Thursday, July 18, 2024

From Munna Bhai MBBS to Shaka Laka Boom Boom: Kurush Deboo Reflects on his Career’s Pivotal Moments

Edited by : Robin Bhuyan (Editor-in-Chief) 

Interviewed by : Shashi Salwani 

Written by : Akshita Chaudhury 

Kurush Deboo is a well-known Indian actor who has been active in the industry since the nineties. He has been seen in television shows, advertisements, Hindi films. His career began with the movie named Percy, and he gained recognition in the industry for his portrayal of Shah Rukh Khan’s devoted friend in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. Later on in his career, his portrayal of Dr. Rustom Pavri in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. gained him widespread attention. Here, we talk about his journey, his struggles, some behind-the-scenes moments of Munnabhai MBBS, the impact of OTT on cinema, and so on! 

Tell us how you stumbled into the world of cinema and why you chose acting as your career path?

It’s quite an interesting story, really. Acting wasn’t part of my initial plan; it happened almost by accident. After completing my graduation in Gujarat and pursuing post-graduation in marketing and communication from Mumbai’s Bajaj Institute and Xavier’s Institute, I found myself working in three different jobs. However, my love for theatre from college lingered. Inspired by interviews with renowned actors like Govinda and Anil Kapoor, I decided to enroll in the acting school of Roshan Taneja’s Actors Studio. Affordability became a challenge, but with a bit of luck and a discount, I managed to undertake an acting course in 1987-1988.

A turning point came when I heard about an opportunity for the role of a Parsi character in an art film. Despite my inclination towards commercial films, where I wanted to play the lead role of a hero, a friend persuaded me to audition, citing it as a good potential for my career. I landed the role of a mama’s boy in the movie Percy, which earned me recognition and awards, though not on the commercial front. Recognition increased after a telecast on Doordarshan, catching the eye of Kundan Shah, who approached me for the role of Shahrukh Khan’s best friend in the film Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. However, with around 30 characters in the film, individual recognition was a challenge. Despite several serials and less profitable ventures, my breakthrough arrived with the English movie Such a Long Journey where my role as Tehmul earned me a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. After working in many such ads and documentaries, the pinnacle of my career came with Munna Bhai MBBS. The film earned appreciation from both audiences and critics, and my role was also quite appreciated. My dialogue “How would I know, sir”, also became quite well-known.

How did you land a role in the iconic movie Munna Bhai MBBS, and could you share with us how this opportunity unfolded for you?

Absolutely! It’s a rather interesting story. I initially heard about the movie through market buzz, but since I wasn’t getting many roles in movies, I didn’t pay much attention. Then out of the blue, I received a call from Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s office, inviting me to his office. He mentioned the various roles and characters needed for Munna Bhai MBBS.

Rajkumar Hirani’s Assistant Cum Casting Director decided to conduct the audition right there on the spot. I went ahead with it, not fully realizing the significance of the opportunity. Little did I know that it would be a turning point in my career.

Surprisingly, I completely forgot about the audition. It wasn’t until 15 days later that I received a call, and to my surprise, I was informed that I had been selected for a role in Munna Bhai MBBS.

Can you recall any funny or memorable incidents that took place during the filming of Munna Bhai MBBS?

Yes! One memorable moment occurred during a hospital scene where Munna Bhai, played by Sanjay Dutt, is dragging a bed for a patient. Arshad Warsi and Sanjay both embraced improvisations, and it turned out so well that the line “Yeh tere liye nahi laya, mamu, yeh inke liye hai” was spontaneously added. We couldn’t stop laughing.

There’s a scene where Arshad Warsi visits my character’s house and makes me eat curd. Arshad’s improvisation skills came into play, creating a moment that had us all in stitches. Before that, there was an improvised scene where Arshad asked me, “Ae tu rehta kidhar hai?” and I replied, ” Dadar Parsi Colony.” It wasn’t in the script but was added as a fun twist.

