Vineet Singh plays the overtly selfish Chaitanya Mishra in Anurag Kashyap's 'Ugly', a role that kept him on his toes since the start. While shooting a scene where Chaitanya is taken in remand by the police, Singh went through over 50 slaps. His hands were cuffed and tied to the roof to represent the actual third degree torture in the very nude form which is usual in Kashyap's films. The very same Singh also portrayed the naive and obedient son Vijay in 'Bombay Talkies' and was noted for his work in 'Gangs of Wasseypur' as Danish Khan. In a telephone interview he opened up to IBNLive about his movies, characters and his struggle in Mumbai.
How was it working on this crime/psychological thriller which is being referred to as dark and grim?
Initially, I just knew that I was being cast as Chaitanya Mishra who plays a casting agent. Anurag did not give us the whole script. We were all on our toes from the start to the finish. This was very new as I had whole bound script in all movies before this. Anurag had given strict instructions that none of actors are to be given the whole script. We got it part by part, the scene which was to be played; we would get the script of that scene only. It is a psychological thriller and Anurag had started a psychological game since day one. We were all as much in suspense, as the audience would be, as to who was the main culprit; so all that suspense will show on screen now.
You play an interesting character in 'Ugly'...
The character is named Chaitanya Mishra, a casting agent in Bollywood. He came to Bombay to be an actor, to become a 'hero'. His office is adorned with posters of the films and serials he has done; he is sort of a poster boy. But he is very clever, and extremely selfish. One really can't predict what is going on in his mind. He has his own agenda and is wholly committed to his own agenda which starts and ends on money. I have never played any such character and in my personal life my character and approach couldn't be further away from his.
'Gangs of Wasseypur' was a turning point for you but you had struggled a lot before that, tell us about that period?
Yes, I did have that time too. I participated in a talent hunt and won that and came to Mumbai in 1999-2000. Then, everyday, I would go from one production house to another. I would make a list and go and meet different people, hoping to get at least one scene somewhere. I hoped that that one scene would work, it would get me more offers, more roles, perhaps a lead. Then when that was not happening I worked in direction teams. I worked in about seven films in the direction teams. I worked with Mahesh Manjrekar and on his set they all speak in Marathi so I learned it there. Like that I worked in a lot of other films in Bengali and Bojhpuri etc. I would do all that but I never gave up on acting.
Your character in 'Ugly' comes to Mumbai to be a hero and ends up being a casting agent. Did you ever feel that you should also try and find something else to do as acting projects didn't come your way for long?
No no, I am in no way like Chaitanya Mishra. I had my aim in my mind all along. I studied to be a doctor; I am a MD Ayurveda, so I could have done that if I wanted to. When people asked me what I had done before I would tell them about the medical background I come from, they would ask me to sit, offer me some tea and then say "Pagal ho kya yaar". They would tell me to go back, ask me why I was struggling if I had another option in life. So then I stopped telling people this. I would say I had come to act.
I came to Mumbai to find satisfaction one gets from doing what one wants. I knew all along that I wanted to play different characters. So I went on with it and when you keep at something you always find a way.
How similar are you to your character Vijay from 'Muraaba' (Bombay Talkies)?
There are a lot of similarities. The commitment he shows to the promise he made to his father, I have such commitments to my work. My work is my promise to myself. We might differ in our approach towards things but we are quite similar. Like him, I am also very close to my family. Even though we stay apart for a long time but we still have each other's support and love.
Vineet Singh as 'Vijay' in 'Bombay Talkies' .
How do you look upon the years of struggle period now?
When I think about those years I really don't know how it happened, "Pata nahi kaise ho gaya, bas ho gaya". I used to get up everyday with a hope that today would be the day. I used to leave the house with that hope. I would go like it was the first days when I had just come here and there was so much hope. So that kept me charged, otherwise it was never easy to go to 17-18 productions houses and be rejected and then gather yourself up next day again and repeat the same task. 'Gangs of Wasseypur' was the turning point for me, it came out in 2012, so that is 12 years from 2000. So if you tell some one that they have to go through all the rejection and frustrations for the next twelve years why would they get into it? It's like going through a tunnel, trying to follow the light which goes further away as you get closer to it. Every Friday you see four to five movies getting released and you are not in any. So you wait for that Friday when your film would release, you wait for the production house, for the director who will give you the break you have been waiting for. All through that time I made friends here, we had shared our dreams of making it big in Bollywood, we had shared the struggled but one day I would help them pack their bags because they just could not go on any longer. Those were really hard moments for all of us we could see ourselves in that guy who had given up, who could not go on further because of some reason. It was like a dream was dying out. So in such times you need to keep you motivation in you mind and let it govern your path.
How was it working with Amitabh Bachchan?
Well see, we sort of have the same background, our fathers are both academicians, he is from Allahabad, I am from Banaras, the Ganges flows through both our cities. I have grown up seeing his films. I find in him a distinct attraction; he is our 'mahanayak' (super actor). He is blessed but he has also worked to preserve his gifts, there is so much you can learn from him, his discipline, his way of working, just the kindness in him is enough to make you awe at him. I worked in 'Viruddh' (2005) as an assistant director, I used to wonder then that when would I get to work with him. I did not know then that one day I will be in a film with him, playing a character who is a great fan of Amitabh Bachchan. So I think it was in my destiny, I believe now that everyone gets what they want only if you keep stay patient.
Tell us about the song you have sung in 'Ugly' and about your future projects?
It was all situation and timing I did not plan any of it. I had written the song at the start of the shooting and Anurag liked it. He said that he wanted to use it and asked me to sing it. It's like a 'rap song' based on the characters and the whole mood of the story, so he said that it went very well with the film and used it.
My future projects 'Bollywood Diaries' and 'Aur Devdas', again just happened, I did not plan it. When we watched the first cut of 'Ugly', the casting director of the film Mukesh Chhabra suggested my name to Sudhir Mishra for 'Aur Devdas'. That film is almost done, and my character is a new one. It a present time adaptation of 'Devdas' and Paro has two lovers, I play the second lover in this. Then 'Bollywood Dairies' is going to be directed by KD Satyam. He won the national award for his film 'Gattu' so I am very excited about both of both of them.