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Interview Hindi

Theatre brought me back to music, says Mafia's Namit Das

The actor speaks about his new web-series Mafia, his career and shares how music has returned to him in recent times. 

Keyur Seta

Among the actors who emerged in Hindi cinema a decade or so ago, Namit Das has made his mark, slowly but surely, as a quality performer. The actor was first noticed in Wake Up Sid (2009), where he played Rishi, a friend of Ranbir Kapoor’s character. While he has since appeared in a few acclaimed films like Ankhon Dekhi (2014) and Pataakha (2018), Das has also ventured into the growing medium of web content.

In the past five years or so, the actor has been seen in quite a few web-series like Sumit Sambhal Lega (2015), Kaushiki (2018) and the recently released Aarya (2020). He has also been seen in short films like The Last Day, Jangle Bells and Naamkaran.

In his latest, Das is seen playing a prominent character in Zee5’s web-series Mafia, which was released on 10 July. In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, the actor spoke about the series, his acting career so far and his musical journey. Excerpts:

The word mafia is generally associated with the underworld. What is the relevance of the title here?

A lot of people have said the word brings visuals of gangsters in front of their eyes. But Mafia here is a psychological game that a group of people plays when a bit drunk and happy. However, the game goes in such a direction that the people start blaming one another and get personal. That is what becomes the background of these six characters.

They come together one night to spend some time and play this game. They then realize there is more to these lovely relationships they are showing towards one another. This game becomes the most important thing eventually. It is also a metaphor which reveals a lot of things.

Your character isn’t part of the group of friends. What is your character in the series?

He is the outsider. He is not one of the six friends. He lands up at this house. He is going through some serious circumstances. You don’t quite know why he is there. Sometimes you feel he is making the situation happen. Sometimes you feel he is innocent. But throughout the story he is there. Eventually you get to know what his purpose is.

The location of north Bengal appears to be an important part of the story.

It was terrific. I had never been to north Bengal before. For people like us who haven’t been to Bengal much, we feel Bengal is just Kolkata. But that is not true. It’s the only place which has mountains in the north and a seaside in the south. It’s a beautiful side of Bengal. It is full of forests, mountains and nature. It is amazing that there is so much of greenery around. 

For someone who is completely city-bred, it is beautiful. How many times does it happen that your shoot is halted because of a scorpion? Or you are leaving the place after the shoot and you see elephants bathing. This was my first experience in a jungle.

What made you choose this project?

Rohan Ghose, who is the creator, had given me a narration a year ago. He said  the script is in process and he wants this character to be played by me. When he gave me the narration and shared details of the character, I enjoyed it and felt I should do it. I felt it would be enjoyable and challenging. This is something I have never done before.

Namit Das in Mafia

Plus, I was getting a chance to work with talented artistes like Anindita Bose, Tanmay Dhanania, Riddhima Ghosh, etc.

What do you look for in general before saying yes to a project?

Most important is the script and what the creator or director is trying to say. Here I knew I would get a chance to work with Birsa Dasgupta, one of the most senior filmmakers from Bengal. For me it’s not the screen time but how much quality you are bringing to the story or moving the story forward.

You once said you are an accidental actor. Can you explain?

I am an accidental actor because I wanted to go into music. It didn’t happen and I came to theatre. I just wanted to do something. During my initial days, I had a lot of nervous energy, which was actually used. And all my characters in that point of time had that feeling.

You come from a family of singers and musicians. So how did you veer towards acting? Though you have been involved in music in recent times, you remain primarily an actor.

My interest in acting started when I was in college. I did active theatre at St Xavier’s college [in Mumbai]. A lot of theatre used to happen there. I also tried doing music then but didn’t get the right signals. But theatre was a medium where I could express myself.

Before I knew it, I had started working in professional plays. That literally gave me my life. That’s how people got to know me. People know me as an actor. What people also know now is that music came back to me because of theatre. I started doing a lot of musicals.

At the trailer launch of Pataakha (2018) with Radhika Madan, Sunil Grover, Sanya Malhotra and Abhishek Duhan

People came to know this guy is an actor who can sing as well. After music came back in my life, I have a band now. So, it has been a journey where I am juggling between music and acting; acting more basically.

You will also be seen in Mira Nair's A Suitable Boy (2020) where you have also composed the music.

I have only composed three tunes for it. I don’t know how much of them will be retained in the final print. I seriously enjoyed composing those three tunes. They are situational themes.

You have done a lot of web content. What are the challenges of this medium which has grown rapidly?

There is a camera in front of the actor and you are doing what you are supposed to do. So, there is no difference as such. But a web show is long. If you are shooting for seven episodes, it means you are shooting [the equivaent of] two or three films. You have to be sure [of yourself] and maintain the graph. For example, you are shooting a scene from the fifth episode and another from the second. So you have to be careful where your character is placed.

Every medium has its own challenges. I can’t say I only like working in films or web shows. I just like working.

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