‘I enjoy a character who feels alive, who can make you feel something’: Varun Mitra

Varun Mitra, who shot to fame with the Amazon Prime Prime legal drama Guilty Minds, speaks about his experiences in the industry, his transition from television hosting to acting, and his approach to acting.

Was the journey from television host to actor a natural progression? 

There was no transition really. It all happened together. Travel shows were something I always wanted to do. There was less pressure on it because that was more of a hobby. I did travel shows as recently as 2019, the last one being to Mount Everest base camp. I have seen some crazy places during these travels. Travel shows/ads/films all have a different texture. The approach is different, the experience is different, and the work that goes in is different.

What is your take on the perception that models do not make for good actors?

There was a time that could have been true. It has all become fluid now. (One) can’t really make such judgements. Me, I don’t think I was ever a model to start with. I was always an actor. It is a personality thing. I like adding a human element to everything I do. Even if I tried I could not be just a model.

Your first project was in 2015, but what clicked with the audience was you in Guilty Minds. 

Yes, (in) 2015 was the first. Kaash. It is funny, just this morning I fell upon scenes from that film on my computer. To be honest, each stage and each step has given me a lot. Lots of experiences, joy, pain, love, all of it, a mixed bag. I have enjoyed it. Sure, there are moments when you feel lost. I have found gold in those phases. My body has just got accustomed to finding gold every time I am going through a phase like that. So I look forward to it now.

Another project you did was Rakshak. What are the challenges in portraying real-life heroes? 

We were sent to an army base in Nasik. (We) met with many officers there, understood their mindset, emotion and mental state when they enter situations, which are dominated by gunfire and grenades. My attempt was to play the human being, and not the army officer. What does he go through emotionally. That was the centre of my work.

Saas, Bahu and Flamingos (SBF) was a story led by women. Did you have no hesitation before taking it on? 

All that mattered to me in SBF was that Homi was directing it. I love him. He was one of the few people I wanted to work with. He is a great human being. He gives a lot of love to his team and actors.

Describe your approach to acting.

This will be a long conversation. But in a nutshell, it is a wholesome approach. I enjoy emotions. I enjoy a character who feels alive, and who can make you feel something.

You are playing opposite Kangna Ranaut in Tejas. How was the experience? 

The experience was very warm. I got along with my director really well. Sarvesh (Mewara- the director) is a fun energy person. Before we started shooting, we were all invited to Kangana’s place for lunch. All broke the ice there. It was a memorable day.

While so many big names are now moving to OTT, you want to shift to commercial cinema. 

My desire is just to reach more people, to reach the masses. I have experienced what it is like with Jalebi. I want more of that. More. Much more. In the beginning, you are seeking validation as an actor. You need to know that you are good. Once that is done, that is when your dreams come to the surface.

Of all the projects you have been a part of so far, objectively which has been the best? Can you spot your strengths and weaknesses?

Well, I learn with each project. I am not sure which one I did the best in. They are all such different roles. I do think though that some shift happened in me personally during Guilty Minds (GM). Something started changing in me. And GM was the first project where I was able to experience that change. So I would say GM for that reason.