Here’s the list of filmmakers and actors 29-year-old Adarsh Gourav has worked with so far: Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Manoj Bajpayee, Sridevi, Ramin Bahrani, Deepa Mehta and Steven Soderbergh’s regular collaborator, screenwriter Scott Z Burns.
It has been a charmed life, unlike his character in Raj & DK’s Guns & Gulaabs. In the Netflix series, Gourav plays Jugnu, the inept son of gangster Ganchi (Satish Kaushik). Gourav is among the show’s highlights.
Unlike the macho gunslingers surrounding him, Jugnu is clueless at bad-guy business, a misfit. “Jugnu is probably the only character without jokes, punchlines and gimmicks in the show,” Gourav told Scroll. “It’s like my existence is a joke, an accidental character who should not have been there.”
Gourav, meanwhile, has found his space in the global entertainment industry. His upcoming releases include Reema Kagti’s film based on the 2008 documentary Supermen of Malegaon, an Alien prequel film executive produced by Ridley Scott, and Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, where he stars alongside Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ananya Panday. Extensively trained in Hindustani classical music, he is also working on his debut single.
What was a scene in ‘Guns & Gulaabs’ that was particularly demanding?
I remembered how it was doing the final scene with Satish sir, where I accept myself and my identity, and everything comes together, with the internal conflict getting resolved. When you are doing a scene, you get so close to who you are playing, it is hard to see other choices. Ultimately, your performance is remembered for the choices you make in that moment. That scene was tough.
Jugnu is my most complex character so far. Lots of inner dilemma, conflict, not being accepted by a father, being surrounded by toxic masculinity, with no presence of a woman. How would it be to grow up without a mother’s nourishment and gentleness? Raj, DK and I discussed that perhaps he had an older sister, his only confidante, who has married and sent away. I had to understand and play Jugnu as honestly as possible, without judgement or gimmicks. The only way to play Jugnu was play him sincerely.
Guns & Gulaabs was also the first project I got without auditioning, although I wasn’t the first choice. That creates a fear: what if I suck? How do they believe in me so much? I am only now sort of finding confidence in myself as an actor.
All these good roles and acclaim right now. What’s day-to-day life like?
I have a fear of not doing anything. I would love to sit and do nothing, have a blank mind and stare at a leaf. Maybe its undiagnosed ADHD. I have to constantly do something to stimulate myself – cooking, reading, writing, watching something, making music, buying groceries, watering plants, running the house.
I love to not be in the busyness of Bombay. I like being around trees, a quieter place. Every opportunity I get, I spend time outside Bombay. Now, I’m back here after filming for Alien stopped in Bangkok because of the [American writers’ and actors’] strike.
I hope I don’t get bored of acting. I hope acting is something that keeps me interested for a long time.
Tell me about your music.
It has no specific genre or style. I don’t want to conform to trends. I want to make the music I like to listen to. At this point, classical is the only comforting music to me. I can listen to some raag every day and discover something new.
My favourite raag is Yaman Kalyan. My music is a mix of classical, progressive metal, blues, jazz. I have written the lyrics.
How did a training in music lead to an acting career?
The only form of art present in my life for the longest time was Hindustani classical music. I would listen to raags every day. That’s part of the reason my father moved us to Bombay from Jamshedpur because he thought I would have a better chance of making it as a playback singer here. He worked in the Central Bank of India, was trained in Carnatic music, but he came from humble means, so he couldn’t pursue art. He thought he should encourage me when he saw my interest in music.
We moved to Bombay in 2007. By the end of the year, I had sung for a couple of films. At a stage show, I was spotted by Nazil Currimbhoy, who worked with Raell Padamsee’s talent academy. She said, have you thought about acting? I don’t know what she saw in me, but after that, my mother took me to at least a hundred acting auditions over a year all over Bombay, until I was rejected for the role of Shah Rukh Khan’s son in My Name is Khan.
But then the casting director called me to give me the role of a younger Shah Rukh. All this went on alongside singing. I was training at Padma and Suresh Wadkar’s Ajivasan Training Academy.
What sort of movies ignited your imagination?
I didn’t grow up around a lot of cinema, or even books or TV. I had seen maybe six-seven films in a theatre. Life was more about playing outdoors. In my mid-to-late teens, because of my elder brother’s recommendations, I discovered a lot of film and music. The usual combinations: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino.
Around 16-17, I began thinking deeply about films. Joe Pesci’s performance in Goodfellas, Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, Basketball Diaries and Good Will Hunting affected me. I did not grow up with the traditional rom-com films my generation grew up with.
Javier Bardem, Irrfan Khan, Al Pacino.