An unconventional actor with an unconventional filmography, Gulshan Devaiah has been nailing his performances since his Bollywood debut with Anurag Kashyap’s short film That Girl in Yellow Boots. From Bengaluru to Mumbai, Gulshan Devaiah talks to Sakshi Prabhu about his journey as an artist, the mysteries he’d like an answer to, and his upcoming crime thriller all set for a TV release on &Pictures on October 24— Footfairy, directed by Kanishk Verma and starring Sagarika Ghatge!
From Bangalore’s English Theatre to Bollywood, what’s the journey been like for you?
Well, the journey from Bengaluru was fine, I took a comfortable flight. On a more serious note, it has been a dream. Even after spending almost a decade in the Hindi cinema industry, I still have to pinch myself. I’m happy to be one of those few people who can say, “Mere sapne saakar ho rahe hai.” I never had the opportunity to go to drama or acting school so I had to learn by reading books and just through observations. I started gaining more inspiration from Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, and theatre actors like Vinay Kumar and Adil Hussain, and many more who’ve had a great influence on me. Particularly when I was struggling to find my understanding of the craft. I’d always wanted to be a working actor in this field and it feels like magic to me.
As you struggled to gain a better understanding of your craft, did you ever have a feeling of ‘Eureka!’?
I was doing a play called Kurukshetra Burning and I played the part of Duryodhana. Everyone had a monologue to do. When I was practicing I was trying to efficiently put to use what I’d read but I wasn’t able to do that. During the first show of the play, I had a feeling of flow state. It’s a state where everything seems to slow down and you’re completely aware of what’s happening. The acting and words were just flowing and I felt very calm and composed at the time. That’s when I knew that this is the feeling I want to chase with every performance. If I feel like this, I know I’m doing everything right.
You’ve been a part of a project like A Death in the Gunj that dealt with topics of mental health and suicide. How do you feel about topics that come with so much responsibility?
A Death in the Gunj was definitely a movie that dealt with depression and machismo and provokes a lot of thought in those areas. Nowadays, people have wanted to have this conversation around mental illness but there’s a certain resistance. There’s a resistance in accepting mental illness exists in the first place. I have been diagnosed with depression and I sought therapy for it and it got a lot better. There is severe opposition and disagreement in accepting that depression is a disease and not just a state of mind that can be solved by inspirational quotes. We need to soften the opposition a bit and accept that this is a real illness and it is treatable.
You play a detective in your upcoming movie, Footfairy. Who was your inspiration to become a detective?
All the inspiration I needed to find was within the very well written script by Kanishk Verma who is also the director of the psychological thriller. I didn’t have to base it on anybody. It just so happens that the CBI is really popular right now, I’m hoping some of that popularity also rubs off on the movie.
Check out the trailer for Footfairy here: https://youtu.be/VJ8OWVuca6g
What movie do you wish you were a part of?
This question is like a can of worms for me. I feel jealous almost every second day. I wish I was a part of Kai Po Che for starters, I was considered for it but I didn’t get it for some reason. But Sushant did an amazing job in the movie and it was great because it brought him into the industry and he had a great career. I wish I could do Andhadhun or Badlapur. I understand that there’s only so much one person can do, but there’s no malice in my jealousy. It’s very genuine. Many of the people who were a part of these movies know first hand how jealous I am of them.
What’s life’s biggest mystery that you would like to have solved?
Death is a common phenomenon but it’s so mysterious to all of us. No one has an answer to what happens after death. There are more people dead than living and yet it remains an unanswered question. I would like to know what is consciousness, is there a thing called consciousness and where does it go once we’re no more? It’s an infinity loop of questions that I would love to know the answers to.
What’s the most memorable compliment you’ve received?
Naseeruddin Shah was in an interview and he took my name in the same breath as Nawaz and Irrfan and he mentioned how he thinks we’re a lot better than he was at this age. I completely disagree with him but I very graciously accept the compliment he’s given me. I’ve had that video forwarded to me more than a few dozen times and I’ve come across it as well and I feel so good hearing about it every time.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as an actor?
Being an actor becomes easier with practice. I’d say it’s living the life of an actor that’s been the biggest challenge. Some people say that it’s only a profession and not a way of life and that may have been true for them but it’s very difficult. The profession seeps into every part of your life and keeping it separate seems impossible. So I’d say more than being an actor, living the life of an actor is harder.
What would you like people to know about Footfairy?
Watch out for the ending. It is mind-blowing! I wish we could have shown it in the trailer itself but obviously, that’s not possible. I remember reading the script and thinking it’s a great script but when I reached the ending, it blew my mind.