You remember actor Divyenndu Sharma as Liquid in Pyaar Ka Punchnama, his debut film in 2011. He followed it up with likeable characters in films like Chashme Badoor and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. None of these performances indicated that Divyenndu would be the perfect choice to play the role of a hot-headed son of a crime lord. In Amazon Prime’s new show Mirzapur, we see Divyenndu’s character Munna commit the most heinous crimes over 9 episodes. “I wasn’t growing as an actor… I wanted conflict really badly and Munna gave me that chance,” he says. Here he tells us about the fear of being typecast by Bollywood, his advice to actors looking a for a break, and future plans.
Yours was the most inspired casting choice in the series. Did the makers of Mirzapur tell you what convinced them you were perfect for Munna?
I think my sheer talent (laughs). But seriously, I wanted to do this for the longest time. It’s very important for makers to see the DNA of an actor and not the last character he or she played. In this case, when I met them they felt I could pull this off and that I’d be an interesting choice. It’s what I wanted as an artist and the makers also wanted to surprise people by casting against type, so it was a lovely collaboration from both ends.
There’s so much layering in Munna’s character, he’s not just an in your face bad guy. At times he’s vulnerable which I really liked about the guy. It’s very important to humanise your so called grey characters also.
There are so many interesting parts in the show. Were you always playing Munna? Did you read for any other part as well?
It’s an interesting story. Initially they had approached me for the character of Bablu (played by Vikrant Massey). We had a couple of readings and they liked it. Then a week later I got a phone call and they asked what I thought of Munna. I said he’s a wonderful, complex character and it’s every actor’s dream to play a dark character. They were like we know all of that, but do you want to play him! When you read the script the first question that comes up is who is going to play Munna. He’s the most unique of them all. So when I got a chance I said, bring it on! Like they say, don’t question good things. This was a perfect way for me to express myself in a very different way.
How hard is it to portray violence on screen? Is there a trick to making scenes where you’re slitting someone’s throat or spraying bullets look authentic?
To start with, it’s very difficult to shoot violence. Initially when you take a gun in your hand, you feel nice. It gives you power. But when you actually do these kind of scenes it’s very disturbing and what’s more is that you have to be in character and think like he would. To kill someone, you as a character need to have that kind of motivation to end someone’s life. Getting into that kind of thought process becomes very intense and can suffocate you at times because you have to go very deep. There were times I had to come up for oxygen and go back inside again.
In the past you’ve spoken about getting typecast and the fear of repeating yourself in movies. What are the kind of parts that make you go, ‘Oh no, not this again’.
More than the part it’s the genre of films. That slice of life, comedy, gangs of friends kind… As an actor I will still find something new to explore there but after a point of time it became a little too much for me. It’s just that I come from theatre and film school. There you’re expressing yourself in every new project and play and in the film industry people are just casting you on the basis of your last project rather than looking at you as an actor, so you’re not growing. I kept getting the same happy-go-lucky characters. At the same time you can’t complain much because you’re not from here and it’s not easy to say no. People think ‘iski itni himmat’… But I’m thankful people are looking at me differently now. I wanted conflict and I wanted it bad. That’s why I was so happy when I got Munna.
Who is your acting idol?
There are so many but the one name that always comes to mind is Farooq Shaikh saab. I was a very big fan of the ease in his acting, the effort never showed. Then of course there is Pacino, De Niro, Om Puri and Naseer saab… Meryl Streep is the baap of all of actors. Sanjeev Kumar has also been a huge influence.
You studied acting for two years in FTII and have had a slow but steady rise to where you are today. What’s your advice to young acting students looking for a break?
Be yourself, don’t try to ape anyone. Get to know yourself and what kind of actor you are. Experimenting is nice but it’s important that when you look into the mirror you see yourself and not who you want to be. Also, practice more, hone your craft – just be legit.
What’s next for you?
So I’ve finished an indie film call Assi Nabbe Poore Sau. Also I’m really happy with the offers I’m getting, have just been reading a lot. I’ve always taken it slow and have never been one to do many films. Till I don’t hear the ting sound in my head, I don’t say yes to anything. But this is also because I’m lazy – let me not over romantisize it also!
But I like this pace of life where you play a character, you take your time to get out of it, refresh yourself, and then go out there to play another character.