Ten years back, Satyajeet Dubey made his acting debut in ‘Always Kabhi Kabhi’, a film produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment. The film didn’t do very well but those who saw it acknowledged the fact that the young performer delivered a very fine performance. In the last ten years, the actor saw many highs and lows in his career and is now waiting to see how the audience reacts to his performance in the Amazon Prime Video original series ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11’.
Dr. Ahaan Mirza comes as somebody who has his intentions in the right place and is vulnerable at the same time.
Yes, there is a reason why he is like that. A lot of people have noticed that he stutters a lot. He comes from a very conservative, lower middle class Muslim family from Mumbai. There is a strong reason as to why he wants to become a doctor. He suffers from this condition called impostor syndrome. People who suffer from this condition never feel confident enough no matter how accomplished they are. He is an underdog who is thrown into a situation where he acts in a certain way that becomes heroic. More than a doctor, it was important for me to flesh him out as a person. By far, it’s the most internalized character that I have played. He doesn’t speak much but conveys a lot through his expressions.
Is it based on a real-life character?
It’s part-fiction and part-reality. The characters are somewhat fictitious. The team, while doing their research, must have picked up things from various real-life characters and used them to flesh out the characters for the show. These doctors work in a government hospital and for them, every day is a struggle. Though there have been shows and films made on this incident in the past, it is the first medical series that shows the struggle that doctors went through during this time.
You arrived in Mumbai from Bilaspur in the year 2007. Were you in the city when this incident happened?
Yes! I used to live in a chawl in Andheri East with 3-4 other people. It was my second year of college. I was taking a walk down the streets after having my food. A police vehicle passed by and through a loudspeaker, the police was urging people to stay inside their homes. Soon, we discovered that Mumbai was under attack. In my neighbourhood, there was a family. One of the members of the family used to work in an office in South Mumbai. Two days later, his dead body had arrived. It was not just an attack on Mumbai or India but a global crisis that showed the ugly side of extremism. For several months after the incident, one felt scared while travelling in a bus or a train.
It has been ten years since your debut film ‘Always Kabhi Kabhi’ released. What are your memories of working on that film?
That film was more like a picnic for me. I was not the person I am today. Today, I am extremely confident of my craft. At that point of time, I was still educating myself. If your film doesn’t do well, you don’t get your due recognition. Things always boil down to the numbers your film is making. I have sustained for long without fading away. With a lot of humility and love for my craft, I can say that I am really good at what I do. When I met Nikkhil (Advani) sir for ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11’, the first thing he asked me was, “itne time tu kahaan tha?” (“where were you all this while?”). I hope now I do a lot more work and leave a bigger impression.
In these ten years, there were some interesting projects like the TV show ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’ and the film ‘Kerry On Kutton’ but we didn’t see you very frequently on the screen. Was it difficult to go through this phase?
It was very frustrating and heart-breaking to go through that struggle. When you are constantly trying to do good work and you don’t get the kind of work you are looking for, it can get very upsetting. I think, our industry is finally moving from dictatorship to democracy because of several factors including the rise of the digital platforms. I am glad ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11’ turned out to be my OTT debut. I was waiting for a good opportunity in this space for a while. I signed my first film when I was 18. It came out when I was 20. All these years, it I felt I was doing a paid internship. I knew that if I turned cynical or biter, it is going to drown me. You can’t control what’s happening outside. The only thing you can look after is what’s happening within. Now, I am ready to take the industry by storm if they give me the right opportunities.
You grew up in Bilaspur in Chattisgarh. Which was that one moment when you realized you wanted to become an actor?
I wanted to become an actor since the time I was a child. There is this famous quote which says, “man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”. I was born with this whole artistic inclination of being on the stage. I used to do theatre at a very local level. I felt if I am able to successfully entertain a large group of people in my hometown, I can perhaps go to Mumbai and try and entertain more people. I came to Mumbai to do college but it was more of an excuse to pursue my career as an actor here.
Your journey from Bilaspur to Mumbai must have inspired many to follow their dreams. Which is that one piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring actor?
There is so much that I could say but if I try to sum it up in one line, then I would tell them that be so damn good that they can’t ignore you. Despite doing so much work, the industry didn’t take notice of me. It is a new big beginning for me for me as an actor. I give my heart and soul to everything that I attempt. I hope I get my due now.
I am working on another series for Amazon Prime Video but I am not at the liberty to reveal anything about it at the moment. There is a film which I will be starting soon. The film is going to be physically and emotionally taxing and I am keenly looking forward to start shooting for it.