‘Wanderer who fell for cinema and storytelling’ reads Amit Vikram Pandey’s Instagram and you realize this when you start talking to him. He has a knack for narrating stories, whether they are about his obsession for Dhoni or about a childhood spent in Howrah, West Bengal.
Amit Vikram Pandey plays the role of Kaalia in a stage production of Chhota Bheem. He has worked with industry stalwarts like Taapsee Pannu, Shakti Kapoor, Usha Ganguli, Rasika Agashe, MS Dhoni and others in ads and theatre. He also stars in the web series Neighbour’s Kitchen. He has been acting since his childhood days.
Icy Tales caught up with the young thespian to talk about the stage and the screen.
Q) Was there a particular film or TV show or actor that made you want to pursue acting?
Amit Vikram Pandey: To be very honest, every child in India has one wish: they want to be a ‘hero’ when they grow up. It was the same with me but then I saw Dhoni. That’s when I decided that I wanted to become a cricketer. Then I wanted to become a dancer because I saw Michael Jackson.
My father used to teach in the same school. So I was never one to ditch classes. That’s why I started participating in extracurricular activities in school. I was not a guy who was into movies or theatre or particularly into acting. The first film I had seen in the cinema hall was Kahaani in 2011.
I used to perform in school plays. I was in class 9 when a teacher told me that I was good at acting. That I should go to Bombay and become a ‘hero.’ I think that was the moment where it clicked. I used to do multiple things – dance, act, sing, debates, cricket, badminton, chess – that’s when my grandfather also called me ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ and asked me to choose wisely and focus on one.
And then theatre happened. So there was no particular movie that pushed me towards acting. Mostly the people around me have inspired me.
Q) What was your childhood like?
Amit Vikram Pandey: I am born and brought up in West Bengal, in Shibpur Howrah. I did my schooling there, till class 12th. As a kid, I was the ‘Ghar ka nautanki.’ I remember that I would apply sindoor to my white sando and pretend that I died. I loved playing cricket, chess, and badminton. Couldn’t bunk school because my father was a teacher, so I was a very good boy at school. The kind that goes to school and then comes back home, without playing truant. I would come back to my building and that’s where I did my pranks.
Childhood was fun. I am super close to my grandfather. If I got into a fight, my grandfather would take me boating. I lost my mom when I was ten, so that did impact my childhood. I don’t remember going on many family trips, but I had a good time. I had amazing friends. I was always getting up to good in my house, in my building, society, fetched good marks in school. I would dance and sing and performed plays in school.
Q) You have also been performing as a stage actor since your college days. What would you say is the best experience of doing theatre in college?
Amit Vikram Pandey: I used to act since school days. I started doing Theatre in Kolkata with Late Usha Ganguli Ji, in 2013, when I was in class 9. I worked with her for 4 years and that’s where I did my initial training. She was a mentor like no one and she taught me a lot.
Then I moved to Bombay. The theatre culture in Kolkata and the theatre culture in Bombay are very different. For instance, in my college, Mithibai, there are a lot of star kids who have already worked in the industry. Mithibai College’s drama team was very popular. Doing theatre in college and specially doing festivals in college is super fun.
Everyone is very passionate when it comes to competitions and its super fun to do that. Mithibai gave me a lot of opportunities to be on stage and that was wonderful. I would stay up late in college till 8 and we would work on plays after plays. Prithvi Cafe was our go to place/ adda for all the write-ups and team meetings.
I have performed a lot for Mithibai, at almost all the festivals of Mumbai – IIT Bombay, Kaleidoscope, and more.
Q) Do you think going to film school is important if someone wants to become an actor?
Amit Vikram Pandey: A film school is not compulsory at all. Training is compulsory. You need to know the craft. Training helps with a lot of things. You get confidence, you learn the craft. You cannot wake up one day and become an actor. I am not saying that you have to spend 10-15 years of training and then try becoming an actor. Luck is of course a factor that plays a lot in you becoming an actor.
Film schools in Mumbai are everywhere. Do you know how there’s a grocery store in every gully? In Mumbai, there’s a film school in every gully specially con schools. They tell you to attend a workshop and then you’ll automatically become an actor. They’ll give you your first break. It’s not like that. The truth is that you have to give an audition for every role you do. If you want to become an actor, give an audition and get it. That’s it. Acting is a job like any other, it requires skills.
Q) How did your experience as a stage actor help you with your performance on screen?
Amit Vikram Pandey: There are too many good actors – most of our favorite actors are from the theatre. Many people believe that theatre is very loud and that’s not what people do on screen. But theatres used to be loud. Of course, it’s still there, for instance, if you look at nukkad Natak. Theatre has also adapted to innovations. You get lapel mics that help you perform subtly and it still reaches out to the audience. Earlier people had to be loud so that the audience could hear them.
Theatre, I feel everyone should do at one point in their lives. It makes you a better person. Theatre not just involves being on stage and acting in front of an audience, but it also includes working backstage doing production. Right from making refreshments to putting up the entire set. Confidence is one of the most important factor for an actor and stage helps a lot in that. The instant gratification one gets being in front of a live audience makes their belief system strong which eventually improves their performance overall be it on screen, stage or anywhere.
Q) What is a favorite memory from a shoot you’ve done?
Amit Vikram Pandey: I just met MS Dhoni! Since I was a kid I had dreamt of becoming Dhoni. I told him that after the 2011 World Cup, I had carved 2011 on my bat, like in the movie Chain Khuli Ki Main Khuli. And he was laughing. I have never met a person like him in my life. I can talk about him for hours. That was my most favorite moment.
I have also worked with Tapsee Pannu in my first shoot in Bombay. She is a very approachable person and she made us all feel super confident during the entire shoot.
Today, Amit is doing his Masters in Journalism and also pursuing his dream. He believes one should always follow their heart and do what makes them happy. His family has been very supportive even though they have had zero connection to the industry. Amit Vikram is also a writer and works as a storyteller. The actor has an Instagram page Kuch Khaas Nahi where he jots down his musings. He has performed at several national and international theatre festivals and feels at home on stage.