If there is an artist who deserves more recognition for his/her work, then Tanmay Dhanania should definitely be one of the names to be considered.
The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art graduate has carved a niche for himself in the independent circuit. Often known for choosing roles which allow him to play rather disturbing and gritty characters on screen, his choice in the script itself is no different. His film ‘Garbage’, directed by Qaushiq Mukherjee, has already gathered its fair share of controversies.
Tanmay goes on to describe his role in the movie and about the challenges he faced while portraying the role. Along with the gripping portrayal of crime, suspense and thrill pervade the emotionally charged film, aspects of which Tanmay himself has artistically portrayed to nigh perfection. Regardless of the controversies surrounding the film, Tanmay is not bothered as such.
“We were actually prepared for the controversies while shooting the film. We had a couple of producers who backed out from the project for the content, and there were others who tried to make us change the content. But Q was adamant to stick to what he wanted to do. It was difficult at first. However, we managed things on our own, stuck to less money, but did not let go of our original idea. We are really happy that we took the decision and stuck to what we wanted to say; not try to make a political point out of it but represent what is going on in our country.”
Considering the fact that Tanmay is a well-trained actor, along with his education in fine arts, it is no doubt that his academic side would come into play when given the chance to interpret his character and the film’s message in general. He wastes no time in talking about the dystopia that the world seems to be heading towards, along with the post-Truth ideas that permeate the scenes. This connects directly with the happenings around the country (which Tanmay mentions earlier).
“We started by working with metaphors. We’re living in such a dystopic world right now where all the metaphors that we were working with actually turned out to be true. We were talking about a Baba and right after the Baba Ram Rahim controversy-scandal came out. There’s also a segment where my character Phanishwar has a strange relationship with cows, and right after the cow vigilantes suddenly came into focus. We were trying to portray our imagination and it was strange that it was actually getting truer by the day. From that aspect, I don’t think we overstepped the mark.
It’s not a very clear cut didactic film with a message, it will raise a lot of questions. It does not declare whether the characters are good or bad; evil or not evil. It just shows a slice of dystopia; a black mirror to what we are as people and what we’ve become. We live in a post-truth world.”
The director, Q, has stated on record that the film itself is actually very unique and is a standalone film. In hindsight, there may not be a single movie released so far which could be compared to the uniqueness of the film’s content and its message to the audience. At the same time, as Tanmay states below, the film itself is different when compared to the canon that Q has established for himself over time. It seems that post-truth interpretations of movies in a dystopic world leave a lot to the imagination and more than a little room for audience’s extrapolation.
“Garbage is one of his most linear films and follows a three-act structure. There are character setups followed by a journey through time with these characters. He generally shies away from doing this, and he makes his characters very abstract, they’re more representational and more impressionist, whereas this does have a strong storyline. We also had a script though we improvised a lot. However, the basic structure of the film remained the same. In this context, Hina Saiyada who was the editor of the film, and the production designer, played a very important part because she took Q’s creativity to a whole new level. She streamlined it into a story that can be followed. Neel Adhikari’s contribution to music in the film is commendable as well. They played important roles in the making of the film. Visually, Q is very strong with what he wants to say but you will also get an essence of who his characters are this time.”
I think Qaushik may be an eccentric person but he is not an eccentric filmmaker. He presents things that are closest to the truth. he just represents the reality of the matter in a way which many filmmakers don’t.
As with every actor who is deeply involved in the making of the film as a representation of a meaning and as a form of art, they tend to attach certain meanings to the film itself. The actor’s understanding of what the film means to them often plays out on to the big screen. In such a scenario, Tanmay is no different. Just as the film has a different meaning for the director and the editor, Tanmay himself has attached his own understanding of the film to the portrayal of his character.
“The concept of the film came about with just looking at human beings differently and then realizing that we all come from ‘Garbage’. It portrays an anarchist point of view. We live in a country where the human life is not as precious as it is in other countries. Due to our country’s population, our basic rights are not even available to a concentrated crowd. We are treated like ‘Garbage’ in that respect. But even the privileged character in this film does not have access to the rights, and she is reduced to nothing. We all come down to a common denominator, and when you are cornered you find things out. This is why I think it is a powerful title.”
Q’s sense of direction and art has often been criticised, and to an extent, ostracised by the mainstream media. This did not cause any apprehension in Tanmay’s mind, as he decided to work with the eccentric director on previous occasions as well. Often, the vision of the director seeps into the ideas of the actor, in order to create magic on screen. Tanmay talks about his experiences of working with Q and how it affected his performances.
