A long journey filled with more struggle and pain than success or glory and yet you feel a sense of happiness and gratitude in Ram Naresh Diwakar’s voice when you speak to him. The actor was recently seen as Natthi, the mutton-loving, jovial dacoit in director Abhishek Chaubey’s dacoit drama ‘Sonchiriya’. Diwakar also serves as the dialect coach on the film and trained all the actors in the Bundelakhandi dialect. In this interview, he talks about ‘Sonchiriya’, his journey as an actor, training actors for the film and more.
How did you get on board for the film? Were you first signed as an actor or a dialect coach?
I signed the film as an actor. I have grown up in Delhi but my parents belong to Chambal where the film is set in. The makers knew this, so they asked me if I can conduct workshops with the actors and train them in the dialect as well. At that time of signing the film, I did not have any information about the cast members. I was still okay with the thought of training Sushant and Bhumi as they are quite young but when I got to know that I was also required to train Manoj (Bajpayee) ji and Ashutosh (Rana) ji, I was shocked. After I came on board for the film as an actor and a dialect coach, I decided to devote all my time to the project for eight months. I read the script 179 times. Once, Abhishek came up to me and told me I should never see you reading the script again (laughs). I did not take up any other project during this time. I was quite lean and was asked to gain a lot of weight for the film and I did that happily.
How was the experience of doing workshops with the actors and training them in the Budelakhandi dialect?
All the actors were very hard-working and grasped the dialect pretty quickly. This was my third film with Ranvir Shorey after ‘Titli’ and ‘Halkaa’. I did not get to interact much with him during the shoot of the first two films but during the shoot of ‘Sonchiriya’, we bonded very well and he almost became like an elder brother figure to me. We used to crack jokes on the sets all the time. Bhumi (Pednekar) is an urban girl but training her was very easy. She used to come to Abhishek Chaubey’s office every day and trained extensively to get familiar with her character and the world it belonged to. She learnt to make chapatis, how to speak like her characters, how the women in that area raise their children – everything. She devoted a lot of time to prepare for the character. Sushant (Singh Rajput) is a very passionate actor. Whenever something would come to his mind and I am not around, he would call me up and ask me to come to the set immediately. He used to do a lot of research and took a lot of pain to get the dialect right. He is a voracious reader and would wake up at 3 o’clock in the night to gaze at stars. He is a very large hearted man and does not behave like a star. He even shared a picture with me on social media. Working with Manoj ji was an absolute honour. I got very emotional when he spoke about my contribution to the film at a promotional event.
How did your journey as an actor start?
I grew up in Dakshinpuri in Delhi. It is one of the most backward areas in the city. I did theatre with the late Tom Alter for twelve years. I used to travel with him to different places. I have played small roles in films like ‘Halkaa’, ‘Kaun Kitney Paani Mein’, ‘Hindi Medium’. Every human being, and not just actors, go through a lot of struggle in life n different ways. Honestly, here was a point when I thought I would never be able to make it big as an actor and I should quit this profession. Thankfully, that was a fleeting thought and kept on struggling. I am happy with the way things have shaped up for me.
What are you doing next?
There are a few projects in the pipeline. I am playing the second lead in a film called ‘Ghanta’. The producer offered me the film after seeing the trailer of ‘Sonchiriya’. We spoke on Facetime, had a meeting in Mumbai and I was signed for the film. There are a couple of other films which will be announced soon.