Meeting up with friends over a cup of ‘chai’ has been one of my favorite activities. Today I am glad to feature my dear friend and actor Tanuj Virwani on Chai With Shai. Tanuj and I go way back in time when he was an assistant director and I a budding writer. Today he is one of the most promising stars to hit the silver screen and after an initial setback with his first two movies, his next with Sunny Leone – One Night Stand looks quite promising. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.
One Night Stand is one of the most promising movies of 2016 starring Sunny Leone and you in the lead. Tell us about the movie and your character.
Yes I’m really looking forward to this one (smiles). I play a mature, rather grey character in the film who’s really a bit of a jerk to everyone around him until it all starts catching up with him. In short, the film is a mature adult drama about relationships love and loss (smiles).
How did One Night Stand find its way to your life?
I got a call to test for it and so I went, three days later the producers called me saying they would like to meet me and that’s what set the ball rolling (smiles).
Nice (smiles)… So tell me how was it working with Sunny considering the fact that she is one of the most sought after actresses today?
She’s wonderful to work with, very level headed and grounded even though she is so successful she never acted like a star if I was finding certain scenes difficult she would help me through them. I really couldn’t have asked for a better co-star (gushes).
I am sure (smiles)…With the suggestive name like One Night Stand, can we classify it in the same genre as Kya Kool Hai Hum series or a Mastizaade? If not, how different is it from the aforementioned movies?
(Laughs)… No no no I can assure you there is not even one prevent similarity between those films and ours simply because the genre itself is very different.
Really? (raises eyebrows)
Really… (continues laughing) Come on yaar, those are full on masala entertainers with huge doses of humour while our film is an adult drama. The characters are all real and pretty serious, no jokes going around here
Hmmm (frowns)… I do believe you (smiles)… So did you have any inhibitions while filming this movie?
Well initially I was a bit sceptical because of certain scenes I was to perform. However, I decided not to particularly highlight them in my head as they were aesthetically done and I trusted my director’s vision. If I would think about it too much I would not be able to be truthful to the character.
Right… Born to a superstar mother (Rati Agnihotri) and businessman father, how was your growing up days?
I have had a lovely childhood. By the grace of God my parents have raised me with the right values without giving me anything in excess. It’s important that we make our own mark in the world and come out of our parent’s shadows. Nothing makes them more proud of us (smiles).
That’s true… Did you always aspire to be an actor?
Not really I wanted to be a director actually it’s something I would still like to pursue in the future.
I know… but how did the transformation happen?
I was an assistant director and offers would start coming in via my mother also once the acting bug hits you it’s very difficult to shrug it off (laughs).
Happens (joins laughter)… Like you said earlier, you want to still pursue being a director, so any aspirations to turn into a full-fledged director with a mainstream Hindi movie any day soon?
Yes absolutely I write and direct a lot of short films, so yes that does seem like the next logical step but not anytime soon. I want to establish myself as an actor first.
What kind of movies give you a kick?
I like dark gritty movies with grey characters
Any favourite character you think you could play?
I would love to do an Indianized version of Tony Montana from Scarface (winks).
Nice… Tell me how open are you with experimenting with characters and roles in movies? Would you like to play a gay man or a quirky character if anyone approaches you?
I am absolutely open to all types of roles. The moment one starts being judgemental about a character you cease to be honest with your craft. The key is to keep reinventing yourself so as to keep the audience interested.
True… So which directors you want to work with and why?
Raju Hirani, R. Balki, Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali amongst others. Well I think their body of work is reason enough (smiles).
Were you disappointed with the underperformance of your previous movies?
(Giving a deep thought) Disappointed? Yes. Disillusioned? No. See you have to shrug it off and aim at doing a better job in the future. Nothing lasts forever not success and not failure. The only co-star in one’s life is ‘CHANGE’!
Rati Aunty is a terrific actress and a huge star of her time, what kind of advice does she give you on your choice of roles or how to conduct properly in the industry?
She wants me to learn from my own mistakes and make my own decisions so unless and until I go to her for specific advice, she doesn’t interfere much.
For a star-son you are much grounded and well behaved, whom do you want to give credit for the person you are today?
My parents for the way that they have raised me looks like they did a really good job no (laughs).
Absolutely (smiles) I can vouch for it… In an industry filled with gossips and rumours you have a very clean slate till now. Are you actually not a controversial person or you are intelligent enough to cover your tracks? (laughs)
(Peers at me and then smiles) Well I’m a normal guy nobody is squeaky clean and no one is a monster as they are sometimes portrayed to be. I’m a private person when it comes to certain aspects of my life which do not concern my professional life I would not like my life story being breakfast news for 1.3 billion people so I try and keep a low profile as I think it keeps one’s sanity and peace of mind (smiles).
Out of the three movies you have done so far, two have been directed by women. Do you see any difference while getting directed by a female director compared a male director?
I find that women directors at least the ones that I have worked with are just a little more emotionally switched on, also the kind of instructions vary a bit when a man is directing you as opposed to a woman. Both experiences have been enriching for me
What are your future projects?
(Rubbing his hands) Well there is something coming up really soon but I’m not yet at liberty to speak about it. Hopefully soon (smiles) once One Night Stand releases.
Explain One Night Stand in one sentence and what can audience expect from this movie?
Karmas a bitch. That’s what our movie says if you are a bit of a jerk to people it will come back and haunt you someday. The audience can expect a lot of twists and turns, and drama and yes of course Sunny Leone in a completely new avatar (winks). I think she’s gonna surprise a lot of people with her performance in this movie.
Okay, Tanuj we have arrived at the most exciting part of our conversation where I will throw few questions at you and you have to answer them in a word or sentence.
Whom do you want to have a One Night Stand with (except Sunny Leone)
Scarlett Johansson (laughs).
In real life you prefer One Night Stands or Committed Relationships (laughs)?
(Joins laughter) Nice one… Relationships of course.
The most sexiest actress today as per you – Sunny Leone, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Kriti Sanon?
An actor you feel is competition?
Every single working actor out there is my competition.
Oh don’t be a saint, just take one name…
Come on… (pauses) I will pass for now.
Okay (smirks)… Purani Jeans or One Night Stand?
Right now, one night stand (winks).
Tanushree, Joe or Jasmine D’Souza fav director?
Infact all three have been wonderful so it would be unfair just to pick one (smiles).
So diplomatic… Anyway, would you like to work in a remake of Ek Duje Ke Liye?
Yes that would be great (excitedly).
Wait the question is not yet over…
Okay please continue (smiles).
Thank you (winks and both burst out laughing) Okay let me ask the question now…
Okay go on.
Who would you like your heroine to be Akshara or Shruthi Hasan and why?
That all depends on the script and the director
Hmmm… Your secret fantasy?
If I told you I’d have to kill you (laughs)
Okay fine I don’t say as I don’t want to die so soon (winks)… Your favourite holiday place?
Gold Coast, Australia.
Last time also you said the same thing.
I thought abhi kuch toh badlav aaya hoga…
Jaani hum aise hi badalte nahi…(winks)
Accha? Anyway (smiles) what message you want to give your fans?
Don’t let success go to your head or failure to your heart stay blessed stay hungry stay foolish guys. Love you all (smiles).
It was a pleasure catching up with you Tanuj and I wish you all the very best for your future projects.
Likewise (smiles and hugs).