People Enjoy My Bad Guy Roles More Than The Good Ones: Gulshan Devaiah

After his critically appreciated performance in ‘Dahaad’, the ‘Shaitan’ actor is busy collecting accolades and memes for his role as the murderous Chaar Cut Aatmaram in ‘Guns & Gulaabs’.

Published On Aug 28, 2023 | Updated On Mar 03, 2024

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Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s in his hometown in Bengaluru, Gulshan Devaiah developed a special love for Hindi films – having watched them on lazy Sunday viewings on Doordarshan.

The love continued to manifest as he ventured first into acting in English theatre and then moved to Mumbai for better prospects. Movies such as That Girl in Yellow Boots (2010), Shaitan (2011), Hunterrr (2015), A Death in the Gunj (2016), Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (2018) and Badhaai Do (2022) have established him as an actor who is willing to surrender himself completely to the director’s vision and create some memorable characters.

What seems to have worked in his favour also is his ability to transform himself into the varied characters, thus building for himself a filmography which screams diversity. Just a few months ago, Devaiah was collecting accolades for his act as the compassionate and honest cop Devi Lal Singh in the web series Dahaad and now, the same audience cannot get over his act as the ruthless, murderous and unpredictable Chaar Cut Aatmaram from Guns & Gulaabs, which recently released on Netflix. In fact, the actor tells us with a laugh, that he is receiving memes from people on social media – perhaps the highest level of acceptance and love from the audience in today’s day and age.

In a telephone conversation with us, the actor shared his approach to cinema and characters. 

Not really. The character is my interpretation of what Raj and DK have written. I wanted to base it on Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. It didn’t turn out that way but I think it is there somewhere in the dangerous, murderous streak that Aatmaram has and the fact that you know he can kill someone so easily. That perhaps is an inspiration from Xavier Bardem’s wonderful performance as Anton. It is, of course, a different world and sensibilities. It is an outcome of what I understood from the writing, talking to the directors and what I could concoct in my imagination. When I looked at myself in the mirror with the hair, the teeth and the eyes, all of those ideas fell into place.

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Credit: Netflix India

You have to accept the world and that this is the reality for the characters. If you cannot accept it, then you are not serving the sensibility of the directors. You have to find a way to accept it with whatever process that is required. It was easy for me to accept it. I am quite familiar with Raj and DK’s work, having worked with them once before this. I understand their absurdities and sense of humour. Then it was up to me to interpret what they had written and fit into it. In my head, I was in a Western which worked really well for me.  

Firstly, they collaborate with each other and then with everyone else. They also have writer Suman Kumar with them who is a fabulous stand-up comic as well. They are a bunch of guys who have crazy ideas and have figured out how to make those ideas come to life. It’s a very collaborative effort. I used to feel that I was a co-creator. There is a reasonable amount of freedom to interpret their writing and a reasonable amount of freedom to come up with new ideas for the character but they are so well-versed with what they are doing that they don’t let it go out of hand.  

The first bottle of Pepsi – I looked at it like it was the Kohinoor diamond or something! (laughs) I had seen it only in American films and then there was a shop near my house selling Pepsi. I had figured out one particular petrol pump that had a fountain Pepsi counter where nobody used to go. I think the soft drink had started to ferment in the sun and tasted a bit off. When you’re 16 years old, it feels like the closest thing to having alcohol!  

I think it is because of the way I connect with my audience. They like me but they love my characters. Different people connect with me differently. Many still look at me as KC from Shaitan while I am Mandar Ponkshe from Hunterrr for a lot of them. There are some Devi Lal fans and an entirely new set of people who loved my performance in Duranga. If an actor wants to have a diverse career, they can now. You can very easily get slotted as well. In my case, more people seem to enjoy my bad guy roles than my good guy roles. I want to have diversity in my career and I am responsible for that. Fortunately for me, I am working at a time when there is scope for that diversity to happen.  

There is no planning but there is a rule of thumb. I have to genuinely want to play that character and be a part of the story. Of course, it should be good for my craft and I want to have fun approaching it and be good for my career. I am not super conscious about it but it comes naturally to me to try something new. The first part is instinctive and then I start seeing if it satisfies my criteria.  

Cinema is my first love and I continue working in it. ‘Long live cinema’ and ‘see you all at the movies’ is what I am fond of saying. I was happy working in cinema and I had made my peace with the pace as well. Having said that, I like long-format storytelling. Now there are more options with the series format. The OTT platforms have created more opportunities for everyone including actors, technicians, writers and filmmakers. All of us are benefitting from this.  

I am not allowed to reveal anything about it. Most of the film happens in the UK and we shot the London schedule there followed by a Bhopal schedule. The last bit is left in Mumbai which is the reason I still have a beard.  

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It is ready and they will probably announce a release date for it soon. I reunited with Rohan Sippy after 13 years. I had done a small part in his film (Dum Maaro Dum) and I am now his leading man and really enjoying working with him. I think the show will only benefit from his guidance. From the character’s perspective, there is a more emotional graph which was not there in the first season.  

Not really, I think I’ll limit myself if I start fantasising about what I want to do. I want to be surprised and sometimes even pushed into directions I didn’t know I could go. If I have to have that, then I have to allow new ideas and new people who see me differently.


Photo: Instagram/Gulshan Devaiah

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