In web series Avrodh, based on the surgical strikes of 2016, actor Neeraj Kabi plays the National Security Advisor (NSA), Shailesh Malviya, who appears to subscribe to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's political views.
Interestingly, Kabi has also previously portrayed Mahatama Gandhi, who remained committed to his belief in non-violence throughout his life. Kabi first played Gandhi in Shyam Benegal's TV mini-series Samvidhaan: The Making of the Constitution of India, and later, in Gurinder Chadha's Partition: 1947.
However, Kabi believes that one cannot bring personal politics while playing a character inspired by real life.
"When I was playing Gandhi in Samvidhaan and again in Partition, there were many things that I didn't agree with, but those cannot be played. If you are playing them then you are covering the character in a very different way. When I'm making a character, I cannot put in my ideology in that. If you are doing a fictitious character then you can do what you want to, but not when you are playing real-life people. You have to be extremely authentic and honest with what exactly Gandhi was whether you agree or disagree and that's the beauty of acting.
"Acceptability is one of the biggest things about acting. I accept and don't form opinions or judgment on whether I like it or not like it. I can't judge my character in Detective Byomkesh (Bakshy!) and say, 'I'm playing a villain.' The audience decides whether or not I'm a villain."
The depiction of patriotism in contemporary Hindi cinema has often been criticised for fanning flames of hyper-nationalism. When asked about the same, Kabi said, "The script is the prime thing you have to focus on, not your personal ‘jazbaa’ that you are a part of a braveheart film or a film on patriotism.
"It's not always about chest-thumping but understanding what it is that they go through and what the concept of patriotism is or when they say, 'Mere desh ke aage kuch bhi nahi.' That is something that you take back from them. I don't think being a soldier is easy. We are fighting so much that we have to create armed forces all around, otherwise, it would have been a wonderful world without the armed forces. They always put their lives at risk and are always fighting and warring against another human being or human community. It's not a great feeling at all."
Avrodh the Siege Within is currently streaming on SonyLIV.