Gulshan Devaiah - A Good Character is a Good Illusion

Gulshan Devaiah

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]is first ever role was as unconventional as he is. Not the usual hero or good guy and at the same time, not the typical villain. With an array of roles with grey shades and strong personalities with idiosyncrasies, Gulshan Devaiah takes a challenging role to a completely different level. What is even more amazing is how he made this extremely clear with his first role itself as “Chutiyapa” in Anurag Kashyap’s That Girl in Yellow Boots. It is hard for anyone to miss him in this stunning performance.  An actor who made it through his sheer talent and calibre. A NIFT graduate to a successful actor today, Pandolin talks to Gulshan Devaiah to find out how he made it without attending any acting school or any star family background!

Gulshan, tell us a little about your background and your first connection with theatre and acting?

I was born and brought up in Bangalore. I was pretty disinterested in studies but always took part in extra-curricular activities. I was a shy kid and pretty much an introvert, but on stage or while performing I felt completely free and uninhibited. I loved dancing in parties and events and I was completely oblivious of the crowd around me. I was nervous and shy but just give me a stage or put on some music and I would start dancing. I always had a lot of confidence in me in that sense. Being the only kid, my parents have always been extremely supportive but insisted on studies. Creativity is the only department that I connected to hence I decided to join NIFT. Designing and being around creative environments always inspired me and gave me a sense of belonging. Thereafter, I worked as a designer and was pretty happy with it. However, I was always aware of this sense of void inside me and wanted to fulfil it. Hence, I thought of pursuing acting and came to Mumbai.

photo_3How was the struggle in the beginning?

I never faced the conventional struggle of meeting people, living with less money or roaming around giving auditions. All that part never bothered me. I was pretty lazy and instead of giving too many auditions, I truly believed in waiting for the right opportunity. I was not hungry to just get some work in that sense. My struggle was within, more from the inside. I was eager to learn and was only looking for opportunities to meet like minded people who would help me learn. I was searching for a learning experience more than anything else. Fortunately, I met Rajat Kapoor while auditioning for a role for his theatre group. Though the role did not work out, I joined the theatre group and used to help with lighting. I used to travel with the theatre group and though it was a small job, I always observed and saw the group rehearsing. It was truly an enriching experience.

How did you get your first break?

Technically, the first break in acting came when one of the actors on Rajat Kapoor’s theatre crew was not available and Rajat Kapoor asked me to replace for him. I was thrilled that day.

In films, Kalki, Anurag Kashyap’s wife and me had common friends from Bangalore and connected during my stay this time around in Mumbai. That time, they were not married. Once in a party, Anurag Kashyap saw Kalki and me dancing on a Bollywood number. It was not a professional dance; we were just dancing our heart out. Few months later, while having dinner, he asked if I would be interested in this role and “Chutiyapa” happened. After that, there was no looking back!

Did it ever hamper your confidence that you did not have any connection to an acting school or star family background?

No, not exactly. I think it all really depends on what exactly you want to achieve also. I have all the respect for acting schools and would love to be a part of one too, but my journey was different. I was at a phase in my life where I wanted to be out there. I think I learn much more on field and I was aware of this. I like talking and enjoy stimulating conversations. I met a lot of people who helped me learn and I was always listening. The key point here is that whether I was in a school or not, I wanted to learn and I always had that eagerness and curiosity.

How did you prepare for the role of Chutiyapaphoto_4

For the role of Chutiyapa, I was sure that the character had to come across as a little crazy and naughty, though he was a dangerous man. I grew up in North Bangalore and all my friends are from North Bangalore. There I came across some local goons too, they have these typical North Bangalore accent. Chutiyapa’s is loosely based on the rhythms and traits of these small time local goons that I came across. So instead of adopting a typical South Indian accent, I used this accent which is used in northern part of Bangalore. I did a lot of homework and got an in depth understanding of the character.

Shaitan is another important film that made a mark in your career. How was your learning experience on that film?

The character in the film Shaitan needed a lot of work. The characters were youngsters who are portraying a variety of shades from the beginning till the end. Hence, there was a little pressure to get that across. Fortunately, we had a good team and the director had a clear vision, so that helped.

What is your general approach towards acting?

I believe that every time you do a character, you create an illusion of that character. An Illusion is as good as its detailing and research.I do a lot of homework on my characters; mostly there is a lot of thinking that goes into shaping a character. I also believe that acting techniques help in emoting better and India has a rich culture that helps a lot.  For example, there are some techniques used in Koodiyattam, folk theatre from Kerala where they use certain techniques to generate anger on face and sometimes I feel such techniques really help. So it is usually a mix of everything that I like to use in my approach.

Tell us something about your future projects?

My two main future projects are Ram Leela with Sanjay Leela Bhansali in which I have a pivotal role and then there is Vaasu by Harshvarshan Kulkarni, where I am playing the protagonist. I am really looking forward to this film since it has a very fresh approach.

Who are your favourite actors and what work inspires you?

Daniel Day Lewis is one of the most amazing actors in all lifetime. Meticulous and extremely detailed, he is light-years ahead of every actor. His performances in There will be Blood, The ballod of Jack and Rose and many more are simply outstanding. Dilip Kumar is one of the most excellent actor our industry has had.  Christian Bale is another actor I really admire.

photoWhere do you see yourself in the future as an actor?

I see myself doing interesting roles. Characters that would tap my potential. I want to be a part of films with really strong concept and content as well as entertaining films that reach out to the audience.

Any message you would like to give to students pursuing acting?

It is important to keep learning and believing in yourself. How you handle rejection will also play a major role. I would like to share an anecdote here. After I auditioned for Rajat Kapoor’s play and when I was told for the first time that it will not work out, I felt a sense of emptiness and cried my heart out. Though Rajat Kapoor and his team were very kind to me, it did not sink in. However, I decided to fight this feeling of rejection and joined the theatre group helping them with lighting. Experiences will shape you and you need to learn from them as much as you can . Most importantly, be positive!

As told to Anuradha Turner.

Gulshan Devaiah – A Good Character is a Good Illusion