Rohan Vinod Mehra made his Hindi film debut in 2018 with Baazaar, co-starring Saif Ali Khan and Radhika Apte. The son of Bollywood star Vinod Mehra has recently left his mark in Bejoy Nambiar’s crime thriller Kaala streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. In an exclusive chat with us, Rohan talks about Kaala where he plays army officer Subhendu Mukherjee, his experience of being directed by Bejoy Nambiar and his favourite film starring his late father.
What attracted you to Kaala?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: First and foremost, it was the chance to work with director Bejoy Nambiar. I have been a fan of his even before I started working in the film industry and I think I’ll always be a huge Bejoy Nambiar fan. He is one of the most unique voices we have in the country. The way he sees the world and tells a story should be celebrated. So, getting a chance to work with him was very exciting.
When and how was Kaala offered to you?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: Bejoy called me and said that he was sending a script which he wanted me to read and tell him what I thought about it. He didn’t speak about which character or story. ‘Just read it,’ he said.
I read the script immediately and instantly connected with the part of Shubhendu Mukherjee, which I eventually played in the show. I loved the character and the script. I liked the final product that Bejoy has made. Kaala is a very emotional project for me.
Is it emotional for you because it’s a father-son story? Did the absence of your father in your life play on your mind during the making of the show?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: Firstly, getting a chance to play a character of three different ages so early on in my career felt great. I play the father to the character played by Avinash Tiwary. A lot of people told me that it’s a risky decision to make but I found it exciting.
Obviously, the father-son story was interesting. Having not experienced that story in my personal life kind of drove me towards understanding the father-son relationship even more. Perhaps, playing a father brought me closer to understanding my relationship with my own father better. It was a very emotional role for me, for sure.
What was your process of working with Bejoy Nambiar?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: Bejoy’s best quality is that he has immense trust in his actors. If he has decided that you will play one of the characters in his film/show, he really trusts you to take it somewhere where it feels comfortable for you. He also lets you add a lot to the character. If you ask the other actors in the show, they’ll say the same thing.
When a director puts trust in his actors and lets them be fearless about the decisions they make about their characters, the reward can be very big or it could be a failure. But Bejoy doesn’t judge his actors. It’s okay to fail in front of him. It’s okay to try something in front of him and not worry about how it will turn out because he gives you that trust.
What were your learnings after playing a complex character like Shubhendu Mukherjee?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: It was definitely to always go with your gut while selecting a role. The instant connection that I had with Shubhendu Mukherjee drove me through the entire shoot and till the show’s release. It really warms my heart when people praise the work that I have done.
Playing Shubhendu Mukherjee was fulfilling as an actor because I went with the character completely based on the instant connection that I felt with it but could not explain. And when it comes out so well, it’s a different kind of high altogether.
Kaala is a thriller. Are you a fan of this genre?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: I am a huge cinephile. I love cinema in general. I don’t have a favourite genre as such. When I was growing up, I would spend all the money that I earned from my part-time job on buying DVDs of movies made in different parts of the world — Indian, Asian, European, American. I try watching pretty much everything under the sun.
What really attracts me to a film is how unique the film is in what it’s trying to say and how much conviction it is made with. And I think the highest compliment that I can pay to Bejoy is that he’s so unique with his voice as a filmmaker. He is always pushing the boundaries while telling you a story. Like I said earlier, storytellers like him should be celebrated.
Are you happy with the kind of projects you’ve got at the start of your career?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: More than anything, I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way because it was a very difficult industry (to break into). I think it has become easier to get a break now because there are three industries running simultaneously — films, OTT and TV. So, getting a break is easy but establishing yourself as an actor in the sea of so many new faces is difficult. I’m grateful that I’m getting to be a part of such interesting projects where I am playing diverse characters.
In Baazaar, I played a small-town boy from Allahabad who comes to Bombay and works in the stock market. In IPC 420, I played a defense counsel from Bombay for an interesting case around financial fraud. In Kaala, I’m playing an army officer, which is a very complex part. I’m nothing but grateful for my journey so far and I don’t think I’d have it any other way.
What is something that you learnt very early on about working in the entertainment industry?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: The first thing I learnt is that it is important to stay true to yourself and believe in what you think is right and how you want to present yourself. Only you know what is unique about yourself and if you believe in that uniqueness, other people will see it too.
The second learning is to consistently work on your craft. In my short career so far, I have already worked with Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte, Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who are brilliant and celebrated actors. Learning from these actors how they go about their work has been heartwarming.
After Kaala, what are we going to see you in next?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: I have finished shooting for a film called Adbhut. It is directed by Sabbir Khan and produced by Sony Pictures. The cast includes me, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Diana Penty and Shreya Dhanwanthary. It’s a psychological thriller which also has some horror elements. It’s a very different character from what I have done so far. I’m excited about that film.
What are your memories of your late father (Vinod Mehra) through his movies? What’s your favourite film of his?
Rohan Vinod Mehra: I like many of his films but if I have to pick one, then it will be Bemisal (1982), directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. My father came across as a very gentle, nice and warm person on screen as well as off-screen. So, what I really liked about Bemisal was that my father was cast in a grey character. I think it was brilliant casting and his transformation in the film was brilliant too.