Dino Morea’s portrayal of Uzbek leader Muhammad Shaybani Khan in the Disney+ Hotstar series The Empire has brought him accolades. Seen as an unhinged, barbaric leader, who is consumed in himself for power and flesh, he unleashes an animalistic magnetism on screen with a brooding face, kohl-lined eyes and a towering personality. “I’ll cherish this moment because I have got a unanimous positive response. Even though I am playing a brutal, bad guy, the audience loves to hate him and that is the biggest compliment any actor can get,” the actor says ecstatically.
Morea adds that he took up the series as a big challenge. “I have never played such a fantastic antagonist role. When I first heard the character I found it super interesting. It is a devious, cunning character with many shades. He believes you don’t inherit the throne but you have to earn it. To play a character you have to understand the mindset and the world. For me, The Empire was an opportunity of a lifetime and I am glad that the hardwork has paid off,” he says.
Based on Alex Rutherford’s Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North, the reviews for the show have been mostly positive, but at the same time, it has also been at the receiving end of a volley of criticism on social media. Netizens have been slamming the series for ‘glorifying’ the Mughals. Many people have asked for a ban on the series. Reacting to the ban, the actor says, “People need to understand that this is a fictional story based on a book. It is not a biopic. We are talking about a Mughal emperor which traces the saga of an empire from the valley of Ferghana to Samarkand. We are not glorifying anything. We are bound to have likes and dislikes. We can’t please everybody.”
Earlier this year, Amazon Prime Video had gotten into trouble for its show Tandav, a nine-episode political thriller which created an uproar for allegedly hurting religious sentiments, which the actor was a part of. Ask him whether it has become easy for fringe elements to target filmmakers and he says, “As filmmakers and actors, we have to be careful about what we put out. We are responsible for what we portray on screen. Is this curbing freedom of speech? Today, everyone has sentiments and the idea should be not to hurt anyone’s sentiments.”
Prod him about not hurting sentiments is in a way curbing freedom of speech and Morea answers, “Getting hurt is very relative. As long as the filmmaker or an actor has a clear conscience and does not hurt the major sentiments it is fine. In the end, you have to be careful of what you put out.”
In a recent interview, the actor spoke about his struggle despite working for 15 years in the industry. Despite approaching producers and directors, he remained out of work. “I look at it in a way where filmmakers didn’t see me fit into any character. In the end, it is all about business. I am a producer myself and I have realised when an actor is doing well, his stocks are up and people will want you. When the stocks are down, no one will like to invest in you. I think The Empire has raised the stakes for me in terms of my acting capabilities. People are already sending me feelers and I have been reading things so hopefully things are just going to get better.”
Morea adds that the success of Hostages and Tandav were like a warm up to The Empire. “I have never been an insecure actor. I have been patient and looking for a great opportunity and this is just the beginning of many fantastic new things to come. I am also a producer so I know the kind of content that I want to be a part of. I have waited for eight years and I believe this is a great time for me. It is my time to shine.”
The actor is also excited about his production venture Helmet, featuring Aparshakti Khurrana and Pranutan Bhel in the lead, which releases this week on a streaming platform. “It is a super funny movie with a sweet message. When director Satram Ramani approached me, it reminded me of my college days when talking about condoms was like a taboo. And in many parts of the country it still is. So the idea is that if we can get people to talk about condoms and normalise the topic without feeling shy then it will be amazing,” concludes the actor.