The actor holds forth on his romantic entertainer Paagal, that released on Amazon Prime Video recently
More than an actor or a director, Vishwak Sen is a jolly-good youngster who's obsessed with films and wears his heart on his sleeves. Few call him confident, some label him arrogant, but you can't deny his burning passion for cinema. There are two sides to Vishwak. As someone with no Godfather in the industry, he remains grounded and is very aware of how he needs to make each of his opportunities count. Once he does his bit in front of the camera and needs to take his film out to the public, he unleashes the beast in him, bursting with infectious enthusiasm. There's a twinkle in his eye every time he reaches out to audiences. Coinciding with the digital premiere of his latest Telugu film Paagal on Amazon Prime Video, Vishwak Sen spoke to OTTplay.
Your character Prem in Paagal is an orphan who loses his mother early in life and tries to fill that void by seeking unconditional love from every woman he meets. What about Prem resonated with you? Do you think a title like Paagal justified the story?
I found him to be an innocent guy who'd go to any length to love people genuinely without any calculations. In the film, it's ironic that society calls someone like Prem a 'Paagal'. In real life, people think twice about looks, caste, financial stability, job and so many other parameters to choose their life partner. How 'paagal' are they? The film title isn't only for my character alone but is directed at our immediate society. Honestly, I didn't have any reservations about the title. Didn't Ravi Teja star in a film like Idiot and make it a blockbuster? I think Paagal works fine.
Regardless of the film you do, you are quite assured, confident and comfortable in your skin. What goes behind the effortlessness on the screen?
This is something I always dreamt of, consciously strived hard for. By God's grace, I could reach where I am today. When you achieve something with great difficulty, you always have the fear of losing it. I may have had my fair share of struggles to become an actor, but you know what's more difficult? It's making use of the right opportunities, giving it everything and sustaining your position in the industry. I am scared of failure every time I enter a set. The day you don't have that fear, you start crumbling.
Paagal is ultimately a love story between two orphans, Prem and Theera. What is the difference between the perception of a regular youngster (with a family) and an orphan, towards love?
I feel it's very hard to be in the shoes of an orphan and grow without the love of parents. It's scary to look at life from their view. In most cases, we don't even encounter such people in our circles. Even in the film, the way Theera holds onto Prem for so many years says how much she longs for companionship. She doesn't want to lose him at any cost. That's why I believe Paagal is a love story for the ages. The kind of messages that I've received from women and many family audiences on social media after the OTT release have been unbelievable. Interestingly, it was the younger lot that watched the film repeatedly in theatres.
Do you believe OTT is giving films a second life of sorts, after its theatrical run? It's an opportunity to look at a film from a different tangent, take a deeper look into the plot minus the theatrical euphoria.
I agree. Audiences get an opportunity to appreciate films better and savour what they like, repeatedly. Some prefer songs, some like action sequences and a few enjoy romance. We're blessed to live in the digital era. On the same front, the digital medium has its disadvantages. It's so easy to pirate a film and share it across multiple platforms today. There are two sides to this digital boom. As an actor, my popularity may increase as more people watch my film, but for every pirated link out online, the producer has to bear the brunt. It's a tricky space to be in. You can't stop people from watching a film in theatres, neither can you end piracy as well.
(The director) Naressh Kuppili's story for Paagal is filled with baffling twists and turns. You never get what you expect. It's also not the easiest of scripts to narrate to an actor. How exactly did he convince you to do the film?
I'm very alert when I listen to scripts and take note of every little aspect of the story. With Naresh's narration, I could never tell what was to arrive next in the plot at any given stage. That's how I judge the merit of any script. As actors, when someone starts telling you a story, you more often than not know how the interval or the climax would pan out. I didn't have any clue of the story trajectory in Naressh's case. He kept on surprising me at every step.
How do you trust first-time directors with a film? Is there any yardstick by which you judge their ability to execute it?
I think I have an instinct when it comes to trusting first-time directors. Even I don't know how I land at such decisions but it boils down to your gut feeling. When Sailesh narrated Hit, he had so much clarity and conviction in the storytelling and I believed he had what it took to make a good film. The same was the case with Naressh.
Paagal, but for an emotional ending, is a happy, chirpy film for the most part. Was it difficult to be in the best of your spirits and moods while shooting for the film between two waves of a pandemic?
How would you feel to get back to the real world after being locked in homes for three months? We were happy to be back in action and in fact, had double the energy on sets. It was a relief to face the camera after a break. There was optimism all around.
When you look back at your younger years, even at school, you were clear about a career in films and juggled academics with multimedia and animation courses.
All I can say is that I never stopped learning. It all started with an animation course during the summer holidays, it gave me a technical edge. I did journalism later for the love of storytelling, learnt the ropes of filmmaking. I ended up making so many short films that I haven't uploaded out of embarrassment. I wore different shirts for different scenes in some films, there was no sense of continuity at all. You are lucky to have not seen those films on YouTube (laughs). I am a product of all these experiences.
The fact that you are exposed to various crafts in filmmaking, (direction, editing, acting) does it interfere with the way you look at films?
I watch films like any other common man. It's important to enjoy the film for what it is and not end up overanalysing it. If you watch a film like a scientist, you can't enjoy any film. That's the biggest curse any viewer could have. If I really want to learn something from a film, I try to analyse it with the second viewing. Even our audiences are very clear about what they want from a film. They are just here to enjoy a story, forgetting all the worries in their life for a couple of hours.