Despite doing a string of Marathi and Telugu films recently, actor Milind Gunaji calls his performance in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 his comeback film, despite doing memorable roles like Kali Babu in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, inspector Indrajeet Saxena in Fareb, Bali Thakur in Virasat, and Nanji Bhai in Phir Hera Pheri, among others. In 2019, he also did Ashutosh Gowarikar Panipat.
Milind is also overjoyed that Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is doing so well at the box office, and is thankful that “finally people are paying attention to my work.” The actor from the 1990s and 2000s talks about rediscovering himself, being typecast, and wants to do more work than ever in this interview with indianexpress.com.
Milind, who is in his fifties, considers Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 to be his big Bollywood return. “Anees Bazmee has a wonderful sense of humour, and Aakash Kaushik penned such a lovely, amusing script.” As soon as I learned that Anees Bazmee would be directing the picture, I knew I had to say yes. Anees ji and I had planned to collaborate on a film from my early days in the industry, when we did Fareb and Virasat, but it never materialised. I was surprised to learn that he is directing Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and that he wants me to play this role. It’s a big film franchise, and the director is fantastic, so it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. For the first time, I’m in charge of everything from the first to the last frame. I can’t recall the last time I played a full-length role. My roles in other films, such as Devdas, were similarly well received, but they were not full-length roles; rather, they were minor ones.”
“Acting-wise, there isn’t a lot of potential for me in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2,” he admits. Now I’m looking forward to Hit, my feature with Rajkumar Rao, because it really puts my acting skills on display. But Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is like a return to the big screen for me. I have a strong filmography, beginning with Ajay Devgn’s Rudra, in which I played a negative part opposite Ajay Devgn. I consider myself fortunate to be able to work in mainstream movies at this point in my career. Even when I had been working for a long time, I felt invisible. Now that I’ve seen Hit, I’m looking forward to The Battle of Bhima Koregaon. This should have happened a little sooner, but due to the pandemic, two years were entirely wasted.”
Milind is better known for his bad parts than his favourable ones. He believes he has been trapped in the roles of villain, Thakur, or police inspector, but now is the time to break free. “My films in the 1990s, such Fareb, Virasat, and others, mostly my slot used to be main negative, I felt typecast,” he says. But I’d also played a hero in a few films. I had realised, though, that singing and dancing were not my cup of tea a long time ago. My height is 6.2 feet, and I have a personality that does not lend itself to singing or dancing. So I decided that I’d rather do something that suited me and gives me more opportunities to display my acting, which didn’t have to be limited to negative roles; I wanted to play a wider range of characters. I’ve portrayed Thakur in a number of films, and the majority of Thakur characters in films are negative. Then I’d be cast as a police officer or a terrorist. However, I have had some successes in those kind of roles as well. I’ve been going on for a while now. “Thik hai, Don, Thakur, aur police mein main thoda atak gaya tha.”
“I can also perform well in comedy; Nanji Bhai (from Phir Hera Pheri) is a well-known character, and it’s nice to know that people remember me from that role.” Some young kids called me Nanji Bhai during the premiere of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 a few days ago, and it was such a thrill,” Milind remarked of his desire to do more comic flicks and intense characters. “Now I’d like to do more intense roles, where I can act with my eyes, that’s what I’d like to do,” he remarked. I can play either a positive or negative character, and because people can’t tell whether I’m playing a positive or bad role based on my expressions, I’d like to play more layered roles. I’m quite excited since this is the time when such roles are being written.”
Milind is a seasoned trekker and the author of Bhatkanti, a classic Marathi travel book, as well as a popular television show of the same name. He’s also the spokesperson for Maharashtra’s hill station Mahabaleshwar, and anyone travelling from Mumbai to Pune has seen at least one billboard featuring Gunaji clad in cargo pants and a cargo jacket. That’s what he wants to do for OTT – he wants to be Maharashtra’s Bear Grylls.
“I enjoy the type of stuff that is coming out on OTT platforms these days,” he remarked. I wasn’t really on vacation; I was actually working. I’ve been working on films in Marathi and Telugu. In 2019, I also completed Panipat. But it always appears as though I’ve taken a sabbatical, therefore I’m calling Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 my comeback.”
“However, I was doing a lot of shooting and trekking on a daily basis at this time.” “I’d like to produce a travel programme, something like adventure and trekking, because I’ve been a travel writer for a long time,” he added, “because there is so much OTT stuff being made.”
“I used to be a model, and I still do some modelling now and then, so I’ve always been in shape.” It’s crucial for performers to stay young for longer, and I believe that even in my 60s, I’ll be able to pull off 45+ parts, which is the best thing about being an actor. There is so much work out there now, so much being written and done, and so many platforms, that I believe now is the time for character actors and actors who have been stuck in a rut doing only specific types of parts to shine,” Gunaji says.