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From engineer to Tollywood actor

Mayank Parakh
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Mayank Parakh

Highlights

Mayank Parakh, a boy from a small town in Chattisgarh finished his Engineering and started his career for L&T, got inspired after watching a play enacted by Paresh Rawal and made acting as his passion

Mayank Parakh, a boy from a small town in Chattisgarh finished his Engineering and started his career for L&T, got inspired after watching a play enacted by Paresh Rawal and made acting as his passion. Mayank started his acting career as a stand-up comedian and later performed in 150 theatre plays, now bagged an important role in Akkineni Nagarjuna's "Wild Dog".

He shared his experiences working for "Wild Dog" with "The Hans India".

How did your journey start as an actor?

I am an accidental actor. As a small town boy growing up in a Marwadi family in Chattisgarh, I had very limited exposure to movies. Studies and sports were my focus. I studied Civil Engineering in Goa. It was in Goa that I watched a lot of movies, went for a play enacted by Paresh Rawal and I was besotted by what I saw him do on stage and it was that moment I figured I wanted to perform.

From Goa to Hyderabad theatre plays, how it all happened?

After college, I got placed with L&T and was part of the team building the Hyderabad Metro Rail project. During this time, I started performing as a stand-up comedian, released a YouTube video which got good traction and there I got a chance and did a theatre workshop with Samahaara in Hyderabad. After 2 years, when I was about to be transferred to Rajasthan, I decided to quit my well paying engineering job and focus on my passion.

My acting journey started in a Hindi play named "Court Martial" by Swadesh Deepak. Post that for 4 years I performed in over 150 shows in a range of different plays like "Wish Baby", "12 Angry Men", "Much Ado About Nothing", "Gregor Samsa", "Jaal", "The Proposal" and a bunch of short plays among others. This is when I bagged a small role in a Telugu movie "Goodachari". Then I got selected in Amazon Prime's webseries "Lakhon Mein Ek" which was hit among the millennials and in 2019 is when I got an audition call for "Wild Dog".

How is the audition experience for "Wild Dog"?

I remember it was right after a stand-up comedy performance when I got a call for an audition for "Wild Dog". The show-reel of my role in "Goodachari" was being sent around to production houses and casting agents. Much later I got to know that my show-reel was chosen from among 180 other reels and that's how I was called for an audition.

My bald look worked in my favour. For the audition, I was supposed to perform three long Telugu monologues and send it to the team. Though, I understand Telugu, I wasn't very fluent with the diction so I asked my Telugu speaking friends to record it. I went through those recordings, learnt the diction, practiced and then recorded my audition.

I was so thrilled when they said they loved it and asked me to meet the director Ashishor Solomon in Hyderabad in two days to discuss things further. When he met me, Ashishor told me I had 75 days to lose 15 kgs and if I didn't he will cast me in some other smaller role. That haunted me and I worked out like a maniac. It was a 'get-it or get-out-of-it' moment. Not only did I lose weight but the team did immense physical training for the right look and action sequences. I am glad for that warning from the director that pushed me to do more.

How was the working experience with Nagarjuna?

The moment I first saw him was very filmy for me. The song 'tum mile dil khile' was playing in my head when I first met him on the set. When you are a fan and have only seen a larger than life actor only in the movies, it can be a bit nerve wracking to have to perform with them. I remember being so nervous that I forgot the 2 months of training and couldn't even hold the gun properly.

I think Nagarjuna noticed and he came and spoke to me. That short chat was like an icebreaker and sir made me comfortable. After that the shooting was a cakewalk. Until we saw the trailer of the movie at the launch, I had no idea that I would share a poster with Nagarjuna. It was such a surreal moment and I am just very lucky to have the opportunity to be part of this movie. During break time, he would talk about a varied number of topics from Bitcoins to socio economic politics, the US elections, fitness, the evolving nature of today's cinema and other things.

Who are your role-models in the film industry?

Besides Nagarjuna, I like Irfan Khan for his countless roles and especially for his preparation and approach towards a role. He used to embody the character so well which brought realism in his portrayals. His eyes were deep and expressive. Chiranjeevi is the complete entertainment package. He can dance; he can do amazing comedy films, such good timing and does action like no other. I wanted to be an actor like that who can do everything effortlessly.

Can you tell us about future projects?

I have signed a Telugu movie and a TV web series with Hotstar. That's all I can talk about right now. Besides that after lockdown restrictions were lifted, I have also started performing stand up in the city and we have had two good shows so far.

My role in 'Wild Dog'

I play the role of a very detached poker faced NIA officer Caleb Matthews who comes across as a very cold person. He doesn't show his emotions and he is someone who means business. Caleb is second in command under Vijay Varma and has been on many missions with him and they share a close bond. One of the highlights of working in the movie was to be trained by David Ismalone, who is famous for his action direction in cult movies like "Fast & Furious 7", "Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior" among others.

The whole team trained extensively for the action sequences and I often joke that pain ointment Volini was my best friend during those days of roughing it out.

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