It has been almost five years since I’ve stepped into the world of film and television journalism. And it is not very often that I’ve come across an actor who gives unrehearsed answers or says something that hasn’t been said before. Naturally, I was pleasantly surprised when I started transcribing the recording of my candid chat with Sumeet Vyas AKA Mikesh ‘bhaiya‘ (your bhaiya, not mine for sure ;) ) from Permanent Roommates. His responses are honest, whimsical and straight from the heart. Honestly, I’ve always loved this guy for his incredible comic timing and the certain nonchalance that he exudes. But the amount of love was multiplied by infinity when he guarded me from the scorching sun with his towering frame the moment he noticed that it was bothering me during our conversation. Excerpts:
Firstly, tell me how how did you get into theatre?
I was terrible at studies. I had opted out of college after 12th. Then I started working at an editing studio. During that time, I went to watch a play that my father was acting in and I realised there are such good looking people in this field. I thought, “There are such pretty women who are singing and dancing. And I am always sitting in my shithole studio and editing.” I wanted to go out and explore new things. So basically, I got into theatre because it allowed me to travel, for free! And I have been doing it ever since.
You have also been writing for quite some time…
Yes. While I was doing theatre, I used to adapt plays. There were a lot of novels that I really liked and I wanted to translate them into plays. I wrote for a few plays and short films. Along with my actor-director friend Anand Tiwari, I had worked on a series of short films. That’s how it all started and then we got to do Y-Films’ Bang Baaja Baarat.
And when did you realise that acting is your true calling?
The first time I performed on stage, I felt like I had finally arrived. Before that for a year or two, they didn’t let me act. I was always involved in backstage work. So when I finally got a role, went on stage and started to act, I noticed that people were reacting to what I was doing there. I could control that. I realised I could make people laugh, cry and feel things that I wanted them to feel, at that too at the age of 18. That’s when I decided that this is what I am going to do all my life.
During your initial days as an actor, did you even feel bogged down?
I have felt bogged down and have broken down several times. It’s a part of an actor’s daily routine. Every day, I create at least 10-12 opportunities for myself that can materialize in a month to do. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t.
You garnered some attention with your role as the Pakistani cab driver Salman Khan in English Vinglish. But your character Mikesh from TVF’s web series, Permanent Roommates has made you super popular. Has the behaviour of your acquaintances changed towards you after you became famous?
It changes. I have done a TV show before. Then English Vinglish released. So there has been a pattern. When something comes out, everybody wants to be your friend, everybody tries to make you believe, “Oh, you are the next big thing.” Then it all fades out. Then you work hard again, you create another opportunity for yourself and these people come back to praise you. Then they forget about you again. It happens. Now, I am used to this. You know, a friend of mine is such an asshole. This time when Permanent Roommates came online, he called me and said, “Bro, I saw your episode. Suna hai tu phir se launch ho raha hai.” (Laughs) This keeps happening and I don’t let it bother me anymore. I enjoy it while it lasts and then I work hard to create more such opportunities.
Now that you’ve made your presence felt, can we hope to see you playing a lead role on the big screen?
That’s something I definitely want to do and am really looking forward to it. Films are always there. I haven’t stopped doing films. I am still meeting people. Obviously, I don’t want to do silly roles and parts that I am not convinced about.
Do you have any regret in life?
There’s this one thing but it’s not too big a regret. When I see people who have started now, they are so smart and are doing so many other things. Back then, I used to think I just needed to act. Now, I have realised so many more things are important, starting from the clothes that you wear and how you carry yourself etc. I used to hate talking about myself. I never hired a PR because I used to think, “Main apne baare mein kya baat karoon? It’s silly.” But now I know that unless you put yourself out there, no one is interested. That’s the only small regret that I have.
Okay. This is slightly random but if your house was on fire, what’s the one thing you would pick up before rushing out?
I have a bag that has all the scripts I have written. I never throw scripts. And it has some diaries. It has everything I have ever worked on.
Describe yourself in three words.
Honest, trusting and simple.
You have played some serious roles as well as a lot of comic ones. What do you think is more difficult?
I have done more funny roles than serious ones. And I find it very offensive, very hurtful when people don’t consider comedians or actors who’ve played humorous parts to be serious artistes. That’s not right. It takes a lot more depth and takes balls to be that funny and to be able to entertain people when you haven’t had a good day. I can blindly say this about all comedians. We all are equally or perhaps more capable of pulling off serious stuff than a lot of actors who have been only seen playing serious roles. It requires guts to be that funny.