‘Feels Like Ishq’, ‘Sardar Udham’, and ‘Cash’. Three extremely beautiful releases, with distinctively different roles. How do you assess each of these projects as an actor?
I think I have worked equally hard for each of these projects. It feels good that each of these projects has been well received by the audiences. I try and pick up different kinds of stuff and I am fortunate that they come to me also. So yeah, this year ‘Feels Like Ishq’ was in the comedy-love genre, ‘Sardar Udham’ was historical and ‘Cash’ was an out and out comedy-drama. I had fun exploring each of them. It’s been quite a sweet year.
Which project has been the most exciting to work on?
You can’t make me answer that. It’s a tough question. (Laughs) It’s a very difficult thing to even say to yourself. All three are equally special to me in their own way. But yeah, ‘Cash’ also somewhat saw me playing a lead, so I’d consider that as my great one.
‘Sardar Udham’, and especially your role as Bhagat Singh, proved to be a breakthrough performance. How do you look at it?
It’s a very interesting association with the film. When I watched the film, I watched it as an audience. I was so stunned as a viewer. It left a very high impact on me as an audience. Later it sank in, the fact that I am in this project, is enough for me to be proud of. The amount of love and appreciation I’ve got from the film is immense. Even though it was a short screen time, it proved to be significant.
How did you prepare for Bhagat Singh’s character because everyone before, including Ajay Devgn, Bobby Deol, and others had played the larger-than-life revolutionary while your character was so much more sublime?
I think the idea of Bhagat Singh was already defined. Shoojit (Sircar) Sir had a vision — to make sure the character looks real as much as it can be, in the most authentic way. Bhagat Singh was so much younger than any of us, and a very, very normal person and extraordinary thought— how do you show a 21-22-year-old in a film. I did read a lot of books to understand where he’s coming from, what his thought processes are and all. I made sure to follow my interpretation, keep Soojit Sir’s vision in mind, and explore it the best way possible.
Every time I ask you about selecting scripts for your creative process, you have a very relaxed approach towards things. What is your approach towards enhancing your craft and finding a place for yourself in the industry?
Here’s the thing — I am not THAT relaxed as it seems to be. I get very restless and jittery when I have to make decisions or choose a project. I do a lot of overthinking and overanalyzing and at times it gets difficult to get out of that spiral.
With time, I have a very calculative approach to choosing stuff or presenting something. In this industry, making wise decisions matters a lot. In order to stay relevant in this industry, you have to make sure to amp up your game every single time, no matter if you play a big or small role. I think consistency in the craft and exploring myself in this journey has helped me find a happy place in this industry.
How much do viewers, critics, and people’s opinions matter to you? Are you affected by reviews?
Well, it’s nice to see what people are saying. But with time, I have this attachment and detachment approach with a project. Once a film/show is out, it is for the audience to assess and acknowledge, I don’t have the power over what they think. So, it’s safe to say I detach myself. Of course, I love all the admiration and critical viewing of my work, which helps me improve, but I am not emotionally invested in it to be affected. Now that I look at it, I haven’t really got an unflattering review so far.
An earlier transition in the webspace, was it something you really wanted to explore? Or did it happen by chance?
I think it was more by chance. Honestly, it wasn’t even web ‘space’ at that time. We had YouTube at that time. In. 2016-17 we never heard of ‘OTT’ platforms. Back then it was more about doing something interesting and different. And work was not very easy to come by. It was only the greed of wanting to do something which requires acting and creativity. I am so glad that I had taken that leap of faith and took that chance because I love acting so much.
You’ve been around in the industry for a long time now. What were the biggest learnings on the professional front for you so far?
Believing in oneself and one’s own instinct. Decision-making is a very conscious process, I’ve made sure to make choices based on my expectations. And it’s okay to make mistakes, and most important to acknowledge them. And no project, be it a success or failure will go waste. Everything is a learning process here. Also, never lie to yourself.
Many actors and artists have shared earlier about losing projects and missing out on work. How was the pandemic for you, in terms of work, did you also go through something similar?
I didn’t lose out on projects, of course, there was a break. Well, I could have done a lot of things, which didn’t materialize because of the pandemic – I did start to question myself, whether I work less than other people (laughs). I had already shot my projects.