In the Hindi film industry, Anant Vidhaat got the kind of break that many aspiring actors dream of. Yash Raj Films, the premier film production house in Mumbai, launched the actor in cinema. After making his debut with YRF’s ‘Gunday’, the actor went on to do three more films with the banner, ‘Sultan’, ‘Mardaani’ and ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’. The actor will soon be seen playing a pivotal role in ‘Tiger 3’, which has also been produced by the company.
In the last couple of years, Anant, who hails from Delhi and has trained extensively in theatre, has been a part of several prominent films and web shows. Recently, he garnered a lot of acclaim for his performance in the Netflix original series ‘Maai’ and the film ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ which had a theatrical release.
In this exclusive interview, the actor talks about his eventful journey in the entertainment industry, the importance of training for an actor, the experience of working with the likes of Yash Raj Films and Salman Khan, upcoming projects and more.
While ‘Maai’ released on a streaming platform, ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ had a theatrical release. How does it feel to be appreciated for your work in two different mediums?
It always feels good when two of your projects release back-to-back. I got the opportunity to play two completely different characters on two different platforms. I was happy to present myself as an actor on the big screen and on the OTT space almost at the same time.
In an interview, you had stated that you don’t mind playing the ‘hero’s friend’ in a film as long as your role has been defined well and you have something to offer as an actor. In the last couple of years, you have played supporting parts in films and shows like ‘Sultan’, ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ and ‘Maai’. One has also seen you play the lead in the web series ‘Pati Patni Aur Who’ and film ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’. There was a time the industry was known for stereotyping actors. Do you think that has changed now?
Change has happened for sure. However, there are still many challenges that actors have to overcome. If you don’t come from a film family, you will have to be patient and wait for the right opportunities to come your way. Good work doesn’t come easily. What gives one hope is the fact that content is evolving and the audience is becoming more accepting towards different types of stories. Once a character becomes popular, people tend to offer you similar roles. If you take up such work, you get stereotyped. When you decide to say no to such a project and wait, people in the industry realize that you don’t wish to repeat yourself as an actor. It is very important for an actor to be versatile. Every actor wishes to play the main lead at some point. I am glad I am getting such opportunities now.
You went to the Grotowski Institute, Poland to study theatre. Did that play an instrumental role in your growth as an actor?
Yes, my professional training in theatre happened in Europe. However, I was involved in theatre from a very early age. The National School of Drama conducts workshops for children under the age of sixteen under a special programme. I had participated in that workshop during my school days. I was also a part of the ‘Saturday Club’ in my school which used to organize plays. During the weekends, we used to spend hours rehearsing for plays. I had my first experience as a professional actor in January 2000 when I was still in school. I acted in a play that was staged in a reputed auditorium in Delhi. A large number of people had come to see the play. Being a part of that play remains one of my most special memories. I started participating in inter-school competitions actively. When I went to study at Kirori Mal College in Delhi University, I joined the Dramatics Society and that further helped me grow as an actor. To get some professional training, I went to Europe. The teachers there suggested that I should learn Kalaripayattu in Kerala. My thirst for knowledge led me to Europe, America and the villages of Kerala. All these experiences played an important role in shaping me as an actor. I moved to Mumbai in 2011 and started looking for work. In 2012, I bagged my first film ‘Gunday’.
You also came to Mumbai in the mid-2000s for some time to assist Satish Kaushik.
Yes, I worked with Satish Kaushik sir as an assistant for two years. I assisted him on films like ‘Vaada’, ‘Shaadi Se Pehle’ and ‘Milenge Milenge’. I had just finished college and was preparing to go to Europe then. I learnt a lot by assisting him. I had worked extensively in theatre but working with Satish sir helped me get an understanding of the world of cinema. When you work as an assistant director, you get to know about each and every aspect of filmmaking.
You have spent several years training yourself as an actor. While some of the actors working in the entertainment industry have taken formal training, there are many who are self-taught. How important, do you think, is training for an actor?
Training is the most essential thing for an actor. No matter which profession you wish to be a part of, training always helps. Even if somebody has a natural flair for acting, professional training would help tremendously in making you a better actor. Training also helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses as an actor.
You started your career as an actor in Mumbai with Yash Raj Films. You have worked with them on multiple films. How has been the experience of working with the company?
I feel fortunate to get my first three films with Yash Raj Films. ‘Tiger 3’ is my fifth film with him. Adi sir (Aditya Chopra) has been very encouraging. I have had a great experience working with all the filmmakers including Ali Abbaz Zafar, Pradeep Sarkar and Maneesh Sharma.
‘Sultan’ was, perhaps, the first time the audience noticed you in a big way. You collaborated with Salman Khan again on ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’. You will soon be seen sharing the screen with him in ‘Tiger 3’. How has been the experience of working with him?
‘Sultan’ was the film that gave me an identity as an actor. Working with Salman sir is always an unforgettable experience. During ‘Sultan’, he made me feel extremely comfortable. I remember him telling me once, “if you look good, I will look good. If I look good, you will look good. We have to complement each other.” He is a wonderful co-actor to work with. He is a supremely confident person and carries his stardom very well. ‘Tiger 3’ has been mounted on a huge scale. The grammar of a big, commercial film is very unique. Directors like Ali Abbas Zafar and Maneesh Sharma understand it very well.
When can we expect the second season of ‘Maai’ to come out?
The team is having discussions but right now, there is no clarity on when the shoot will start. From what I know, the script has been locked.
How do look back at your journey from Gwalior to Mumbai?
I was born in Gwalior but I spent my childhood in Delhi. A small part of my childhood was spent in Kota. I did school and college in Delhi as well. The two years I spent assisting Satish sir in Mumbai helped me familiarize myself with the city. When I moved here in 2011, I was mentally prepared to face difficulties and challenges. There is no shortcut to success in this industry and I believe that’s a wonderful thing. The industry is very fair. You need to spend a certain amount of time honing your skills. When you deserve something, you will definitely get it. As an actor, I am still learning and will continue to learn all my life.
What would be your advice to an aspiring actor be?
When you come to Mumbai, you must explore all the possibilities. You must try to reach out to good teachers and theatre groups. Acting is all about doing. You must read books and watch interviews of actor but also must practically implement the things you learn. There is no formula to become an actor. If you do not have access to formal training, you should train yourself informally.