We spoke to ‘that cute guy’ in ‘that new ad’. Varun Mitra on his acting career and his experience shooting for Amazon Kindle’s maiden media campaign in India.
Reading a book often changes one’s life. But can reading on a Kindle do that to you? For Varun Mitra, it might just happen, for his is the unassuming face one sees in the recently released ad film by Amazon Kindle.
Varun Mitra, who grew up in Delhi, has always been fond of travelling. During his B.Com days at Delhi University, modeling slowly emerged as a hobby. Over the next four years Mitra got busy with work, first at a buying agency and then, an export house. But like they say, you have got to be brave to follow your dreams. Somewhere along the way, he decided that modeling – and eventually acting in movies – is his calling.
“One fine day, I quit my job and moved to Mumbai to see how it would be. The plan was to stay for two weeks. But then a friend had me photographed and before I knew it Kwan (a well known talent management agency) signed me on,” he recalls.
While he auditioned for shows, several advertising and modeling assignments landed in his kitty. Among these, you may remember him as ‘the boy who helps Katrina Kaif take off her watch’ in a Titan ad. Mitra has also appeared in ads for brands like Nissan Sunny, Raymond, Tommy Hilfiger and Samsung.
Mitra has also been part of Wills India Fashion Week and other such ramp shows. A short film for clothing brand Free People, called ‘Rangeen‘, had him share screen space with Freida Pinto as well.
Soon he got an offer from NDTV to host a show he auditioned for, called ‘Two for the Road’, an auto and travel show which explores a city through its automobile culture. This was followed by ‘Great Drives’, another show on NDTV sponsored by Tata Safari, where ten day road trips would take Mitra to far flung places within the country. In due time, he ‘went international’ as well, shooting extensively in Korea for NDTV’s show ‘Imagine your Korea’.
“There is just no better way to do it! The kind of experiences you have, the things you get to do, the places you get to see and the people you get to interact with… I don’t think I would have had these experiences on a regular holiday,” he says about his enviable career as a travel show host.
“Some of the moments I have had during these travels are unforgettable… like sitting by a frozen lake at Sela Pass at about 3:30 pm, and freezing while watching the sunset, with a glass of hot water, rum and Maggi. Unreal!” he exclaims.
The Kindle Experience…
The Kindle film happened when the production house (Equinox Films) recommended Mitra’s name to the casting director, Kanika Berry. An audition and four days later, he was on his way to Sri Lanka for the shoot.
“During the audition, they did not ask me to act or read out from books. I had to tell a story, and so I went and told them a very warped version of Aladdin! I guess they wanted to see how I would narrate a story to the kids,” he laughs.
Going by the on-screen rapport he shares with the kids, it sure appears as though he managed to win them over. All of them are Sri Lankan natives from the village of Kalpitiya. However, despite the language barrier (the kids speak neither Hindi nor English), Mitra’s travelling experience came in handy. He communicated with the kids through hand gestures and managed to befriend them quickly, so much so, that they hand-crafted several greeting cards for him on his birthday, which happened to coincide with the last day of the shoot.
According to Mitra, his travel shows have always been unscripted. Though he attended an acting workshop conducted by ad film director Ram Madhvani before the shoot, Mitra tells us he had to improvise quite a bit while actually shooting the scenes. The shooting schedule, we learn, was rather unsystematic (one of the reasons was an insect bite that led to Madhvani falling critically ill!)
“Ram Sir is a dream to work with,” Mitra says about Madhvani, “For me, this was one of the first ads for which I had a detailed discussion with the director before we started shooting. From the back-story of the character to the music he had in mind… he is very clear in his vision,” he said.
Post the Kindle ad, Mitra has received several offers to model for brands and act in ads. He has had to turn most of them down, because he is currently busy shooting for a movie.
(The above article appeared on Afaqs on November 20, 2014)