Vidyut Xavier, who plays Dr Abhay Sathe in the medical drama Dhadkan on Sony TV gives credit to the storyline for the show’s success. He speaks about Dhadkan, his preparation for the role and plans for future in this exclusive interview
After acting in Siddharth Kumar Tewary’s Mahabharat as the young Karna, Vidyut Xavier is now doing his first major serial – a medical one titled Dhadkan: Zindaggi ki. Vidyut shines as Dr Abhay Sathe in Dhadkan proving his mettle as an actor in the serial which offers infotainment. The son of veteran DOP, Thomas Xavier, Vidyut is having a great time shooting Dhadkan. He talks about the serial, his role and his other interests in this interview:
You acted as a young Karna in Mahabhaarat that was probably eight-nine years ago. How did you do that? What made you take up acting on a full scale?
It’s not that after doing the young Karna that made me decide to be an actor, I always wanted to be an actor since I was in 7th or 8th standard. That’s where I had made up my mind and I was thorough in my decision. I told my father and my mother and told them that I want to be an actor. So my training began when I was in 8th standard around 12-13 years of age.
I went on set that day and the entire day I spent with Salman (Khan) Sir watching him act…spending my time on set was the turning point in my life
Was this decision also because your father was in films?
Absolutely right! He’s one of the reasons. Since I was, six months old I have been on sets as my father used to put me on the baby cradle and shoot.
Since that age I have been on set and it was but natural for me to be associated with what he was doing in his field. I still remember very vividly that my father was shooting for Tumko Naa Bhool Payenge and I went on set that day and the entire day I spent with Salman (Khan) Sir watching him act. Sushmita Sen ma’m was also there. Something clicked inside me and, that’s the day, that’s the moment when I decided this is what I want to do, because before that I wanted to be a cricket player. I was a very good cricket player as well, I went to South Africa to play cricket. But that day, that moment, spending my time on set was the turning point in my life.
When you took up Karna, you learned chariot riding and horse riding?
No. I knew it way before that because as I said when I was in 8th standard, my training for all those things started then. I already knew chariot riding and horse riding by then.
When you said training was it also in terms of physical activity and voice modulation?
It was everything. So slowly and gradually everything came into the picture. I was always a good dancer. That was something that was God gifted to me. I joined Kaushal and Moses, the action directors when I was in the eighth standard. In my summer vacations I used to train for two months at 6.30 am. I used to go to the beach for two-and-a-half-three hours and train with them.
We used to train in the somersault, gymnastics, sword fighting, nunchuck fighting, horse, riding. Slowly after 2 years I got into acting training, then voice modulation, diction and everything. That’s how I started.
What appealed you to sign Dhadkan? I think this is your first major role as far as acting goes…
It was the script. I was always into finding something which is meant for me. I got a call for Dhadkan’s audition and when I heard it, it was very interesting for me and I really wanted to do this show. And it’s not that I didn’t have any other option at that point of time. I was the first actor to be selected for Dhadkan and I had to wait for eight months before the shoot started. In between I got a lot of offers. Again mainly in television but I chose to stick around and still go with this because Dhadkan is a show that is trying change the way television content is being produced or made, and I wanted to take up the challenge of doing something which is going against the trend. It’s not regressive, it’s much more OTT kind of way. It’s not like TV; we are trying to keep it as real as possible.
So, therefore, it was the relatability factor and probably the themes that it takes up, even though it’s a medical drama…
Yes, even though it’s a medical drama, I knew it is going to be a challenge. Things are not going to be easy because it’s not going to be like how people show in television, so there’s going to be surgeries involved. You’ll have to learn the body language. The medical terms are the most difficult.
The serial also touches on topics like women empowerment and many other issues.
Yes, yes it does, because it’s just not about medical. There have been shows in the past about women empowerment but this is, I think, the first show in Indian television which presents what women face at their workplace. These things are there and this is breaking the barriers for women. This is a show which is telling the world that. Women just don’t belong in the house. Yet there they are as equal as men. They can do much more and better work than men.
There have to be ways and mediums to change the perception of the Indian audience. It’s sad that even today in the rural areas women are still treated that way. I just hope this reaches those places. And people change their mindset by looking at it.
I still remember I received a message on social media where this young girl told me thank you so much for coming out with this show because I wanted to be a doctor. And my parents didn’t allow it. After watching this show, my parents have allowed me to be a doctor. And that one message made this decision of mine to do this show worthwhile.
