One cannot leave the theatres watching Mardaani 2, without appreciating the young talent, Vishal Jethwa, who played the habitual criminal, Sunny. The young actor makes his debut as Sunny in Mardaani 2 and it is suffice to say he leaves every cell in your body withering in angst with his sinister-ness. In an exclusive chat with Vishal, we tried to understand his psyche while playing such a dark role, did it impact him personally, how much time did it take to return to his real self and working with Rani Mukerji.
Many of the women who watched Mardaani have come out with sheer hatred for Sunny. Reaching that dark side to you within and bringing it out this viciously onscreen... how difficult was it?
I feel every person has a 'secret' dark side to them which perhaps they themselves are not aware of. I had to search that part in me for this role. I did a lot of workshops for it, we tried a lot of methods. I tried to relate myself to an animal, a python. I watched a couple of videos of the animal, on how he preys his victim and breaks them enough to feed on it. I had to reach that darkness within me, which was very difficult. I used to keep an empty chair in front of me and remove all my aggression and anger on it. Once in the process, I had gone extremely aggressive and my director told me to relax. After 4-5 seconds, I came out of the character and started sobbing (sigh). That day I thought I had gone a step ahead in becoming the character.
Any special prep you did to get into the skin of the character?
I had started to wear the clothes of the character for a good 4 months, I had gone to Meerut to learn the language and get into the groove so that it all looks natural onscreen. I observed their attitude, their body language and tried to bring in nuances from there. From my audition to the release, I had tried to keep the character of Sunny alive in me because you never know when you are supposed to get into the character, maybe for a patchwork or dubbing. (smiles)
It must be really disturbing to be someone and keep that darkness in you alive...?
It is very disturbing. When I was doing the workshop and used to leave the workshop, my head used to start paining, literally. The character's psyche was such that it used to take a toll on me. I was supposed to watch a lot of criminal news and their videos and as a part of workshop enjoy it but I just couldn't. I could not sleep at night.
How difficult was it to find Vishal back?
You cannot change your soul. It was very important for me to not lose myself in this. It took a lot of time to return to Vishal from Sunny. I remember seeing myself in the mirror and not recognising myself. I used to feel, this is not me. I used to watch my old albums and photos and miss the real Vishal Jethwa. So, when the shoot got wrapped and my hair started growing, I saw glimpses of Vishal return to myself. Then later, when I wore my own clothes after 4-5 months, I felt uncomfortable for the first few days and I felt like I have lost something within me as Vishal. I used to meditate and meet people. It took me a bit of time to be back as Vishal. I am still letting it go (laughs).
The interesting part of direction was your piece to the camera within the scene. That switch was impeccable. How did you work on it?
I used to talk to the camera initially but it did not look so convincing. Then my director told me to imagine a camera as a girl who I have to impress. I used to keep that in mind when I was doing those scenes, where I was talking and being my real self. It used to feel like I am talking to the audience directly and establish a direct connection.
While everything about the character seems difficult, was there anything, in particular, you found difficult to do?
All the action scenes with Rani Ma'am was difficult for me. Everyone says that once on set, you should forget that it is Rani ma'am in front of you but Shivani Shivaji Roy but during an action scene, I couldn't forget it is Rani Ma'am. Because if I punched Shivani and god forbid, I hit her for real, the next hand on me won't be Shivani's but Rani Ma'am (laughs out loud). I was very scared of that. Also, while doing the first scene, I was a bit nervous because I had auditioned for that scene only. I had done it so many times, I feared it will look mechanical. Even the underwater scenes, both Rani Ma'am and I learned swimming for the shot.
Do you recollect your first meeting with Rani Mukerji?
It was very nice. I was scared initially. I met her during pooja, her gesture was so good that it gave me confidence. Ma'am got up when she saw me, and greeted me and that was the moment I was relaxed. She told me 'we will be friends on sets'. My parents were also smitten and greeted her with respect. I remember, we used to discuss a lot of scenes together. Rani Ma'am has so much experience, she has more experience than my age, I am not even in a place to say anything about her.
A scene which perhaps left you gutted and you took the time to come out of it?
I think during the climax scene because those scenes are heavy and forceful and there is so much violence in it, I am shouting, belting so, it was heavy.
What has been the best compliment you have received?
When my family saw it for the first time, a lot of people praised me. I did not expect this kind of response. One of Rani Ma'am friend told my mother, 'Thank you for taking birth' because of which we get to see this actor. That, for me, is the most beautiful compliment ever.
How did your friends in the industry react to the movie?
Everyone started crying in pride when they saw the film. I was so overwhelmed. When my friends from the industry reacted positively to it, I felt so nice, because I know that they know the craft, It was very valuable.