The man behind ‘The Lone Wolf’

By Shalini Singh
Deepak Sharma with Shalini Singh

Shalini Singh speaks to Deepak Sharma who made his acting debut in the film about radicalisation of the educated youth in India

The Lone Wolf, a film about radicalisation of the educated youth in India, and made by a first-time director from India, Balakrishna P Subbiah, is creating waves across continents.

The story of the journey into the mind of a radical Islamic jihadist, The Lone Wolf begins in a remote area at the India-Pakistan border, from where a group of terrorists try to cross over through a barbed fence, and are shot down by the Border Security Force. One of them, Abu Aatif (The Lone Wolf), played by debutant Deepak Sharma, digs his way through an underground canal, and days later finds refuge in the home of a transgender (played by real-life transgender activist Kalki Subramaniam) who helps him recuperate.

Deepak emotes well and conveys what is going on in his mind even though there is not much dialogue for him. Kalki does most of the talking in the movie and her accent even though clarified in the movie comes out jarring. The television in the background plays a key narrator’s role to set the timeline and events happening which contribute to polarisation in the society. Both Kalki and Deepak are lost and abandoned in the world however one chooses a path of love and compassion whereas the other is driven by rage and revenge.

The Indian Sun speaks to Deepak about his debut.

How did you land the role?

My personal trainer at the gym I frequent told me someone from the movie industry wanted to meet me. It happened to be the producer of The Lone Wolf. He told me that I fit the look but I was sceptical as I had heard this before. I auditioned and then bagged the role after five screen tests.

You are born and bought up in Sydney, but your Hindi is pretty good.

I speak Hindi at home. When I moved to Mumbai, I realised my Hindi had a slight accent. So, I went for diction classes for six months to learn Hindi and Urdu.

How did you become an actor?

My grandfather Raghvan Nair was into theatre. He used to do Ramayana in Bhartiya Kala Kendra. He migrated to Syndey and started a dance school, where I started learning Kuchipudi when I was 12 years old. I loved dancing, and also learned contemporary and other expressive form of dance. When I was around 16, my grandfather asked me to play Krishna in a play for his school. That’s when I knew I liked acting. I joined NIDA to learn more about the craft. When I watched the Hindi film Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000), I decided to give Bollywood a shot.

What happened when you got there?

I knew it would be a struggle to break into the movies, but I was confident in my skill. I began by looking for modelling assignments. When I got called for first ad with Colgate, I got excited that I was shortlisted. And then realised more than 100 people were shortlisted as well. That’s when I realised it’s going to be hard yard.

The first showreel I did was of the monologue in Haider (2014). I really loved Haider’s character and that monologue was quite a hard thing to do, but I the whole 3.5 minute act in one take.

☆ How did you prepare for your role in The Lone Wolf?

After one of the screen tests for the film, I showed director Balakrishna the showreel of the Haider monologue. So, he pinpointed the aspect I can reuse in this film. I also started reading about Islam, started doing namaz etc. I went into total isolation for two weeks, no social media, no contact with people. I tried to get into the skin of the character. I focused on the belief system which leads people to the radical path. There were a few workshops as well before the shoot to fine-tune little things of the character.

☆ What was the biggest challenge?

To be quiet and not speak much. It was hard to get the range of emotions without dialogue. I asked the director in some scenes for the dialogue, however he was adamant that I was to emote only through my expressions. I am very bubbly person, but this character took me down to an interesting path where I needed to isolate myself.

The Lone Wolf won the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award. Does this open more avenues for you?

Yes, the movie has won Best Feature in the Jury category. There will be screening in January and I might be going to do that. There may be a Netflix release worldwide. It is already on Amazon US & UK and planning soon for Australia. We assume that the award will give good launch but sadly in Bollywood only connections work. Hopefully a screening will open new doors.


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