Talking about his hard work and struggle, Lionel Messi once said, “I start early and I stay late, day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to be an overnight success”. Viineet Kumar (Gangs Of Wasseypur, Ugly and Bombay Talkies), who was last seen as Veer Singh in Netflix’s Bard of Blood, must be taking inspiration from that quote by the football legend. It took him 17 years to find a solo lead role in Mukkabaaz (2017) and since then, there was no looking back He has more than six releases coming up — Betaal, Saand Ki Aankh, Aadhaar, Tryst with Destiny, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl and a South remake) in terms of web shows and films lined up for the next six months.
Kumar, who for the longest time would wait for films to come his way, is happy that today, he has a slate of films to look forward to. He says, “I’m very happy right now…I feel that your dreams can’t come true if you don’t try and keep at it. Even in my wildest dreams, I had never thought that I will get to experiment so much as an actor… each of these films are different from each other and in each one, you will get to see something different from me. This has happened because of the trust people have shown in me and they’ve considered even the smallest roles I’ve done in my career. But at the end of the day, it is the script that chooses you. Earlier I was told that I’m not being seen outside the Anurag Kashyap camp, so I used to tell them that outside of that camp, I won’t get work( laughs). But I’ve noticed something. If someone has done even one scene with me, I’ve been called by them again to work with them. Take Bard of Blood for example. Then I was offered Betaal. Drishyam Pictures offered me another project the moment I finished the first one with them.”
The journey, though, to this point, hasn’t been easy.“I was just not getting films. I have done films wherein I didn’t even have a single line, but I did that with honesty as well, hoping they will call again for a dialogue role. I have done Bhojpuri serials, DD shows, played a ghost in a show. I used to sit on the sets all night, hoping that some day, I will get an opportunity. Today when I go for meetings, I only smile because I have a story about the same office from my struggling days .At every shop, at every signal I cross, I realize I have come so far…there are memories attached to these places where I used to sit for hours…this is the place where I sat when my photos got drenched in the rain.”
Though Bard of Blood didn’t explode on the Internet, Kumar managed to get noticed and lauded for his work. Talking about the compliments, Kumar says, “One thing is very common and that was this is a different Viineet that we haven’t seen before. Here, he looked and spoke like a Punjabi and was also comfortable in Pashto. In fact, when Shah Rukh Khan sir saw the show in the edit, he told me I’ve done an awesome job.”
He adds that he can’t talk much about his next web show Betaal with Netflix and SRK’s Red Chillies, but told us we can expect the show early next year. Kumar plays a pivotal role in Saand Ki Aankh, he’s the catalyst that spots the talent of Chandro and Prakashi Tomar and leads them to international fame. Talking about the role he says, “I play a Jatt coach in the film and thanks to my film Mukkabaaz, I became friends with a lot of Jatt boxers and it is an unconditional friendship. I told them I have signed a film, which is based in and around your place, so please share stories that you haven’t told anyone, they will remain with me and only with me. All I was doing was trying to get the hang of their language. I practiced with them and they kept correcting me while emptying their emotional burden. I used to talk non-stop for hours, and after watching the trailer, my Jatt friends paid me a compliment saying I have spoken as if I’m their neighbour.” In fact, not many are aware that Kumar had to audition for his role in Saand Ki Aankh. Director Tushar Hiranandani called him after watching Mukkabaaz and wanted him to audition for the role as he wasn’t too sure if Kumar would be comfortable with the language of the film. The actor was asked to enact only one of the four scenes given, but he went ahead and enacted all four of them. Tushar got so emotional after watching the audition tapes and told him now he can’t picture anyone except him in the role of the coach. But the actor laid down a condition, he won’t go ahead with film till he’s given the script. Talking about asking for the script, Kumar says, “Each film takes about 50 to 60 days. I don’t want to go on the sets and sulk. When I work, I surrender to the film, and so it is better to clear things out before you start work.”
Kumar has just returned from Busan International Film Festival, where his upcoming film Aadhaar was showcased, and the film got positive reviews. The film, according to the makers, will tell the story of a common man who gets caught in bureaucratic red tape in the process of enrolling his name in the Aadhaar scheme. On being asked if he faced an issue while getting his Aadhaar card done, he says, “Yes, there was some confusion but since I was in Mumbai, things got done very easily. But people who would come to the center would have a lot of questions, as there was a lot of misinformation which was being shared. There were also some rumours, like ‘if we don’t get the card done we would lose the things that we already have’… Also, there was some confusion about should Aadhaar be linked or not to bank accounts and mobile card numbers etc. We got to know some amazing incidents, like one individual went to get his Aadhaar but couldn’t get one as he didn’t have hands, as Aadhaar needs biometrics. So there was a lot of confusion among the officials as to how to deal with such a situation.”
Playing so many characters can take a toll on a person, but Kumar has found the perfect solution for it. He claims that for him, it is very important to forget the last character he has done and disconnect with the project. He stays alone, spends time with his character, and comes back only when he gets the hang of his new character in his mind. He likes to work on his body language, diction and many other things in solitude. In fact, he would like to thank the audience and the changing technology for bringing about the golden age for actors as today, everyone is in the mood to experiment. He says, “Today, the audience has access to the best of the world and the big screen and small screen. I truly believe that my career has begun only after Mukkabaaz. The time before that was building my experience bank, which I use to play my current roles.”