You’ve seen him in films & plays. You’ve watched him on TV & advertisements. And you’ve listened to his songs. Namit Das is everywhere, but take note, the man is not all over the place. The versatile actor has made us laugh, cry, and everything in between; as he puts his stamp on forms of screen & stage, Namit is also carving his own niche as a musician. We chat with the man behind the craft with #DSSCSecretConversations and generous pours of cold brew.
Son of the famous ghazal singer Chandan Das, Namit had trained to be a singer, however the graph of life curved to make acting his mainstay, “I always wanted to become a singer, but in college singing wasn’t giving me the right signals and the theatre scene was very active & attractive. Hence, the changeover happened around that time,” he says. Spurred on by his college’s literature department, Namit’s first play was at Ithaka, the famous Lit Fest at St. Xavier’s, Mumbai, “That really changed my life and brought me into the circuit of acting.” Graduating to professional plays over time, it was his first play with the theatre veteran Atul Kumar that permanently turned on the acting switch, “After our first play together acting simply took off and music took a back seat. However, I never gave up my riyaaz,” he asserts.
This turn of events birthed the Namit the world knows today. From Wake Up Sid to Sumit Sambhal Lega, we ask whether working across all acting platforms was a charted career plan, “I don’t think it was a conscious decision, these things happen on their own…anyone who says (s)he planned their career like this is lying!” he laughs. Acknowledging that he’s been lucky to have received great roles and a good response to those, the actor spills the beans on his favourite out of movies, theatre & television, “The high of theatre is quite something – to share & mirror the energy of the audience and get live reactions from them is a great experience.”
Channeling this passion Namit is soon going to be seen onstage in the Broadway production of Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, and is currently in the US rehearsing. Sharing his experience of the West’s theatre industry, he says, “It’s worlds apart (from India), US is crazy organised and you really feel that you’re a part of an industry. Here the advantage is knowing that you have a structured job, it’s not based on connections or friendships.” However, our indigenous theatre has its own unique edge, “We exist in chaos, and within that chaos a lot of magical surprises spring up. An actor will drop out one day before the play debuts and you’ll find someone brilliant to replace him!” While the systematic ways of the West and our homegrown surprises balance out, we ask him how the theatre culture has evolved back home, “More and more youth has come in, to watch as well as perform, and that’s very encouraging. As a hub Bangalore is exciting at the moment, the theatre companies as well as the audience, both have come together to help the art evolve and flourish.”
While Namit is busy juggling hats, he’s not alone in the act. His wife, actor Shruti Vyas, has matched him step for step with her vibrant body of work. So, does their professional life impact the personal? Though they’ve chosen to not work together until now, he’s not sure whether the pact will continue for long, “What happens in the professional world does influence you as an individual, and our personal lives are a reflection of how we are as professionals to quite an extent. So I’d say our professional lives reflect in personal ways!” Taking on your spouse’s rough schedule for months on end and never letting competitiveness creep in is no mean feat, but as Namit points out, “Essentially we love each other, and you do a lot for the people you love.”
Taking a pause from acting and rewinding to the musician Das, we speak about his duo with Anurag Shankar. , They’ve created a niche for themselves over the last three years with Sufi, Urdu, and Hindi poetry with jazz, grunge, and modern rock elements, “We came from different musical backgrounds, while his was western mine was classical. So the poetry in our songs comes from me and the music from Anurag, it was he who drove our music in this direction.” On getting people excited about Urdu and Hindi poetry, he says, “It’s about packaging your art – not the cover, but the soul of it, do it right and the patrons will appreciate it.” Does that mean the Indian music scene evolving beyond Bollywood and Western music? “The perception towards Indian music has changed drastically, it’s come back with a vengeance. And the internet plays a big role in this, anyone who has talent can showcase it on this fluid platform without needing production houses.” From production to publicity the web & social media has stirred the indie music boom, he adds.
With the performing arts milieu progressing on all fronts, we ask Namit about the one change he’d like to see in the industry, “There’s still resistance towards experimentation. People become comfortable with the same model of songs and stories, they should start viewing things more openly – any art that can exist should be allowed to exist.”
With that thought we gulp down the last of our cold brews as this powerhouse flies off to amalgamate all of his talents with Monsoon Wedding – a movie adapted onstage into a musical! Of course, that’s not before we dish out the signature DSSC Rapid Fire.
Q. One pro-tip for those looking to set foot into the industry?
Namit: Know what you’re getting into.
Q. Besides acting and music, what puts a skip in your step?
Namit: Travelling to learn the history of a place, definitely!
Q. Last day on earth and you can watch only one movie – which would it be?
Namit: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Q. If DSSC were to offer Rs. 10 crore to brand Namit Das, how will you utilise it?
Namit: I would love to travel, write a blog about it, and click good photographs! Brand Namit Das is all about travelling to historical places.
This conversation is a part of the DSSC Secret Conversation Series, where we get candid with the ace folks of their industry who map its course one stroke at a time.