Tanuj: I felt like nobody wanted to cast me

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Despite being yesteryear superstar Rati Agnihotri’s son, Tanuj Virwani has been trying to carve a niche for himself in Bollywood right from his first film. In an exclusive interview with ETimes, the actor opens up about how he deals with failure, social media trolls, and his journey in Bollywood so far. Excerpts…
How would you describe your Bollywood journey?
It has been a fascinating journey! When I look back at my first decade as an actor, it has been quite a roller-coaster ride. I thought I would arrive in the industry with a bang, but instead, I landed with a thud because my first few films were a disaster. I really felt like I was unemployable because nobody wanted to cast me. When ‘Inside Edge’ happened, web-series wasn’t mainstream like it is now. But I made the best of the opportunities presented to me.

How did you deal with the failures?
By Saturday you know which direction a film is heading in and mine did not head in the right direction. People who were supportive and appreciative in the beginning suddenly vanished. That is when I truly started working on my mindset. I just decided to give my best. Sometimes even the best is not good enough but that does not mean you stop trying. You have to find the right role and the right movie. When I had started out, I looked different and thought differently too. I feel your reel life and real life have to meet at a very specific point for the magic to happen. But you never know when it will happen.

Now, my mantra is very simple. I try to give my best to every project that I am a part of. Once I am done shooting and dubbing, I detach myself completely from the film. Then the makers then call me a few months later for promotions. That time, I convince myself that I am not an actor but a salesman who has to now sell his product. As an actor, you have to don different hats. Sometimes, deep in my heart, I already know that a film is not going to work. However, irrespective of what the outcome is, I take it to the finish line. They are all my babies. I couldn’t have just abandoned them.

You have also tried your hands at writing and directing. What do you enjoy the most?
As long as I am around the camera, it doesn’t matter if I am behind it or in front of it. I have directed a lot of short films and I have also written a few things. The thing about short films is that there are not many expectations riding on them. You can just shoot something with your cell phone and put it up. When I direct people and give them feedback on certain things, they also act as notes to me, as an actor. Sometimes, while performing you may not realise certain things, but the camera catches what the naked eye cannot. So, I have learned from my observations. Being both an actor and a director makes things interesting. I also do not want to be a jack of all trades. So, now I am focusing on my acting. However, in the future, I would love to do something exclusively behind the camera.

How do you deal with negativity and trolls?
I just ignore the comments. My friends complain that I never reply to their messages but that is because I post and move on. Especially in the last year with the lockdown, there has been so much negativity on social media. You can either deal with it or go off social media altogether. For me, it is a medium to connect with my family, friends, and fans. It is a lovely platform but, of late, people have made it pretty nasty. Today, you need to know how you would like to project yourself on social media. Some people have a camera in their hands right from the time they wake up and I am like, ‘Come on, guys! That is literally too much information.’ There have to be some boundaries.

What kinds of films attract you?
I always gravitate towards darker material. If you tell me to pick between a rom-com or a thriller, I would choose the latter. That is my zone. However, I don’t want to restrict myself; I want to be open to everything. I have never tried comedy, so, I would love to do that. What matters to me is that I should connect with the material.

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