Home » Interviews » “I am waiting for an evolution in the film industry” – Neil Bhoopalam

In 2006, Neil Bhoopalam made his debut in cinema with Shatrughan Sinha’s home production ‘Mera Dil Leke Dekho’, a film which largely went unnoticed. He bounced back with an impactful role in ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (2011). Since then, the actor has been part of several memorable films, web shows and the TV show ’24 India’. In this interview, the actor talks about his new show ‘Thinkistaan’ Season 2, being selective about his work, the evolution of digital media, his new play which is based on a Tom Cruise film, getting feedback from wife Nandini Shrikent and more.

You have been a part of some memorable films and have done some good work on TV and web as well. While the quality of work has been very high, the volume has been quite less. Why don’t we get to see you more often?

That is a really sweet thing to say. If people crave to see me on the screen, it means I am doing my job well and it has connected with the audience. You will, hopefully, get to see more often now. I am working more frequently these days and there is a lot of stuff that you will get to see very soon.

Why were you so selective in the past?

In our industry, we do not have a retirement age. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is in his late 70s and he is one of the busiest actors around. Time is not running out for anybody here. I am a product of the evolution of the entertainment industry. I came into the industry around a decade back when films like ‘Udaan’ and ‘Dev D’ were getting made. There were some filmmakers who were trying to do different kind of things and creating clutter-breaking content. There is more work happening. It is a combination of the evolution of media and my own personal preferences.

In our industry, we do not have a retirement age. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is in his late 70s and he is one of the busiest actors around. Time is not running out for anybody here. I am a product of the evolution of the entertainment industry. I came into the industry around a decade back when films like ‘Udaan’ and ‘Dev D’ were getting made. There were some filmmakers who were trying to do different kind of things and creating clutter-breaking content. There is more work happening. It is a combination of the evolution of media and my own personal preferences.

You have been a student of advertising. You could have carved out a career in the field of advertising but you chose acting over it. How was the experience of playing an advertising professional on this show?

It was a very good experience. I remember watching a Jackie Chan interview where the interviewer asked him how it feels to be an actor. He said the best part about being an actor is that you can play so many characters and be so many people. If I had not taken up acting professionally, I wold have been in the advertising world. So, it was interesting to be a part of that kind of setup for a show.

What made you say a ‘yes’ to ‘Thinkistaan’ Season 2?

I largely said a ‘yes’ to it because of what they were offering me. The show is set in the 90s. The 90s was a very interesting decade as liberalisation happened during that time. The market just opened up and consumerism picked up in a big way. Whenever something is offered to you, that character is a hero in your head. It is the way he is positioned in the story makes him a good or a bad person. William, the character I play, has grey shades to it and it is very different from anything I have done in the past.

You were a part of ’24 India’. It was, perhaps, one of the biggest TV shows to have been made in India. Do you think it should have arrived a little later as the digital space is booming right now and that kind of content would have found more patronage there?

The show did quite well even on television. They can, perhaps, do the next season for an OTT platform. I have heard that they are planning something along those lines. ‘24 India’ was a remake of an American show which was made almost ten years before we made it in India. To keep that format like that engaging, one needs a bit of a focus now. If they adapt it  in a nice manner, it can continue to work in the web space.

How do you look at this digital revolution? Do you watch a lot of content on the web?

Actually, I participate more than I consume. I think we are in the golden time of the entertainment industry. Majority of the people in India are interested in cricket and Bollywood but there are some who are interested in other things too. They are getting a large variety of content to choose from on the web. I think virtual reality will take off in a huge way and things are going to go way beyond our imagination.

You have always been very active as a theatre artiste. Your play ‘A Few Good Men’ will be staged in Delhi soon.

First of all, thank you for doing extensive research on my work. I do not see people doing that very often (laughs). ‘A Few Good Men’ is a play based on the Hollywood film of the same name. I play Tom Cruise’s part from the film. It is a very well-written play. I play a lawyer in it and the character is on the stage almost all the time. There is a lot of responsibility on my shoulder and it is challenging but fun at the same time.  

What do you think of the state of theatre in India?

It is growing. Whenever we stage a play in any city, it runs to almost full houses. There are a large number of people who are interested in watching live performances. I want to have at least a new play every year, a couple of shows and hopefully, a few good movies. I want my slate to be like a well-assorted thaali (laughs).

Do you think all these mediums – theatre, films, television and web – continue to co-exist together?

Yes, they will definitely co-exit together and will borrow from one another. This is how every medium grows. There are enough takers for every medium and no medium is a threat to another.

‘NH10’ came out in 2015. The film was headlined by an A-list actress and did well at the box-office. One hoped to see more of you after that film but that did not happen. Why?

I do not have extreme clarity on that. I guess I am not too good at analysing these things. When I started out, a lot of people asked me why I was spending so much time doing theatre, something which does not pay well. I enjoyed doing theatre, so I kept doing it and continue to do it. Creative satisfaction is very important for me. I did ‘Bang Baaja Baaraat’, which was the first web show produced by Y-Films, immediately after ‘NH10’. After that, I did a few more interesting projects.

You are married to Nandini Shrikent, a leading casting director. Do you get feedback from her regarding your work?

Nandini knows her work very well. She is behind the scenes and I am in front of the camera. It is not like we keep talking about work all the time. I do get a feedback on my work sometimes. Being a casting director, she works with actors and thus, is a good judge of acting performances.

What are you doing next?

There will be few releases in the digital space. I am doing a show for Voot. There will be a second season of ‘Four More Shots’. As far as films are concerned, I am waiting for an evolution in the film industry. If some good film offer comes by, I will happy to lap it up.