Passionate Placid Patient!

Words: Tanishaa Saxena | Photographed by Denzil Christian

How does one take time to answer an over-inquisitive magazine’s questions between shoot for an ongoing project, selecting one’s wedding outfit, and preparing for a flight to Dehradun the following day? Let’s just add that question to our already ambitious list of questions for the one and only – Priyanshu Painyuli!

Yes, the talented actor and performer was gracious enough to shoot for this month’s edition of our magazine and even kinder with the time he devoted to earnestly answering the many questions we hurled in his direction during his lunch break on the shoot.

I know we are supposed to think of Priyanshu as the breakthrough actor of ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’, and rightly so. Or as Robin! Every time, he comes across #yehbhithikhai memes trending on social media, the actor’s smile broadens with pride at delivering a wonderful performance in Mirzapur 2, and rightly so. But we all know his body of work, now let’s uncover the man behind these roles!

How did it all start?

It all started for Priyanshu in school, when he looked forward to participating in any and everything on stage.

“I would jump up on any opportunity to perform – taking part in drama or dance or playing a musical instrument during school prayers. This inclination kept growing till college. Then, I got fascinated with cameras and film making, which is when I decided to study filmmaking from S.A.E Institute, Bangalore while I continued my stage acting doing professional theatre once in a while. Next, I shifted base to Mumbai to do regular theatre and Bollywood projects.”

Tell us something about your journey from theatre to Bollywood and Hollywood…

“During my early years in Mumbai, I got the opportunity to work with Rajit Kapur from Rage productions. He was my mentor in my initial days in Mumbai. I used to do backstage work and sound design for his plays and got to learn a lot in that process. I also did many popular plays with AK Various Productions, and I still wish to continue doing plays whenever I get time. I got called for many auditions through my plays, especially ‘Internal Affairs’ by AK Various Productions.” As for Bollywood, the actor played a small yet crucial role in ‘Rock On 2.’ Compared to earlier roles offered, this role felt important. And it is this belief and luck that has allowed the actor to portray some memorable characters in Bollywood. As for Hollywood, “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start than playing Amir Asif in Extraction. I would say I have been lucky to get an opportunity early in my career to be acting in a Hollywood film. But I believe luck and surprises come to you when you are clear about the kind of path you want to follow and clear about your goals!” he added proudly.

What was it like working on a Hollywood project (Extraction) on such a big scale? How did it happen?

“Tess Joseph, our casting director, is responsible for trusting me with a role like Amir Asif and auditioning me for such a big film. The funny part is initially she thought I was a Bengali, perhaps cause of my first name… but then I practiced some lines and sent her a voice note in Bengali which she heard and thought was worth a shot at auditioning for Amir.”

“Extraction has been an experience I can never forget! From playing a unique role in a language I have never spoken before to working with such a big crew and production… The best part of working in a film like Extraction is that the team makes you so comfortable, that only the best comes out of you. From Chris to Sam Hargrave, our director, and our team, everyone was chilled out on set and made sure everyone was having a blast while filming.”

“Doing a Russo brothers film with Chris Hemsworth in it and getting to play the main antagonist – what more can one ask for?”

Mirzapur is another big project. How has your experience been?

“I was nervous and excited when I got to be part of Mirzapur 2 because I am a big admirer and fan of season 1 and every actor in that show. I had to make sure I was up to the level of the ensemble of the show and still stand out somehow. But when I read the character of ‘Robin,’ I think it’s the most interesting role for an actor. There is so much to do and at the same time so much to hide. Our writer Puneet Ji, and directors, Guru and Mihir, gave me a very good setup. I just had to make sure I put my best foot forward and hit a six! And I think I was able to do just that, swearing by ‘yehbhitheekhai’ memes doing the rounds on social media.”

When you look back, do you think you have achieved what you wanted to?

“I would say yes. I have managed to break into the industry respectfully. The industry and audience appreciate what I do. But I have a long way to go… There is no benchmark I have set or any kind of achievement level after which I would say I have done it all! As an actor, I want to keep changing, keep growing, and not get bored with my own acting. I am my biggest critic and I make sure I try to amuse myself by achieving something different every time for the audience. What I feel I have accomplished from the few roles I have done is to find a small way into the hearts of the audience. Most of the people who talk to me haven’t seen all of my work but when they talk about one specific role also with me, I feel genuine appreciation and that gives me a great boost to keep going. I love acting and the  process behind it… they say love grows if you know how to change for good!”

