Think of any prominent female-fronted Bollywood film and you will notice that their male co-star is usually not as famous or high-profile as the actress (imagine Priyanka Chopra in ‘Fashion’ or ‘Mary Kom’). But self-made actor Vikrant Massey, who has emerged to be one of the dominant faces in streaming platforms this pandemic-driven year, is trying to break that convention.
The ‘Ginny Weds Sunny’ star holds the distinction of having being directed by at least half a dozen accomplished women filmmakers including Zoya Akhtar (‘Dil Dhadakne Do), Konkana Sen Sharma (‘Death In the Gunj’), Meghna Gulzar (‘Chhapaak’), Alankrita Shrivastava (‘Lipstick Under My Burqa’ and ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’) and Arati Kadav (‘Cargo’).
“The length of my role never really mattered, if the story has a larger impact and if I think I can contribute in any way, I accept those roles with open arms. That sentiment will always remain within me,” said Massey in an interview with Gulf News. The actor, who was promoting his latest romantic comedy ‘Ginny Weds Sunny’ streaming on Netflix now, is aware of the reality that high-profile heroes are usually reluctant to be part of films with strong women-centric themes.
“As you have seen, you don’t see popular actors play parts in women stories … But Vikrant Massey is not very popular honestly and I am willing to take that chance. The larger idea is to be a part of stories that are relevant. Stories alone have to be our driving force for an actor. And, I want to be a part of some change,” said Massey. His career catalogue is dominated by films directed by women, but it was never by design, he claims.
“These directors that I worked with just happened to be women … But I am glad I got those opportunities because it reflects the change that we are seeing right now. Women are now telling their stories and now we have more women in positions of power … I would work with these talented individuals at the drop of the hat. Whether they are men or women really doesn’t matter to me.”
While his rising career — with an interesting mix of films that include romantic comedies, sci-fi and dark dramas — is admirable, he also enjoys a great rapport with his female directors.
“For instance, Alankrita allows me to exploit my grey areas of me as an actor … She’s my dear friend and she knows everything about me. But she tells me that most directors may offer me those nice-boy roles, but I will give you an antagonist role. And that’s fun and it also shows that she has faith in me,” said Massey. His turn in Shrivastava’s Netflix film ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’ as a secretly married man hooking up with an adult call operator (Bhumi Pednekar) was deceptively smarmy and on-point.
But his latest romantic comedy ‘Ginny Weds Sunny, which opened to mixed reviews, is as Bollywood as it gets. There’s song, dance, loud clothes, weddings and confused 20-somethings in love. The movies spells the departure of Massey from his usual offbeat films. For instance, in the celebrated ‘A Death in the Gunj’, Massey played a college graduate fighting inner demons during a family reunion.
“Offbeat or alternative cinema has been my staple diet. But unfortunately, that’s not the staple diet of most people in my country [India] … It was a conscious call to take on a movie like ‘Ginny Weds Sunny’. Like you rightly said, it’s my litmus test as a lead in a mainstream film and taking it on was a conscious decision.”
In ‘Ginny Weds Sunny’, also starring Yami Gautam, Massey plays the title role of Delhi boy Sunny who is desperate to get married. His father has an unusual condition: his son — not a hit with the ladies — must marry first before he is given the family wealth/restaurant business. The charming film, which is sometimes familiar and forgettable, jauntily chronicles his comedy of relationship errors with a spirited Punjabi lass Ginny (Gautam).
Massey’s mission is simple and claims he’s hungry for roles. But he’s fatalistic about the unusual success he has found in 2020. Just like Radhika Apte, who is labelled as the go-to talent for Netflix or other streaming projects, Massey is becoming increasingly popular in films that are tailor-made for streaming platforms that embrace experimental, dark and violent themes. 2020 has been the year of Massey as several of his projects were rolled out during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I want people to take notice of me every time I am on the screen. I wouldn’t want to bracket myself into any year or film category per se. Fate has its own story. Honestly, I am not in a position to decide when my films will come out or when my producers want to release a film … that is beyond my control. I believe it’s some fate that somewhat got me this recognition this year.”
Dancing is something that I have always enjoyed, but it was in ‘Ginny Weds Sunny’ that I danced in front of the camera and that made me happy. But, I was worried whether people would find it funny or if people don’t troll me for it.
His co-star Gautam often jokes that Massey is fast becoming Netflix Ka Damaad (Neflix’s groom), alluding to their romantic comedy that has several wedding sequences.
While Massey has an amicable and easy-going personality, the actor claims that he finds dark and morbid films fascinating too. At the time of our interview over a Zoom video call, a poster of Martin Scorsese’s thriller ‘Taxi Driver’ could be seen in the background.
“I have done many dark films like a ‘Lipstick Under My Burka’, ‘Mirzapur’, ‘A Death in the Gunj’ or Broken But Beautiful’. Even my web series ‘Criminal Justice’ was borderline dark. But it’s sad that you are calling reality dark. I am portray reality through my projects and even if it’s dark, we need to recognise it as our reality … I just want to play roles that are real, relatable and resonate and entertain people.”
The actor hasn’t had time to analyse his success yet.
“I just cannot sit back and decode my success because I kind of honestly really don’t think I have reached that stage in my life where in I am a case study for someone. I still don’t know what my success mantra is. I have just been sticking to my basics. I have just been doing what I learnt all these years and I think it was working out so far … I have a lot to prove yet.”
While he’s pleased that his career in Hindi films has begun to take off in earnest, he claims he has no inclination to sit back and analyse his career moves that work.
“It would be premature for me to sit back and say that the things that I am doing mostly in my line of work are working. I am so far away from it. But so far, things have worked … But complacency has no space in my head. I have worked my way up until here and there is a lot more to be done.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Ginny Weds Sunny’ is out on Netflix now.
Memes and trolls that have become a reality for actors and public figures today:
“ Memes are funny, but it is the vicious trolling and the abusive language that gets on to me … I know I have the capacity to laugh at myself and that’s healthy especially since we have lost our sense of humour these days if you look at our public discourse right now … I never mind taking one on the chin.”
Did you know?
Massey’s friends are his biggest levellers in life and they love to crack jokes at his expense.
“I don’t have a sense of vanity, so narcissism is way too far off for me. We all laugh together if I am bad at something and I think it’s necessary to have a healthy sense of humour to survive in this industry. My friends are my reality checks and they keep me grounded. There is more to my life than just acting and being surrounded by ‘yes men’ who validate my existence.”
“My today is better than my yesterday and that’s proof that someone or some force is watching out for me.”