Jitin Gulati on playing the titular role in ‘Chhatrasal’, making the switch from banking to acting, sharing the screen with Sushant Singh Rajput in ‘MS Dhoni The Untold Story’, passion for dance and more.
Making a period film or show is often a challenge for a filmmaker. As an actor, what is the kind of preparation you had to undergo to play Maharaja Chhatrasal?
The starting point for any show is the writing. The show was conceived way back in 2018. They had started doing research back then. The community of which represents Maharaja Chhatrasal wanted this story to be told. Our writers Jainesh and Samrat came on board and worked diligently on the script. The writing is extremely authentic and represents the period which the show is based on very accurately. Because of the wonderful writing, understanding the milieu became very easy for me as an actor. We have shown Maharaja Chhatrasal’s life from his birth to the time when he gives himself up to divinity. I got to play him from age 24 to 82. I got the opportunity to live a life which I would not have been able to if I was not an actor. I went on this journey being handheld by my directors. It was a huge learning experience. There is a huge difference between the actor I was before the project and the actor I am after working on this project.
Ashutosh Rana plays Emperor Aurangzeb in the show. How was the experience of working with him?
When I first got to know that Ashutosh sir is doing it, the first image that came to my mind is that of the character he played in ‘Sangharsh’. He has a very powerful screen and that comes across in every character that he plays. It is my privilege to be working with somebody like him and be in the same frame as him. Since we were pitted against each other in the show, the director didn’t make me meet him before. I met him straight on the sets where he was shooting for a scene as Aurangzeb. Every time you work with people who have been in the business for so long, you get to learn a lot from them.
This is not the first time you have played a historical character. You had earlier portrayed King Tailap in the TV show ‘Prithvi Vallabh: Itihaas Bhi, Rahasya Bhi’. We have seen you several popular shows and films but was this show a little special for you as you got to play the central protagonist here?
It is definitely a special project but not because of the reason you stated. It is because I got this opportunity and responsibility to play somebody who is an inspiration and a hero for so many people. Before I started working on the show, I knew Maharaja Chhatrasal as Mastani’s father. I got to know him better when I was shortlisted for the show. I am playing somebody who is loved across the nation and who stood for a lot of things. His life is an example of how one should be as a human being. He is a prototype of what human life can achieve id hey have determination. I am fortunate that I got to play him.
You worked in the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in New Delhi for eight years. Your family is far removed from showbiz. How did you get interested in acting?
Even though I worked in a bank for 8-9 years, my focus was always on acting. I wanted to become an actor since I was a child. I was 4 or 5 years old when I watched Mr. India. I was jealous of the kids who were acting in the film and wondered why I was not there (laughs). I was always attracted to this industry. I always wanted to be in front of the camera. Becoming an actor was my only ambition in life. It took a while because I am not from this industry. My father was in the navy, my mother was a teacher, my sister works in the finance sector and I was employed in a bank. Till date, my family members have never stepped onto a film set. To make that jump was difficult. I didn’t tell anybody as I knew I would not get support in the initial phase. I have worked with the right set of people and that’s what has helped me move forward.
‘MS Dhoni The Untold Story’ was the first film that you worked on as actor. What are your memories of working on that film?
The reason I did ‘MS Dhoni The Untold Story’ was Mr. Neeraj Pandey. I wanted to stay away from playing the role of a friend but I didn’t say a no to a film of this nature. It was a biopic of one of the biggest icons of our times. Every character in the film had a significant contribution to the story. Being directed by Mr. Neeraj Pandey was a huge honour. I had done smaller projects before that and it was the first time I was on the sets of a big film. I learnt a lot from this experience and I shall always cherish the memories of working on the film. Sushant poured his heart into playing MS Dhoni and it was hugely inspiring to see the way he was preparing for the role.
A lesser-known fact about you is that you are a trained jazz dancer. Would you like to show your dancing skills on the screen someday?
Yes, I have trained in jazz and a few other dance forms for several years. These days, the importance of music and dance has kind of
‘Dongri To Dubai’, a series based on a book of the same name authored by Hussain Zaidi, is the next big project for you. Can you share something about it?
We resumed shooting for the show a while back. The next project you will see me in is ‘Inside Edge 3’. I have played an interesting part in the film ‘Sheer Qorma’ which stars Swara Bhasker, Divya Dutta and Shabana Azmi.