Viraf Phiroz Patel, who was recently seen in ALTBalaji’s The Verdict, gets into an exclusive conversation with IWMBuzz.com.

I thirst for, dig and savor good writing: Viraf Patel

Viraf Phiroz Patel, the handsome and talented actor, needs no introduction! He has carried on his shoulders the toughest of roles possible, and has enthralled one and all with his stunning screen presence.

Viraf, who has played phenomenal roles on TV in shows such as Kismat, Ek Boond Ishq, Mahi Way, Naamkarann, etc., is now happy exploring himself as an actor in the varied roles he has gotten on the web platform.

After being part of web-series 13 Mussoorie, Flip, Heartbreak Hotel etc, he was recently seen in the ALTBalaji series The Verdict – State V/s Nanavati, where he played the role of Prem Ahuja.

In an exclusive candid talk with IWMBuzz.com, Viraf Phiroz Patel goes into detail about his life-changing experience as an actor, his likes, dislikes and much more.

Excerpts from the Viraf Phiroz Patel interview:

You have had a good journey on the web space with several interesting roles. Tell us about your web experience, Viraf Phiroz Patel?

There is just so much possibility out there in the web world for every artist. Almost overwhelms. Hope to be part of them as I go along! Interesting times ahead. We’ve only just begun!

The Verdict is a subject that garners eyeballs every time it is brought into focus. How was it to play the main role in this ALTBalaji series? 

I doubt there is a ‘main’ role in The Verdict series. IMO, the makers take good advantage of the luxury of long format the web medium offers, to elaborate on a lot of worthy characters.

Yes! I was a bit uncertain about playing Prem Ahuja because ‘Rustom’ had just been done, but then Shashant Shah, our director, nudged me to test for the part (will be grateful to him for doing that). They sent me the scripts after that and I realized that the writers are really trying to explore something different and brave here, and so I jumped in.

What are the nuances in your role that you had to work hard on for The Verdict? 

Prem Ahuja lived in the era of the 50s, when language and demeanor was rather different from now, but human instincts always remain the same. To appear and sound like a person of another era, yet remain relatable, was the interesting part. That’s the beauty of period dramas I guess.

On shoot it’s the director’s validation, or that quiet cheer you get from your earnest peers that gives me a sense of job satisfaction.

Also, in most onscreen narratives of this story, Prem is this glorified Casanova; but the writers/makers wanted to humanize his appeal. I’ve just tried to serve that vision. Let’s see how the audiences respond to that.

As an actor, what is it that gives you the utmost satisfaction?

On shoot it’s the director’s validation, or that quiet cheer you get from your earnest peers that gives me a sense of job satisfaction. But let me share a real life episode to explain what the ultimate gratification feels like.

A year or so ago, I attended the wedding of a close buddy of mine whose bride was 11 years younger to him and was born and brought up in a somewhat conservative South Indian culture. I rushed from a shoot to the wedding and had no time to carry a gift. While I was dealing with the guilt of landing up without a gift, the bride kept saying ‘you must meet my mother, she wants to meet you’. So during the Sangeet, I am taken to meet my buddies brand new ‘mom in law’ who, I am told, is a senior doctor running a charitable hospital in her town. As I collected myself to at least appear as good company her new son in law keeps, she said, “Beta, I saw Naamkarann and I really felt your character’s pain because your mother (played by the great Reema Lagoo) did not approve of your lover Ayesha (played by the lovely Barkha Bisht). It is then that I decided that I will never let my children go through the same pain. So when my only daughter came to me and said, mum I want to marry a North Indian divorcee 11 years older than me, I said, if that is what you want, so be it”.

I went into that wedding feeling a sense of shame at not carrying a gift but ended up leaving with one of the best gifts someone had ever given me. I remember taking a picture with my friend’s mom in law and sharing her words that very evening with Bhatt sahab, the creator, Gurodev the producer & also Gaurav Bannerjee at Star plus, because I knew this would mean something to them as well and they all seemed touched.

Perhaps after the saga of commerce, we all seek to be relevant to our audiences and their life choices. So yeah, when you observe that the story you’ve been a part of has made some sort of a thinking shift in the audience or nourished, enriched them emotionally or intellectually, it is the high that makes it all worthwhile.

Viraf Phiroz Patel, what are the factors that you look into when you choose a role?

‘Writing’ & ‘people’ backing that written material are the two factors I pretty much look for.

Writing is foundational for me. I did read somewhere, if it’s not on page its not going to be on stage, and I think there is a lot of truth in it. I thirst for, dig and savor good writing and writers are my favorite peeps, am a fan boy around them.

When I say ‘people’, I mean the folks I am going to be working with, the minds I am going to interact with on a day to day basis. I believe, I can only grow from being around team members who are passionate and better than me.

When I am not sure about the writing, I trust the people and when am not sure about the people, I trust the writing. When am not sure about either, I trust the gut.

How was it shooting with the great ensemble cast of The Verdict? 

Kinda weird! Because on one side, I had this gorgeous half Swedish and half Greek phenomena called Elli Avram and then there was this mad fun crackpot like Kubbra Sait and on the other side, there are these maestros you’ve grown up admiring like Saurabh Shukla, Makarand Deshpande to observe. But most of the time I tried to behave myself and soak everyone in. Manav was very easy to work with as well. Rest of the cast was interacted with by a photographic version of me in court. I also got to sneak up to Soni Razdan Bhatt, a long time favorite, and have my moment with her. She was sweet enough to not shoo me away (smiles)

Which character in The Verdict is close to your heart?  

I think my heart goes out to the two stellar women of this narrative, Sylvia Nanavati and Mamie Ahuja, Prem’s sister played by Elli and Kubbra, respectively.

Also, I wonder how Sylvia and Kawas Nanavati shielded their 3 children from the trauma of this mishap. They’ve had very private lives after that, so no one really knows what the kids went through growing up, and saddled with this past. I hope they are well over it wherever they are.

I think characters with rough edges or poor socio-economic backgrounds, haven’t come my way. 

Do you think TV has totally become a female-oriented medium? 

Probably always was. Ladies are the biggest consumers of TV in our country, as it seems in most statistics. It’s only fair that the content remains female-oriented.

Can we see you making a comeback on TV in the near future?  

Why not, I love doing TV!

What are the kinds of roles that have eluded you in your interesting career as an actor?

I think characters with rough edges or poor socio-economic backgrounds, haven’t come my way.

While working on an ad with him, I asked Anurag Kashyap why are you not casting me sir – am chasing you since so long. He quipped – tu gareeb nahin dikhta hai!

We laughed, but I would want to explore characters that are not rich, refined and goody two shoes.

What is next in your kitty?

A film with Bejoy Nambiar and perhaps a web series post that. Fingers crossed.

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