Growing up in Bangalore, I dreamed of going to Mumbai someday and becoming an actor recognized for his craft. However, this was more than a dream. It was a clear path, and my hard work got me roles in some really good movies.
But I am fairly new to the camera. And when, so early in my career, I was told that I had been chosen for a Russo Brothers movie, I had to verify several times that it was real.
When I was told that I had been chosen for a Russo Brothers movie, I had to verify several times that it was real!
The Russo brothers are the creators of The Avengers: Infinity War. Obviously I had no idea how to react because I’m a huge fan of Marvel movies and when I saw Thor fight Thanos, it wasn’t like he was thinking, “Hey! In my next movie I’m going to be the bad guy in front of Thor. ! ”
When I finally convinced myself that Joe Russo and Sam Hargrave liked my audition, I was on top of the world. But the next second I realized something: It was a 100 percent professional Hollywood movie. I would have to improve my game as an actor and give it 110 percent.
In the set
From day one, everything had been planned and explained to everyone. They make you feel very comfortable and ask you what would help you perform better. Sam is a calm and collected director, and in our first conversation about my character, he clearly explained how I should approach the role of Amir Asif. Unfortunately, there was a little problem: I don’t speak Bangal [the Bengali spoken in Bangladesh], and all my dialogues were in the local Dhaka dialect. But Sam was confident that I would handle the language easily, and that gave me a huge boost of confidence.
So the preparation was great: clear focus and lots of language training. But the true gangster attitude for my character came from the heavy gold jewelry wardrobe and shiny pointy shoes, which I would never wear in real life!
Go fly a kite
My first day of filming was in Ahmedabad. We were on the roof of a small three-story building surrounded by buildings of similar height. On other rooftops, children were flying kites and aunts were sitting together and talking. I was concentrating on my dialogues, and while I was practicing, a kite passed me. I tried to get their attention and indicate that they should stop flying their kites until my shot was ready. But I was completely ignored. In fact, all day the rooftops were full of kids playing and aunts chatting, and I thought they were mad, hanging around their terraces in the crazy heat.
Only at the end of the day did they tell me that all those people were junior artists, stationed there to convey the feel of a crowded city like Dhaka. They were just doing their job. You only realize what large-scale production entails when you experience it.
Sadly, I don’t share screen space with Chris Hemsworth in the movie, though I never stopped telling the team, in a good mood, that since my character was the one stopping him, I should point my big golden gun at him. At least one scene. You should have to deal with the real villain, not just the villain’s army!
“I don’t share screen space with Chris Hemsworth. I kept telling the team, since my character is the one who stopped him, I should point the gun at him!”
But I met Chris in the van where my hair was fixed for my scene and I needed to have his bread cut. He came in, sat down, and started talking to me right away, about the city, about India, and about the music he was listening to. In between, he sang out loud with his heavy voice. He sings good.
Then I had to go back, so I said, “Nice to meet you, see you on set,” and he said, “Yeah, sure.” We collided with our fists and then realized that we didn’t have any scenes together, so we wished each other luck for our respective filming.
Priyanshu on the Extraction sets where he plays Amir Asif, a gangster
I thought I’d be in awe of him given the fact that I’m a huge Avengers fan. But he was so humble and laid back that I didn’t even feel like I would meet a world superstar.
I learned a lot from the cast and crew of this movie. I also learned about myself as an actor. I could tell you that it was amazing, wonderful. But really, it was an experience that I just can’t explain. It was my first Hollywood movie. Not many actors have that opportunity.
But I am aiming for the opportunity again. I’m about to audition for Irishman 2 for Netflix.
(Author Bio: Priyanshu Painyuli plays the role of a Bangladeshi crime lord in the Russo Brother movie Extraction with Chris Hemsworth)
From HT Brunch, May 10, 2020
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