Sanjay Dutt was incredibly supportive and often helped me during shooting. He asked Raju sir for a retake on my behalf, when I was not comfortable after a particular shot. For the kidnapping scene, it was shot at Gaushala Bungalow Kandivali SV Road. The spontaneity and camaraderie on set made the entire experience truly enjoyable.    

What were your favorite roles from your acting journey?

One of my favorite roles was in Percy, where my performance earned me a nomination for Best Actor. Then, the role of Tehmul, for which I received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, holds a special place. My role as Dr Rustom Pavri in Munna Bhai MBBS is another cherished experience. Additionally, I recently played a diverse character in a horror movie soon to hit OTT platforms—portraying a villain, a heroine’s father, and a corrupted builder, eventually turning into the villainous ghost within the same film. My comedic scenes in Taxi No 9211 were widely appreciated, and the children loved my role in My Friend Ganesha 2. Each of these roles has added a unique chapter to my career.

You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with numerous renowned directors. Can you share who your favorite director is and what you’ve learned from them?

Well, it’s a tough question because I’ve learnt something valuable from every director, I’ve had the privilege to work with. Regardless of whether a movie becomes a hit or a flop, each experience contributes to my growth. In this journey, the key is to absorb lessons and apply them to your life. Mistakes, once learned from, become steppingstones to improvement. If I were to highlight someone who significantly influenced my approach to acting, it would be Rajkumar Hirani. Madhur Bhandarkar also played a pivotal role, teaching me the art of improvisation in scenes. So, I’ve truly learned something from every director I’ve collaborated with.

Among your TV roles, do you have any personal favorites? 

I’ve been part of many serials, but the ones that resonated most with the audience were Jeannie and Juju and Shakalaka Boom Boom . Additionally, my web shows received a lot of love from viewers. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of around 200 advertisements, each bringing its own unique experience.

You have done ads, movies, and OTT; is there any difference between all three platforms?

Well, when it comes to ads, movies, and OTT, each platform has its unique dynamics. In ads, it’s all about grabbing attention in a short span, delivering a message effectively. When it comes to cinema, it is primarily meant for theatre. However, today, it involves a hefty investment, i.e. around 4 crores. You’ve got various release options, from theaters to festival cinemas, OTT, and TV channels. When there is a lack of budget, OTT becomes preferable for producers. Even TV channels look at your box office numbers before deciding to feature your film, shaping the price accordingly.

In the festival circuit, it’s crucial to have top-notch content. As, for OTT, it starts with submitting the script. If they pick it up, it goes straight to the platform. Personally, I find theaters to be the best, offering a unique and immersive experience.

Tell us about your upcoming movies or projects?

First off, we’ve got Kennedy, a gripping crime thriller that I’m excited for everyone to dive into. Then there’s A Damned Graveyard where I take on the challenging role of the villain. Moving on, then there is Love Your Shankar where I step into the shoes of a doctor—a character close to my heart. For the OTT enthusiasts, watch out for Counter Blow. And then there is Tax a socially relevant film where I portray the role of a college principal. Each project has been a unique journey, and I can’t wait for the audience to experience them all.

Is there any dream role you want to do in any future project?

Well, you know, when it comes to future roles in my movies, I don’t have a specific one in mind. It’s not about sitting back and hoping for the perfect role; it’s about staying proactive.

Surviving in this industry demands patience; it’s not a sprint but a marathon. The shelf life of an average actor is short, around 5-6 years, but there are exceptions like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan who have sustained themselves for decades. To thrive, you must be a thorough professional. Your past performances speak volumes because that’s how you secure future work.

Auditions are still a part of my journey. Given the hefty budgets of movies, no one wants to take unnecessary risks. It’s not just about being on good terms with people; you have to prove you deserve the role every time. The industry values actors who are suitable for the role, and professionalism is non-negotiable. It’s a challenging path, but it’s about consistently showcasing your worth.

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