Barun Sobti has made a victorious comeback with an incredibly brilliant web series Asur, in which he plays a forensic-expert-turned-teacher, who has to solve gruesome serial killings and deal with his internal conflicts at the same time.
In this interview with us, Sobti, who left the spotlight for a couple of years after his abrupt exit from one of the most popular Hindi shows Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon?, spoke about what attracted him to acting in the crime-thriller, why he likes to be low-key about his career and whether he misses being the star of the Indian television.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
How are you coping with self-isolation?
I'm doing good. Thankfully, there is a lot of content out there to watch, and a lot of books to read.
What’s it like to have the show finished, be getting feedback from audiences, and to hear people talking about it, in ways that you hoped they would?
We were definitely hoping a positive response for Asur, but we had no idea that the magnitude of it was going to be this huge. But yes, we knew that whoever watches the show, will love it. So, we were pretty sure about this. The only thing we thought was that it should not become too intelligent. Clearly, the Indian audience is extremely intelligent. Everyone loved the show.
This concept of serial killing combined with mythology is something that we saw for the first time. Is that what appealed to you?
What writing has got to with acting is the subconscious of the human mind and understanding how people think and then writing and then those very people can't defy the fact that's how they think, and that's our audience right now. But serial killing is a very shady subject in India. Nothing that was made before, was even okay. Because nothing dealt into the psychology of the killers. I have seen a lot of western shows and I'm not saying that they are better than we are. It's just that the writing is not good enough in our country. That's when I heard this show, the first thing I knew was, 'This is the first time that I have heard something that talks about the society being the nuisance instead of the killer and the killer is actually the victim of the society.' So, the writing of Asur was so good that I wanted to do it immediately.
The show is quite bold in terms of how it depicts that radicalisation in religion or any faith can be harmful because you never know when extreme views become something dangerous. What did you make of the show's politics?
The reason why I said yes to Asur was because it's pretty much like the way I think how the world is shaping. Honestly speaking, the takeaway after the show was that I was very happy with what I got to do in respect to the performance. There was no educational takeaway because I read a lot anyway. Talking about the whole radicalisation thing, I've always believed that everyone can have a belief and that can be anything, but you cannot tell other people that your belief is (all that matters). Because if you have that liberty, everyone should have it.
Was there any initial reluctance, given the sensitive nature of the subject?
No, not at all. In fact, everyone who came on board are very sensitive people anyway, and understood that the subject needed to be dealt with carefully. To top it up, this is the kind of way you want to educate the world that killing for any kind of reason is not the right thing to do in any case. The beliefs of the show were quite progressive.
What was it like to perform the scene, wherein you were held captive by the killer? What exactly was going in your head at the time?
The only thing that I remember is, asking my director to shoot that scene at the end of the day because my hands are pretty heavy (laughs). While performing such scenes, the whole pressure automatically comes down on the single actor, but I always look at it as an opportunity. It was a great opportunity for me to just map out the scene in my head and keep doing it again and again in my head. I shot that scene really, really fast. I was sitting in my vanity while the director and the crew were preparing for this scene. We shot the scene twice and it was done in 20 minutes. But the whole mapping of it took a while. That scene actually stayed with me after I read it. So, I was looking forward to performing it.
Such characters often tend to take a toll on an actor’s emotional health...
Yeah, but the good thing about this show was that the first three episodes were not a lot of heavy stuff and that was the only time when we were interacting with people. The captivity was the heavy stuff and I had to isolate myself. So, those six-seven days were a little difficult. Thankfully, it was all done in one-go because I was the single actor. But yes, if you keep doing it for a very long time, it does take a toll on your psyche. After all, we become what we do. So yeah, those few days were taxing, but then again, every job has its pros and cons.
You are one of those actors who is not seen much on social media and who we don't hear unless there's a show or a film coming. Do you also get to hear this that you should be out there more?
People will say this only until I'm not there on social media (laughs). Trust me, nobody would want to know what I do in my free time. I only like reading books and spending time with my family or watching content.
You were a television heartthrob and loved by the audience, and how. Do you miss being in that position?
I don't know how to put this because I think that everyone misses the past because it's gone, but there is nowhere else I would rather be right now...
Asur is currently streaming on Voot Select.