Vikrant Massey has worked in a coffee shop, been assistant choreographer to Shiamak Davar, and worked as an actor in television soaps. “I don’t want to romanticise my struggle, but it has defined my personality,” says Massey. Born to a homemaker mother, and a father who worked in a construction firm, he says: “We were a typical lower middle-class family where the father’s salary runs out on the 10th of every month. I always wanted to take the onus of chipping in to support my education.” Massey learnt from his failures, going from one superlative performance to another, from Lootera (2013) to A Death in the Gunj (2016). But it is only now, after playing a UPSC aspirant from Chambal in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s moving 12th Fail that he has got widespread acclaim. For Massey, the validation feels good. Massey’s work is intricate, for instance, having his face darkened by the Chambal sun for a week before the shoot. “My skin was peeling off, I developed an infection,” he says. “I went back to Vinod Sir and he said this is exactly what I want, do it again,” he says. Massey is a stickler for prep and usually does at least a two-week workshop with the cast before any film. In 12th Fail, he had the luxury of associating with the writing team a year-and-a-half before the actual shoot, filling his three notebooks with his notes—one for the set, another for home, and one for notes on the fly. Massey has often been asked why he is still not a star as the word is defined in the film industry, and his answer is the same: if it is as the template defines it, where the peripherals around the person are so time-consuming that he loses sight of his real goal, then he doesn’t want it. “But if to be a star is to do good work that resonates with people, where they feel they can see a piece of themselves in my characters with my quality work, then yes, that is stardom,” he says. Chase excellence, success follows; the goal in 3 Idiots (2009) is what he believes in.
#Me Too in Malayalam
The conversation around misogyny in the Malalyalam film industry is not what prompted Aattam, director Anand Ekarshi’s debut feature. But it was real-life characters, nine of them, who prompted him to write and direct it. The actors who play members of a theatre group in the film are actual members of Ekarshi’s former group, Lokadharmi. Based in Kochi, Ekarshi was part of it till 2013, when he won a short film competition and got to work as an assistant with Imtiaz Ali on Tamasha (2015). Then, by his own admission, he travelled around the country, writing, living with friends, thinking, making music videos, until finally he started writing for his former colleagues in Lokadharmi on the advice of another former member, actor Vinay Forrt. They needed a conflict and an actor to play the woman who causes it. It was through an audition of 100 women that they finally found Zarin Shihab, who played the beleaguered nurse in Season One of The Family Man. With the well-known Kalabhavan Shajohn as the antagonist (audiences will remember him as the police officer in Drishyam), the cast was complete and the movie was shot in six months after being greenlit by producer Ajith Joy. Joy had been convinced by Ekarshi’s 10-minute “pilot”. On the issue of the accusation of sexual assault that has divided the Malayalam film industry, Ekarshi says he lets his work speak for him. And it is speaking volumes, having gone to several festivals, among them Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, and soon to the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa.
Scene and Heard
If you’re wondering who played the strapping young Oraka in Netflix’s Kaala Paani, it’s Desire Junior Binde, an actor of African descent from England. As Enmae, he displays plenty of backbone as he tries to protect the Orakans from being overrun on their own land. The other actors who play the Orakans were from Gujarat, from among the Siddis, who are of African descent—were last featured in Dibakar Das Roy’s Dilli Dark. This film revived the career of Nigerian actor Samuel Robinson. The increasing pressure on filmmakers to deliver diversity may make space for actors of other races and regions and their appropriate onscreen representation. The second season of Kaala Paani may give more footage to Binde. Earlier this year, Binde was also in Waco Untold: The British Stories, a recreation of the 51-day siege of the David Koresh-led cult in Texas in 1993.