Indian actor, director and acting trainer Neeraj Kabi share some great insights along with his experience of working in Amazon Prime Video’s, Paatal Lok.

Neeraj Kabi is an Indian actor who has made his name with various International and Hindi movies, theatre and television projects. He is an actor, director and acting trainer who with his own acting techniques and discoveries is trying to develop his personal grammar for acting in films and theatre. And watching him get into the skin of every new character is a pure treat for cinema lovers.

Amazon Prime Video‘s new original series, Paatal Lok unravels a series of events that take us through the three worlds of the universe, as explained in the trailer, we see a whole lot of evil and dirt that resides in all the three worlds. Living in the Swarg log is a popular 40 years old journalist Sanjeev Mishra who represents and stands as the face of journalism in India. We had the opportunity to interact with Neeraj Kabi who plays Sanjeev on the show. The talented actor shared with us, his experience of being a part of Paatal Lok and more!

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Here’s all Neeraj Kabi shared with us:

You are at the center of everything going in the story, how was your whole experience of working on a project like Paatal Lok?

“I think working on Paatal Lok was a very nice, growing and learning experience as I have never done this kind of a role before. This came as a new experience for me. While I was working, I realized that the kind of efforts that I was putting and the kind of interactions that I was having with my director and writer were very intriguing. The entire project was very craft-oriented, which means that the actors were put through multiple meetings with the director, writer and with each other. Workshop sessions and multiple discussions were held for our characters before the shoot in Mumbai as well as in Delhi. We were called ahead to prepare for the shoots.

The one thing that I love about any production is when it works with the craft and preparations and not just whiles away the time having fun, personally I don’t really enjoy that too much. I do like to have fun while I am working, but I also would like to get the work done. I like preparations, talks, discussions that helps you to grow and create something very strong. That’s what has been my experience, having come back after the shoot with a very nice feeling; that we all work with towards something which was beautiful. It’s the feeling where we know that we have all put in that kind effort to create, to learn to grow with each other, that was very intriguing and the director and the writer were very welcoming and encouraging to my continuous questions whenever I was on the sets. Because I had to be very clear about what I was doing. They were brilliant to work with.

I remember during one of the scenes, the director coming to me and asking me to do the scene because the shot wasn’t exactly what he was looking for. He kept insisting on doing the takes until he got that element right. Although sometimes when I would feel the performance was good and everything went well, why is he not taking this. To which he would explain, ‘I didn’t want this element to come here. This could be used in another scene. Don’t give away this element particularly right now.’ So that’s the kind of detailing and that was very interesting.”

The cast is full of talented actors such as yourself, how was it working with them?

“The entire experience was wonderful. We have Jaideep, Abhishek Banerjee, Swastika Mukherjee and so many amazing and great talent to work with. Even Lyra who plays my love interest; is a very young girl but full of talent and hard working. I must say this about Lyra Dutta. She knew she was the youngest in the lot and she really put in that effort to work her way through. I was actually very surprised to see somebody so young yet so serious about her work. I have worked with Swastika earlier on Byomkesh Bakshi and it was a pleasure to get back and work with her. She has her own sense that she brings to her work that was again very interesting to work with. I was working with Abhishek and Jaideep for the first time and it was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t have a lot of scenes with Abhishek although I had a lot of opportunities to work with Jaideep.  I really liked his performance in RAAZI. I have liked his other work too but in Raazi, as per me, it has by far been his best performance.  Jaideep is a very qualified and powerful actor. He has the power to hold his presence on screen and I am really glad he is the lead as well. He has done a fine job and I am sure people will like him too.”

Speaking of your character, was this a very demanding character considering the fabric of the show?

“My character was very demanding in terms of mind. A lot of effort had to be taken to play this character. A lot of things are happening in my character’s head, whereas the character of Hathiram is full of action. So in contrast to Hathiram, played by Jaideep, his character is sketched out or written in such a way that whatever he thinks he says, whatever he feels he does, if he wants to chase, he will run, he will not think about it, if he wants to say something, he will say it. If he wants to say that his son should not do something, he will actually have a dialogue to say it.

But my character was not like that. My character had a lot of things that were going on in his head which he didn’t say. Nor did he actually perform it, which made it very challenging. But that is the uniqueness of the character of Sanjeev Mehra. He has so many things running in his head, but he doesn’t say that it comes out in different ways. That was very difficult, and a lot of effort went behind playing things in the mind. For me, it’s easier to play the body because I have always been a very physical actor. For me, bodywork is very easy but to play the mind it becomes very difficult. For example, in the Ship of Theseus, my character was a combination of body, similarly, Byomkesh was a lot with the body. But here it was purely minded as there wasn’t a lot of physical movement of this character. He is playing his mind continuously, therefore this kind of work required a lot of effort from my end.”

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The show captures all things human helplessness, scared, sinister, unexpected and pure evil, does something like this affect you emotionally?

“It does even when I was playing my character in multiple places. Even when in the character of Sanjeev Mehra, I can’t talk about the others and the script as I still haven’t seen the entire performance. I must see it when it comes out of 15th May. Speaking of only Sanjeev’s character, even he goes through a whole plethora of emotions. There are so many emotions he is carrying with his own self – of pride, of ego, of delusion, of loss, of integrity, of being a loser, of fighting back, of shame, of love, of depression. The man is going through a lot of emotions.”

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What was the most memorable thing about shooting for the show?

“I can tell you about three very memorable scenes that stayed with me. First, one is my interactions with my director, writer as I was working ingraining the character together, which was very memorable. 

The second one on a lighter note was the food. The food was awesome on the sets. I relished it. Earlier, my manager had sent the crew a whole list of food items that I have for lunch, dinner- salad, there was dips and all that. One day when I was walking around after the shoot, I realized that a whole bunch of actors in the dining area is relishing a great variety of food and there I was, in my van and I had asked only for my salad and fish. I was like ‘Main kya kha raha hu? Yeh toh masti kar rahe hai’! and then when I went and actually sat down with all of them, the director, the writer, I realised the food served was amazing and never went back to my ordinary food. That was a great thing.

The third and the main thing I would say was the scene where I enter to apologize to my wife. There was something about that scene that was very impactful and memorable. I don’t want to say anything more than the scene at this point of time, rather I want people to watch it on the show. But this was a very memorable scene which I take back. The entire sense of what he was feeling when he went to apologize was another very powerful moment that I am taking back from this show.”

The world of Paatal Lok is gritty and far too real, do you prefer such roles or more fictional characters?

“I prefer all roles that are complex. I prefer all roles that require a lot of preparations and I prefer roles that are very well crafted. So, it can either be fictitious or real, but they must cover these thoughts.”

What do you think will hook the audience to the show?

“The discovery is that the investigating officer makes while he is investigating this attempted assassination of Sanjeev Mehra. Whatever he discovers after that is going to be gripping. The whole world of Swarg Lok and the Dharti Lok, how they are all connected and co-exist. That’s what will hook the audience.”

Watch Neeraj Kabi on Amazon Prime Video’s original Paatal Lok, streaming now.