‘An Actor Is Bound To Shine Under Mira Nair’s Guidance’
In Mira Nair’s latest offering, A Suitable Boy, based on the novel by Vikram Seth, Ishaan Khatter plays Maan, a prominent politician’s son. He talks to Lachmi Deb Roy about working with Mira Nair, the chemistry between Tabu and him in the show and his choices as an actor.
How did you become a part of A Suitable Boy?
I was first introduced to A Suitable Boy through the casting team—they called me for an audition. I had heard of the novel, but hadn’t read it. All I knew was that Mira Nair was going to adapt and direct it for the BBC. But I had no reference for the role when I gave my first audition. So, I did it my way and eventually, there was a series of meetings and auditions. Once everything was in place, I received eight scripts.
My first take on Maan was that he is a multi-dimensional character—you see so many shades of him throughout the story. There were various layers to him that I got to explore in almost every scene. That was one of the main reasons I played him.
You are 24 and Tabu is 48. How did you work on the chemistry you two have in the show?
I don’t think anyone could have played Saeeda Bai the way Tabu has. She plays a character that has lived through storms—it is evident in the first episode. Her performance influences the gist, feel and tone of the entire story. So, it’s also valuable to my work and performance.
Tabu seamlessly adapts and flows into the environment she is working in. She was so comfortable in the role that there wasn’t much need for a dialogue between us. Of course, there were many discussions, but somehow, there was no need to verbalise our intentions. We had a wonderful synergy. She understood her role deeply, which made things easier for me.
How was the experience of working with Mira Nair?
It was perhaps one of the most enriching experiences for me as an actor to work with a trailblazer like her. She trusted me with Maan’s character. An actor is bound to shine under her guidance. Sometimes, there are hierarchies on a film set, but there were none here. Mira di would even do yoga with us.
We have heard that you are super choosy about your films. Why is it so?
I enjoy doing diverse work. I have been lucky enough to get those kinds of opportunities, to do something that shows me in a different light. It gives me great satisfaction to push myself in a new direction and see how far I can go. I want to explore these different sides of myself as an actor and as a person.
Beyond The Clouds just happened to me. It was a complete no-brainer to work with Majid Majidi. For Dhadak, Karan Johar chose me, he had faith in me as an actor. When people like him, who are brilliant at their work, show faith in you, you have to trust them despite your feelings about yourself. After that, it took me a year-and-a-half to find the films I wanted to do.
Having been brought up in a family of artistes, was acting the obvious choice for you?
My family is passionate about what it does, especially the craft of acting. I was naturally drawn towards it. There was no restriction from my family, nor did they push me in any direction. Luckily, I was born to a family that understood I was passionate about the craft.