The OTT medium allows actors to delve into the tricky spaces: Viraf Phiroz Patel
OTT is increasingly becoming a fertile ground for creative talent from the television and film world, however, it would be too early to call it a migration of talent to OTT platforms.
One such actor who is successfully straddling both OTT and television is Viraf Phiroz Patel. His journey so far has been a dramatic one – from an engineering student-cum-DJ in Pune in 1999, this Parsi boy followed his brother to join the Merchant Navy. The next five years saw him sail on oil tankers.
In 2004, Viraf was encouraged by his elder brother Minocher, a motivational speaker, to give the Mr India pageant a try. Viraf won the Mr India title in 2005, which opened up the world of modelling for him and the following four years – 2005 to 2009 – saw him walking the ramp and posing for major campaigns.
All the while, Viraf kept honing his acting chops until Aditya Chopra gave him a break in Yashraj TV’s series, ‘Mahi Way’ (in 2010), where he essayed he role of Shiv Desraj. His popularity further increased with the series streaming on Netflix. Aditya Chopra cast him in yet another series, the critically acclaimed Kismat (2011 – Sony TV), as Aditya Raj Merchant.
Television kept him busy over the next few years and Viraf played a plethora of roles – including a death row convict Mrityunjay in ‘Ek Boond Ishq’, produced by BBC India (Life OK - 2014), and Ashish Mehta in Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Naamkarann’ (Star Plus – 2017).
Viraf’s move to OTT has been a smooth one and he is now seen playing the role of a cop in the thriller ‘13 Mussourie’ (Viu - 2018).
Viraf will be seen next as Prem Ahuja in Ekta Kapoor’s most ambitious series, called ‘Verdict’ (ALTBalaji – releasing in August 2019), which is based on the landmark State Vs Nanavati case.
That’s not all. Viraf is currently making a documentary film on the daughters of sex workers. In 2015, he set up a platform for FICCI, called Frame Your Idea, for writers to pitch to leading producers, which finished its 4th edition in March 2019. He also founded an app for connecting the Parsis, called Aapro app. He was also a part of 40 min short film by Bejoy Nambiar for Eros Now where he and Jim Sarbh played roles of two Parsi's going for a happy ending massage.
Who was your inspiration to enter the world of entertainment?
I am a Mr India Pageant winner-turned-model-turned-actor, who got inspired by journeys of John Abraham, Dino Morea.
Which of the roles that you have essayed so far is your favourite one?
I would say, Adityaraj Merchant in the show called ‘Kismat’ by YRF TV, which aired on Sony. I got to play that beautifully written character who progresses from a 20-year old through his 30s, 40s, 50s and on to 60 years of age. I got to work with a very fine team.
But I think I have got the most love for my character called Shiv in ‘Mahi Way’, another YRF series.
How do you think OTT platforms are changing the journey of actors?
First of all, obviously there is more volume of work. But the stereotypes of casting and commerce-based casting trends are equally magnified. The current pool of writing talent hasn’t been able to suffice the sudden surge of content being commissioned. Hence, we come across a lot of underwritten content. But I am extremely hopeful of the industry respecting the writer and nourishing them more than ever. The bare minimum acceptable standards of writing will only keep upticking itself as competition heats up, which eventually would give us actors more interesting, compelling and rounded characters to play.
Where do you see yourself in the next two years?
Being part of some fantastic stories on web, film or TV or whatever new medium may have popped up by then.
Which are the different/ difficult roles that you have been offered on OTT platforms?
Prem Ahuja, from ‘Verdict’, the upcoming ALTBalaji adaptation of the State Vs Nanavati case, has been an interesting ride. I get to play a version of him which is beyond the playboy he has mostly been believed to be. The medium allows us to delve into the tricky spaces of what will perhaps remain one of modern India’s most talked about extramarital affairs. It will be interesting to see how our audience responds to this ‘Prem’.