Starting out as an actor in the Indian film scenario, Adarsh Gourav may have landed in the world of films accidentally, but his earnest performances and eagerness to work is a conscious effort on the young performer’s part. At a time when newcomers are waiting to become the next romantic sensations, Adarsh is enjoying the unconventional characters he is getting to play and the artists he is working with. In an exclusive interview he talks to us about how he stumbled upon acting, his fascination with negative characters and his experience on Rukh; which releases next month.


Adarsh Gourav in Rukh

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to films?

I was born and brought up in Jamshedpur but moved to Mumbai in 2007 when my father was transferred here. I am a Hindustani Classical singer and was performing at a place in Mumbai, when somebody spotted me and asked if I’d like to audition for a role (in a film). My initial motivation to audition was that I would get to be on TV. So I went back, got some pictures clicked and began auditioning. 9 months later My Name Is Khan happened.

Did you know that acting is what you wanted to do?

Actually I didn’t. I didn’t get serious about it until I started shooting for a film called Banana. I spent considerable amount of time doing character work and workshops for my role and that’s when I realized that this is what I am interested in. Before that, I was doing advertisements, which were just a means to make some money on the side. But during college and during the process for Banana, I was sure that this is what I wanted to do. So, I told my parents and they were pretty supportive about it.

What kind of opportunities do you think are available for an actor in the current independent film scenario vs. mainstream scenario?

I am not sure about that. But I can tell you that it is very difficult to find interesting roles in my age category. The kind of roles that people constantly write about are the typical school/college boy that falls in love, and those are pretty much the kind of opportunities that are largely available. Very rarely do you come across interesting and crazy roles, like the ones I got to play in Rukh and Mom.  I think I was extremely lucky to get the opportunity to play these characters.


Adarsh in a still from Rukh

You played the bad guy in Mom, were you ever apprehensive about the response you’d get?

I have always fancied playing the bad guy. I think there is so much more to a bad guy. Nothing is entirely black or white; there are different shades to every character. When I got Mom, I was super excited.

Coming to Rukh, how did you bag this role? 

I was shooting for a short film with Anurag Kashyap (Clean Shaven), which Mukesh Chhabra (Casting Director) had cast me for. I was at his place, and one of his colleagues knew Atanu Mukherjee (Director). This was in 2015. The colleague asked me if I was interested in shooting a small scene that a friend (Atanu) was directing. And I said sure, primarily because it was good money for 3-4 hours of shoot. So I met Atanu the next day and I heard the story and really liked it.

We shot the scene and then I didn’t hear from them for a couple of months. Atanu finally called me after a few months and told me that at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, Manish Mundra really liked the story and wanted to produce the film. Even until that point, I thought that he was probably only calling to share the news with me but then he told me that they wanted me to be a part of the film. I was truly stunned. I hadn’t done much at that time and was overwhelmed by the opportunity.

Tell us about your character and how much could you identify with it? What were Atanu’s guidelines with respect to the character you were playing? 

The story takes place in the boy’s life in a duration of 2-3 years. He moves away from home and then his father’s death brings him back to the family and he starts to unravel certain truths. My research per se was to understand what it is like to live away from home and what that does to you; how it changes you. I grew up at home, so I didn’t know much. I spoke to a few of my friends who had been to boarding school about their experiences, and none of them ever said that hated living outside home. They in fact complained about how they found it difficult to deal with things at home, after they came back. They felt annoyed of the extra love that was showered upon them by their parents during their time at home. I tried to incorporate that distance one feels from home, in my character.

Also, some of the scenes from the film are inspired from real life events in Atanu and his friends’ lives. He narrated those instances to me and that sharing of information were his guidelines. We discovered and came to conclusions about the character together; there were no specific instructions as such.


With Manoj Bajpayee and Smita Tambe

How was it collaborating with Manoj Bajpayee? What were you learnings from the experience?

There’s a funny story from my childhood. My friends and I would meet at a spot everyday and decide to be a certain actor for the rest of the day. After I saw Satya; even though I barely understood it at that time, I went to my friends and said that we would be Manoj Bajpayee that day (Laughs).

Acting is essentially reacting to what someone else is saying. So the better the actor in front of you, the better your performance gets. Working with someone like Manoj Sir or Nawaz Sir (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), is like playing with the unknown. With a mediocre actor, you expect certain things and you know how you are to react to it. With these guys, you don’t know what to expect; you cannot prepare. Some sort of magic is created on screen when you work with them.

What were the challenges you faced as a performer on this film?

I don’t think there were any challenges as such. The character in Rukh is definitely a heavy character. You need to really try and understand his psyche and his journey in life. What became a little disturbing for me was that sense of losing someone you love. I had just lost my uncle at the time, and that thought was something that was prevalent in my mind. So that can be overbearing. But you have to realize that it’s your job and you move out of that frame of mind once you’re done with your work. 

After I finished shooting both these films (Rukh and Mom), I went to drama school and learnt a lot about the craft. Things became slightly clearer and more organized for me. Until you learn these techniques that are taught at an acting school, you feel raw and slightly clueless. That does not necessarily make you a bad performer, but I definitely feel more trained now.