He maybe new to the celluloid but not to the idea of being an actor. With not much known to filmmaking, Ashish Bisht started his career in modeling and advertorials. Cinema inspired him when he became its adamant viewer. Ashish played himself when it came to the aspiring actor part in the film ‘Shab‘ by Onir which took a dark turn when he becomes the toy-boy of a fashion patron (played by Raveena Tandon). Essaying such a shade with his first film itself, the actor proves to be different from the rest.
Cinespeaks chatted with Ashish on ‘Shab’, casting couch in Bollywood and his future in the industry. Here’s what this rising talent had to say:
Q. How does it feel to finally be recognized as an actor by the audiences and filmmakers?
Ashish Bisht: I believe I am still a struggling actor. I’m still an outsider. After my debut film, I’m being expected to do more so people are definitely calling me and fixing appointments for auditions. In terms of struggling though now what happens is if a director asks me for my audition I forward them my show-reel from Onir’s ‘Shab’. They now ask me for time, as to what time I’m comfortable coming for an audition which wasn’t the case earlier. I feel there’s a growing respect for me in the industry and especially among friends and relatives. I was in Delhi recently for a wedding everyone greeted me very warmly. You get certain kind of attention after having done a film. Unfortunately, for bigger film makers star kids hold more value or an actor from non-filmy background who may have done 4-5 good films. There are also times in auditions when an actor comes with a recommendation from a senior actor and there are chances he gets chosen over the other. I’m surely doing better than my modeling days.
Q. You’ve chosen to make your debut in a very unconventional way by playing a toy boy in Onir’s ‘Shab’? Were you hesitant about playing the part? If yes, what convinced you to take it up?
Ashish Bisht: When I was new to Mumbai, I wasn’t much aware about films. I started watching more films and was instantly inclined to Onir’s cinema. In his films as an outsider too you feel you have scope of work. The audiences also sometimes have a mindset to choosing to watch a film where a star kid is being launched over an actor whom they may not have heard of, unless the film is impactful. Such is the case with Onir’s films. I knew I would garner appreciation by featuring in his film and that I’ll be taken seriously as an actor.
We were three friends who came to Mumbai to make it big. One of them has moved back because of some personal issues. From Delhi I got a message from him saying he cried after watching ‘Shab’ because the ending of the film was very relatable to his life. Lot of other people who lead such a life got in touch too.
Q. A successful AD film actor to now a full fledged movie actor, how different or similar have both the experiences been?
Ashish Bisht: There is not much to prepare for shooting for an AD, there is no particular character that you’ll be playing. For a film, you have to take your character along with you to the set. You have to completely get into the zone of the character which may take months to not let go of the grip. While gymming, while eating, while walking and being my character Afzar from Onir’s Shab in real life. You live the life of your character even offscreen after shoots and even before commencing your shoot. For ads, there are mostly smiling shots and one or two dialogues which finishes instantly.
Q. How does it feel to be traveling to various film festivals for your film? What is that something you’ve learnt from these visits?
Ashish Bisht: The experience that I have had there is unmatched. When I used to attend film festivals earlier it was as a viewer but this time around I was representing my film not nationally but internationally too. The Indian audience is yet to be familiarized with the subject of ‘Shab’ but internationally people are more open minded about these subjects. It was appreciated a lot. Boys came upto me complimenting my role. I was treated very well. I have received an award by Asian Vision. International awards aren’t as commercial as those of Bollywood. They’re more real and not meant for the purpose of showbiz. I feel I didn’t get an award out her for being an outsider and not making a debut with a ‘so-called’ conventional film. I got a ‘Best Debut’ award in Dubai as well. Filmfare didn’t even have a category this year because no commercial film had a newcomer, that wasn’t fair to actors like me who actually stepped into Bollywood, atleast have a nomination. If it was for a star kid, an entire category would have been made.
Q. You’re already shooting for another Onir directorial. Is it safe to say you make an actor-director pair like Sanjay Leela Bhansali-Ranveer Singh or Anurag Basu-Ranbir Kapoor? How has your experience been working with Onir as his actor?
Ashish Bisht: I am a free actor. I will work with any director who offers me a role first. I’m fortunate that I’m going to shoot for another film of Onir’s in March. There is definitely an understanding that we have developed. I can scan what he requires of me and I deliver accordingly. When you’re new to the director and set, it does take time for understandings to match but as you work you know your director desires to shoot a particular scene in a manner and you can sense that. I’ve shot for another film ‘Veda’ with Onir of which we’ve only shot half in UK which couldn’t be completed. When he used to explain me the scene, I used to give him exactly what he required. One day, we were shooting for an unrehearsed scene, I had suggested him a way to approach it and he was convinced of my idea in a moment. It is obviously more comfortable shooting with someone who gets you. There’s an assurity whatever happens will turn out good.
Q. You’ve so openly talked about casting couch. What do you feel casting directors and actors can change within themselves to stop this culture?
Ashish Bisht: There is lot of competition in every field. There a people who do hardwork to move forward and then there are some who may not be as talented. Sometimes they tend to take a shortcut and may offer to get more comfortable with the casting person in more than an appropriate way. Similarly, I recall an incident where two friends approaching the same music video director for featuring in a music video went to meet him. The music director tried flirting with one of them which the girl didn’t react to whereas the other found this as an opportunity and got featured in the song. The problem is on both ends. I also don’t understand the idea of some actors getting really raunchy photoshoots done by flaunting their bodies and spicing things up, where is your acting coming through in your pictures? You’re just trying to portray yourself as ‘dishy’. There are also some wealthy people who pose as producers and these actors don’t do a background check, and tend to compromise to only realize how foolish they have been. There are shocking statements that you hear from aspiring actors who even go to the extend of saying if the director is big, we don’t mind sleeping with them. You have to be patient and hard working, some people tend to give up without cracking anything and choose to take this path, which is not right.
Q. How was it sharing screen space with an actress like Raveena Tandon? Were you intimidated?
Ashish Bisht: I met her for the first time on the set. Onir is very smart. He just pitted me with her for a scene where I was as nervous on screen as I was off screen and he wanted to capture exactly that emotion for the screenplay. I had pre-conceived notions that being a big star Raveena Tandon would be egoistic but turned out she was extremely chilled out and friendly. She gave me a lot of tips on acting. She makes you feel comfortable.
I’ve done an ad film with a superstar actress before who had a lot of attitude and was consumed within herself. She didn’t even respond properly to a ‘Hi’ where as a fresher I was just trying to get comfortable with her as my co-actor. I had become nervous and couldn’t give my best. But Raveena Ma’am is so opposite of this, that I was able to act with no inhibitions. I think big actors should feel responsible to make new actors feel comfortable around them because they come on set with a lot of pressure.
Q. Any recent film that you saw and wished you were a part of it? Or any character?
Ashish Bisht: I was inspired by watching Ranbir Kapoor in ‘Barfi’. I also admire Guru Dutt and fell in love with ‘Pyaasa’. I also watched Onir’s ‘Kuch Bheege Alfaaz’ and wished to be a part of it, it’s a beautiful film.
Q. Is there a dream role that you’d like to do?
Ashish Bisht: I want to do an out an out rom-com to reach a wider audience. Issue oriented films, sadly, do not pull in a lot of people. I would want to do a role in an Anurag Kashyap film or do a film like ‘Rockstar’. Onir’s films bring a collaboration of experienced actors and actors who are more raw, I like doing his films too. There’s emotion, drama and a message towards the end.
Q. Give us a list of filmmakers and actors you would like to work with.
Ashish Bisht: Imtiaz Ali, Rajat Kapoor and Aanand L. Rai.
– Yaser Khan