Matching talent with Rani in Mardaani was Tahir Raj Bhasin. He is fondly remembered as the Indian Walt by many. Sinister and yet memorable, the actor has made a mark with his performance in his debut film. In an interview with Koimoi, post the release and semi success of the film, we catch up with Bhasin to talk about his memorable debut, the praises and the experiences of being a pathbreaking YRF film. Read on:
Q) The praises are flowing all in your favor unanimously. Does it feel surreal or you were expecting the praises?
It’s all too new for me. When the test screenings were happening, people from my crew will come and praise me. And I used to think that these people have worked with me so they obviously won’t be very objective about me. I was very nervous about the kind of critical reaction I would get. When the reviews started pouring in, it was all so overwhelming. It was like a dream. I was in the same light as Rani Mukerji. Obviously I will be compared to her performance. That is a lot of pressure for any newcomer. Many reviews have said that I have held my own despite her presence; it is indeed a very big deal. I can’t put it in words, it’s all surreal.
Q) What kind of physical training did you invest in? Given that you were fighting a lady in the film,was the training any different?
I trained in Krav Maga for two weeks. Because Rani was learning it and to be able to respond wisely to her, I also needed to know that. I trained to fight with girls so I had learnt the nuances of fighting them. How much and what power you need to hit with! Mardaani stands for true fact that a woman can fight back harder if not with equal power. The force with which Rani executed that fight scene, it felt like I am fighting John Abraham. The fight was shot raw but nevertheless it was choreographed. Each move was rehearsed but Dada kept it all real.
Q) How was it working with Rani?
Rani treated me like I have been in the industry as long as her and that’s where my strength came from. No one ever made me feel like ‘Arey yaar, yeh toh bachcha hai.’ When senior people give you so much respect. You automatically get the confidence to work harder.
Q) The integration of Breaking Bad was fantastic in the film. How did it shape up?
I am a huge Breaking Bad fan. When I first met them, Gopi mentioned about Walt and I was ecstatic to know it was Walt from Breaking Bad. When they gave me the brief, I understood where the inspiration of this character lies. It doesn’t happen very often in Bollywood that we integrate pop culture of the West and make an obvious reference of it. It was huge for me.
Q. The Quintessential idea of villains is changing for Bollywood. It’s a time for suave negative men taking over. What do you think is triggering it off?
The change has a lot to do with what’s going on internationally. There are shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, House Of Cards – they are all negative characters but still they have managed to be the protagonists of the shows. They are grey and evil and at the same time there is something in them which draws attention. They attract people and incur the interest of the audiences. A lot of that influence has come because the audiences are now ready for it. Also, coming to the villain part, I was told that he is a charmer in my brief. If you meet him in a coffee shop, you’ll feel he is cool and you can get charmed by him. We looked at him as an anti hero and never called him a villain. The way he dresses is nothing over the top. When I enter, it’s not Mogambo’s entry scene. My character could be anyone from your boyfriend to your brother. It’s what is going on in his mind that’s dark.
Q) Besides the marketing strategy of not revealing you before the film’s release, what else helped build the mystery to your character in the film.
There was a definite strategy to keep me in the dark. There is no backstory to him. To keep the audiences guessing what gives him the guts to mess with the Bombay Police and Delhi Police at the age of 26. It was necessary to get the believability that this guy can mess with anyone in one phone call.
Q) Someone told me that Tahir was a hot, suave, creep of a guy. Do you think you’ll able to build a strong female fan base with such a beginning.
I was very worried about this. Girls are going to hate me. People have learnt to distinguish between the role and the character. The word performance used by many for me was reassuring. Had you met me before, you would have said I don’t fit the part. And now with my future roles I have to convince them, that I can do other roles.
Q) This was a very unlikely YRF film. And you are a part of this vein of changing cinema. Do you think intelligent commercial cinema will win over swagger of superheroes?
I am very blessed to be the part of a YRF film that is a crime drama, thrilling and yet packaged as an entertainer. It is an intelligently written and shot film. It is not a film that is out of anyone’s grasp. This isn’t an intellectual niche film made only for 2% of India. Change is gradual always. The package is not familiar but enticing. We are pushing the envelope I hope. I don’t think we give the audience that they are quite intelligent.
Q) You have began your journey on a risky note. Did you ever have moments of self doubt?
When you are a struggler and you have been a struggler in Mumbai for 4 years, you are not in a position to ponder when Pradeep Sarkar and YRF approaches you with a film. You just say an immediate yes and then do your best you can. Many actors have began with negative roles. Be it Shah Rukh Khan or Leonardo Di Caprio. But then they had women falling for them as well a few years later. Intensity is a common language. Emotion is universal if you play it with honesty!
Q) Rani obviously was the protagonist and often senior actors eat into the roles of juniors. You at any point felt you could face the same?
To be sharing screen space with Rani Mukerji is a huge honor for me. When she is the protagonist of my film, it is a big thing for me. I don’t mind getting sidelined by Rani Mukerji. I didn’t want to be told in my debut film that I was not good enough because my acting was compared to hers. Her being there helped me keep high the pressure in me. The villain has to make the hero look good and vice versa. In case of any lapse in this arrangement, the movie won’t be worth 200 bucks or the audiences 2 hours time.
Tahir Bhasin is being considered for another YRF project now and is now a YRF talent officially. With Superstar Aamir Khan and others as well sitting up and praising this new actor, there is hope that he will go far in Bollywood. Koimoi wishes him luck for his future here.