With Dongri to Dubai taking over a year to reach the finish line due to the pandemic, Avinash Tiwary discusses the challenge of staying in character all through the lockdown.
A long wait could well be the story of his life. After Laila Majnu (2018) took three years to hit the screens, it isn’t lost on Avinash Tiwary that his next, Dongri to Dubai, too is having a long journey to the finish line. The Amazon Prime Video offering, in the making since early 2020, has been affected due to the pandemic. He admits the wait is making him “lose my head a little.” But then, if one were to see the silver lining, don’t good things come to those who wait? “I had committed to Dongri on November 1, 2019. I decided not to do anything simultaneously; this is the kind of show that demands your all. But then, the lockdown happened. We resumed work late last year, and now, there are rumours of another shutdown,” begins the actor.
Though he can’t discuss the details of his character, Tiwary plays a dreaded ’90s gangster in the screen adaptation of Hussain S Zaidi’s best-seller. Being one with the character for months on end hasn’t been easy for the actor. “We are aiming to complete the shoot by mid-year. We were told we will finish by mid-June. This is one of those roles and worlds that take a lot away from you – time, energy, patience. For me, it’s hard to sustain the emotional graph of character for a long period of time. It’s not a skill set I inherently possess, which is why I never dabbled in television. People playing the same character for years doesn’t work well for me. On this project, the physical, spiritual and emotional aspect for every character. I wore and maintained the physicality of this character all through lockdown. Emotionally, I can switch on when on set. Mentally, this character has played on my mind all along. Right now, I have gained weight and I have a belly. I don’t have vanity but people look at me and wonder what really happened. The beard and moustache is very 90s and that does stand out, making me feel out of place. It’ll all be worth it when the show comes out and people love it.”
Eager to dive deep into his role, Tiwary says he devoured the book as part of his prep. “We made a few script changes during the lockdown. So once we went back to the shoot, I revisited the script.” However, it hasn’t been smooth-sailing after the lockdown. The filming was recently put on hold after five people in the crew tested positive for COVID-19. “Amazon and Excel Entertainment have been on point with the protocols. I am testing twice a week. Parallelly at home, my father tested positive and is now in isolation.” The obstacles notwithstanding, director Shujaat Saudagar intends to wrap up the shoot by mid-year. Post that, the actor — who caught everyone’s attention with Bulbbul (2020) and The Girl on the Train earlier this year — can turn his attention to the two yet-unannounced projects that have come his way. “An entire year looks blocked for me. Between now and October, I am shooting everyday; so I am not complaining. Some top production houses have offered some great material to me in the recent month. I know good things are in the vicinity…”
Grateful as he is to be pursuing his passion for a living, he says there has been an attitude shift after the uncertainty of last year. In his words, 2020 made him realise “there’s more to life”. “The worldview needs an alteration. Our biggest actors have constantly glorified the fact that they are insomniacs. We have grown up on Filmfare and Stardust [interviews] where actors have projected a tunnel vision in terms of success. I have come to a point where I value a wholesome life. Even if 10 people say I am a great actor, it’s pointless if I am not there for my loved ones. I hope we can make a wholesome life aspirational.”