Ashwin Mushran – That class act in FASHION!
Posted by Arjun Sekhri on December 23, 2009 | No Comments
When the audience walked out of Madhur’s FASHION, last year, two performances were remembered most, those of Ashwin and Kitu. No mean task when you take a film that was full of topnotch acting and actors. And if that was not enough, Ashwin recently played the NRI Sikh to perfection in N. Chandra’s Yeh Mera India, a character that has never been portrayed accurately in the past, in Hindi films, was played to perfection. We get to know more about this “performer” and also his other passion, Salsa, catch him on the floor of Zenzi’s in Bandra, Mumbai.
Over to Ashwin.
What took a Doon School guy into showbiz?
Now that’s a question I don’t usually get asked. I guess you could say that Doon had a major influence in me becoming and actor. Common perception is that most boys from the school go into elite colleges and high profile jobs around the world, be it Banking, law, politics. Doon however, is a school that has always allowed it’s students to follow what they love doing. Being in a boarding school also gives you the chance to follow avenues that are not necessarily academically inclined. I was always a performer at heart and Doon School allowed me to carry that on. My parents were also supportive which always helps. I guess they realized a long time ago that a regular job would have made be miserable. After Doon I read English Literature at Hindu College Delhi University. Roshan Abbas who is a well known media figure in Bombay, was my senior and while ragging me he decided to take me along to join a theatre group in Delhi called Stage Door which he was part of. I did a number of plays with them over the next 3 years which cut in to my college time of course but was the education I actually wanted. After college I worked with a TV company for a brief period and also toyed with the idea of going to media school. I eventually applied to Drama Schools in the UK and when The Drama Studio London called to say that they’d accept me on a trial basis I happily packed my bags and left. I must have done something right because they kept me on and I completed the course. I stayed on for a few years in London doing the whole struggling actor thing and finally decided to come back in 2003 and give it a shot back home. I initially started out with commercials and then struck gold with being invited on to the ensemble cast of the Great Indian Comedy Show on Star One. It was a landmark show for Indian sketch comedy and was our Saturday Night Live. spent 2 wonderful years on it with brilliant actors, like Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Sheory, Suresh Menon, Purbi Joshi. Cannot begin to describe how mad it was. Films followed directly from that show.
In Fashion two of the most memorable performances were your’s and Kitu’s, how did the role come your way and what has it done for you, as far as the future project and performances are concerned?
Thanks. It’s great to hear that you find my performance in Fashion memorable. I got a call from Madhur Bhandarkar’s office asking if I could come in to meet with them regarding a role. They wouldn’t tell me much but when I got there I gathered the role was a little different. What they were most worried about was whether I would be comfortable playing a gay part. A lot of actors in Indian films get very negative about parts which they consider bad for their image. That doesn’t bother me in the least. Initially I was offered the Bollywood designer’s part (played by Harsh Chhaya) but then they said they’d rather have me play the role of Rohit, Priyanka Chopra’s friend and confidante in the film. I actually signed the contract on the day of my engagement putting everyone in a panic. What I liked about the role is that though Rohit’s character was obviously gay and quite camp, I was allowed to make him human and not someone to laugh at as so often happens. Madhur let me do it my way on set and it’s great when a director trusts you to do that. it also helped that Priyanka was a fantastic professional to work with. It’s amazing how Fashion turned out to be such a big film.
I have definitely got much more recognition after Fashion. Earlier I used to be “that guy from Lage Raho Munna Bhai” I still am of course but my role in Fashion has cemented me in people’s minds as an actor to remember. As far as future projects are concerned there have been many calls and meetings but due to the strike a lot of projects were put on hold. I’ve done commercials and also concentrated on theatre this year since I don’t do enough of it. It’s always good to do stage from time to time. keeps you on your toes. I also have a flourishing career as a Voice Over professional and I’ve been quite busy with that this year
Talk a little about your passion for dance and salsa?
Salsa has been a huge part of my life for the last 11 years. I started learning it while I was in London and it just hooked me from day one. I love everything about it from the music,to the clubs and people. I have made some of my best friends through Salsa. I’ve travelled the world because of it and got to meet people who I otherwise would never have come across. I even taught my wife to dance Salsa so she could come with me to festivals. Our honeymoon believe it or not ended up being spent with 3000 people at the Greek Salsa Festival in Athens. We had an absolute blast. When I came back to Bombay, Salsa kept me afloat. I taught for a while but now I only teach at festivals. I moonlight as a Salsa DJ and play at clubs in Bombay every week. I’ve been asked to DJ at the Hong Kong Salsa Festival in February 2010 and am looking forward to that.
(please do check the article I wrote about Salsa – http://www.missmalini.com/2009/10/30/myth-1-real-men-dont-dance-salsa
What are the future creative projects that you would like to talk about?
As far as films go I’m in talks for some projects for next year. I’m most probably doing a part in a red Chilies film ironically directed by Roshan Abbass who I mentioned earlier. I’m also in Arshad Warsi’s home production, tentatively titled Kaun Bola where I play Boman Irani’s son. I’m doing a play called 1888-Dial-India which is directed by Anuvab Pal who wrote Loins of Punjab and I might be travelling abroad with another play Pune Highway directed by Rahul Da Cunha which is a thriller
The one thing you have done is play a lot of varied characters on screen, what is the single most important thing you look for when you read for a character?
Looking back at all the roles I’ve done it’s amazing how varied they’ve been. I’ve played a Flamboyant designer (Fashion), nasty son (munna bhai), a deceptive boss (Metro), a loose cannon business man (Ek Chaalis ki last local), a wicked doctor (I see You), a Sardar (Yeh Mera India) and a mad Russian doctor (Quick Gun Murugan). What is important to me is not necessarily the length of a role but how important the character is to the film. Is it going to be memorable to the audience ? That’s what I take into account. My part in Lage Raho Munna Bhai was only 3 scenes but the recall value is practically the same as Fashion. I also like to see where I can take characters. I played Amarjit Singh’s character in Yeh Mera India as a sikh without a Panjabi accent as I don’t believe all sardar’s talk with a panjabi one. Dr Django’s character in Quick Gun was initially supposed to be American but I asked Shashanka Ghosh whether I could play him as a Russian. He was all for it and it turned out to be great fun. Also because my skin colour is so fair I can slip between nationalities fairly easily (if you excuse the obvious pun) which makes it all the more interesting as an actor. In my play 1-888-dial India I play 5 different characters ranging from Indians to Americans