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An interview with actor Capt. KRC Pratap – on playing inspector Bennix Jayaraj in the film Gargi

If you remember the brilliantly minimalist psychological drama Game Over directed by Ashwin Saravanan starring Tapsee Pannu, there's a masked serial killer stalking a woman, killing her by wrapping her head in plastic. After that he takes her to an abandoned field where he beheads her and sets her body on fire.

The masked man forms one of the central characters of the film - and the man behind the mask is Raging Bull's in-house actor Capt. KRC Pratap.

Although the character was very important to the film, it largely went unnoticed, purely because his face wasn't revealed. Like they say, success comes to those who wait. Capt. Pratap's next outing as Bennix, a police officer in the emotional courtroom drama Gargi, starring Sai Pallavi and Kaali Venkat is being talked about, and talked bout well! We at Raging Bull Actors Studio can't be proud enough.

For a quick background, Capt. KRC Pratap truly multi-faceted - an ex-serviceman, Limca Record holder in white water rafting, a personality trainer, an author, a motivational speaker, and of course, an actor.

In a face-to-face discussion, we asked him about his experience working in the film Gargi, how a new actor must learn to handle the pressure of a big star cast film, and the importance of an actor building a good rapport with a team.

Here’s what he had to say.

A must read for all upcoming actors - Read on!

Let’s start with your audition for the role.

It was the usual drill - I went to the audition through Raging Bull, performed a 1-min scene that I had prepared, and I was told that I would get a call back. About 4 or 5 days later, the direction team called and informed that I would be playing a police officer’s character. Initially, I assumed that it would be a small come-and-go role, but when I received the script from the team, I realized that it was going to be a major role that I would be playing - something that I had waited for so long.

Tell us about your experience on the sets. How was it being Bennix?

My first day’s shoot was at a quarry opposite the Chennai airport. It was with actor Saravanan sir. I reached the set and as usual, I was waiting for the proceeds to begin, sitting on my bike. Soon, someone form the direction team spoke to me and took me to a caravan. So far in all the shoots I have been part of, I used to hang around with the team at the shooting spot. But here I was, watching outside the window from the caravan. It felt weird – to be separated and made to sit all alone. I was not used it basically. I just sat and rehearsed my lines, but I was a little too conscious that it is a good role and I had to perform well.

The pressure got the better of me, and I goofed up, because I performed with a great talent like Saravanan sir on the very first day. I did manage to deliver the dialogues, but I knew that the scene didn’t go well because I felt plastic inside and didn’t give my best. By the end of the day, I was irritated and frustrated with myself.

Director Gautam Ramachandran called me the next day and said that I could do better. He cited my previous short film roles and said that he expected a far better performance from me.Five minutes into that conversation, I was convinced that I was going to be replaced.But he said that he wanted to give me another chance and would discuss with the team and get back to me.

I also told him that he wasn’t convinced with my performance, he could go ahead and replace me. At end of the day, if my performance was going to disturb the scene, or after the film released and all other actors performed better except me, I would end up making a bad name for myself too as an actor. Trust me, it is a very difficult thing to say that you are okay with being replaced.

Two days later, he called me again and asked me to come for rehearsals. I rehearsed with the team on four weekends. The director sat and spoke to me about what was making me uncomfortable. I told him that I wasn’t sure if I was overwhelmed with everything put together – right from the caravan, to performing with seasoned actors, and the weightage of my role. He just said one thing; “Don’t think that you are going to act on the set; just assume that you are auditioning every day, and like in auditions, try to give your best; ignore everything else.” The conversation was an ice breaker for me.

The next day’s shoot was with Sai Pallavi ma’am. Like we all know, she’s such a natural actor and this was the only scene where I interact with her in the full film. I was quite excited and nervous initially, because she’s a star and I didn’t know how she would interact with me – but once I got to the set and chatted with her, I became comfortable and was made to feel like a colleague. It was an emotional scene that we were going to shoot, and it was wonderful to see her prep for it. I asked a few questions about how she goes about preparing, and she very patiently spoke to me about it.

I slowly got into my comfort zone. For the next 7 or 8 days, we shot the police station scene with Kaali Venkat sir. It went well. Although a couple of my portions in the police station were edited out from the final film, I am happy with the final output. I absolutely understand that it was done keeping the film’s best interest in mind.

What inputs did the director give you to become Bennix?

The director translated his vision of the character very well. He showed me a reference of a police officer’s character from the web series Paathal Lok. Bennix is a new police officer, very honest, but he is going to be dishonest and corrupted because of the system. He’s in the transition to being dishonest. However, he wanted it to be about myself and not replicate it. There are many subtle indications, just with looks and without any dialogue, that Bennix is going to become a corrupt officer. These inputs were very clearly translated by the director. He also said he’s not going to approve the scene unless I reached his expectations; and I feel I have done justice to the character.

You have lengthy dialogue of close to two and a half, three minutes in the court scene. Tell us about it.

The court scene is one of the most important portions in the film. Playing the role of the case’s investigation officer, I narrate the whole incident or rather the film’s story. It was a lengthy dialogue that ran into about four pages. The director wanted this narration in one go. I rehearsed for it in our studio too, and I put the lockdown period to full use! The director saw my rehearsal and gave inputs on the intonations that I could use and wished me well.

The shoot day arrived, we got to the set and started rolling. Being live sound, I didn’t want to take too may attempts, and it was my day I suppose! I did the 2 min 45 sec dialogue in one take – all together with the right pauses and intonations. People on the set clapped for me; it was a surreal moment. Everyone, including the director appreciated my performance. I particularly remember what Praveen, the film’s associate director said to me, “You proved me wrong. After the first day’s shoot, I spoke to the director about replacing you, and I even found a replacement. But Gautam wanted to give you another chance and you utilized it to the fullest. You did a great job.”

From that day, people on the set started looking at me differently. Right from the boom operators to co-actors, everyone’s perspective changed, and I could sense the respect I had gained. I was invited for lunch with the director and Kaali Venkat sir. He shared his experiences; and appreciated me for how I came prepared for the scene and made it in one shot. I became more confident from then on. The fear and the complex of working with seniors went away for the rest of the 30 odd days, and we all became peers. It was a very professional, smooth experience.

Were you in touch with the team on the film’s proceedings after the shoot?

The executive producer Mr. Padmanabhan updated me on the progress from time to time. Even the director was in touch, updating me about the dubbing in other languages. Towards the end of March, the first poster was released.In June, I got an update that 2D entertainment was going to release the film, and following that, the trailer was released. Being a newcomer, it wasn’t important for them to update me so regularly; but the team made me feel important. During the release, I was invited to the press meet where I got a chance to share my experiences.

What next?

It was after Gargi’s trailer launch that I put this film behind me. It was over now, and it was going to be released soon. I started getting a lot of questions about what I was doing next. Raging Bull’s director Jack Prabhu always used to say that it’s easy to get that first role, but to sustain and continue working on other projects, without being bogged down by people pressure was the difficult part.

I am trying to be neutral and not take things to my head - both the positives of the role, as well as the pressure from questions about what I will do next. I am open to any good role that comes my way. I am continuing to give auditions and discussing about potential opportunities. Like always, I am thankful to the film’s team, all the actors in Gargi, and team Raging Bull!

Gargi is now playing on SonyLiv


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