Post-Bheja Fry Vinay Pathak has suddenly come into a kind of delayed stardom that has taken him more by surprise than anyone else. Vinay Pathak started his career with a walk-on part in as a tourist guide at the Taj Mahal in Deepa Mehta's Fire. Today he's come a long way. The affable actor from Bhojpur (Bihar) speaks about the new thinner and savvier Vinay Pathak.
Suddenly you've become quite the cool dude, heavy weight loss and all…
Ha! If you remember I had been part of a chest-baring competition with Salman Khan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. I wish I could do that scene now. Seriously, the weight loss is for a film. I can't talk about the film right now. But it's a role worth dieting for. I had to look much leaner than before for it. For one full year, I've been doing Pranayam. That's the basic formula. Plus of course a strict diet control over what I eat. Fortunately, I've always been vegetarian. In spite of a mouth filled with sweet teeth, I completely stay away from sweets. It's hard. But finally worth it. I intend to continue losing weight even when the film and role are over with.
So no fried things for the Bheja Fry guy?
None at all. We're now looking at a sequel. See, Bheja Fry was a coming together of like-minded people. My co-star Rajat Kapoor, the director Sagar Balary, Ranvir Shorey…we all knew each other for years and had worked together. No one thought it would be anything but small art house film. But what worked was the spirit of the common man. It's the story of a very ordinary man but it became interesting once fifty people sat down to watch it. My knowledge of Hindi film songs gathered from years of listening to the radio helped develop the character.
Why didn't you all acknowledge Francis Verber's 'The Dinner Game' as the source for Bheja Fry?
Because we didn't have the money to pay up, ha ha. No seriously, getting copyrights is a big hassle. I realized this when Parvathi Balagopalan and I were adapting Laura Esquivel's novel Like Water For Chocolate for Indian television. We tried to hunt her down. Believe me it was on ordeal. It would've been much easier to just go ahead with our serial Margarita quietly. The Bheja Fry sequel will be far more original.
What do you play in your new release Mithya?
Obviously, not the lead because my friend Ranvir plays the lead. Actually, it's a very interesting character of a henchman. The film is special because all my friends--Ranvir, Saurav Shukla and director Rajat Kapoor--are working together again. We did a lot of masti in and around the shooting. And having Naseerbhai in the cast was an added attraction. In fact, even the cinematographer and production designer have been my friends for years. So, Mithya was like a family affair. The story is very interesting. And the character is someone no other filmmaker but Rajat (who did Bheja Fry with me) would've trusted me with. I had to be in this film.
What's this enduring camaraderie that you share with Ranvir Shorey?
Our chemistry is neither morphed nor choreographed. We've known each other for many years. And the talk show that we're doing Ranvir Vinay Aur Kaun … has only brought us closer. We hang out together, so doing a show together is no strain. We get to meet so many people who are friends and also people we've never met before. Like I met Karan Johar, Tusshar Kapoor and Neha Dhupia on the show for the first time. I'll continue to do the show even when I'm busy with film assignments. Like I'm currently shooting a film called Oh My God!
You play God?
No. I play Oh-my. Ha ha. It's being a directed by Ram Gopal Varma's assistant Saurabh Shrivastava, he's a first-time director and I play the main character. In Johnny Gaddar, I played a gambler. I went completely by the director Sriram Raghavan's vision. It was a small role. It was signed before Bheja Fry. I'm really not looking at central roles alone. If I get interesting cameos and supporting parts, why not? Not every role can be a Bheja Fry.
Your family in Bihar must be so proud of you?
My mother still hasn't come to terms with her son being an actor. She wanted me to be banker who went to work with a briefcase in the morning and came home to his wife and children at 5 pm. She thinks acting is more suited as a hobby. I don't want to disrespect my mother's masoomiyat (innocence).