Shweta Mulki

Meet Vikrant Massey, ad land's favourite boy-next door

From Hindi GECs to the ad-circuit to film noir - the actor talks about seamless transitions.

In the pre-social media era, actors were often 'spotted' the old-fashioned way by talent scouts - in restaurants and at bus stops, perhaps. This is what happened to actor Vikrant Massey who was barely 16 years when he was scouted by a television producer, when waiting in queue at a restaurant washroom. Even at that age, Massey was a responsible teen, who alongside his college hours, worked as an instructor at a special branch of choreographer Shaimak Davar's institute, teaching children of sex workers mostly, to dance.

Meet Vikrant Massey, ad land's favourite boy-next door
"The opportunity to earn 6000 rupees per episode sounded great," says Massey, a middle class boy born-and-raised in Mumbai, who has until now worked in four feature films, numerous commercials and nine television shows spanning 10 years.

That particular show never made it on air, but it did lead to a Disney show called 'Dhoom Machao Dhoom', eventually followed by the title character in NDTV Imagine's 'Dharam Veer' in 2007. Then came the big one-his role as 'Shyam Madan Singh' in Colors' Balika Vadhu - a 2-month cameo that extended to 2 years. Massey says, "During Balika, I finally stopped travelling by train and bought my first car".

Meet Vikrant Massey, ad land's favourite boy-next door
Massey went on to act in many more TV shows, but currently, that has taken a backseat. He says, "One is always open to good content, but television here has dumbed down, and become a ratings-led business. I grew up watching Nukkad, Karamchand and Malgudi days - a time when TV didn't underestimate its audiences. Now, just because Nagin is a hit, everybody wants to follow it."
Meet Vikrant Massey, ad land's favourite boy-next door
His appearances in ads though have only risen. Massey's first commercial was in 2013, for
. "I used to get intimidated in ad auditions as it was a different world and mindset. Television and its actors were looked down upon - there were clichéd perceptions. I think many saw me as a 'struggling actor from North India' but I grew up in Versova!" exclaims the actor.
Meet Vikrant Massey, ad land's favourite boy-next door
The same year, director Vikramaditya Motwane cast him in his film Lootera (2013). "It was the first ever film I auditioned for, " recalls Massey. He gained more visibility with the
commercial during Diwali (2014) and that reached a peak with him being cast as a 'struggling cartoonist' in the popular
last year. Massey says, "That guy was close to me as a person, and I got to use my voice in that. His story was all about hope, and that must have resonated with people."

The last two years have seen Massey becoming popular with brands. There was Cornetto with Alia Bhatt, Zomato, the Samsung Galaxy 'Johnny' campaign with Shahid Kapoor, and Idea 4G.

How does he feel about sharing space with 'stars'? "Screen space doesn't even occur as a thought because in television, you have 10 actors in one scene. That teaches you to not waste time and do your bit well," he says nonchalantly. It's a skill that probably helped him in his role as as 'Rana' alongside the ensemble cast in the 2015 film, Dil Dhadakne Do.

Speaking further about working in ad films, Massey explains, "You need to get it right in 30 secs. Now, with social media you may have 75 seconds, but every second counts. And you need to reach out to folks to sell the product, not yourself."

Hindi GEC to ad circuit to 'real' films - a crossover of sensibilities? Massey replies, "You understand who and what you are catering to. Though the same audience that watches ads, watches content at home and watches movies at the theatre, for an actor, there are different structures attached to theatre, films, ads and dance - and you prioritise that particular mindset.

However, he adds, "The worst thing to do is bracket actors - TV actor, film actor, theatre actor or Ramleela actor. Why label? The finest of actors have been doing all these mediums."

This year, with films like Lipstick under My Burkha and Konkona Sensharma's directorial debut Death in the Gunj, also winning him praise, Massey seems to be on the right track.