Having made a career scaring the daylights out of his onscreen colleagues and us in over 400 odd films, Gulshan Grover admits that “being a villain still gives (him) a high.” This year, the 58-year-old actor has a lot to cheer about, with five releases coming up. In Baat Ban Gayi, he plays a dual role, as a serious professor and a homosexual (a career first) and the latter, Grover admits, was challenging.
“I didn’t want it to be just a caricature like it usually is portrayed in our cinema. I think gays are talented, gutsy and honest people and I wanted to bring those into my character,” he tells me. The reference point came from his LA sojourn –“I found a lot of inspiration from Hollywood, their fashion designers especially.” Despite all the preparations, he accepts that his character had to “be a little loud in keeping with the demand of a commercial potboiler.” He is also looking forward to his next films where he has tried not to repeat himself. So there is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Bullet Raja, where he plays the big baddie, Soopar Se Oopar, a fun film co-starring Vir Das, where he plays a character inspired by MF Husain, Yaariyan as a stern professor and a psycho thriller called Rakth.
No happy endings
With a menacing laugh, bloodshot eyes and chilling dialogues, Grover epitomised the commercial Bollywood villain (think Sadma, Avtaar, Ram Lakshan). Why is it that such villains aren’t seen anymore in Bollywood? “That era is gone. I think I was the last star villain. Our current plots don’t need such people anymore,” he laughs. Having said that, he admits he’s always been against the glorification of villains, which has often been the case in Bollywood. “I have always insisted that villains should have a humiliating end. Bad should never be celebrated. That’s why I loved my villain in Bullet Raja,” he says.
While a lot of our actors are making a successful transition from Bollywood to Hollywood, Grover was one of the first – he took the plunge back in the early 90s. “It was a struggle then as it was difficult to convince both industries that I would be available for them. Then I used to carry the VHS of my films and make the rounds in Hollywood but today they get your material on YouTube and are keen on working with you. Today, I see respect and acceptance for Indian actors in Hollywood, like Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor.” Happy with the kind of cutting edge cinema that is being accepted in Bollywood now – Ship of Theseus and The LunchBox – he insists on an exclusive space to market such films. As for what keeps him motived after all these years, he concludes, “It is just hunger. I have done nothing so far. There is so much to do, so many roles to essay. 400 is just a number.”
— Neelima Menon