Vivaan Shah is an inherited storyteller. He debuted in 2011 with the critical hit 7 Khoon Maaf and has gone on to feature in blockbuster films like Happy New Year and Bombay Velvet.
Along with his parents, Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak, he is a frequent stage-presence at the Prithvi Theatre and has gone on to star in several other plays. His debut novel, Living Hell, was a critical success and was published by Penguin India.
Team Storiyaan had the opportunity to have a small talk with Vivaan Shah. Here’s what he had to say about his acting, writing, and body of work.
Questions and answers
You made your debut with 7 Khoon Maaf. It featured so many well-established actors, including your father. What did you take away from the set with you?
I learned a lot about every aspect of film-making and acting. Working in the film also helped me understand the craft much more thoroughly. Well, I have learned a lot from getting into a character in Cinematography and the process of film-making. My take-away is to experiment and explore as much as I can!
You blasted onto the scene with Happy New Year, which yet again featured an incredible ensemble cast. But you still stood out. What goes into the preparation for your roles? Are you a method actor?
Not really. To be honest, I’m not a method actor in particular, in the sense that I stay in character between takes. But an actor has to exercise his/her own imagination to inhabit the character. So I guess you can say there is a method for that.
What is it that you dislike about acting?
I quite literally love each and everything about acting. There’s nothing about acting that one can dislike. It is the best profession, in my opinion, as you get so much love from your audience.
Your parents are unanimously acclaimed veteran actors as well. We were just wondering if that ever put any kind of pressure on you or your craft?
It never pressures me. If anything, it motivates me a lot- to do even better and work much harder to make them proud.
What did you learn from your parents about acting or being on set?
I have grown seeing them shaping themselves for roles and carving the niche. My parents and I’ve done so many workshops and stage-plays together. Everything I know about acting, I’ve learned from both of them.
Did you ever look up to any actor or an actor's craft that you admired and inspired your own work?
It has to be Jim Carrey and James Cagney! I’ve always admired their craft as a young actor.
They have always managed to inspire me.
Your debut work of fiction, Living Hell, was highly praised by critics. How did this book happen? Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. As far as I can remember, I’ve been writing ever since I was 15 years old, and writing is a very spiritual act for me, you can say!
What kind of books do you like to read? Who are the authors you looked up to or influenced you?
I read a lot of Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Conrad, and Raymond Chandler. They are also the writers whom I’ve looked up to a lot.
You are a constant presence in theater. Do you prefer to act on the stage or in movies? Or does it matter at all?
To be honest, it doesn’t actually matter. I love acting in both mediums equally. But if I really have to choose, I’d go for acting on stage.
Can you talk to us about your experience with Bombay Velvet?
It was really fun to even get the opportunity to play such a role. In the movie, I got a chance to play the kind of character that I grew up around- a very typical Bandra mac.
Your most recent release was Ae Kaash Ke Hum in January. What was the character to play like, and how do you select which role is right or which isn't?
I strongly believe that it is the role that chooses the actor and not the other way around. But it is every actor’s goal to be able to choose their work. I think an actor usually works on what he can get his hands on.
In Ae Kaash Ke Hum, I played a schoolboy, representing the innocence and romance of being young, with the essence of friendship and love.
What advice can you give young actors who desire to walk the same journey or path as you?
I’d simply say, create your own body of work, and learn about your craft. Learn about the history as well as the medium of your craft.
Lastly, who inspires you, both: as an actor and life in general?
I definitely look up to my parents (Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak) and Laurence Olivier, Ismat Chughtai and John Huston are the people I admire a lot.
1. Mom or Dad: the better actor- Both
2. Actor or audience: the better occupation– Actor
3. A favorite character played by you– Tony in Bombay Velvet
4. Favorite film of all time– 2001: A Space Odyssey
5. Favorite TV series right now– I don’t watch any current TV shows. My favorite TV series would be The Rifleman of the 1950s.