So how did you prepare for the serial? Was there a doctor who put you through all these procedures and medical jargon and how difficult was it learning it?
I started watching a lot of shows based on doctors, like Grey’s Anatomy, Good Doctor. I watched seven seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and two seasons of Good Doctor, so when I watched those, I obviously picked up lot of things. I observed the body language, how these guys are wearing the scrubs, how they’re holding the scalpel, what are the terms they are using. So that helped me but then when we did surgeries during the shoot, we had a doctor available there throughout the surgery aspect, throughout any intubation process or whatever it was. The doctor guided us.
We also saw a lot of real surgeries on Youtube. So this is how we prepared for all those things. In the end, it’s TV. So you have to be fast and do your homework from before. So this is what we did.
Was learning medical jargon tough because you had to learn the names of all the procedures and the diseases?
It was really tough. Today I remember in the morning for my first scene there was the entire page filled with medical terms and I had to memorise it. You just don’t have to memorise. You have to make sure that you’re confident enough to say those lines, because doctors know these jargons at the back of their head. For us it’s difficult. Because, we get the script and within 10 minutes we need to memorise, go ahead and do it.
Yes, it’s difficult. Just saying those lines is only difficult. Actually, doing other things, actions, while saying those lines, becomes even more difficult. You are a doctor, it’s extremely difficult, but I believe in the phrase that where there is a will there is a way. If you work hard enough you will find a way and nothing is impossible then.
Is the script also worked upon by a doctor? Is there a doctor as part of the team?
Yes, there is a doctor that’s there in the United States who’s been affiliated with this show since the scripting phase has been going on. Well, every script, every screenplay, everything is being sent to her. First, she’s cross checks it. She checks every little detail, and then she sends it across. This is what our makers, Nilanjana ma’m and Herumb Sir always wanted. We don’t want anybody questioning us; we want it to be perfect.
The serial is, largely realistic. Was it made that way, or maybe they just wanted to show things as they are now…
This show was from the start made that way. The very first brief was always the same thing that this is not your regular television show. Think of it, we are trying to get OTT kind of content on the television. So, everything has to be as real as possible. That’s why the lighting the direction, the acting everything we’ve tried to maintain it as real as possible.
The hospital set also looks very plush with state-of-the-art equipment. Is this a separate set or is this like part of something else?
Basically our set is created in Naigaon, so we’ve actually created everything like an MRI room like an emergency triage area. There is everything. There is the cafeteria inside.
How is it acting with Additi Gupta and Alma Hussein? Basically, the two women who are prominent there?
My rapport with both of them is really good. We’ve hit it off really well. We are just not like co actors; we are like friends on set, Additi is fabulous to work with. She is easy as an actor. We talk about our personal life. Also, I go up and ask her about stuff I want to do; how to improve. We share everything. We all eat food together. So the rapport is really good.
How is the rapport with the rest of the cast – the senior doctors as well as the junior residents?
I think so Abhay Sathe is very similar to me in real life. If you’ve seen the show, you know how Abhay makes sure that he’s friends with everyone. He likes to keep everyone that way. That’s how I am.
So from day one I have done the same thing. I have made sure that my relationship with everyone is really good. I make sure that I give respect to everyone the same way whether it is a senior actor or a junior actor or a junior artiste for that matter. I give respect and that love to everyone the same way.
So I think some people do talk also on set that I really like the dudes. He makes sure that he is the same with everyone and gives respect to all. Even the nurses Madhavi tai and all come and tell me we always talk about you Vidyut behind your back. I tell them don’t tell me all these things but they say we must tell you. I tell them that’s sweet of them.
Can you relate to the character? Do you see a part of you in Doctor Sathe?
I like to believe that 90% of Abhay Sathe is Vidyut in real life. His ideologies and everything. In general also I believe that when somebody gives you a role, a part to play, a character, 90% of the time it’s you, the reason why they chose you is because they see that character in you.
It’s the 10-15% that you need to get into the skin of the character and set boundaries of that particular character. So that’s what I feel.
How different or difficult is it to shoot a medical serial as compared to a daily soap?
Yeah, it’s really difficult especially the emergency departments teams where you know there are patients coming in, blood, and then doing those surgeries. Prosthetics are involved.
It’s obviously time consuming. It takes more time to shoot those scenes than it takes time to shoot your regular scenes in a regular television show. So, it’s shot, differently and it’s difficult.
