Ashutosh Rana: I don’t read the original work; it limits imagination

20 May,2024 07:00 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Letty Mariam Abraham

Choosing not to read the book that inspired the series, Ashutosh discusses how he built his retired journalist character in Murder in Mahim

Ashutosh Rana in Murder in Mahim

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Sitting in a comfortable room of a five-star, Ashutosh Rana, dressed in black kurta, jeans and a stole, looks ready to tackle any question coming his way. Having been in the industry for over two decades, there is no role the actor cannot do. Yet, you would find Rana doing odd roles that don't exactly do justice to his talent. Murder in Mahim then comes as a fitting addition to his resume. In the JioCinema series, based on Jerry Pinto's book of the same name, also starring Vijay Raaz, Rana displays his inner strength as an artiste as he portrays an ex-journalist in pursuit of a serial killer.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

How do you choose a role from the plethora of offers that come your way?
I don't look at the length of the role; I look at the character's importance in the subject. If the character wasn't there, would the story move forward? I had two releases, Ranneeti: Balakot & Beyond and Murder in Mahim, where I play two distinct characters. In Ranneeti, I play a suave and overpowering ISI Chief. In Murder in Mahim, my character Peter Fernandes [modelled on the author] is subdued, but he has tremendous [inner] strength. In one, you get to see power, in the other, strength. I have never played such a low-key character. When I play Peter, I notice the character's body language, the walk, the way he talks and looks. If a character forces me to break my mould and not carry my traits forward, it's a win-win.

Apart from the script, how much of the character's creation is your own doing?
Pick any character and you can never know all its traits. We can write a character's main traits, you have to explore the rest as an actor. Before knowing a character, you have to know yourself well first; you have to know how you'd react to a situation and then change the reaction to suit your character. This is an on-going process and I take it quite spiritually.

Tell us more about Peter Fernandes.
He was a journalist, but took early retirement because he was fed up with where journalism was heading. However, when his son, who attended a gay parade, is a person of interest in the killings of the LGBTQiA+ people, he goes back into investigative mode. He has to fight against powerful people to prove his son's innocence.

Did you read the book or meet the author?
Whenever a story is [adapted], I try not to watch [or read] the original unless I am done with my act. Else it will impact my performance, it will limit my imagination. After finishing the show, I read the book, and interestingly, the series is shot exactly how the book describes the story. I had not met the author but my mother-in-law is his good friend. Through her I learnt that Jerry is happy that I played the character.

You say that you look at your character's importance when choosing projects. But so often, talented actors are wasted in films, like you were in Fighter.
It's a pain an actor has to go through. Sometimes, you have to do it out of respect and affection for someone. I have done films with Siddharth [Anand] like War (2019) and Pathaan (2023). He didn't ask me, he simply said that I was his lucky mascot and wanted me in his film. He said that I have two key scenes, and I have to portray everything in those scenes, instead of adding four extra scenes to establish the father-daughter relationship between [Deepika Padukone's] character and me. Sometimes, it hurts, because while we may imagine a story in a certain way, it doesn't pan out accordingly. The only problem is when other filmmakers feel that since I have done a special appearance in Siddharth's film, I'll do it for everyone. It's a risk, but you have to find a way around it. The other problem of saying no is that you have to wait a long time to find your next role.

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