Gulshan’s character is styled like Sanjay Dutt from the 90s in the show that is dropping on Netflix on August 18
It’s 15 years since Gulshan Devaiah moved lock, stock and barrel to Mumbai in the pursuit of his Hindi cinema dream. “Lucky for me, I met some good people who gave me good opportunities,” says Gulshan, who was in Bengaluru recently to promote his upcoming Hindi web series Guns & Gulaabs, which drops on Netflix on August 18. But how has his journey been so far? “I’m just making it up as I go along; I do have some ideas, some benchmarks for me. But more or less, if you ask me what is it that I want to do I’d say I don’t know. I like my work to be a little diverse and versatile and bit surprising from time to time,” he says, while showing us the fake nails in a distinctive hue of purple that he was sporting for this leg of promotions.
Guns & Gulaabs is a show set in the 90s; how much of a 90s kid are you?
I was born in 1978, so, you do the maths. I’m a proper 80s-90s kid. I was 12 years old in 1990, so I could totally relate to that era. From having only one television channel to Pepsi and other colas being re-introduced, the economy opening up and cable TV kicking off – I am the TV generation. A lot of my ideas and love for cinema, my exposures and influences – both cinematically and for my acting – all of it happened in the early 90s. I saw French Connection in 1994 and I was like, ‘What the hell is this movie; it feels so real’. It made me question a performance could be so real. Then I went about discovering the craft and how performance can be based on reality.
Did this awareness of the 90s make it easier for you to play the character Atmaram in Guns & Gulaabs?
Even if I didn’t know anything about the 90s, it would not really matter when the writing is so good and the people who are making it are creative and very clear about their vision. For instance, Adarsh Gourav, who is on the show, was born in the mid-90s. So, he doesn’t have much memory of the 90s. It’s the writing that makes up for that. Having said that, we all have some kind of a nostalgia for that era, either through our parents or elder siblings. The world used to be really different then; it wasn’t so fast paced. There are points that we can relate, or you can have your interpretations of that. For creative people, even if you don’t have that experience, if you can use your imagination, then that’s good. A lot of our performances are based on imagination to interpret the text and get an idea of what the 90s were like.
How much of Atmaram’s look was your idea?
Most of it came from the team, but I did have some contribution. The hairstyle definitely came from the creative team and Raj & DK, but some of the other elements, like the teeth and the eyes were me. The hair was very Sanjay Dutt from the 90s , which seemed to fit really well. I wanted it to be like Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) from No Country for Old Men. I got my way with the choice of knife. It was supposed to be a switch blade without a switch that had to be cranked open. I sold the idea to Raj & DK that the sound of the blade would mean Atmaram is here.
What is Atmaram like?
Atmaram is a mysterious character, so, the less I talk about it, the better it is. It was a process of discovery for me playing this role. I had tremendous fun doing this with Raj & DK and my co-actors. I want people to experience the show, the entry of my character and his journey in Gulaabgunj, where he lands as an outsider. No one knows him there, but they’ve heard stories of him being a bit of a legendary figure.
What is it about gangster tales, though, that they make it to showbiz every now and then?
We like to romanticize and glamorise the idea of being a bad man. A little bit of suspension of disbelief happens with gangster movies and we are attracted to all the bad things that we will never want to do or encounter. I don’t think anybody would want to meet a real gangster, but if you meet one that’s fictional it’s okay; it’s fun and entertaining. Then it’s like WWE wrestling. You know it is not real.
So, who’s your favourite gangster character?
It’s a favourite genre for most people. The first time I saw Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya and the character Bhiku Matre, it gave people like me hope that we also can be actors. That film was a turning point for me also. Before that, I was this young boy with these stupid dreams of being an actor. I would look at myself in the mirror and think that I couldn’t because I don’t have that sense of style. But then I saw Satya and thought that if it can happen to an incredible actor like Manoj Bajpayee, it can for me to. It still took me another 10 years after that.