Exclusive Interview: Tanuj Virwani On Mom Rati Agnihotri & Parents’ Separation

In an exclusive chat with journalist Bharathi S Pradhan, actor Tanuj Virwani reveals how he dealt with his parents' separation and if being Rati Agnihotri's son helped him get work in the industry.

Actor Tanuj Virwani, who is known for his roles in web series ‘Inside Edge’, ‘Cartel’, ‘Tandoor’, and ‘Code M’ spills beans about his personal life. Tanuj is the son of actress Rati Agnihotri and Anil Virwani.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

We have always known you as Rati Agnihotri’s little kid. Is that how the film industry also welcomed you?

Yes, absolutely. Mom has got such an amazing body of work. She has a great equation with so many people in the industry. Even before I signed my first film, they were very welcoming. They were curious to know whether I had what it takes. They were cautiously optimistic. It was a great feeling. I feel like I was bearing the fruit of all the time that she had put in over such a long period of time, building these equations.

Did the film industry roll out the red carpet for you and give you a great launch?

No, no! I don’t think that the film industry rolled out any red carpet for me. Honestly, it’s been quite a struggle for me, right from the time I set my foot in the industry. Out of respect for Mom, being with friends with her and having worked with her, there are a lot of people in the industry who gave me their time and advice. But I think, until and unless, people do not think you have what it takes, they are not gonna bet on you. Because, at the end of the day, it is a business. It’s not about doing favors for people and stuff. And I absolutely understand that. But having said that, I had to chart my own path and come up the hard way. And I am grateful for it.

Isn’t it true that your mom didn’t go out of the way to make any phone calls or introduce you around?

Yes, absolutely. Till date, my mom has only made two calls. She called the great Mr. Yash Chopra. And she was like, “My son is planning to get into the industry and he wants to be an assistant director. Can you just give him 10 minutes of your time and tell him what the industry is all about?”

And I had an amazing 45-minute meeting with Yash Ji at his office which I will never forget for the rest of my life.

The other person she called was Aamir Khan because she has worked with him. He was an assistant director back when she was acting in a film. Aamir sir was kind enough to guide when he was doing post-production of ‘Dhobi Ghat’.

That’s it! Mom never picked up the phone and said, ‘Please give my son work! Please meet him, or let him audition.’

She is a self-made woman and she would also like me to be a self-made individual.

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And it has turned out well! Hasn’t it?

I mean, it all looks rosy now! But there were times when I would get pretty annoyed with her and ask, ‘Hey, why are you not helping me out when you should be doing so much for me?’

And she was like, ‘You know, every time you face rejection, and every time you don’t get a job, it’s just gonna make a fire in your belly. And I want to see that in my son.’

She told me, ‘You have had a very cushy lifestyle. You never had to worry about so many things that a lot of kids of your age have to worry about! Now I want you to go out in the world, get out of my shadow and form your own niche!’

I am glad that she did that. But at that time, I didn’t understand. I was young and immature. I just wanted to make it overnight. But it doesn’t work like that.

Have you seen any of your mother’s films? And do you have any favorites?

Yes, my number one favorite is Coolie. I loved that film, especially that egg scene. It was hilarious. Every time I watch it, it cracks me up.

Then of course, ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’. I am also a big fan of her in ‘Tawaif’. I think that was the last film she completed before she took a really long sabbatical from the business.

From her second innings, I loved her in ‘Hum Tum’. How she is with Saif Ali Khan in ‘Hum Tum’ is literally how she is with me in real life.

Your parents went through a little bit of a problem. They had a separation and everybody knew about it! You were grown up by then. Did you take sides and how did you cope up with it?

When you reach a certain age, you don’t look at them just as your parents. You also look at them as your friends. So, the way I looked at their separation was that they were two people who were hurting really bad and it was coming out in the worst of ways on each other and towards each other. And for everything that they have done for me for so many years, it was time that I was a parent and a friend to them. I didn’t take sides and had to be impartial.

Every relationship goes through its fair share of ups and downs. We all have been there. It just gets really awkward when it happens in the public. Because then you become prime time news. It gets disheartening. But we got through it and that’s the important part.

I told them that they need not reconcile because of me. I told them that I am grown up now and whether you are together or not, it doesn’t make me love either one of you less or more. I love both of them dearly. I have a solid equation with my mom and dad. There are some areas that I feel more comfortable discussing with my father and there are certain things I feel more comfortable discussing with my mother.

I told them that if it’s not working, take your separate ways because I just want both of you to be happy. Life should not be taken for granted as life is fragile. You never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. You should strive towards being at peace with yourself and being happy every day.

By the grace of God, they were able to put aside their differences. It took some time and I tried to aid them in that regard. But I’ll have to give full credit to them because the older you get, you tend to become more rigid in your ways. It’s not easy to adjust or compromise. But they both took the effort and now they are happier than ever. Whatever happens, happens for the best!

I would have been ill-equipped to deal with it if the separation had happened if I were in my teens, or in my early 20s. But as I grew up and became a bit more mature, I was able to be there for them.

I believe you were shooting in Pune at that time and you continued shooting. You didn’t let that interrupt your work!

The show must go on! It’s as simple as that. I don’t think my parents would have liked it if I left everything and ran back to Bombay. It was probably the most difficult schedule of my life. But it’s okay. You gotta do what you gotta do! You have to remember that there are a lot of people on set whose lives and livelihood are dependent on you. Being a lead on a show or a film, it is my responsibility to be 100% there, irrespective of what’s happening in my personal life. I bit my tongue, I would go to my room, I would cry, come back out, wipe my tears and express myself on screen.

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