Somewhere between casting actors and getting cast for memorable roles, Abhishek Banerjee found his claim to fame as the artist who observed the craft from behind the scenes and then went on to experiment with it. We’ve watched him play around with comedy in Stree, Dream Girl and Bala, we’ve watched him make a name in crime thrillers with Ajji and Mirzapur before finally witnessing his spine-chilling portrayal of Hatoda Tyagi in Paatal Lok where he was an absolute revelation. And something tells us this is just the beginning for him. So what’s next for Banerjee? Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long before we see him onscreen again as PariWar came along.
Directed by Sagar Bellary (Bheja Fry), Disney+Hotstar’s PariWar promises a hilarious family dispute comedy. The show has Abhishek playing a never-seen-before role, a romantic character. Who would’ve thunk it? Starring alongside an excellent ensemble cast including Gajraj Rao, Ranvir Shorey, Yashpal Sharma, Vijay Razz and Nidhi Singh among others, the actor plays the role of Munna.
To dig deep into his filmography, we asked Abhishek Banerjee all the essential acting, casting and experimentation-related questions we know you want the answers to.
To begin with, what made you pick up the script?
Abhishek: So the first thing which made me choose the show is the stellar cast, there are so many great actors that I really wanted to be in their company. And of course, the director Sagar Bellary has made some of the finest comedy films of our industry. I think the subject was really relevant. There are so many disputes in families and civil courts are filled with family disputes. And yet they are staying under the same roof, maybe even eating together with their differences. So it’s funny and chaotic at the same time. I think it’s something I relate to, I grew up in an Indian household so I related to this concept a lot.
Who is your character on PariWar?
Abhishek: I play the character of Munna. I’m Gangaram’s (played by Vijay Razz) son, he’s very good friends with Kashiram (played by Gajraj Rao). He is involved in the land dispute which is a matter of concern for the family. I am somebody who is in love with the youngest daughter in his family Guddan (played by Nidhi Singh). I’ve always – In the show I’ve always been in love with her and it’s like – see I’m so conscious about this part that I’m fumbling right now haha. Basically, I’m a sister, a nurse in a small-town hospital and everybody makes fun of me, they call me names, they call me sister, they find the job very effeminate and find it weird for a man to have this job. Guddan seems to have no problem with it and when he meets her, I think the emotions he has for her come up, they feel something and it starts their story. It’s how he starts helping her with her family and starts helping her find herself and her roots back. So it’s a very interesting character, I have never done something like this before. I think romance is a very difficult genre and this character’s core is romance, he’s a poet so I’m quite nervous.
Your previous character Hatoda Tyagi in Paatal Lok has a separate fan base. What’s that like?
Abhishek: I’m still getting used to it, the fan reception part of my character and fans are receiving my character so well and calling me by (character) names when they spot me in the street. That’s very very new. I was used to being called as Jaana (from Stree) or the guy from Bala or Dream Girl. This is the first time people are coming up to me and they know my name, they know Hatoda Tyagi and they know my past work. It’s very interesting, I feel very grateful and every day I thank the universe and everything that made it possible. I’m on the right path and I really have to work hard now and keep my focus so that I continue to give some kind of surprises to the audience. I’ll keep experimenting with myself whether I fail or I succeed and I think that’s a thing of the future. But I’ll definitely experiment and keep taking chances with the characters I do. Let’s see how it works out.
You often play dual roles as an actor and casting director. What has the casting experience taught you about acting?
Abhishek: It’s taught me patience, casting is all about patience and I think acting also needs a lot of patience. You do not get into characters instantly and you do not give it your best shot instantly. You need to have faith in a lot of things to achieve something good in front of the camera. Casting also teaches you trust. I expect my actors to trust me when we are auditioning them for a part because we are really trying to help them to get that part. I feel sometimes is mutual, actors also trust us a lot and that helps. That has made me very trustful towards the entire team of whichever film or show I’m on. And also the relationship between me and the crew is not only as an actor and an assistant director or something. Sometimes even when I’m not casting for the project where I’m acting, I still feel connected to the crew and feel comfortable with the people behind the camera. sometimes I offer help in wahtever capacity I can. I always believe filmmaking is teamwork and casting has taught me that. You can’t just cast a big fellow, the team, associates are an equally important part of it. So I think it’s taught me a lot about filmmaking and acting.
And does Abhishek the casting director ever get into conflict with Abhishek the actor?
Abhishek: I usually don’t cast myself in any parts, it’s always the director. I have never gone up to a director and said that “I want to do this part” or “Would you consider me for this part?” Maybe if there is a friendship I might have suggested that, “Do you think I can do it?” And that’s how I got Stree because I suggested that I can be a part of the film. I don’t know if that is casting myself. That’s approaching a director to do a part where I was not casting. But in projects that I’m casting, it usually doesn’t happen. Now that I have a more active acting career so now will I have to choose the projects where I cast and choose the projects where I act and maybe not combine the two. And do it only when it’s very organic. Honestly, whatever has happened till date it’s been organic, I really didn’t push myself to get Hatoda Tyagi, I wasn’t even looking at Hatoda Tyagi, I was looking at Ansari, I’ve said that before. But the creator of the show saw me as Hatoda Tyagi, usse pehle bhi it has always been the directors imagining me in a certain character. So I won’t restrict that kind of organic thinking because that’s the relationship I share with a filmmaker as an actor but also having said that, I won’t do it with the purpose of doing both in a film, only if it’s really exciting then maybe. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Sidenote: Banerjee wasn’t trying to get cast as Hatoda Tyagi and wanted to audition for Ansari’s part instead. Paatal Lok’s creator gave us an insight on it back when the show released. Check it out here:
What is the biggest takeaway from your co-stars on the sets of PariWar?
Abhishek: I think the key takeaway from the costars is the passion, dedication and the commitment to the craft and the energy on set, and the willingness to try different things, to cooperate with other actors and try new things, giving respect to the space of an actor, there is so much to it I can keep going on and on it’s all positive. And everything I’ve learnt from them and the way they work I just feel like there is so much honesty in the craft.
While you’re here, check out Gajraj Rao’s interview:
PariWar is available to stream on Disney+ Hostar.
Cover artwork: Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India