Vikrant Massey has delivered a standout performance as master strategist Bablu in Amazon Prime Video’s web series Mirzapur, but he has no time to bask in the praise. The 31-year-old actor is starring in the web series Broken, a relationships drama that will be streamed on AltBalaji from November 27. Among his upcoming projects include, in no particular order, Criminal Justice, which is BBC’s Indian adaptation of its 2008 series and Arati Kadav’s science fiction drama Cargo. Massey has also signed up for the RSVP film Yaar Jigri, Alankrita Shrivastava’s Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare and Seema Pahwa’s directorial debut Pind Daan.
And yet, Vikrant Massey doesn’t want to rest on his laurels. “I would rather say I still have a good four to five years more,” he told Scroll.in. “Consistency is something which is paramount for me. If I’m able to consistently deliver, and make my projects and stories worth my audience’s time, that’s when I’ll probably say that I’ve arrived.”
Massey’s admirers will probably mark his moment of arrival as the day of the release of Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death in the Gunj in 2017. In the period film, Massey plays Shutu, an easily bullied young man whose feelings of inadequacy, loss and failure are exacerbated during a family vacation.
“Shutu and A Death in the Gunj really changed a lot of things for me,” Massey said. “In fact, the three women who I feel have played a crucial role in my career are Ekta Kapoor, Alankrita Shrivastava and Konkana Sen Sharma. Konkona saw my performance in Lipstick Under My Burkha. And she had also spoken to Alankrita and said that she was looking for an actor for Shutu. When Alankrita read the script and learned what Shutu was like, she told Konkona, your Shutu is right in front of you – that’s the boy standing behind you.”
Shutu was both tough to play and hard to get out of. “The belief that Shutu had, and the issues that he faced, had become my life’s issues,” Massey said. “My parents, after a while, became really worried. My mother actually broke down and said, I can’t see you like this anymore, why don’t you just quit the film? I said no. I had got the role home with me, and it had stayed.”
For Mirzapur, Massey was able to put some distance between himself and his character Bablu. The nine-episode first season of the crime series, set in Uttar Pradesh, is currently being streamed on Amazon Prime Video. Mirzapur has a sizable cast, including Pankaj Tripathi, Divyenndu, Ali Fazal, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Shwetha Tripathi, Rasika Dugal, Sheeba Chadha and Rajesh Tailang. Massey plays Bablu, an ambitious and intelligent Mirzapurian who overcomes his scruples and gets involved in the illegal gun-making and drug rackets run by Pankaj Tripathi’s character Akhandanand.
Bablu draws from Massey’s personality, the actor’s research into the social fabric of Uttar Pradesh, and the imagination of the show’s writers. “I’ve never done action roles in my career and you’ll see that I’m not a part of a lot of the action scenes in Mirzapur,” Massey said. “I’m more of the brains and Ali [Fazal], who is my partner in crime, is the brawn. I sort of got lucky because of the fact that the character is partially the real me. He is someone who is academically inclined and doesn’t really belong to the hinterland. He wanted to go to Lucknow and become a civil servant. He is one breath of an alternative narrative in that show. He is probably the conscience of the audience.”
Massey’s personal preparations included getting a hold of the language spoken in the eastern Uttar Pradesh region where the series is set. Then, he set out to understand what he calls “the angst” of the youngsters there. “I’ve travelled fairly well in Uttar Pradesh and spoken to a lot of people in the Poorvanchal belt where the series is set,” Massey said. “The angst is something that is experienced by the people of Bombay too, but their angst is different. I wanted to understand the aspirations of the place, the dejections and priorities of the people, their thought processes.”
Bablu will not be making it to the second season – a decision that took Massey by surprise. “I hadn’t expected it at all – also because I wasn’t told about it at the conceptualising stage,” he said. “Anyway, I am happy that people have lapped onto Bablu.”
Vikrant Massey began working at the age of 16 as a model, choreographer and actor in television shows and short films. His television projects include Dhoom Machao Dhoom (2007), Dharam Veer (2008), Balika Vadhu (2009) and Qubool Hai (2013). He made his feature film debut as the hero’s friend in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera (2013) alongside Ranveer Singh. The roles that followed were similarly supporting in nature, but Massey added his own touches to each of them, whether it was Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) or Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend (2017).
“I will not deny that I always wanted to be a protagonist, even when I was a hero ka dost,” Massey said. “But the roles and stories I chose were those that I was so fond of that this other journey of becoming a hero took a back seat. To be honest, the amount of screen time I get hardly matters to me. The story has to be good and again, what’s paramount for me is whether people can relate to the story and my part. If my audience is not able to feel what my characters are feeling or are not able to understand the underlying message, then that is going to be my biggest failure.”
The web series Broken features Massey in the lead role. Directed by Santosh Singh, Broken centres on Veer (Massey) and Sameera (Harleen Sethi), two heartbroken characters who seek solace in each other. Sometimes, in order to fix a broken heart, you need pieces from another broken heart, Massey said.
“With this story, you’ll see that two halves indeed make one,” he said. “Something happens in the life of my character, an affable, young and hardworking investment banker, and all his plans go for a toss. His life is changed forever. That’s when he meets Sameera, who has undergone her own whirlwind experience.”
Veer scarcely resembles the characters played by Massey thus far. “I said yes to this project because of what I call its relatability quotient,” Massey said. “I think everybody in their life has either had his or her heart broken or broken one themselves. Everyone has fallen in love, suffered heartbreak, felt humiliated and been low on self confidence. So, when Ekta [Kapoor] wanted to produce a story about it on this scale, I thought why not.”
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