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When you meet Tahir Raj Bhasin, you realize that he is far away from the dark, brooding characters he is known to play on the big screen.
He is eloquent when it comes to putting forth his take on things and has the adroitness of whipping up an engaging conversation. Over to the man himself for his unfiltered take on love, relationships, marriage and of course, Time Out.
'I Was Pleasantly Surprised That Girls Were Hating My Character In Mardaani But Were Loving The Actor'
Q. I remember you saying in one of your earlier interviews that you were really worried that girls would hate you after Mardaani. Post that film, Force 2 happened which again had you playing a character with grey shades. But here with Time-Out, you are essaying a role that's antithesis of what have portrayed in films until now. How has the experience been?
A. You are right. With Mardaani, I wasn't sure how girls would react to my role. I was pleasantly surprised that the girls were hating the character but, they were loving the actor. That's the great thing about cinema. If you do anything with conviction, people are going to love the intensity; they are going to relate to that human aspect.
Force 2 was a switch on from a dark character to something that was slightly grey because my character in the film was on a revenge mission. There was a justification to why he was being that way.
However with Time-Out, I agree that my role is that of a boy-next-door facing quarter life crisis everyday. But when you get into the series, you will realize that he still wants to break the rules. He stands for anti-establishment which is a common trait across all these characters. Having said that, yes, it was fun to play a lighter character. I play a guitar, there are making out scenes. So, the whole transition was very different. I am very glad that Danish Aslam directed this series because he comes from a film background.and has zoned his relationships.
'When You Are In Late 20s, You Realize That F*ck, This Isn't Real Happiness'
Q. How much do you identify with your character Rahul in real life?
A. A lot. When Danish came and explained the story to me, I realized that when you are growing up or are in your early 20s, you are told that happiness is finding a great job or finding somebody to get married to. But when you do earn that and by the time, you are in late 20s, you realize that f*ck, like this isn't real happiness! So, what do you do then, because this is not something that your school, college or society has prepared you for.
I related to it immediately, not on a personal front, but I have friends who are like this- the ones who are very sucked into their jobs and relationships and then wanting to do things that you can't do in reality. This show was instantly relatable.
'There Are Bad Guys Who Can Be Romantic & There Can Be Romantics Who Are Sometimes Grey'
Q. Danish has a knack for love stories. At the same time, he has always stayed away from the typical cliched romance. Was that one of the reasons why you agreed to come on board for this web-series?
A. Definitely. I think in real life, no one is black or white. There are always shades of grey. There are bad guys who can be romantic and there can be romantics who are sometimes grey and that is why the story attracted me. There is definitely a subtext of love going on but then, like in any relationship, there are problems and how we deal with those while commuting is what the show is all about and that's why this platform is so relevant.
Today's generation associates more with something that's real. If you show them just people dancing around the trees, they are not necessarily going to buy that because that's not how they behave in real life. They have got issues. I think this medium communicates what a 21st century love story is.
'When Sarah Walks Into A Room, You Can't Help But Look At Her'
Q. How is Sarah Jane Dias as a co-star?
A. Wow, she is amazing! When she walks into a room, you can't help but look at her because she's gorgeous. She is a very spontaneous actor which for me, was a lot of fun because you could never predict which way she is going to go. So no matter what you have done in the script-reading, she can throw at you something spontaneously and that keeps you on your toes.
The way Time-Out was shot, it was almost like shooting two feature films at the time schedule of one, because we were pulling 12 hours shift. So, you want to have someone who you can have fun with even when you are not in front of the camera. We had great chemistry that way, because she loves music, food and we had a lot of common interests. She's a fun girl to be around with.
Q. Like you mentioned, it was like working for two feature films. Was it similarly taxing for you to get out of that character once the shoot was wrapped?
A. In the show, you see what has happened to my character Rahul before the story begins, there is a present Rahul and then there's a future one. So for me within the show, it was like playing three characters of the same guy. I am sporting two looks too- the first one has me in a man-bun and the other one is a short hair linear fashion. Keeping that continuity and those time lapse was quite a task. But it was interesting to get into this character because I am used to a certain dramatic style which films bring. Here, Danish wanted to keep it as real as possible.
'I Have Never Been In A Long-Term Relationship'
Q. We hear that you even took sessions with two groups of acquaintances to get to dilemma of your character. During that period, did your outlook towards relationships changed?
A. Of course. During my growing years, Bollywood was at its peak of romance. You believe that when you meet someone and then you meet that perfect someone, it's happily ever after. But when you go out there and actually talk to people...I have never been in a super long-term relationship. You realize the transition. It's not always about finding that perfect someone. Sometimes, it's about finding someone imperfect and both of you adjusting.