What’s your creative process?

“I can’t disclose it cause it’s a secret I found when I trekked all the way up in the mountains and met a baba who told me ‘just be in the moment’ (the actor chuckles). Oh, shit did I just reveal my secret?”

“My creative process is to keep learning from others. I keep observing people a lot and I love doing that,” the actor added on a serious note.

Do you think OTT platforms are a game-changer?

“Yes, they are!” exclaimed Priyanshu. He added, “Now content has become more personal! People watch films and series on phone while traveling or in their house and this is when our work becomes challenging. In people’s personal space, if our story on OTT is not engaging, they can switch off at any time! That’s why, now is a great opportunity for writers, directors, and actors to undertake challenging stuff and show everyone what they’re made of!”

Priyanshu explained how OTT platforms are offering global visibility to work. “I have lots of fans from Spain and Brazil who started messaging me after Extraction. I have met fans of Bhavesh Joshi in Taiwan. And, of course, Mirzapur fans are worldwide as well! So, all in all, it’s a great time to be an actor on OTT.” He clarified, however, that he’s a fan of watching a film in a theatre, on a big screen, with a bucket of popcorn and no disturbance around. “That’s an experience and I believe some films are meant for the big screen!”

Content is the new king. Please comment.

“With OTTs, we have to keep challenging ourselves and create interesting content because if it’s not interesting a person watching my film at home might get up to open his door and might not come back if he is not hooked to our content. If you are good at what you do, people will love you and if you are bad, they won’t! It’s simple! Even for theatrical films to compete with OTTs, we have to keep making interesting stories, otherwise, no one will leave the comfort of their house to travel to a theatre, struggle with parking their car and watching your film! We better make it worth their while!”

Describe Priyanshu in 5 words.

My 5 C’s

“Comfortable, Creative, Competitive, Calm and Cute”

A Little about Rashmi Rocket…

“Rashmi Rocket is interesting and special as I am working with RSVP Productions. They’ve been making excellent new age content. I am getting to work with Taapsee and play her Husband. I think she is one of the finest actors we have in our industry right now. And the film is directed by Akarsh Khurana, someone very dear to me and who I love working with, be it on stage or in film.”

The year 2020 has been a whirlwind year. We forever lay in wait for some good news and what’s bigger than your favorite celebrities tying the knot. Tell us about your big day. How are you feeling?

“It feels great cause Vandana and I have been together for seven years and we always wanted to take this next step in our relationship. In fact, our close friends and family are like ‘oh finally’ it’s happening!

During the pandemic year, we just thought let’s end it with a big smile for us and our families!” The actor explained the wedding was always scheduled for this year and they didn’t want Covid to alter those plans. He added, “I am really looking forward to this phase of our lives and to grow with each other!”

How did you two meet?

“We met as actors for a musical show by Vaibhavi and Shruti merchant called ‘Taj Express’ in 2013. I instantly fell for the way she danced and the elegance with which she performs.” Priyanshu added that he’s traveled to many countries and performed over 120 shows in the last couple of years. “It was the best time of our life! Traveling together to wonderful countries and staying there for a month or so and performing together at prestigious venues…”

What’s next?

“Professionally, I have a good line up of shoots – I have to finish Rashmi rocket, an Amazon show, and Pipa. All roles are very interesting and unique. Personally, I just want to set up a beautiful home with Vandana and become the best husband, son, son-in-law, and so on. Vandana and I also wish to travel again, like we used to earlier but waiting with bated breath for the world to get rid of Covid first.”

The actor added, albeit cheekily, “apart from these small plans, my big plan is to keep growing… Not just my hair but as a person and as an actor!”

Cheers to that!

Editor-in-Chief / Photographer: Denzil Christian  
Creative Director: Farrah Kader
MUAH: Ambika Upadhyay
Fashion Stylist: Yash Shah
Assistant Stylist: Ashika
Interview by: Tanishaa Saxena
Location: Oceana Clutches