Remember the real Bhavesh Joshi? In Vikramaditya Motwane’s 2018 film Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, the titular character was a daredevil social activist whose exposes of wrongdoers led to his death, after which his friend (Harshvardhan Kapoor) took up his name and transformed into a costumed crime-fighter.
Though the film tanked at the box office, Priyanshu Painyuli went home with rave reviews for his short but critical role. The 31-year-old actor, who had played supporting roles in Rock On 2 and the YouTube series Bang Baaja Baaraat, will now be seen in the Netflix film Upstarts, directed by Udai Singh Pawar.
Upstarts, released on October 18, follows three Bengaluru-based friends (Painyuli, Shadab Kamal, Chandrachoor Rai) who begin a startup company to deliver medicines to different parts of the country. “My character Kapil Mathur comes up with the ideas in the group,” Painyuli told Scroll.in. “Chandrachoor plays Yash who is the tech guy designing the app and all that. Shadab plays Vinay, the operations guy, who makes the app user-friendly and reaches out to people.
As the app’s reach grows bigger and the trio becomes successful, complications in their interpersonal relations crop up. Painyuli said Upstarts is rooted in the startup culture of Bengaluru, and that it was easy for him to connect to the film and his character as he is not only from Bengaluru but began a startup almost a decade ago.
“After finishing my filmmaking course, six of us started a company to make music videos and documentaries,” Painyuli said. “Having done that, and being in Bengaluru around startup-type guys, I knew the scene. Also, an actor’s life is pretty similar to an entrepreneur’s. There’s a line in the film that goes startups are a high risk, high gain game. Actors go through a similar journey. Finding that one right project to perform in is just the same as waiting for the right guy who will invest. Till then you are your biggest and perhaps only supporter and cheerleader.”
Painyuli didn’t stick with his company for long. He shifted to Mumbai in 2010 to pursue acting full-time. He was a part of the theatre group Rage Productions, for which he acted in plays directed by Rajit Kapur. Painyuli also travelled across the country acting in plays by Akarsh Khurana. His most memorable on-stage gig, Painyuli said, was Taj Express, an international musical production choreographed by Vaibhavi and Shruti Merchant.
Following a supporting role in Bang Baaja Baarat, Painyuli made his Hindi debut in Rock On 2, where he played Rahul, an ambitious young singer and brother to the female lead played by Shraddha Kapoor. Rahul’s role was short but key to the events unfolding in Rock On 2 as was his breakthrough appearance in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. In both films, his character’s death leads to a chain of events that move the plot.
About the weeks following Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Painyuli said, “The response I got for the film instilled a lot of confidence in me. I thought, okay, I am making the right choices in my career. It also makes the industry become confident to cast you. For Bhavesh, critics aside, the validation I got from rank strangers was phenomenal. I would get Instagram messages that said people cried when my character died.”
Painyuli added that he has been careful in selecting projects since he is wary of “boring people” and becoming “overexposed” by “playing the same character in three-four films back to back”. He said, “I don’t want to do a bunch of films in a hurry. I want to do a 100 films and for that I need longevity. To ensure that, I need to pick the right project where I will see some sense in the character and only if I like it, will I know that the audience likes it.”
Up next for Painyuli is the Netflix film Dhaka, directed by Sam Hargrave and written by Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame). Shot in Ahmedabad and Thailand, the film follows a mercenary, played by Chris Hemsworth, who is sent to the Bangladesh capital to rescue a businessman’s kidnapped son.
“I cannot talk about the character and it’s a surprise that I was cast for it, since they were going for a different actor initially,” Painyuli said. “There’s a lot to say about Dhaka but I cannot at the moment.” What he also cannot speak about is the second season of an Amazon Prime Video series he is part of where he said he plays a “very, very fun and crazy character”.