Meet Sanjeeva Vats, the powerful voice of Donullia Gujjar in Paatal Lok

The unheralded actor, who still hasn’t seen the crime thriller, is pleased by the response to the show and his Phantom-like character

By Mayur Lookhar

Sanjeeva Vats

Amazon Prime Video and Clean Slate Filmz’ crime thriller Paatal Lok’ has been the talk of the season. It introduced us to some fine young talents like Ishwak Singh, Henthoi and Jagjeet Sandhu but there was another character who left us in awe. Strangely, we never get to see the Phantom-like Donullia Gujjar.  “Bahuroopiyo hain,” (impersonator, a man with many faces) a henchman best describes the dreaded Bundelkhand dacoit.

Gujjar lurks into the shadows. He appears in just a couple of scenes, but not once do we get to see him. Gujjar has a powerful, intimidating tone. The Bundelkhandi dialect giving it a rustic flavour. It naturally got us curious about the identity of the actor.

Anonymous actor playing Donullia Gujjar in Paatal Lok [2020]

Talent is not all about ‘showing’. This is exemplified none better than by Sanjeeva Vats, who gave the voice for the faceless Gujjar dacoit. The casting team randomly picked some anonymous local [Bundekhandi] actor to play the physical part.

“Talent isn’t limited to one aspect. What’s important is how the character has been scripted,” said Vats.

Interestingly, Vats is yet to see Paatal Lok. In fact, he wasn’t aware of the title until couple of his friends called him up to ask whether he gave the voice for this character. Vats was oblivious to Paatal Lok for when he was approached for the voice over, the show had a different name.  (A source has informed us earlier, that Paatal Lok had a couple of working titles – Assassins and Jamuna Paar).

Vats is pleasantly surprised by the reaction to his character. He says, “I’ve heard that they have shown this character like an enigma. If my voice is there in a couple of scenes and it impacted so much, then I give the credit to the writer and director”.

Show creator, writer Sudip Sharma took a conscious call to have Donullia Gujjar as a faceless character.

We live in a world, where an actor is ever so keen to showcase his talent on the screen.  Was Vats apprehensive before taking up this voice over task?

“I wasn’t interested initially. They asked me for an audition. I felt why should I give an audition for a voice over?,” confessed Vats, who had earlier voiced for a character in the animated film Arjuna: The Warrior Prince [2012].

If he wasn’t keen initially, then what made him do the voice over?

“I took a chance. I met Sharma. We had a chat for 15 minutes. He then gave me the script. After going through the scenes, I liked this character. I felt it is a well written scene. I did the initial recording on iphone.  The final recording was done within 15 days. While recording, I felt this is good work. But thereafter I forgot about it” said the unheralded actor.

Though born in Uttar Pradesh, educated in Delhi, Vats is familiar with the different northern accents, which helped him to do the voice over with relative ease.  “Once he (Sudip Sharma) liked my voice, the attitude, he gave me a lot of freedom. I was able to do the voice over with relative ease,” quipped Vats.

The actor has earlier featured in Gangs of Wasseypur [2012], and done cameos in Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster Returns [2013], Fukrey [2013], Luka Chuppi [2019], and Motichoor Chaknachoor [2019].  He also played Bhumi Pednekar’s father in Dum Laga Ke Haisha [2015].  With a powerful tone, Vats, would hope that more good opportunities come his way.

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