Neeraj Kabi says his character in Sherni becomes ‘an impediment between Vidya and nature’

Multi-faceted performer Neeraj Kabi believes it is critical for directors to study the basics of acting to be able to extract an extraordinary performance from actors.

The 53-year-old actor and theater personality, who currently features alongside Vidya Balan in the Amit Masurkar-helmed Sherni, a movie about the man and animal conflict, said he was keen to work with the National Award-winning director.

Neeraj Kabi said he first met Amit, best known for Newton, when the aspiring director attended his acting workshop in 2007-2008.

“Amit had said he wanted to make films but wanted to learn the craft so that he can direct his actors. When a director says ‘be yourself’, it is wrong to say to an actor because if I am being myself then I am not acting. I am not supposed to be myself, I am supposed to be the character.

“Similarly, when a director says ‘relax’, I cannot because my character can’t. There are these little myths in the industry. And that is why directors must also learn acting, it is important. Amit did that and it was a pleasure working with him,” Neeraj told PTI in a Zoom interview.

Sherni has received great reviews from critics after its release on Amazon Prime Video on June 19.

The multi-layered film not only touches upon the man and animal conflict but also looks at the gender dynamics through Vidya’s character of Vidya Vincent, a forest officer.

Neeraj said the prime reason for him to give a nod to Sherni was that it addresses the issues faced by the female gender both in animals and in the human society. He plays Akhil Nangia, Vidya’s senior officer and former mentor in the film.

“In the film, Sherni is also struggling to save herself from man. There is a conflict of Vidya and tigress. It is being used as a metaphor. There are various male characters who are trying to consume her emotionally and mentally. Like, I am becoming an impediment between Vidya and nature, animals and I will play the barrier to the highest level so that Vidya crosses it and becomes the hero.”

The actor further said a film like Sherni plays a significant role in today’s time to indicate and create awareness on how humans and nature can coexist.

For his role, Neeraj said he read about multiple people from the forest department to comprehend their journey and mindset.

The actor, who catapulted to fame, courtesy his shows Sacred Games and Paatal Lok, said even though there have been some diverse offers, he is still yearning to get scripts of a certain caliber like Ship of Theseus or Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

He has also starred in critically-acclaimed projects like Shyam Benegal’s mini-series Samvidhaan, and movies Talvar, Hichki and Once Again.

“Being in the two spaces — indie and commercial mainstream space — is interesting. However, I am looking for stronger and more powerful characters. I am happy but I am not content completely because I am waiting to perform what I have to.”

Also read: Kareena Kapoor says she was ‘exhausted and in too much pain’ after two babies and four months postpartum

Neeraj, whose acting career started at the age of 42 with Ship of Theseus, also said he has been cautious while choosing projects.

“… you have to be very careful with your career graph after a particular age. When you start so late you have to take a lot of care. I want to work for the next 30 to 40 years and that is my aim. I have to be careful with what I am taking.”

Produced by T-Series and Abundantia Entertainment, Sherni boasts of a talented ensemble cast including Sharat Saxena, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Mukul Chaddha, Ila Arun, among others.


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