Gurfateh Pirzada on role in ‘Guilty’: “I had to completely change my persona”

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Gurfateh Pirzada, who will next be seen in the Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt-starrer ‘Brahmastra’, debuted in Netflix and Dharmatics’ (Dharma Productions’ streaming wing) ‘Guilty’ this year. The whodunit thriller by Ruchi Narain, that revolves around a college heartthrob (Pirzada) who is accused of rape by a small-town girl on Valentine’s Day, also features Kiara Advani, Akansha Ranjan Kapoor and Taher Shabbir. BizAsiaLive.com caught up with Gurfateh to find out how difficult it was to play such a grey character.

Was it emotionally draining to shoot such a layered character like VJ who’s accused of rape?
On the surface, you sometimes see characters that seem very stereotypical and are easy to play for an actor but the more you dig deep into it, it gets tougher and tougher. This one was very tough and it’ll probably be the toughest character I play in my life because I can’t comprehend or even feel close to this guy. Neither am I a crowd puller nor am I someone who enters a room and everyone looks at him. I’m a very shy, regular guy in life. So, I had to completely change my persona and be that high-energy guy who’s a singer in a band of his own and can perform in front of 500 people. I wasn’t that guy when I was offered the film, it took a while. Also to put yourself in a situation who’s been accused of such a crime like rape, is very tough. When we were shooting the scenes where I’m confessing to Kiara that I didn’t do it, it was very taxing. There’s a scene where someone hits me and my nose got cut, there were scenes where I had to shout so much that I lost my voice. I’ve had sleepless nights and bad dreams and a lot of depression induced mornings later, we finally finished the shoot (laughs).

Did you research on any person or incident in particular to prepare for your character?
There was no reference point as such but I’ve a particular technique of mine… I have done a method acting course, so I follow a very planned out way to create characters. I put in a list of questions that I asked my director, read my script a million times before coming on set and also had a certain ‘walk’ for my character. I started talking like my character in real life to prepare for my character.

What kind of questions did you have for Ruchi?
Every time I have watched any movie that’s about an alleged rape or assault, there’s always this guy who’s very one shaded somehow. This film is not about an outright rape case, it’s a whodunit thriller where you’re guessing until the end. Even in the end, you still don’t know who’s guilty because there are different versions of the truth. I remember still in the hotel room and telling the story to my best friends and they thought two different people were guilty! So I asked Ruchi questions about VJ’s character, how is this rape accused person is in his life? How is he with his family, his friends and in his private space? There are people who have probably been fine all their lives and then they just go and cross that line once in their lives and everything changes from there. It’s not that they were always bad people and never did good things earlier, they crossed a line once and now their life will never be the same again.

How is Kiara as a co-star?
Kiara is great! I’ve been a big fan and loved her in Lust Stories and Kabir Singh. I’m a huge fan of the film Arjun Reddy (the Telugu film on which Kabir Singh is based) as well. Kiara is one of the most bankable actresses right now and the way her career graph is going, it’d be a dream for any actress in her age group to be at the level that she is at.

Any interesting anecdotes to share from the shoot of Guilty?
I’m a paranoid prepper, so I’m always doing my lines, asking questions to Ruchi and preparing. Kiara and Akansha used to make a lot of fun of me because of that. But Ruchi would say, ‘Don’t care about them, keep prepping!’ Then Kiara told me one day that, ‘You’ve worked hard and it shows.’

How did you slip into the body language of a college student?
Well, I’m pretty young, I’m 24 right now (laughs). I haven’t had a formal college education, I never went to a college and did a correspondence course. I came to Bombay and started working when I was 18, so I don’t know what a college life is like. My school in Delhi was pretty much like my college and I have a few friends who went to college, so I took help from their experiences. The co-actors were very good and were very helpful too.

Which shows are you currently binging online?
I just watched Taj Mahal 1989 on Netflix and the performances are very good. I also want to watch Yeh Ballet on Netflix.

What do you think makes Guilty stand out?
Guilty is a relevant film not just in India but all over the world, these things are happening. Consent is very subjective in each country… and the #MeToo movement is happening in India, UK, USA and all around the world. Women need a voice and we are giving it to them, people who watch the film will hopefully take something back home and reflect on their own lives.

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