Art & Entertainment

Tahir Raj Bhasin: The Film Industry Is A Test Of Skill, Conviction, And Perseverance

Tahir Raj Bhasin opens up about how his process behind selecting a script, the reason for him choosing more OTT scripts nowadays, the failure of some of his big theatrical releases, the difference between working for OTT and for theatricals, and lots more.


Tahir Raj Bhasin

Tahir Raj Bhasin made in debut almost a decade ago, and over the years he has gone on to become one of the most bankable stars. While he has been doing good supporting roles in theatrical releases, his popularity has soared among the masses due to the numerous OTT shows and films that he has been part of in the last 2-3 years.

Talking to Prateek Sur, Tahir Raj Bhasin opens up about how his process behind selecting a script, the reason for him choosing more OTT scripts nowadays, the failure of some of his big theatrical releases, the difference between working for OTT and for theatricals, and lots more.


Excerpts from the candid chat:

Be it ‘Mardaani’ or ‘Chhichhore’ or any other projects, you did some clutter-breaking stories. What is your process of selecting a script?

My goal has always been to do clutter-breaking stories. The challenge always is to be a part of a world that is different from what I have done before. This idea of venturing into the unknown is what keeps me motivated and excited as an artist. The biggest validation for an actor is when you are challenged by something you’ve never done before and it is accepted by the audience. I’m very fortunate to have had such experiences with both ‘Mardaani’ and ‘Chhichhore’.


The last couple of years have been great for you. You’ve done some of the best projects of your life. If you had to look back and pick one project which was the toughest for you to crack, which would that be?

The hardest for me to date has been the series ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’. ‘YKKA’ was the story of a romantic boy whose destiny forces him to fight for his love and family as he battles a power figure determined to bend his will. In this journey, a simple boy discovers the darkest aspects of human nature and how far we will push the envelope to survive. The biggest challenge in playing this part was that the entire narrative rested on the protagonist’s state of mind. It was an exciting challenge purely because of how few dialogues there were in the series which meant a psychological state needed to be communicated in silences. This is the acid test of an actor and I thoroughly enjoyed the roller coaster while making it happen.

You’ve become like a fan favourite on OTT. Do you think OTT is a platform that helps actors who are probably not getting enough work from mainstream filmmakers prove their talent?

Haha. I’ve been very fortunate to become a fan favourite in such a short time and I’m still reeling from the excitement of the incredibly rewarding response to my new show ‘Sultan Of Delhi’. Having said that, this is a very interesting phase in Indian entertainment. Zoya Akhtar, Rohit Shetty, Kabir Khan, Milan Luthria and Vishal Bhardwaj are just some of the many directors who have made stories for OTT. The idea of what is mainstream has changed rapidly over the last two years. It is the era of hybrid stardom and I’m fortunate to be in a space where I’ve had incredible experiences shooting for films and had the chance to explore longer formats of storytelling on OTT and had love from fans and the industry for performers on both mediums.


How was it working in both the platforms, films as well as web? What kind of a difference do you feel?

There’s a challenge in doing both. I love the pace of shooting a feature film which is usually shot in fewer days. There’s also a challenge in rapid character development and plot movement that happens as a result of the time window. Shooting a series as the lead is a test of endurance and the ability to graph a character over eight episodes. Since the acting process remains fundamentally the same, I find shooting for both these mediums equally exciting.


In 2023, you didn’t do any film. Why so? Didn’t you get any interesting scripts? Or was it a conscious decision to do only OTT?

‘Sultan Of Delhi’ was an extensive project that needed over a hundred days of shooting executed in 5 different cities. I had my hands full sinking my teeth into a very action-heavy alpha male protagonist under Milan Luthria’s stellar leadership and style signature. Quality shows always take time to develop, write, and shoot for and this is what kept me busy over the bulk of the year. I’m currently reading exciting material and on the lookout for good scripts whether, series or film, is always on!


When a big project like ‘Chhichhore’ earns more than Rs 200 crore at the box-office, does that open up new doors for bigger filmmakers or production houses? Do they line up in front of your doors? Or did you still have to struggle your way through to get your next project?

Yes, every time a project does well either critically or at the box-office there is always curiosity and interest from within the industry. I’m grateful to be at a stage where I’ve done a variety of parts be it an anti-hero in ‘Mardaani’, a college drama in ‘Chhichhore’, or a wacky out-of-the-box film like ‘Looop Lapeta’. As a result, when I meet with makers they have a spectrum of projects from which to form an opinion.


When a film like ‘83’ doesn’t get the box-office number that it should have despite being so damn good, does that beat you down?

‘83’ to me was an emotional decision. It was a very special slice of our nation’s sporting history and to have the opportunity to play the legendary Sunil Gavaskar and walk out onto the pitch at Lords was too good an opportunity to miss. If a film about the 83 World Cup win had to be made, it had to be done in the scale and style that we did. For me, it’ll always be a very proud part of my work because what you gain from an experience like that is to relive and be part of the nation’s history and a cinematic once-in-a-lifetime project.


Can you tell us about that one thing you got doing films for screen and not from OTT and vice versa?

Films give you the joy of a community viewing experience. OTT gives you the ability to unfold a story over a number of episodes.

Do you feel you have got your due?

One hundred per cent and more. I made a debut as an antagonist in YRF’s ‘Mardaani’. Thereafter I was signed by YRF’s talent agency and have been mentored by them since. The greatest payback for my work has been to be constantly given the opportunity to do new exciting parts that break my own mould and surprise the audience. I’ve also had the tremendous fortune to have worked with some of the best directors in the business the late Pradeep Sarkar, Nandita Das, Nitesh Tiwari and Kabir Khan.


Is the film industry really a hard place for outsiders?

The industry is a test of skill, conviction, and perseverance. Any industry, art, or sport that is worth it will always filter based on excellence and it will be competitive as a result because it is extremely sought after. The challenge for me is to be better than my previous self and I’m very proud to have achieved what I have in this city on my own merit and without any backing.

YRF is making ‘Mardaani 3’. ‘Mardaani’ was your first big film, and got you noticed by everyone. Would we ever get to see you back in the franchise in some way or the other?


No, because my character in ‘Mardaani’ died at the end of the film. I was really happy to see ‘Mardaani 2’. The fact that there was a sequel spoke volumes of the fact that the original was well received and since that was my debut film it’s something I’ll always be very proud to know.

What next can we see coming from you?

I’m excited to start shooting for the next season of ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’. We expect to go on the floor early next year.