Neeraj Kabi Paatal lok actor Interview

Are Paatal Lok residents the real criminals or do culprits live in Swarg Lok: Neeraj Kabi

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Anurag Singh Bohra | New Delhi

Actor Neeraj Kabi, popularly known for playing DCP Parulkar in Sacred Games talks about his new web series Paatal Lok, theatre, and his admiration for Irrfan and Rishi Kapoor.

Paatal Lok is your first collaboration with Amazon Prime. How was the experience of working with director duo Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy?

Prosit Roy was shooting my portion so my entire interaction was with Prosit not with Avinash. But in a scene involving Jaideep’s character Hathiram where Jaideep and I were shooting together, Avinash was also present. Prosit is a very meticulous director who likes to do things to the minutest detail. He keeps on taking retakes unless he gets that detail from the actor. He does not allow the actor to rest and take it easy. I’m fond of such directors who’re slightly hard taskmasters. 

Even though Prosit was very nice and kind on sets, he won’t let the actors go till he gets the shot right. Secondly, Prosit had the clarity of what he was looking at from the entire story. He had the character arcs very clear on his head. So, we both sat down to create this character at one point of time. Most of it I created, but the latter half that is the psychological space that I sat with Prosit to create. I along with the director and writer Sudeep sat down to create three psychological spaces for the character. Whenever I used to come on set I used to ask Prosit that which psychological space am I now in the scene. It helped me know my state of being and understanding the corresponding emotion I needed to put in the scene as an actor. 

Did you drive inspiration from some real-life journalists while preparing for the character?

I never do that when I prepare characters. I did my research on some of the great fearless journalists of India associated with investigative journalism from the 1990s till now. I read a lot about old school journalists to understand their philosophy and their mindsets. I also understand the journalism of today. It helped in understanding the character arc. That’s what my character Sanjeev Mehra does. He belongs to the old school and he loses his integrity by compromising and getting into the journalism of today. 

There have been cop dramas earlier as well. What did you find the most unique about the script of Paatal Lok?

The uniqueness in the script is the clear description of the class divide in India – upper class, middle class, and the lower class. And the fact that it exists together was very intriguing in this plot. All of them are coexisting and feed out of each other. So, in the end, you’re confused that are the Paatal Lok people the real criminals, or are the Swarg Lok people the real criminals. In this story, the background of criminals is shown and in the end you empathize with them. Secondly, there’s a lot of humanity in the series. Even if the people are criminals there’s a human side to them which is shown. It’s very violent but there is humanness. There’s a human side to the investigating cop as well. 

What are your upcoming projects?

I can’t talk much about it but I am doing a feature film with a lead actress. It’s not a very big role but it’s an important character that I am playing in that film. I am also a part of a Hollywood project which is a web series. We already started shooting it last year. Post lockdown we’ll resume shooting.

Is there any historical character that you wish to portray in the near future?

There are many. Especially I would like to portray biopics of great classical singers. That’s a wish of mine where we can depict their whole journey. 

You’ve acted in theatrical plays of Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Anton Chekov. According to you what impact does literature have on an actor in order to develop their craft?

Very huge. When you do theatre or read literature, you understand perception and human psychology and philosophy. It helps in understanding the progression of scripts, stories, and their interpretation. The subtexts, the mind of the character are derived from theatre, poetry, and literature. Also, doing theatre you grow as an actor. There is no other space apart from the theatre that lays the foundation of an actor. Neither film nor web series is an actor’s medium. In films and web shows, we are part of production but it is not about us. Although we are an integral part of it. The emotional, physical, and vocal foundation of an actor, all that happens in theatre.

Are there any particular films of Irrfan and Rishi Kapoor that you have looked up to as an actor?

I have looked up to all of Irrfan’s films, everything that he has done. Especially Paan Singh Tomar, Maqbool, and The Lunchbox have been my favorites of Irrfan’s works. Rishi Kapoor Sir has been such an amazing entertainer right from the time he started. He has such a rare quality as a romantic hero. In recent times, I’ve loved his work in Kapoor & Sons. He has been a very powerful entertainer and hasn’t overdone anything. He never looked fake as an actor. Although he wasn’t a trained actor he has entertained the audience so beautifully. He’ll always stay alive in our hearts. Whenever you’ll think of entertainment films, songs, Rishi Kapoor will always be there in your life.

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