He might have had a slow start to his career what with his films failing to set the cash registers ringing at the box-office. Despite being the son of veteran actress Rati Agnihotri, Tanuj Virwani had to go through his share of struggle in the industry before he made his mark this year with ‘Inside Edge’, a web-series that premiered on Amazon Prime Video. The actor left a strong impression with his acting prowess and dapper looks. He shone in the complex role of star cricketer Vayu Raghavan and proved that as an actor, he is here for a long innings. In this interview, he talks about his experience of working on the show, initial failure, the perks and flipside of being an industry kid and the importance of working across different mediums as an actor.
Your performance was appreciated by those who had seen your films but they did not reach out to a large audience. ‘Inside Edge’, on the other hand, has been watched by a large number of people and your performance has got unanimously good reviews from the critics and love from the audience. How does it feel?
It is a very rewarding feeling. I feel very content as an actor. As actors, we live for the love and appreciation from the audience. We work hard to bring these characters to life and when the audience appreciated what you have done, it is a great feeling. When I see positive response for the show on social media and when my parents tell me that they loved the show, I get the motivation to work five times harder so that I can continue to entertain them. The success of ‘Inside Edge’ was a shot in the arm for me. My films had not done well at the box-office. The show has turned out to be a turning point in my career and has given me a lot of confidence as an actor.
Was there any apprehension about doing a show for the digital medium after playing leading parts in films?
A while back, I was not really aware of the reach of the digital medium. Web shows were not as big a year back as they are now. I did not want people within the industry or outside it to infer that I am doing a web-series because my films have not done well. The script of ‘Inside Edge’ and the character that I was going to play appealed to me. The fact that the show marked the collaboration between Excel Entertainment and Amazon Prime Video made it even more special. When I walked in to the set on the first day, I realised the scale of the show was much bigger than any of the films I had done. The films produced by Excel Entertainment are known to have a strong sense of aesthetic value to them. The entire team kept working on the script, sets and all the other aspects until they were satisfied with the end product.
In the last couple of months, there has been so much talk about nepotism prevailing in the Hindi film industry. Was it in any way easy for you to get into the industry because of the fact that your mom, Rati Agnihotri, has been a much celebrated actress?
I find the concept of nepotism to be highly overrated. Everyone is talking about it and glorifying it as it is the topic of the season. I believe nepotism is prevalent in every field. Every parent would want their child to as well as they possibly can. A businessman would do his best to ensure that his son learns the rope of the trade and becomes as successful as a businessman as him. Nepotism in the film industry gets talked about a lot more as it is always in the limelight. It is definitely easier for an industry kid to get access to the industry and meet people within the fraternity but eventually, their work will only take them far. Because of the goodwill my mom has in the industry, I got to have that one meeting with a couple of people from the industry. I have auditioned for every piece of work people have seen me in. Several other actors auditioned for the same parts that I eventually ended up doing. I was selected for those projects on merit. When people buy a ticket and come to the theatre to watch a film, they connect to the actor. Whether he is the son of superstar or not is of no concern to them. In fact, sometimes being the son or daughter of a superstar subjects you to scrutiny as well. Actors who are from film families and have made a mark for themselves, have done so purely on the basis of their talent and hard work. An industry kid has to work as hard as an outsider. It is high time people stop talking about nepotism.
The show was centred around Powerplay League, a fictitious cricket tournament supposedly based on the Indian Premier League (IPL). A lot of people who watched the show, including cricket fans, were shocked to see some of the events on the show and wondered whether these kind of things really happen in the cricketing world. How close, would you say, was the show to reality?
I would probably not be the right person to comment on how close the show was to reality. This is a question you have to pose to the writers of the show. People have already read about the scams and scandals in the papers. Every film or television show borrows some references from real-life events. ‘Inside Edge’ was a fiction show and not a documentary on the cricketing world. I would say the show was dramatized, heightened reality. Certain incidents you saw in the show must have taken place in real-life as well. Whether we agree to choose to live in denial the fact remains that certain malpractices do take place. The show’s sole aim was to provide entertainment. Of course, wherever there is glamour and money involved, there is bound to be some foul play.