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Interview Hindi

Deepak Dobriyal: Don't want to be available on remote control

Pappiji from Tanu Weds Manu shares some interesting details about his forthcoming film Hindi Medium, his career, and why doing theatre is important for actors.

Keyur Seta

Deepak Dobriyal has proved his versatility as an actor over the past decade. He has appeared in films of different genres like Maqbool (2004), Omkara (2006), 1971 (2007), and Tanu Weds Manu (2011). There has always been a natural comic undertone to his performances. Maybe it's the reason why he has bagged more situational comedies. His most notable character has been Pappiji from the Tanu Weds Manu films.

Dobriyal is returning to comedy with Saket Chaudhary’s Hindi Medium, which stars Irrfan Khan and Pakistani actress Saba Qamar. In a conversation with Cinestaan.com, he spoke about the film, his career, ideology and the reason why theatre holds great importance for an actor. Excerpts:

What is the meaning of the title, Hindi Medium?

In our country, whoever speaks Hindi well is labelled ‘Hindi Medium’, which is unfortunate. Being ‘Hindi Medium’ can be a good thing. But it is said in a bad way. English is ruling these days. Earlier, UPSC [Union Public Service Commission] exams used to be held only in English. I remember I was in Delhi at that time. There was a huge protest demanding that the exam be conducted in Hindi also. I have studied in a government school. I used to think language won’t be an issue. But we later realized that only English rules everywhere.

When I tried speaking English, I committed errors in pronunciation. People made fun of me. A complex develops among Hindi-speaking people. We were 6-7 friends during college and we were puzzled to see such an attitude towards Hindi in our own country. But all of us took a vow to make our careers in Hindi. Few of us became Hindi journalists. Two of us learnt German, but stayed away from English. One had a cargo business and the only person left was me. I went into Hindi theatre and later films.

Did you face problems in Mumbai due to your language?

After doing theatre, I got a lot of confidence. I realized it is all about expression. So, after coming here [Mumbai], I realized we can express, think and realize in Hindi too. Therefore, I didn’t face any problems after coming here.

What character are you playing in Hindi Medium?

I am playing Irrfanbhai's [actor Irrfan Khan's] friend. It’s an interesting character. He turns out to be a help for him. He is a Hindi-speaking person. Comedy happens automatically in the film. There are other layers too. My character is not just comical. Even I won’t like to do a character that does only comedy. If the comedy comes out of my character naturally, it’s fun.

What is the biggest challenge in doing comedies?

Sometimes, while we are shooting, we are not aware if a particular scene is comic. During Teen Thay Bhai (2011), I, Puri saheb [the late Om Puri] and Shreyas Talpade were laughing while doing the scenes. One day, I told Shreyas that although we are laughing here, I hope the cinema hall is not quiet. And this is what happened. There were no proper promotions of that film. It was funny for that era. So, you aren’t aware of it while shooting. During Tanu Weds Manu, Maddy [R Madhavan] and Jimmybhai [actor Jimmy Shergill] used to run away from the camera as they couldn’t control their laughter. There were 21 takes for one particular scene.

Do you keep getting offers to play the main lead?

Yes, I do keep getting such offers in small films. These days a story can be made on just anyone; from a rickshaw driver to a businessman. Every character has its own world. If it is entertaining and meaningful, it can be made. I too have done 2-3 such films. But they weren’t promoted well.

You have worked with Irrfan Khan before in Maqbool and Charas (2004). How is your equation with him on and off the sets?

It is very good. I was his right-hand man in Maqbool. I had a very small role in Charas. After that I am back with him in this film. We had good tuning here. Actually I was suddenly called into this film because they had the bungalow where we shot only for a limited period. I was to join them after 15-20 days. But they said the bungalow will be gone by then, so please come now.

Plus, they had shot a large portion already, so they couldn’t have cheated [by shooting at another bungalow]. I went and we shot the exact middle portion of the film. This always happens with me. I never get to shoot from the start (laughs). From that shot onwards, my tuning matched with Irrfanbhai. And the same was off-screen. After the shoot, we used to swim, eat and go for screenings.

You starred in three films by Vishal Bhardwaj in a row – Maqbool, The Blue Umbrella (2005) and Omkara. After that, you were never seen in his films.

It is my philosophy to not stay in one particular camp. I have seen that actors who keep working in one camp aren’t able to work in another camp. There shouldn’t be a comfort zone in acting. If you wish to learn different layers and learn detailing, you should work in different camps. That is why I have worked with different people like Anurag Kashyap, Salman Khan, Ram Gopal Varma, etc. If the story and script are impressive and the director has a good requirement out of me, I do the film. For example, when Ramu [Varma] offered me a lead in a small film [Not A Love Story (2011)], I did it. Vishalji also knows this. He comes to watch my films. He was very happy with Tanu Weds Manu (2011).

Is it necessary for a good actor to do theatre?

Yes, I feel it is necessary. People might say it is not, but I feel it definitely is. The entire emphasis is on you in theatre. But you should do the type of theatre where you know what you are learning or whether you are learning anything in the first place. Theatre is a good place to learn.

Who are your idols in acting?

It’s Balraj Sahni. There was also one theatre actor, Vijay Shukla. I had seen a play of his and I went mad. I later came to know he is a big theatre actor and this was only the first time I saw him perform. I saw the play again. He is a very natural actor. He created magic on stage. He is such a legend that a biopic should be made on him.

In foreign countries, established film actors return to theatre. But that doesn’t happen in our country.

The thing is that film actors are very busy here. Over there, they can afford to take a break from films for a year to do theatre. But this can’t happen here. People are involved in different opportunities in different films or television series. The teamwork in theatre gets affected due to this as some or the other actor is busy elsewhere.

You have worked very little in TV. Any reason for that?

I didn’t want to be available on remote control. Like, sometimes you are on channel number 44, sometimes 45. When I used to do theatre, I felt like performing to my best ability irrespective of whether there are 5, 150 or 500 people in the audience. Sometimes when you find out that only five tickets have been sold, you feel like, what to do. But then you think, ‘The show must go on’ and you keep going.

Web series are the new trend. What do you think of this medium?

My personal opinion is that web series won’t work here. This is an outside concept. Over here, series like Bharat Ek Khoj, Mahabharat, Himalay Darshan, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi and the ones that are in the parameters of India would work. Web series is something born out of the computer. Everyone doesn’t still have a phone in our country. As long as you don’t Indianize it, it won’t work. People are adapting it to India but not Indianizing it. Most of these web series are only thrillers and sex comedies.

What are your forthcoming films?

I have Kalakaandi and Lucknow Central.