To those of us who follow theatre more than cinema, Neil Bhoopalam is a familiar face. A few years ago, there wouldn’t be a play in Prithvi Theatre, in Juhu, Mumbai, that didn’t have him in its cast credits. From A Guy Thing to Hamlet: The Clown Prince, he’s played some truly memorable roles onstage. And, even now, when his biggest film, NH10, is set to release next month, ads for his play The Merchant of Venice are already appearing in the papers. In fact, he says that becoming a theatre actor was a life-changing experience. “It is far more satisfying as an artist. I came from a world of academics, and theatre gave me the creative freedom that I craved,” he says.

After debuting on screen with a talented ensemble in Shaitan, he was seen in Anil Kapoor’s24, in which he played a young political scion (not based on anyone), one of the key characters. And, in NH10, he plays the lead character. His film career is shaping up step by step. Playing Anushka Sharma’s love interest, Bhoopalam plays the hapless man who tries to stop a kidnapping but gets into further trouble as a consequence. NH10, directed by Navdeep Singh who also made the cult noir Manorama Six Feet Under, promises to be an edgy road movie. With Sharma also onboard as producer, Singh has a talented and dedicated duo as his two leads. A fact that is emphasised by Bhoopalam’s following quote: “One of my favourite recent films is Birdman because it is what I’m doing right now — theatre kind of quality of work for movies.”