An actor has to be patient and wait for his time – Abhimanyu Singh
Abhimanyu Singh shot into limelight with Anurag Kashyap’s political thriller Gulaal in which critics singled him out for his performance and noted him for his “sheer overpowering charisma” and “earthy presence”. Since then he has gone on to entertain audiences both in Bollywood and regional cinema with his riveting characters. In the forthcoming social satire Global Baba, Abhimanyu Singh portrays a Godman, the likes of which are in the news almost every day. In an interview with Pandolin, the versatile actor discusses the film and his acting experience.
We have seen a slew of movies in recent years on the Godmen phenomenon, from the widely appreciated OMG – Oh My God! to the two MSG: The Messenger movies. How different is Global Baba from these earlier stories?
Global Baba is completely different from all these movies because of the fact that it is very close to reality and shows whatever is going on in society in today’s time. It is a stark reflection of the particular phenomenon called ‘Baba’. A Baba is supposed to be a medium between a devotee and God. Babas have been in India for thousands of years and they have always been respected. But today their name sounds like a farce because out of a hundred such Babas, just one or two would be for real. Most of these Godmen become so to either gain money, fame or political influence. And they just fool their devotees.
So Global Baba is different in the sense that it is raising questions about the rise of new Babas every single day and the lakhs of their followers. Naturally that raises a question about how do these new Babas spring up everyday and acquire a huge number of devotees as soon as they arrive? That’s a question to be asked. Also why are we, as an aware society with knowledge about these issues, still prone to falling for these Babas and treating them like Gods.
Is the movie based on a particular Godman or inspired by any specific incidents? Will we be able to identify with the film’s narrative and characters?
It is not inspired by any Baba in particular. Everyday we come across news about some Godman being put behind bars while some other is pressed with serious charges. So a lot of this news has inspired the film and when you watch it, you will find a few references from here and there, but not in totality.
How do you usually prepare for a role? More specifically how did you prepare for this role of a Godman?
For this particular role, there were two shades in the character – the first one being ‘Chillum Pehelwan’ who is not a Baba and then once he becomes a Baba he has to look very calm and composed and say things that make a lot of sense. So a little bit of homework was required to look like a Baba and behave like one. To pick up a few nuances, I followed the way Rajneesh (OSHO) used to speak. It was very hypnotic, so I picked up a few things from him. Also when I was shooting in Benares, I would spend time at the ghats with Aughads and Aghoris. I hung around and smoked with them to get an idea of what they feel and think about our world.
Global Baba has a strong cast with many respected actors coming together in the line up. How was the experience of working with such a fine ensemble?
It was a wonderful experience and I have worked with all of these actors earlier as well. Ravi is a good friend, Sanjay Mishra is a very good friend and so are Pankaj Tripathi and Akhilendra Mishra. All of these actors have a theatre background and I too come from theatre, so it was more like a family being together on a film. It was a happy environment where the actors were ready to help each other and everyone was working towards the betterment of the film. Not a single actor was focused on just his or her performance; we were all trying to achieve something bigger for the film.
Your characters (Ransa Singh in Gulaal, Bukka Reddy in Rakht Charitra and as Meghji in Ram Leela) though often are menacing yet most of them have had an undercurrent of dark humor. Is this something you bring to a role or is it a demand of the script?
This is not something deliberately attempted by me but is done by filmmakers who decide to choose me for these sort of characters, because they think that I can carry them of well. In the next couple of months you will see me in completely different avatars because people are now trying to discover me in different lights like comedy and even romance.
Are there any particular kind of scripts that you look for while choosing your films?
No, I just look for whatever good projects come my way. I have a look at them, take a call and decide to take them up.
Did you have any formal training as an actor? Do you still pursue theatre?
I’ve worked in theatre for over ten years. But I don’t get time for theatre anymore because I am tied up with films in the South as well. But in a couple of years, when I have earned my respect as an actor and when I have more freedom, I would like to do a play or two.
How has your journey been so far in the industry? Any memorable experiences that you would like to share with us?
There have been thousands of experiences so far. What I really feel is that an actor has to be patient and wait for his time because an actor and his talent remains the same, it is just the time that changes. When the right time comes and you get two or three right kind of projects, everything falls into place.