suffered some injuries that I still have. It took me more effort as I am not a trained dancer. Credit goes to Shampa as she was so patient with me and worked around my limitations and my time constraints and still made me look like a dancer on stage. The journey was tough but what came out of it was a winner and a winning attitude in adverse situations, that’s most important to me.