It's been a year since Abhishek Banerjee finished shooting for Paatal Lok, but the character has come back to haunt him in a weird way during the lockdown. Abhishek plays Vishal Tyagi, aka Hathoda Tyagi, a volatile, ruthless serial killer in the web series. He spent several hours shooting inside a jail setup, and now staying at home for over two months during the coronavirus pandemic feels like a similar experience for him.
"It's coincidental but still very bizarre that there's a lockdown and Paatal Lok is releasing at this time. I can so well relate to the days when I used to be in the jail when I had to just switch off from reality and become him, sit there for hours and do those scenes.
"And I remember this one particular incident where I was locked inside a set jail because someone lost the keys. It was only for 15 minutes and everybody started laughing. But for those 15 minutes, I thought I can't step out even if I want to. And now it's the same - even if I want to go somewhere, take my car and drive out, I just can't. And you're frustrated in the beginning, you want to go out and then suddenly you realize that maybe it is okay to be where you are, enjoy whatever you have at this present moment. And that's exactly what Tyagi is all about, living in the present," Abhishek explains.
Amazon Prime Video's description of the character goes like this: "There are bad guys, very bad guys and then there's Hathoda Tyagi. He's the man who unleashes hell on the land of Chitrakoot in the show. The living embodiment of a devil, if there ever was one, no one in their right senses wants to get on the wrong side of Hathoda Tyagi."
The actor says he had to switch off from reality to be the said 'living embodiment of a devil', because he is a very chatty person in real life. "I love cracking jokes. For me to remain silent and play that character, I can't be my real self. Somewhere I needed to find that strength and focus inside of me. I'm so far away from the aggression or the violence that character has," says Abhishek.
While we have seen the comic side of Abhishek in Stree, Bala and Dream Girl, we have seen him be almost nearly as brutal as Hathoda Tyagi in another web series, Mirzapur. His role of Compounder is probably the most loved character he has played so far.
Abhishek says that it was difficult for him to present two characters of the same palette in different ways. "These two characters or are on the same line, both Compounder and Hathoda are crazy. One enjoys to cut with an 'ustra' the other likes to hammer. For me the challenge was to present these two characters differently. Compounder is more about his loyalty to Munna, people love him because of that. Hathoda's main emotion is the angst, I hope people relate to that."
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The actor has been able to side-step being bracketed into the stereotypes of being a villain or a comedian. But what about being the hero's sidekick in films?
Abhishek has an interesting point. Referring to the popularity of Compunder, he says, "I don't know why, when the character is in a film, people will call it 'sidekick', and when it's in a show, people will lovingly call him Compounder. Maybe that's how we have always seen films. Or maybe that's how it's been classified – character actor, lead actor and all that. In web, you can show a bigger journey of a character. In films, the protagonist's journey is in focus."
His passion for acting developed in Delhi University's Kirori Mal College. "My acting journey began with KMC Players, their drama society. I feel if you take a walk in North Campus, your creative juices might start flowing, there is so much art and culture. That's where I groomed myself as an actor," Abhishek says.
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