'It's Quite Interesting To Leave The Audience With A Conflict'
Q. You said that Bollywood was at its peak of romance during your growing years. Then what made you take up an unconventional route when it came to making your debut in films and now web-series?
A. Honestly, I didn't chose the route. Instead it chose me. In Mumbai, you will always find your choices. Today, unconventional is the way to go. The audience is not the same as it was in the 90s. So, I saw a great opportunity in playing a bad guy in Mardaani. But, a bad guy was going to be cool. He wasn't going to be the one chewing paan or having that typical look of what a Bollywood stereotype villain has. He was going to be the anti-hero where girls won't be sure whether they have a crush on him or they want to kill him. It's quite interesting to leave the audience with that conflict.
Till four years ago, web-series was not even a concept. Two years ago if someone had come to me with it, I would have said 'there's no way'. Today, it's become the new 'cool' thing to make. It's a quick commitment. You can manage to do that between even two films. It has an audience which is so vast. It's a dream come true for a lot of actors.
What's interesting is that you can experiment with web-series. Here in Time-Out, we are talking about a guy who is in relationship, who doesn't want his job and who doesn't want his girlfriend and looks for happiness outside- now, that might not be a concept that a film-going audience today would want to pay and watch. It might not be something which you would want to see with your parents or in-laws. But if you are at home or coming back from office, you can watch it on your phone. It's a great new audience to tap into.
'I Was About 21 When I Hit The Pause & Decided That I Just Want To Travel'
Q. In real life, have you ever been in a situation where hit pause on your life and re-evaluate your choices?
A. Yes, after my college years. My family felt like I should go down the regular route of an MBA. But, I really loved acting and studied in an acting school. I think I was about 21 when I hit the pause and I decided then I just want to travel. I worked in a shack in Goa for two months just figuring out if I want that kind of life. Luckily for me, this was around 2007-08 and the financial crash had just taken place. There, I was meeting a lot of people from around the world who had just been fired from their jobs. They told me about how they spent their last ten years messed up because of what they had gone through and it give me a peek into what the future could be.
'We Are Living In The Age Of Tinder Where Relationships Are A Right Or Left Swipe'
Q. Time-Out explores the complexities of an urban couple. It's very easier to get in and out of relationships in todays' world especially in the times of Tinder. Also, the concept of marriage as this infallible institution is a crumbling edifice. What do you think could be the reason for this?
A. Broadly speaking on the philosophical point of view, our attention span these days is quite short. I used to be able to sit through a book years ago, But now, you are so used to reading listicles and short articles and everything in Twitter format. People's ability to adjust has reduced. We are living in the age of Tinder. Your relationships are a right or left swipe. Overall, people have evolved to a point where relationships are about being happy.
When I look at my parents or grandparents' generation, if we ain't happy, people would be so worried that, 'Oh my god, what would society say?' 'Log kya kahengey' was a very big deal. But today, I think parents, grandparents and even society to a large are a lot about what makes the children happy. It's a move definitely in the positive direction. No girl should be forced to get married to someone just because she is of a certain age. No girl or guys should be forced to save a relationship just because what would be relatives say!
Q. What was the best compliment that you received after the show's first look was out?
A. My friends and family said that they felt I was totally natural. I think that's the biggest compliment for an actor. One of the first shot has me kissing a girl and it wasn't vulgar or I wasn't questioned why was I doing it. Today, people don't make a big deal about such scenes and for an actor, that's great news.
Q. Any particular genre you are looking out for when it comes to films?
A. No. Instead I look for great stories and the story-tellers. At the moment, I am working on a film called Manto which has me playing a 40s-50s superstar named Shyam. He was great friends with Manto. It was really fascinating. In real life, Nawaz (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is already a star and I am trying to make my way. So, I look out for experiences like that.
Q. You had your own set of struggles and carved your own path. In recent times, the Harvey Weinstein controversy has shocked the entire Hollywood industry. Even in Bollywood, a lot of people spoke about the existence of casting couch. What's your take on this entire row?
A. For any person in any position of power to misuse; whether it's monetary or sexually, is an act of corruption. I see it as corruption in any form. Earlier in the days of TV/ radio, it (the controversy) perhaps would have not been so public. Today people in India know about what's happening in LA, almost instantly the verdict is online. People already have an opinion. Overall, the digital platform has made systems way more transparent- whether it's elections in India or US or the entertainment industry.
Q. Finally, what would be your last words to your fans who are eagerly waiting to watch you in more films?
A. I would say a true fan never puts anyone in a particular bracket. You should check out Time Out and hopefully, you will like it.