The National-award-winning actor was recently in the Capital performing at the Windsong Music Festival.Puja Gupta talks to the Bhaag Milkha Bhaag star about his movies, preferences and much more. Read on…
Your next is Wazir. Tell us something about the movie.
It’s the first time when I am working with the new team of Vidhu, Raju, Abhijat and Bejoy. It’s a new and a learning experience for me at every step. I just couldn’t have asked for anything more. I am really very happy with the response that the teaser of the film has got. As far as my role is concerned, I play an ATS officer in the film. Our characters (Amitabh Bachchan and me) are bound together by a certain grief of a loss of a loved one, which brings the two of us close together. And within that combined grief, how we end up finding some kind of redemption through each other’s loss is what forms the crux of the film. Chess ‘plays’ a metaphor in the film. My character is a hard-boiled law enforcement officer.
He is someone who deals with violence on a daily basis. It is a world I am not familiar with, so it took some amount of research and training. You get to learn so much by just being with Mr Bachchan. The film is predominantly about these two characters, so we have a lot of scenes together. We both are bound by a bond in the film and find redemption in each other. The story is well-written and also has action and romance. It is a complete film and we enjoyed telling this story
How is Big B as a co-star? And how was the whole experience?
I was anxious to know how the days would be with him. But it’s very easy to work with him. He has a positive personality and keeps the atmosphere easy on the sets. So, the minute you reach on the set and start talking to him, you will feel comfortable automatically. It is amazing to work with him. I am still shooting with him as the film is not yet complete. It’s great to work somebody like him and I am a huge admirer of his work. To get an opportunity to do a film, where we are spending a lot of time, is very exciting for me. But what’s most important is that you see someone working now for close to 50 years. It’s very inspirational. I hope that I can have the same kind of enthusiasm after having worked for that many years.
Who inspires you?
Music is something I am very passionate about from a very young age. I’ve been playing the guitar and singing for many years. Unfortunately, due to my film projects it is not possible to perform regularly, but I try to dedicate four to five months from my annual schedule for the cause. The Beatles were my earliest influence. I’m a huge fan of that band. It’s because of them that I have such a predominant interest in music. And from Hindi music my biggest influence was Kishore Kumar and RD Burman. Later there have been bands which I’ve loved like Coldplay, U2 and Pearl Jam.
Any actor or director you crave to work with?
It took me a while to discover Raging Bull but it inspired me to a great extent. It was a cinematic reference piece and like a symphony on film. Every time I watched it, I discovered something new. The choreography was artistically treated. There is something very restrained about the film and it was great inspiration for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. De Niro’s a huge influence yes, more like my idol. I’d definitely love to work with De Niro. I’ve been a huge admirer of his work, like I said, from a very young age. He’s probably one of the reasons I was drawn to what an actor can do. You must also understand that when we were growing up there were actors doing some really great films and Amitabh Bachchan was a case in point.
The fact is they were very eager to change themselves in each part. And they were very good at what they did and you loved them for it. But for me when I was looking in from the outside what someone like De Niro was doing, he was just constantly becoming another person in every role that he did and that was very fascinating for me. I think if I had a choice I’d like to be in a film with De Niro. I met Robert De Niro in Dubai in 2008 with Shahrukh, Hritik and Arjun. I just couldn’t speak, it was just a surreal moment. I had always told myself that if I ever had to touch anybody’s feet out of sheer respect and admiration it would be his and I did it.
Which is the film you would have loved to star in?
I haven’t thought about my dream role. I don’t know. I think given everything that is going on right now, from my professional life to my children, a lot of time needs to be given to the kids. So I haven’t thought about different roles. I feel grateful for everything going on right now and I hope it continues. But if something comes along and gets my interest then I will devote some time into it.
How about a movie with your Mom?
My mom is, by far, the most sensitive person I know, who is very sensitive to other people’s feelings. I am not kidding, but genuinely, I see that in my wife Adhuna too. She too, is extremely sensitive to what the other person is feeling to the extent of discomforting herself. They are both extremely giving people. I respect the freedom my mother gave Zoya and me, allowing us to have our own experiences and learning from life. Maybe you should ask her this question!
You are a noted actor, director, singer, lyricist and lot more. Which one you like doing the most?
I like directing as much as I like acting. But I can’t do both at the same time. When I am acting I would like to concentrate on it exclusively, the same is for directing. I believe that when you have the passion and potential to show something then flaunt it without hesitation. One must live for the day. Just do your things, even if it is experimental, you always have the chance to succeed. Honestly, I think efficient time management is all that you require. I try not to do everything at the same time. If I am directing a film, I do not always sing or act in it.
There is a slightly more wholesome fulfillment from when you direct a film, because you have seen something from inception all the way till it’s out there, which you don’t as an actor or as a writer. As a director it’s more fulfilling, especially when your work gets appreciated. Saying that, of course when you work in anything and people say good things about it, for example Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, you feel good about it too. As long as I feel good about doing something, whether it works or not, if my conscience feels good, then I’m satisfied. Rock On reignited what I loved doing.
Live concerts or playback singing? Which one do you prefer?
Music is my passion so whether it’s a live concert or playback singing I’m always open to experimentation. It’s just that live concerts give me a platform to connect with my fans on a one-on-one level and the euphoria just runs a chill down your spine. In fact everything that I have done — whether it is directing, writing, producing or acting, I am passionate about all of them. I guess that’s the reason why I am able to do all of them without it being a task. It is important to follow your passions in life as this is the only time you have. Live it to the fullest.
We heard you were injured during a shoot recently. You’re going to be performing despite that?
Yes. It was a combination of my training, love for volleyball and an intense action sequence that caught up with me. I didn’t get enough recovery time in between all these activities. Live and learn.
What would you like to say about the recent Delhi election results?
Never take anything for granted in politics. An ordinary man’s extraordinary victory! People of Delhi gracefully say Pehle AAP. Congratulations to Arvind Kejriwal and his team. Time to live up to the peoples’ hope and trust.
Any message for the upcoming directors in the industry?
I’ve seen many people make films with not much in terms of production back up or set up. A great example of this was a talent who was taken away from us too early, Manish Acharya, who made the Loins of Punjab. It was made on a really tiny budget, but was such a powerfully written film and very fresh. I feel what he did with that film, is a great example for budding filmmakers. It eventually comes down to good content, whether you shoot it on film, or on digital. If you have the biggest star in India, or just a capable actor, what will connect with people is how interested they are in the story. As a budding filmmaker, just be true to making what you want to make and don’t feel bad if you don’t have something somebody else has. Focus on the positives and any opportunity you have to make your film. Finally just go and make it to the best of your ability.
How has Delhi been for you?
It’s definitely exciting coming here as a performer. Just to come and share the music we have made in our films over the last 10 or 12 years with the fans here is very, very exciting. The common feeling everywhere when people come for a concert is that they want to have a good time. The audience everywhere likes to be included in the performance. I like taking my energy from my audience and throwing it out to them wherever I perform. I like audiences that are loud and noisy and come in wanting to have a good time. They are two very different experiences, not even remotely in the same ball park.