Tanuj Virwani, son of actress Rati Agnihotri, started his Bollywood career in 2013, with the film titled ‘Luv U Soniyo’. He then also starred in ‘Purani Jeans’ and ‘One Night Stand’. He had a tough beginning in the industry as all his films tanked at the box office. However, things took a turn when he was offered Amazon’s web series ‘Inside Edge’, and the rest is history.
In a recent interview, Tanuj talked in lengths about his films that failed at the box office, his decision to do intimate scenes on screen and how his mom reacted to it.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
When your first three films didn’t do well, how did you feel? Because even the press or the critics were not very kind to you.
Nobody was kind at that time, except for my dogs at home (laughs). I didn’t feel much of a pinch after my first film didn’t perform well because at that point, I had a three-film contract with Eros International, out of which Purani Jeans was the first of the three. But after Purani Jeans tanked at the box office, that deal went away and I never did any film for them.
I stayed at home for about a year and then I did a Sunny Leone film. I had a pragmatic approach towards that film. I told myself that she is a well-established name in the industry. So, I thought that if the film does well, good for me, and if it doesn’t, it’s on her because she is the star. So, it took the pressure off me. But then, that film also didn’t do well. I began to feel that I am unemployable and I am in a box office prison. I started to think that no one’s going to cast me. They were pretty dark times.
So how did you cope with that?
Honestly, I didn’t get much chance to cope with it because on 5th May 2016, ‘One Night Stand’ was released. And on the very same day, I had gone with my mom and dad to watch the film, and during the interval, I got a call from Excel and they said, “We are casting for a new web series which is going to be on Amazon Prime.”
And I’m like, “What is a web series? Amazon? Aren’t those the guys who sell groceries and books? What’s going on? Did I miss something while I was watching the movie?”
So, that’s the day I got a call for Inside Edge and the rest is history. Inside Edge came into my life and saved me. I didn’t have time to sit and grieve because before I knew, I was back on set.
When you signed the film with Sunny Leone, were you worried that you would be stereotyped as someone who does sleazy films?
I did go back and forth before I signed the film. I even consulted my mom and friends. And I came to a conclusion that everyone associated with the film seemed very legend. Also, it had an important message. It wasn’t sleazy.
And, I somehow feel that it shouldn’t have been titled ‘One Night Stand’ because that’s a very small part of the film. It’s misleading to the audience because that’s not the kind of film we were making. The message of the story was that why the rules for a man who cheats in a relationship are different from when a woman cheats. Our director is a woman, our writer Bhavna is a woman and Sunny was there. So, it was a story being told by women, for women, from a women’s perspective. It didn’t have that familiar male gaze. And I decided to be a part of cinema that, along with entertaining people, also enlightens and educates them.
Because the reality is that if a guy goes around and tells that I’ve been with so many women, people are like, ‘Wow! What a stud!’ But if a woman were to do that, she would be called with all sorts of derogatory names. So, that’s where I was coming from and decided to do that film.
There was a certain image of you back then. Tanuj Virwani- the stud, the South Bombay Bad Boy, the guy who smooches and sleeps around! That’s the kind of image you had on-screen and off-screen as well. And it’s very different from the kind of image your mother Rati Agnihotri had. Her image is so clean. She never even did a kissing scene in her career. So, was it embarrassing for you or is it embarrassing to watch those scenes with your parents?
No, I don’t think it is embarrassing. And I am more than fine watching it with my parents. Firstly, because it is acting. Secondly, because I made those decisions about my profession as an adult. I understand that my mom is from a different generation and her thought process is different. She was rattled while watching the opening scene of Inside Edge. But I told her that it’s the story’s demand and that’s how the world functions. I said, “You either evolve with the changing times or you are out. It is as simple as that. You cannot afford to become a dinosaur.”
Yes, I had a particular image both on-screen and off-screen, but I didn’t do that out of a choice. I didn’t choose that I wish to be perceived in that manner but it was the character’s demand and people begin to believe that you are just an extension of the characters that you play.
You have done many intimate scenes and have become quite an expert. But do you remember the first time you did a kissing scene and what was it like? Were you shy or conscious?
Yes, I do remember. I was very conscious and surprisingly, the girl wasn’t. I was more shy than the girl. It was for my first film ‘Luv U Soniyo’. It was a scene with Neha Hinge and we were shooting at St. Xaviers. It was a classroom kiss and it happens in an empty classroom. I did the first take and thought that we were done. But the director said, “No, we aren’t done. We are getting started. It’s going to take a while as I have to take different angles.”
And I panicked a little. I went and put 3-4 mints in my mouth. I wondered if my mouth was smelling of onions.
But over a period of time, you realise that it is just another day at work. You understand that a kissing scene is just another scene in the script. You have to perform it just like any other scene. Don’t give it less or more importance than any other scene. So, now it has become very mechanical. It makes no difference to me, whether there are two people on sets, or fifty. I just go blank, form a small bubble for myself and think that it is the character that I am playing.
Also, it is important to have a good rapport with your co-star. You both need to feel comfortable. Trust comes into the equation when you are doing such scenes. She shouldn’t feel that I am trying to take advantage of hers or vice versa. So, it’s important that you guys keep talking and keep the environment nice and light.