In a career spanning three decades, Ashish Vidyarthi has starred in over 300 films, across languages like Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Bengali. Some of his most prominent roles have been negative, establishing the actor has a brilliant villain onscreen. The actor’s most recent project is the ZEE5 web series Sunflower, a murder mystery set in a Mumbai society. His character of a prejudiced, judgmental man leads to subtle comic moments. Ashish says it was refreshing for him to try out a different role, one in which he wasn’t doing the murdering, for a change.
“I couldn’t believe that they had offered me this role. It was not something that I had done before. Over a period of time, what happens is when you when you keep doing similar roles, forget about the directors, casting directors and writers, you yourself start believing that that’s the only thing that you can do. So it felt good that they thought of me as somebody with a funny bone. A hidden funny bone, but a funny bone nonetheless. So I really enjoyed playing Mr Iyer,” the 58-year-old actor says.
His co-star in Sunflower, Sunil Grover agrees that OTT platforms have given him the opportunity to showcase his talent beyond comedy. Sunil is best known for his comic roles like Gutthi and Dr Mashoor Gulati in TV shows. However, the actor says he trained in tragic roles in drama school.
“It feels great to experience different kind of characters because of OTT. While I started doing comedy – which I really thoroughly enjoy each time that I do, and I’m very blessed that I’m able to connect with people through this medium – but in drama school I did mostly tragedies. So, I used to wonder all the tragic plays that I did - Hamlet, The Caucasian Chalk Circle – all the training I had in how to get into the character, when will all that be used? But thankfully, those opportunities have naturally come to me,” he says.
Sunil says he is thankful that his attempt at playing serious roles, like Gurpal Chauhan in the web series Tandav, is being received positively by the audience. “I was skeptical before the release of Tandav that I’m trying to scare people, what if people laugh? Fortunately, that didn’t happen. So the intention of the character, the impact it had to create, people received it that way,” he says.
Ranvir Shorey, who is playing a police officer investigating a murder in Sunflower, has been part of several series, including Rangbaaz, Metro Park and A Suitable Boy. The actor says he is able to get more opportunities to expand his horizon as an artiste because of streaming platforms.
“Streaming platforms are a blessing for everyone, whether it’s the audience or the filmmakers, actors, writers, and technicians. And I think it’s a far more democratic medium than the theatrical system where there are a limited number of shows and theaters, and there’s so much politics, elbowing, backbiting and unfair competition. Streaming platforms have given me parts which I don’t think the conventional theatrical system would have given me, or rather did not give me. I did get some great parts in independent films instead of mainstream films. So for me, streaming platforms are a great place for my own artistic expression, about what I want to do with my career,” he says.