Deepak Dobriyal doesn’t ring a bell but Pappiji does, right? That’s what defines the acting career of Delhi boy Deepak Dobriyal, who has not only carved a niche for himself in Bollywood but he’s also endeared himself to the audience with his popular characters like Pappiji of Tanu Weds Manu. He’s won quite a few awards including Filmfare Special Performance Award for Omkara (2007) and two IIFA awards for best performances in comic roles – Tanu Weds Manu (2012) and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2016). Deepak Dobriyal, who believes in letting his work speak rather than creating a brand name for himself, talks about his tryst with Bollywood in an exclusive chat with Nation Next.
Whether it’s Rajoh (Omkara), Bhati (Gulaal), Mamdu (Delhi 6), Pappiji (Tanu Weds Manu franchise) or Kanhaiya (Prem Ratan Dhan Payo), your characters in your films have been applauded but most of your fans are yet to identify your characters with your name Deepak Dobriyal…
If I want to make Deepak Dobriyal a brand name overnight, I’ll just have to hire a PR person for my media management. But I would never opt for such popularity measures and materialism. Even in my media interactions, I would rather speak about my work and the characters I portray in the films. I believe in my talent and I’m just showcasing the same to the world.
Your style of comedy is physicality-oriented. Is it because of this that all of your directors make your characters rely more on antics rather than dialogues?
In my movies, you might have noticed that I completely indulge myself in my roles, and that makes the characters look realistic. So, the audience remembers my characters for long. This is how I want to make my mark in the film industry. I have faith in myself and in my ability to keep on improving. Also, till date my directors haven’t interfered in my work; they give me a lot of freedom to implement my creativity. I feel I am blessed to understand the scripts instantly.
You once said that you were rejected for many roles, as you were a bit too thin. Now this thinness has become a distinct onscreen personality of yours…
I have the same physique as I had before; I haven’t changed at all. Still, I think I have been successful enough to prove the filmmakers that I can perform diverse roles. Now I’m also being provided with a bit more mature and manly roles in my upcoming movies. So, probably I will have to work upon my body to perform these roles with more perfection.
How has your journey been from your disappointments to the achiever you’ve become?
I had been a theatre artist for long. Back then, I never realised that I could become a part of Bollywood. A time came in my life when I had to go through a financial crisis and that pulled me to ‘city of dreams’ – Mumbai. When I came here, I met a few people and went through a few scripts. I found the whole scenario different. Rather than larger than life Shakespearean theatre, performances here were more about presence of mind. I was struggling with my dilemmas and low morale. And then came a point when I started getting recognised for my genre of acting, and that boosted my morale again. My expressions in Omkara and Gulaal helped me gain more roles in other movies.
The general perception is that only good looking model-type actors get major work, but now with the quantum of work actors like you and Nawazuddin Siddiqui are getting, can you say that Bollywood has changed?
Stories have changed. Earlier, there used to be a hero, heroine, villain and a comedian. Today’s stories are not that simplistic. Filmmakers are focusing on the content and not on the looks, and different kinds of characters are being created in films. Yet, looks do matter in creating your first impression. But we actors have an option of capitalising on our limitations by keeping our performances realistic; that’s what Nawaz and I are doing, and our performances are earning us recognition.
Sharmila Tagore once attributed a part of Saif Ali Khan’s progression as an actor to the learning from you during Omkara. Has Sharmilaji ever told you the same in person?
No. I also read it in newspapers but I’ve got a lot of appreciation and love from Saif’s family.
Even when you share screen with Bollywood biggies like Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Kangana Ranaut, etc, you don’t look intimidated with their onscreen presence. You seem to be quite at ease with big stars onscreen and are able to make an impact with your performances. How do you do that?
I never get intimidated by big stars as I don’t compete with them. They are in an altogether different zone. I admire them and that makes me happy. I’m here to give good acting performances, which are only possible by complementing my co-actors, and by competing with them. I always tell new actors, who come to seek advice or help from me, to never to develop any ego in them. And I diligently follow the same advise of mine! Ego is devil and learning is God. Acting is an eternal learning process.
What do you say to the actors, who immediately after getting some fame, start wearing their attitude on their sleeves, as they feel people will not give them their due recognition otherwise?
I would never do that, but to each his own! I feel as actors we have to constantly keep on picking up people’s characteristics. That’s what adds to our performances, and we actors should be one among them for the same. I also face negative reactions at times as it becomes difficult to oblige everyone’s demands for selfies, autographs, etc. But all such negative reaction is worth the kind of love the fans shower on you.
Vishal Bhardwaj gave your big breaks in Omkara and Maqbool. How is your equation with him?
Vishal Bhardwaj is my Godfather. He treats me like his younger brother, and is always concerned. I also got immense support from Anurag Kashyap while I was shooting for Gulaal. Both Anurag and Vishal have looked for the talent in me and made me sit with stars in the film industry.
How much do you owe your success as an actor to your theatre days in Delhi?
Theatre taught me patience and how to understand characters. It also gave me a confidence to perform in front of hundreds of people. But movies have been a different struggle altogether. It was difficult to convince people here that I knew things as I had done theatre. I had to start from the scratch, unlearn certain things and learn new things in Bollywood.
In theatre, I was always given a lead role, but initially in Bollywood, I was not given any important roles. I had to work very hard to establish myself here.
What kind of films are you working on?
I have opted for some serious roles in my upcoming movies, where I am experimenting more with myself. Something different than just comedy!