“I think he may be an eccentric person but he is not an eccentric filmmaker. He presents things that are closest to the truth. From my experience with him, he just represents the reality of the matter in a way which many filmmakers don’t. Even if they do have access to that truth, they want to garnish it and make it something else, they want to make it beautiful or make it a commercial thing. It is very liberating to work with Q because he does not care about these things. He engages in a dialogue with the society. Nobody else challenges me the way he does. I think that is why his films resonate all over the world.”
It is funny but I love beautiful cinema. I have been a part of crazy fucked up films but I actually find it hard to watch those films. Being a part of international film festivals really gave me access to good cinema.
Tanmay then follows this up with a mention of his other projects, collaborating with Q . His field allowed him to delve into the mindset and physique of a mixed martial artist, in order to challenge himself as an actor and take his craft to the next level.
“I have just shot for a super fun action series with Q and it is called ‘Zero kilometres’. It is for a new online platform called Zee5. I am not an action hero at all but I really pushed myself for this role. I started training in mixed martial arts and I had to go through a three-month intensive course. It was really hard and I put my body through the strict training. I was definitely the most difficult thing that I have done. In that respect, I am so happy that I did it. It was challenging.”
A major problem in the film industry is of typecasting actors into certain roles. This creates a problem for the actor in the sense that he’d be cast only for that particular role in numerous problems, due to public demand. This, undoubtedly, stifles the creative genius of the actor. In any case, Tanmay does not seem to care much about being typecast into a certain role. His inner desire to create new content, whether in India or in the United Kingdom, relays with his previous comments about challenging himself. Tanmay talks about the possibility of him venturing out into more commercial and mainstream movies if the need ever arises.
“I think people hold on to a perception of someone or something, but that eventually undergoes a change once you get out of your comfort zone. I don’t think anybody would consider me for an action role either, but it’s only after I did it that they saw the transformation. I am not scared of getting typecast at all. I have also done UK television. I am also really lucky that I got international work because that keeps me floating in India. I am lucky that I have been privileged to work on independent projects where I can commit my all. The issue is not the fear of getting typecast, but a lot of directors do not have the kind of space and time, or even an imagination to let me do things.
UK television too doesn’t function that way so you just have to go do your lines and come out. In terms of commercial cinema, I would do it if it comes by, but they are not my heroes, I am not seeking that. The money is also not fairly distributed. It is basically a lack of respect and I am not saying it in an egocentric manner at all.”
As with the commercialisation of films, the audience’s reverence for a particular actor plays a huge role in such a situation. Larger than life personas are almost ‘dumped’ onto an actor, bringing not only the heap of money and expectations with them but also a certain feeling of strangulation with the typecasting. Tanmay gives his take on this, with a rather paradoxical insight.
“We have to be careful because people are flocking towards indie cinema with that kind of attitude, they’re giving that status to people who they consider stars. When this first came about, we thought, “Wow these guys are gonna change the game”. The game has shifted but the game is on. It’s a paradox. You can’t escape that you keep getting into that quagmire. Before ‘Brahman Naman’ came about, nobody would have thought that a film did not have a theatrical release could make a profit like it did. When they saw it happen, people jumped into that bandwagon, and now we just need a find another avenue, which again is exciting.”
It is evident from Tanmay’s comment on his love for cinema that it was one of the major reasons for him to take up acting as a profession. An empathetic attitude towards the idea of what it means to be a human in today’s world adds to the level of excitement that he feels for being on life’s journey. His attention is brought to what he would like to call “beautiful cinema”:
“It is funny but I love beautiful cinema. I have been a part of crazy fucked up films but I actually find it hard to watch those films. I set stuck with that for days. I love films that have a journey, films that talk about the human condition. Being a part of international film festivals really gave me access to good cinema. I also love dogma films from the 90s where they use everything that is available to them there, so I love that recreation of reality which is also unreal in its own ways. I need an escape after I get to involve myself completely in a role.”
Actors such as Tanmay Dhanania often refuse to ply their trade in the world of mainstream and commercial cinema, with their love for mindless masala flicks, due to the poor treatment of actors from the indie circuits. However, as more of the new generation of Indian cinema lovers flock to the indie circuit for good content, it is only imperative that the corporates shall soon dip their fingers into this untapped market. A true tragedy would occur when actors of this calibre are mistreated or unwelcome in the new wave of Indian cinema. In order to push India’s quality content to the Academy Awards, actors such as Tanmay need to be respected and treated properly, with no stifling of their creative senses. Only then would India truly be proud of the quality of cinema that it produces annually, and not the quantity.
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