So how is the experience of shooting this serial?
It is fabulous, it has been amazing. It is the 7th month of shoot and I’m really enjoying shooting it and I hope people love it and the show gets extended.
Is it a finite show?
It’s a finite show, but Season 2 depends on how Season one does.
What would you like to do or take up in future?
I would like to do more and more interesting roles. I would like to do a lot of web series as an actor, films as an actor. I would like to grow as an actor. I want to improve every day, I want to improve my craft and I want to see myself up there with the best of them all.
Does your father advise you anytime? I mean regarding your acting or anything?
Yes, he does. Even when my mom was alive, she was my biggest critic. My brother and all make sure that they do not praise me at all. My father will always come out and say, this is wrong.
This should be fine. This is how you should do it. So it’s very difficult to please them, but thankfully.
It helps you to improve. I have to make sure that these guys like it. They are so hard to please. If they like it I’m sure other people will like too. Which, thankfully my brother did. He was in Bangalore. After 7th episode I asked him how is it going? You have not told me anything about my performance. During the 5th episode he told me that I forgot while watching that I’m watching my brother. I said what are you saying? He said it looked like a character is performing which is Abhay.
So I think that was one of the biggest compliments that I got and I usually thank God. I made sure that the next day I even did better on the set.
How has the response been for Dhadkan overall?
I’ve got some crazy response from people, especially medical students. They have been messaging me everyday nonstop and I try to reply to all of them. They really love the show. They really love the concept and they have said that first time in in television we are watching something which is not regressive and which is something so nice.
It’s so difficult to hold an audience’s attention for one hour. And so far we managed to do that and I think the credit goes to the makers in the entire team of Dhadkan for that.
What do you think is the USP of Dhadkan?
It’s the content, it is storyline.
Hobbies and Favourite Music
What are your favourite pastimes? Do you get time to indulge in them now?
Not at all. 15 hours of my day goes in shoot and travel. Yes, I have not met my friends properly in the past seven months. I’ve not had time to spend time with my family since last seven months.
Because shooting for the television show is not easy, especially commuting all the way daily to Naigaon.
How far is it?
So 2, two and a half hours while coming back but in the morning thankfully it just takes 1 hour.
I’m shooting for 12 hours.
What do you like to do in your spare time if and when you get it?
If I just get spare time I love listening to music. I love watching films, like to spend time with Dad.
I love playing football, meeting people. I love dancing.
What kind of music do you listen to?
It’s all Bollywood English songs, but it’s retro English, like Boney M, Michael Jackson and ABBA. I’m a huge fan of Michael Jackson. It is because of my father. Since I was a baby he made me listen to the cassettes of Michael Jackson and all others.
Boney M and ABBA was the real craze way back in the 80s and 90s.
I know. This is what I like; I love the Bollywood music of 70s, 80s and 90s!
They were so beautiful and the lyrics were meaningful. The music was soulful. It had soul, rhythm, melody. It felt nice hearing it. Today we don’t even remember the songs we hear.
Do you watch films?
I do watch all kinds of films. My favourite directors whose films I wait to watch include Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese (my favourite directors), Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, David Finch. I love watching their films.
Do you look forward to going to the set every day in the morning when you get up?
Every day, I enjoy going to set and I want to be there and this has come to me after a very long time and after a lot of struggle and hard work. I have really struggled a lot to get something like this and now that I’ve got it, this is what I want to do and I just look forward to wake up the next day and go to shoot.
That’s good; it means you’re enjoying working in the serial…
I’m enjoying. I enjoy shooting. Acting is my passion and if I’m getting to do something, which I love to do and I’m getting paid for it why will I not want to go and do it?
The reason I wanted to be an actor is because I am passionate. So I just love doing it.
So, as far as your training went were you were taught how to handle the stethoscope, how to handle the equipment or was it just on the sets?
It’s just on the sets. Not separately because of the COVID situation. They had planned everything to do so but because of Covid, they couldn’t. The doctors were not free at that point of time.
It was difficult for everyone to just come together.
Do you have any future plans about your career?
Whatever I’ve planned in my life never happened, the way I planned it. So I have I’ve just left everything to the audience and the God Almighty; that take me wherever you think that I belong.
I will just continue to keep my head down and keep working hard and believing in myself and not quitting. That’s all I have always done in my life. So this is what I’m going to do.
Let’s see what’s the future has in store for me.