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‘I don’t have to be visible’: Rajat Barmecha on why he kept a low profile after ‘Udaan’

After doing the odd feature film and a web series, the actor now appears in Viu’s ‘Love Lust and Confusion’.

After an impressive debut as a sensitive young poet rebelling against his abusive father in Vikramaditya Motwane’s 2010 film Udaan, Rajat Barmecha all but disappeared. In the eight years that followed, he was seen in the odd feature film and a web series, but nothing that stuck. For those who were wondering where the promising performer had gone, Barmecha’s Facebook profile offered a clue: “What do you do for a living? I Travel! So how do you make money? Aah. For that I act”, his introduction declares.

Now 28, Barmecha can be seen in the web series Love Lust And Confusion, which was released on the streaming platform Viu on March 17. He also has a feature film lined up, Rajesh Tibrewal’s Leader, and is also shooting for another web series.

Love Lust And Confusion centres on 26-year-old Poroma (Tara Alisha Berry), who has a list of fantasies to fulfill before she gets married to her fiance. She moves to Mumbai for a year, where she comes across Jhonny (Barmecha), a drummer in a rock band who has been dumped and is looking for a fling. Billed as a “story of millennials”, the series also stars Meiyang Chang, Gaurav Chopra, Jaya Bhattacharya and Samir Kochhar.

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Love Lust And Confusion.

This is Barmecha’s second web series after Mithila Palkar-starrer Girl in the City (2016), where too he played second fiddle to a show headlined by a woman. But Barmecha is not particular about being the face of a project and said he was “happy, content and satisfied” with his work so far.

“I don’t want to do 10 films where I am just there on screen,” Barmecha said. “Whatever I do, I want to put all my energy and heart into it. So, that is why I don’t do everything that comes to me.”

Following Udaan and a cameo in Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan (2011), Barmecha acted in Disco Valley, a buddy comedy directed by Sajit Warrier that never made it to theatres. There was also a supporting role in the forgettable erotic-action movie Warrior Savitri (2016). More notable were his short films, including the National Film Award-winning The Finish Line (2011) directed by Akshay Roy of Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017) fame.

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The Finish Line (2011).

“I am not PR-savvy,” Barmecha said. “I don’t do many public appearances. I don’t go to parties. I have my set of friends. And I travel a lot.” He had elaborated on this in a passionate Facebook post in June 2017, in which he explained why he wanted to be choosy with his roles. He wrote that though he had been appreciated for Udaan, all the offers that followed were from people who wanted to make “another Udaan, another Delhi Belly or another Dil Chahta Hai”. So, he opted to wait for meatier offers instead of taking up something just for money. When he did take up offers purely for financial reasons, “they turned out to be real bad”, he wrote.

So what kind of roles had he been waiting for, and what were the kind of films he rejected? “Rejection is a harsh word,” Barmecha said. “I just apologise and decline the offers. So, for example, if it is a Shahrukh Khan or a Salman Khan movie, and I am also there, then if my character is not doing or contributing much, then I don’t want to be a part of it. My character should have some meaning and value. I have said no to a lot of films like these and some of them have been released.”

“Also, I like to do lead roles,” he added. “If it is a lead role, I look at a project as my own and I can contribute more to it.”

Barmecha said he never thought of doing films just to appear to be working consistently. “I don’t have to be visible,” Barmecha said. “My work can be visible enough to get me the kind of stuff I want to do. If I wanted visibility, I can go to 10 parties and get pictures clicked or get articles about me published in 10 places but I don’t want that.”

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Warrior Savitri (2016).

Barmecha wasn’t always that reticent – it was the lure of fame and money that drew him to acting. Growing up in Delhi, Barmecha and his siblings, Vicky and Ritu (who are also in the film industry) were obsessed with celebrity gossip and Page 3 scoops. That brought Barmecha to Mumbai. Shortly after, Udaan happened, and his plans changed. “I had the image of a Bollywood hero in my mind and I wanted to do acting just for the fame and money,” Barmecha said. “But after I did Udaan and met people like Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, I fell in love with the craft rather than the fame and money part of it.”

But in an expensive city like Mumbai, wouldn’t it be hard for an upcoming actor to be very choosy? “My needs are not too much,” Barmecha explained. “I am not materialistic. I have a comfortable life. Whatever I need, I have. I don’t need a Rolls Royce. Luckily, Bollywood pays me enough for one project. Good money comes into your account from just one project and you can survive for a long time. I don’t have the pressure of things like money.”

Rajat Barmecha.
Rajat Barmecha.
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.