New Delhi: The transition from Arjun Kapoor’s best friend in romantic outing Half Girlfriend to protagonist in debutant director Konkona Sensharma’s understated drama A Death in the Gunj may have come in a gap of just two weeks for the audience, but for Vikrant Massey, the actual journey has been far longer. A 14-year-old career, including a decade of work on television, short films and umpteen commercials, preceded festival favourite Gunj that released to glowing reviews in India last week.
“It’s been a very long journey and people have been immensely kind, they’re not tired of watching me on television for a decade, they want to see more of me," the 30-year-old actor said. “I can’t sit back and analyze my own career though because I just go from one project to another. Every project I got, whether I was playing a friend or doing television, I just wanted to prove myself, every single take, cue and rehearsal is an audition. That’s my approach."
Overwhelming praise may have only come in now (a review in The Hindu newspaper for A Death in the Gunj says Massey “lays bare the innocence, sensitivity, vulnerability and torment of Shutu—his character—with such fluidity that it’s hard to imagine any other actor owning the role"), but Massey’s journey goes back to 2003 when at 16, he landed a show called Kahan Hoon Main on Star Plus that was never aired. A brief stint with choreographer Shiamak Davar and creative assistance to filmmakers followed along with college until television came calling with big-ticket offerings like Balika Vadhu, Baba Aiso Varr Dhoondo and Dharam Veer. Films weren’t too far behind either, even supporting characters in popular movies like Lootera (2013), Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) and more recently Half Girlfriend (2017) have won the young actor much praise.
Also read | Film Review: A Death in the Gunj
“I actually saw him in Lootera first, and he really jumped out of the screen for me because I remember wondering who he was and it seemed like he could do a lot more," Gunj director Konkona Sensharma said.
Sensharma admitted to noting the striking face before she got to do a full-fledged film, director Alankrita Shrivastava’s highly controversial Lipstick Under My Burkha, in which they don’t have any scene together. Burkha is scheduled for release next month after a long battle with the censor board. Sensharma who was then scripting the subtle take on the darker side of families that needed a 23-year-old-looking boy to play the sensitive, diffident protagonist realized she didn’t need to look any further.
“Vikrant is a very receptive actor, he got a sense of the character from the script and made it his own. It’s important to note that he’s not only capable of playing someone vulnerable and diffident (like his character in Gunj) but also someone more gregarious and volatile because he can pick up what is required," Sensharma said. “He’s looking to do good work which is fantastic and I hope he gets those opportunities."
Massey was one of the youngest on Sensharma’s set prepared for under-confident Shutu’s role and stayed on the periphery observing his senior co-stars.
“I’m not a trained actor. I have neither read acting books nor gone to acting school. But I have certain fundamentals on how I approach a character, the basic skeleton of my preparation is based on observations from real life," Massey said, adding that the decade in television has taught him a lot, especially in terms of physical and mental labour. A leisurely movie shot stands in sharp contrast to the 18-24-odd hours you’re likely to spend on a TV set, among the other challenges any newcomer faces in the industry.
“I’ve probably had it easier than someone who’s come from a small town and struggled for 15 years, simply by virtue of belonging to Mumbai and having a family here. But otherwise, I had to go through my own grind, it’s tough because you have to prove yourself every single time," Massey said. “But I think if you know your job, work will come to you, whether you’re an insider or outsider. If you don’t know your job, nobody will hire you."
Also read: ‘A Death In The Gunj’ celebrates Calcutta of the 70s and the angst-ridden Bengali male
Currently looking forward to the long-delayed release of Lipstick Under My Burkha, a film that he’s very proud of, Massey says nothing has changed as far as his personal life is concerned.
“I’m really grateful to God for whatever I have. I always wanted to be an actor and this is the only thing I can do. I’m not being mobbed or crazed out but there is so much love and blessing around and immense gratitude from my end," he said, adding that his next is a project called Pujya Pitaji that goes on floors by the end of this year, besides a digital venture that he’s just locked.
“I’m getting a lot of interesting scripts. I’ve made a conscious choice to be part of a good story, critical acclaim for A Death in the Gunj doesn’t mean I only want to play the protagonist. I want to be part of any good project and I’m getting those thankfully," Massey said. “By the grace of God, people have started acknowledging the fact that I can shoulder a little more responsibility. So I am getting a lot more scripts where people want me to play the protagonist, that is the only thing that has changed."