Anshuman Jha: It is satisfying that our film has been liked by the LGBTQIA community in New York
Film and theater actor. Anshuman Jha , which debuted in Bollywood with 'Love, Sex Aur Dhoka' (2010) by Dibakar Banerjee and then made original films such as 'Yeh Hai Bakrapur' (2014), 'Chauranga' (2014), 'Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain' (2017) and 'No parents in cashmere '(2019), he is delighted. His new film 'Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele' (HBATBA), directed by Harish Vyas, has been awarded the Best Film Award for the Public at the South Asian International Film Festival HBO at its world premiere at the New York City. Excerpts from a chat: You have made several impressive unusual movies, but a role like this must have a different challenge. Tell us your part and prepare for the movie?
'HBATBA' is India's first LGBTQIA movie after the historic ruling of the Supreme Court that decriminalizes homosexuality in 2018. The film revolves around the friendship between a gay man and a lesbian (played by Zareen Khan ) while embarking on a road trip. The role of Veer (my character) was offered to many actors before it finally occurred to me and I'm glad everyone rejected it (laughs!). I never hesitated to play a gay character, but everyone around me told me it was a bad idea. However, I took it as a challenge and did a lot of homework. I read a lot and met people from the community. HBATBA has been an immensely exhausting but satisfying experience. We receive great thanks from the LGBTQIA community in New York. And, the best part is that we were voted the winners. That makes me proud. In India, the community has been repressed for a long time and judged by society. So, my job as a straight man was to portray Veer in the most sensitive way possible, without interpreting it in a conventional way (as we have often seen in our cinema) and make a cartoon of the character.
You have played a variety of characters in your career so far. Which of them do you identify with more?
Over the years, I realized that I identify more with vulnerable characters: on stage and on screen. Fortunately, they have offered me unconventional roles. In my next 'Midnight Delhi', I play the real-life serial killer, Blademan. I think that even a criminal has a human side for him, and I find that representing that vulnerability is a challenge. I have never connected for roles and I have chosen the best of what they offered me.
How was it working with Zareen Khan in 'HBATBA'?
There is a good actor in her, and she must do more roles like this. Our equation and chemistry translated well on the screen.
Do you think movies like 'HBATBA' will change the way LGBTQIA characters are written for our movies?
I think it is already changing. Shakun Batra did it with Kapoor&Sons (2016), and our film will take it one step further. Harish Vyas has written the two characters (played by Zareen and me) as a celebration of the community. There was a popular line from a Karan Johar movie in which I grew up: Pyaar Dosti Hai. This movie is about discovering that love in friendship.
He will also become a director in 2020 ...
Bikas Mishra, with whom I worked on 'Chauranga', wrote the script for 'Lord Curzon Ki Haveli', and we both thought it would be better if I directed him, since I am very close to him. It is a black comedy and presents Tannishtha Chatterjee and Arjun Mathur. There are still two more tracks to block. It will be launched in the United Kingdom in early 2020.
Besides working at your address, what else is in the cards in 2020?
On the personal front, 2019 has been a difficult year. My mother is fighting cancer and I have moved her from Delhi to Mumbai. Hopefully, she will be better soon. For now, I want to appreciate every moment with her. Professionally, it is inspiring to see the kind of work that actors like Ranveer Singh, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal and Vikrant Massey do. I also admire the work of Anurag Kashyap and Zoya Akhtar, and I hope to have the opportunity to work with them in 2020.