Actor Naveen Kasturia talks to Pandolin about his latest film Sulemani Keeda, what made him say yes to this interesting story and the kind of preparation that went into playing ‘Dulal’.

Writers (Sulemani Keeda)- Naveen Kasturia

Actor, Naveen Kasturia

From an AD to an actor, what prompted the transition? Have you had any formal training in acting?

I used to direct and act in plays during college. I also did a Barry John course when I was in Delhi and few other workshops. I came to Bombay with the thought of becoming a director and then when I make my own film, would probably act in it as well.  I was an assistant on Love, Sex aur Dhoka (directed by Dibaker Banerjee) and Amit (Masurkar) was directing the making of the film and that is where we met for the first time. Post that we kept in touch and would hang out a lot. He told me about this idea that he had in mind of two writers hanging out in a bookstore and checking out girls. He wanted me to play one of them. I was really excited and said that I would love to do it. Amit always felt that there is an actor in me. That’s how it started but the film (Sulemani Keeda) didn’t happen for the longest time. Meanwhile I was also pitching a film, which I had written. I took it to Dibaker and he asked me to assist him again on Shanghai. And I ended up playing a small role in the film too. Then later Keeda happened. But becoming an actor was not a conscious decision on my part though I’ve done theatre and some commercials too.

Why did you agree to be a part of Sulemani Keeda? What is it that caught your attention?

Honestly the kind of subject that Amit was dealing with, is the kind of cinema I love. Infact everybody generally loves watching stupid people, losers on screen. And this was the story of two underdogs who are not sure of their lives and what they want to do. I really like this zone. He made me read the script which he was working on for the longest time and I liked it a lot. Also the role, the kind of humour the film was dealing with was amazing and I think a lot of people would have done the part. But Amit wanted to cast new/unknown faces in the film to give it a more realistic feel.

Did your experience as an AD help you as an actor in SK?

I can’t really say but subconsciously I am sure I have learnt lots of things when I was on set. I cannot really pinpoint them but I am sure it has helped in some way.

You play an introvert in the film. Any resemblances between your reel and real persona?

It is a version of myself. I would not say that I am very close to Dulal in real life but there are situations when I act like him. I have a feeling that a lot of people would see the film and say ‘Naveen is like this only in real life’. But that is the case with almost everything I do. I try to put a bit of myself in the character I play.

What is the kind of preparation that went into playing Dulal? Was there any physical transformation that you had to undergo?

There was no physical transformation as such. He just wanted me to grow my hair.  We rehearsed for the Ruma and Dulal sequences before the shoot because we were shooting on real locations and most of it was guerrilla style, so we didn’t have time for a lot of takes. We didn’t really rehearse much for the scenes with Tiwariji (Mayank) because Amit wanted it to be more spontaneous. My approach was to make it look real. As part of my homework, Amit had given me a few films to watch as he wanted me to know the zone he was getting into; he didn’t want me to ape any character but just understand them.

How would you describe Amit as a director? What were his expectations from you for this character?

Amit is a really cool director who gives you the freedom to do what you want. He doesn’t give you too much brief, he wants you to explore the character yourself. The atmosphere he created on sets helped us in performing better. If someone watches the film and says that the performances look good, look real, the credit should ideally go to him. We had the freedom to improvise; Amit improvises a lot on the sets.

There was this exercise that Amit did with me. He mailed me a bunch of questions and wanted me to learn the answers. These were things that were not in the film but were related to the background of the character so he wanted me to know about it. For instance, Dulal’s father has a sweet shop in Delhi. And few other things, which eventually come in the film. It becomes easier to improvise when you have this kind of information related to the character; it always helps in acting.

And your camaraderie with Mayank? Since you’ll are the lead characters, how important is it to have a mutual understanding for best output?

Mayank and I weren’t really friends before we started the film. Basically we worked on our chemistry during the rehearsals and that’s when we got to know each other. Even our off-camera chemistry is very similar to what it was on camera. I call him Tiwarji, because he wants me to call him Tiwariji as he’s around 3-4 years older to me (laughs). And he would bully me all the time. But we became good friends.

Any major apprehension that you had while taking up this film? If yes, how did you get over it?

Not really. I was very excited and wanted him to start the film asap. The only apprehension was related to my acting. There were moments that I knew I would be comfortable with, but there were certain emotions that I had not experienced before and I had to enact them in the film; I was probably just worried about those scenes.

What is the kind of response that you have been getting for your character in the film?

I have attended only two film festivals but have had people congratulate me and say great things about the film and my character. Reema Kagti actually hugged me after watching the film and said that ‘you were the most honest character and you did it well.’ I also met Mohan Agashe in New York. He said that you have started with a bang, ‘tumne pehli ball pe hi chakka mara hai.’ These things coming from people like Agashe means a lot to me.

One reason why people should watch Sulemani Keeda.

I would say it’s an honest film. It’s not the kind of film that comes out in India, not from the content perspective but the way it has been treated. When you watch the film, you will feel that it’s happening in real; the locations, dialogues, characters and it has a quirky humour too.