More than the audience, Sunil Grover is excited to see himself in a different avatar in Tandav. The actor, who rose to fame with his comic avatars on television, is set to play a cunning, ruthless character Gurpal in the Amazon Prime Video original series. Grover will be seen playing Samar’s (Saif Ali Khan) most trusted man, who has a dangerous and secret past.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Sunil Grover spoke about breaking out from his funny image, working on multi-starrers, collaborating with director Ali Abbas Zafar and more.
Excerpts from the conversation…
Tell us something about Tandav and your role.
Firstly, I feel really happy and lucky for being part of this beautiful show. It’s a fictionalised work based on the world of politics. Gurpal Chauhan is a very different role from what you’ll have seen me doing but I really can’t tell much about it.
As for Tandav, everyone is running to achieve power and the chair, and the show gives an insight into what exactly happens behind the curtains. It’s a serious drama but when you watch it, you realise it’s very humane, and that’s when you will relate and engage with it.
Breaking out from your comedy image or working with such a stellar star cast – what was more exciting for you?
Honestly, I never though something like this would come my way. Ali called me and I was so excited, given it was a new world for me. What made me more eager was the confidence he had that I could do something like this. I had this list of things I didn’t want to do anymore for a long time. And given Gurpal is a very different part from what I have done, or been offered, Tandav was exciting for me. The cast of course is an amazing one, and I had a wonderful time working with them. It’s always an enriching experience to be with such great actors. All I can hope now is that the chemistry can translate well on screen, and the audience enjoys watching it.
When you work with such a big cast, does the fear of being lost in the crowd ever creep in your mind?
There is no fear at all. Rather than thinking of getting lost I take it as a big opportunity to be part of something so wonderful. That’s an amazing thing for any actor. Also, one should have trust in the script and the makers. Gurpal is a very defined character, who stands by his own. Since it was so fresh even for me, I am sure the audience will also take notice.
You seem to have most scenes with Saif Ali Khan. How was the experience working with him?
Yes, Gurpal belongs to the same party as Samar Pratap Singh (Khan’s character). It was amazing to work with him. He is such a dedicated, passionate actor. Saif has done so much work but has the energy of a newcomer. He knows the script and is always well prepared. Also, I remember, even when others would shoot for their close ups, he would stay around to give cues. That was very sweet and kind of him. I never felt he was such a profound actor, who has seen the world. His fresh approach towards his work was a learning for me.
It’s your second collaboration with Ali Abbaz Zafar. How was it working with him again?
He is as sarcastic as he was, there’s no change in that (laughs) It’s always lovely working with him given he is so approachable and easy going. You can always have a healthy discussion with him. He is calm yet has so much fun with his team. Also, Ali knows his script so well and designs them before he comes on set. Hence, it becomes very easy for actors to perform on his vision. Having worked with him earlier, I also share a strong trust factor with him, and I know whatever he will do will be good for me, and the project.
What side of the student politics will we see in Tandav. And what’s your take on it?
The show will present the power game, and how student and politics at centre overlap in an interesting way. As for me, I never understood politics then, and neither do I now. I have always tried to impersonate them and their speeches, and I still do the same. However, I feel the seed of politics gets ingrained at this level, and we can all hope that the power reaches the right hand. That’s how they get trained to become future world leaders.
The teaser had a dialogue- Iss desh ko ek hi chiz chalati hai, rajneeti. Aur jo pradhan mantri hai wahi iss desh ka raja hai. Will there be any reference to the current government?
Not at all, Tandav is set completely in a fiction world. There is no reference to a political party. The line that you are mentioning has been said through a character’s point of view. The show or me, personally do not believe in the same.
What does Tandav mean to you?
It is a dance form, which is quite aggressive. And all of us use it as a metaphor to describe something that creates havoc. In the show, you will see how the hunger game to achieve power leads to the dance of agony.
If you were given a chance to play a political figure, who would you chose?
If you ask me to copy someone’s mannerism, I can do it but I would like to play a fictional character. Just that the story and character should be exciting for me. However, if I get to play the lead in a biopic of our historical heroes and leaders, I would love to do that.
2020 saw some amazing content being helmed on the web space. As an actor, how much does the medium excite you?
Its a new medium which is growing very rapidly. Also, there’s a lot of freedom, creatively and time wise. A maker can tell a longer story, and thus it gives better scope to actors to play their characters. However, it also comes with a big challenge of retaining the audience’s attention for such a long time. It is a challenge mostly for writers, and then of course the actors and director. Over the last couple of years, we did get to see some mind blowing content and performances, and I hope you all like Tandav too.
Recently the digital medium has been put under the I&B Ministry. Do you think that can curb its freedom?
We will have to abide with whatever new regulations that come our way. Personally, I feel that somethings should be left to the audience’s discretion. They know what they want to see and should have the option to chose. There are some content, that of course, can cause a dent in our society but other than that, I think stories which can bring about a change should be promoted well. Stories that show the mirror to society, and can help gain some progressive thoughts. I think there were a lot of topics which were a taboo but through web series, it became a dinner table discussion. And that’s what we need right now.
Produced by Himanshu Kishan Mehra and Ali Abbas Zafar, the nine-episode political drama also features Dimple Kapadia, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Dino Morea, Kumud Mishra, Gauahar Khan, Amyra Dastur, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, Kritika Kamra, Sarah Jane Dias, Sandhya Mridul, Annup Sonii, Hitten Ttejwani, Paresh Pahuja and Shonali Nagrani among others. It will start streaming on Amazon Prime Video from January 15.