By Utpal Borpujari
He has done only a handful of films, but has almost invariably wowed audiences with his convincing performances. But ask Prashant Narayanan, and he will tell you that acting is just one the things that he does. Quite true, actually. This former Delhi state badminton champion dabbles in what one may describe as too many creative pursuits. From writing short stories to composing music to singing to doing art direction to costume designing, he is into a lot of stuff besides acting. And even as his Mr Singh Mrs Mehta, a celluloid tale on marital infidelity has hit the screens, Narayanan avers that he only does films that are not exactly run of the mill. Going by the choice of films till now since he debuted in Hanslal Mehta’s Chhal (2002), his claim sounds true.
Even his upcoming films – Bombil and Beatrice directed by Kaizad Gustad, Peter Gaya Kaam Se directed by John Owen, Rang Rasiya directed by Ketan Mehta and Badmaash Banna by Indraneel Goswami – come with interesting concepts. Just like his Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II, German Oscar-winning director Florian Gallenberger’s Bengali film Shadows of Time or Aijaz Khan’s yet to be released The White Elephant have been. Narayanan is quite upfront about why he does so few films despite being a sought after actor ever since he made heads turn with his hitman act in Chhal which had followed appearances in TV serials like Parivartan, Farz, Gatha, Kabhi Kabhie, Jaane Kaha Jigar Gaya Ji and Shagun.
“I have never been somebody who pushes his work. I work then let it take its own route to destiny,” he says. “I am looking forward to Peter Gaya Kaam Se, as I am playing a difficult part of a reclusive drug lord. It is part with not many scenes, but the character is always talked about as the story progresses, and in that sense, I had to live up to its built-up image,” says the actor who was costume director for Chandra Prakash Dwivedi’s epic TV series Chanakya. “The character is also interesting because it is shown to be really powerful, and there are many ways to show one as powerful – are you powerful because you have money, or because you have the power with different people, or because you have contacts, or because you have been around in a place for a long time?” he says.
That he is not yet a mass-recognised name is, Narayanan feels, is because most of his films have not been publicised well, be it Chhal, Via Darjeeling or Summer 2007. “I am really not fighting my destiny, instead am trying to make it my friend and make the best of what I get,” says the actor.
Narayanan is excited about Badmaash Banna which he has co-written with Indraneel and will also star Naseeruddin Shah. Apart from acting in and writing the film, he has also sung the title track with Kailash Kher. “Indraneel, nephew of former football star Chuni Goswami, is a brilliant chap. I plan to do at least ten, small budget interesting movies with him, which will tell new kind of stories. I am not trying to prove a point to anybody but doing things the way I want to and enjoying it while doing so,” says the actor who has around six screenplays ready. “I am just looking for one guy who will say ‘Prashant, do what you like, I am with you’. I am sure there will be one guy like that,” he says. One of the films that he has written and will be directed by Adip Singh is Cinema Ki Aankh, for which he will also compose the music.
Narayanan, who earlier assisted art director Samir Chanda in films like Govind Nihalani’s Rukmavati Ki Haveli, Subhash Ghai’s Saudagar and Shyam Benegal’s Sardari Begum, is also on the verge of completing his short story book, called Till Until Then, even as he is preparing to the first album of his band Pacific Coast Orchestra – which he prefers to call PCO – titled Kalmsutra.
Acting, meanwhile, for him, remains a “very, very pure” thing. “It’s not just for the glamour, the money or all the fringe benefits that I act. I always feel that we should help all help each other in the film industry. But I see 90 per cent of people acting off cameras. In front of the camera, they cannot even do two per cent of what they do in real life,” he says without mincing words about the ways of Bollywood. Just as an example of his commitment, during the shoot of The White Elephant in Kerala, he suffered a fracture and a ligament tear, but he continued shooting because it was a small budget. “I had to use all my will power,” he recalls about the film selected to last year’s Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India in Goa.
But then, that does not mean Narayanan is averse to doing completely commercial films. He is, in fact, doing one, tentatively titled Rekha Ki Chakkar Mein. The only condition is – such a film will have to have a good script and a good director. “I wanted to be in an extremely chaotic situation once, and after the first day’s shoot, I realised this was the one. It’s a comedy and has a very interesting script,” he says. In Mr Singh Mrs Mehta, Narayanan plays a man who finds that his wife is having an extra-marital affair, and then bonds with a woman whose husband is having one too. “It is the story of a man and woman who find that their spouses are having an affair and drawn together by shame and anger, find comfort in their growing friendship even as they resolve not to be like their unfaithful mates. Mine is a pretty traumatic character full of complexes,” says Narayanan who had started off with amateur theatre in Delhi before shifting to Mumbai in the early 1990s.