Parenthood has become quite a popular subject for treatment, especially recently, in Indian cinema. Helicopter Eela deals with the theme of friendship in the relationship of a single parent and her only son.
I was brought up in a family with extremely loving and supportive parents who taught me the art of acting just like any other formal subject is taught to a child. I haven’t been familiar with the life of a child living with a single mother, as this story narrates. But apart from that, I could relate to the friendship depicted in the mother-child bond shown in this movie.
Since I have played the role of a son or a young teenage boy coming of age in my previous films like Open Tee Bioscope and Parched, the task at hand was not so tough, though it is true that each character has its own set of idiosyncrasies. In the first film, the character was quite similar to my role in Helicopter Eela – where I play the role of a loving son – but in Parched, it was a completely different role of a chauvinistic abusive son in a remote north-western village of India.
I have gained a lot of experience in depicting these coming-of-age characters. I have been very lucky to be cast in roles depicting present day youth from various social classes. I have played a Dalit youth caught up in a socially tumultuous situation and I have also played the role of a transgender person.
My experience of working in Helicopter Eela was special because I got the opportunity to act with the famous Bollywood actor and star Kajol. Surely she was a daunting presence in the beginning, but I have taken back a lot from this acquaintance.
She is the most cheerful and humorous person I have ever met. Even on days there was considerable tension on the set, she would always try to reduce it with funny remarks and jokes. Though we played a mother and son in the film, I found her more as a friend. Her motherly streak did not extend beyond the sets. We were together for almost five months and we both would miss each other during the long gaps between shooting.
We have forged a bond that extends beyond the professional realm. I have always been a great fan of her and found her to be a trendsetter in Bollywood. So initially I was a bit worried that she might be intimidating. But after I met her, I got to know what an amazingly warm person she is. Eventually we could even improvise certain parts in the film without even rehearsing much and that I feel is my greatest success: the inter-personal experience I had with her.
It isn’t just Kajol who has made a place in my heart, but our director Pradip Sarkar, who I think deserves special mention among the list of people who was a delight to work with. Pradeep-da is an extremely generous and helpful person. He has helped people selflessly. His inclusive nature would be evident on the sets where each one of us could give our opinion on different things. It was a great experience working with him.
Helicopter Eela is bound for release soon, and it has been an amazing experience for me even till the last round of promotions that I am currently a part of.
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