Gulshan Devaiah on being Bhavani in Ram-Leela and his time in Bollywood

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By Pratim D. Gupta Did Gulshan do justice to the role of Bhavani in Ram-Leela? Tell
  • Published 5.12.13

With Shaitan, Hate Story and Ram-Leela, Gulshan Devaiah has now been part of all kinds of Hindi language cinema. t2 spoke to the talented actor, who was amused to learn that many in Calcutta still know him as the guy who did all the hot scenes with Paoli Dam!

Congratulations for Ram-Leela. What’s the best and worst feedback you’ve got for being Bhavani?

Thank you. A friend of mine was watching the film in Delhi and he overheard someone from the audience saying they wanted to give Bhavani one tight slap. That to me is the best feedback because it means I got the job done. The worst feedback given to me was by me... I thought I sucked! (Laughs out loud)

You have done a myriad set of movies. When people meet you on the streets, which film or character do they most identify you with?

To my surprise it’s not Shaitan, which comes in third place behind Ram-Leela and Hate Story.

That Girl in Yellow Boots, your first film, released in 2010. Have you been selective about your work or has the film industry been indifferent to your talent?

I never struggled in this industry. Good things came my way when I had nothing but since then I’ve not taken anything for granted. The real struggle is once you’ve managed to make an impression. Making the right choices is of utmost importance if I want to have a long and illustrious career.

How did Sanjay Leela Bhansali cast you as Bhavani?

One day, much to my surprise, I got a call from the casting director of the film, who wanted me to meet Mr Bhansali. I met him at his office for about 20-25 minutes. We chatted a bit but mostly he was observing me. And then he said: ‘I am okay with this boy’ and left. No audition, no trials, no nothing. It was so sudden and unexpected.

In Bollywood the saying goes “once a bad guy always a bad guy”. Did you ever have second thoughts about taking on the part?

Firstly, I don’t believe in that saying. It does not affect me. My choices are always instinctive. If I like it, I’ll do it. No second thoughts once I’ve said yes. But to be honest, with Ram-Leela I took some time to accept the part. I initially thought I couldn’t pull it off.

How much of Bhavani was on paper and how much did you make him your own?

We improvised a lot and Mr Bhansali gave me the elbow room to bring in my own ideas and creativity to create Bhavani. It’s difficult to put it in percentage but a lot changed while shooting.

When you do a big mainstream film, does your approach to acting change vis-a-vis acting in a small indie movie?

Never. There has to be a process and perpetration. The approach is to try and tailor a process based on my understanding of the script, character and the director’s craft and vision. It’s never like I’ll just show up and shoot. Some do that but not me.

Vasan Bala’s Peddlers, which premiered in Cannes last year, showcases you in full glory. How painful must it be to not have that film release?

It’s always painful for any actor to not have his or her film release. I gave a lot to Peddlers. I really love and respect its writer-director Vasan Bala. To me it’s my best as yet. I hope it sees the light of day soon.

Having played a lead before, would you sometimes itch to play Ram on the sets of Ram-Leela?

No itches as such but I’ve imagined how I would’ve done some of his scenes. Just for kicks. I played leads and will continue to do so with my coming films but I am not a Bhansali leading man. Ranveer (Singh) is a Bhansali leading man. He suits the bill to the T. Once or twice I might have shared some ideas with Ranveer but that’s it. He was and is Ram-Leela’s Ram.

How does it make you feel that in Calcutta you are likely to be identified as the man who did all those hot scenes with Paoli Dam in Hate Story?

(Laughs out very loud) Really? Well, I guess she is sort of a big deal in Bengal. So I guess some guys must hate me, huh? Frankly I am okay with that. I can live with that!

What else is coming up?

Phantom Films’s next, Hunterrr, directed by Harshvardhan Kulkarni. Pooja Bhatt’s Cabaret directed by Kaustav Neogi and another untitled movie with Pooja after that.