In today’s Big Interview with ETimes, the actor opened up about his Telugu debut film ‘Agent’, why he is attracted to playing negative roles, his phase of ‘no work’, his idea of an ideal partner, and more. Read on…
You recently made your Telugu debut with ‘Agent’. The South industry is big, and the stars there have a huge fan base. How difficult do you think it is to make a space there for a Bollywood actor?
Yes, the South industry is huge. The stars have an unbelievable fan base. And what’s amazing is that once the people become fans, their loyalty is unwavering. It’s quite unbelievable. You hear about it all the time from different actors from the South and I witnessed it firsthand when I was shooting there. They have fan clubs. It’s like a football club. Football clubs all over the world have fans and merchandise, and fan clubs. Likewise, the fans have that for their actors. And it’s brilliant.
This is my first film. I don’t know what’s next for me in terms of the Telugu film industry. But I just want to do good work. And if my fans are built along the way and if they like me and the work I do, then fantastic! But what’s important for me right now is taking my acting career seriously and doing fantastic movies. I am not trying to create a space, a fan base, or any of that. But like I said, if they do appreciate my work and fans come along and I have fan clubs, wow, there is nothing like it.
Do you think the characteristics of villains have changed in Bollywood over the years? What thrills you about playing a negative role?
Well, I think the whole idea of heroes and villains has changed. We all play characters nowadays. Every character is firstly grey. Even your protagonist is grey. Everyone has shades of grey. And the darker it gets, that’s when it goes negative. So yes, there’s a protagonist and an antagonist. But I feel the negative characters have reasons to do what they do. And the darker you get, you do some crazy stuff, and that’s when you become negative. So in that way things have changed. I feel playing the antagonist gives you an edge because you can bring out madness. You can bring out something attractive about the character that people find exciting while watching. The stronger the antagonist, the more negative he is, and that just makes the protagonist even better or stronger. So I try to do these roles because I have never really done them before, and that’s what is exciting.
While your debut film, ‘Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi’ still manages to entertain audiences, what kind of film would you choose to do if you were to debut in today’s times?
‘Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi’ does actually have its set of admirers, especially those who hear the songs ‘Musu Musu’ and ‘Wo Pehli Baar’. It was a sweet, lovely film. It had great music, and everyone who was part of the film made their debut. If I had to choose a debut today, it would be something along similar lines. I am still dying to do a really beautiful, romantic, mature love story. I would love to do one because I feel we don’t make enough nice love stories that take you on a roller coaster ride. I know I could do justice to one if given the opportunity right now. If I had to debut again, I would probably debut in a love story or a film like ‘Raaz’.
As audience’s access to global content increases, it is getting difficult to impress and attract them to the theatres of late with local films. Where do you think we are lacking as an industry?
Well, it’s tough. You just have to be really fantastic at making movies. You have to be fantastic at making content. To keep people engaged for two to two and a half hours in a theatre is not easy. You need to really up your game. Everybody has to up their game. It’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible. It’s just that we have to change gears right now as filmmakers, as content makers, and as an industry. We have to move in the direction of what the audiences want. We’re not lacking anywhere as an industry. Everyone has the potential. We just have to do it. And because everyone can access any content they want today, we just have to be fantastic at telling bigger and better stories, and stories that people would want to come to a theatre and watch. Give them a large screen experience so they can eat their popcorn and just enjoy themselves.
For any actor, the phase of no work is very difficult. How did you cope with that phase?
The phase of no work can be scary. It’s tough. I went through that time because I was consciously saying no to rubbish opportunities. And then when you say no, people don’t see you enough and then you get less calls for work. It’s scary. As an actor, you get insecure and you think, is there a future for me in this industry or not? I managed because I wanted to continue being part of the film industry. I was adamant. I produced two movies. I kept working on myself. I worked and I set up two other businesses. They failed. I lost some money, which was even scarier. And then some of my investments in other companies worked out. So you keep yourself afloat, you keep doing things, you have to keep yourself busy. And if this is what you really love doing, acting, then you have got to be prepared at all times. I kept preparing myself all the time, not getting rusty with my acting or the way I look, because in the event that somebody offers me something, I wanted to be ready. That’s exactly what happened when the offers of ‘Mentalhood’, ‘Tandav’ and ‘The Empire’ came to me.
I always kept myself busy by doing something. Even though things can get scary when you’re not occupied, you shouldn’t succumb to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ line that everybody gives you. Because then you start signing work that you’re not really happy about. And that gets you nowhere. You just have to be confident about yourself and hang in there.
When you spoke about passing on roles during the sabbatical, did you give up on any good offers that you wish you hadn’t?
Please let me correct it. I was not on a sabbatical. There was no holiday. I was just making a conscious decision to say no to roles that were really terrible. And did I get anything good? No, I didn’t get anything good. I finally saw the movies and the roles that were offered to me and they turned out to be terrible. Had I done them, it wouldn’t have made a difference to my career. In fact, I don’t know if it made a difference to the careers of the guys who did it. So those were good decisions because I felt better staying away. I was making myself stronger and I didn’t want to be seen in films that were just inconsequential.
You still command a huge female fan following, and it seems to be increasing with passing time. Why and how are you still single?
Thank you. It’s good to know. Well, I wasn’t single for the longest time. I was in a relationship. It’s just that it was kept really private and personal and nobody knew about it. And that’s how I would like to lead my personal and private life. I like to keep it personal and private. But yes, at this very point right now, I am single and I am okay.
What is your idea of an ideal life partner?
Ultimately, as you grow older, you just want someone who’s nice, someone who you can communicate with, someone who’s just easy to live with and easy to be with. That’s all I want. There’s nothing more, nothing less. Just someone easy because you ultimately want a companion who you can come home to, share love with, share everything with, and obviously have great conversations with. It should be someone who’s comfortable with what you do and you’re comfortable with what they do.
You have been a part of some very interesting and successful projects in your career. Which is the one that is closest to your heart and why?
Some of them have been hits and some have not. Every movie, every project I get attached to, I really enjoy everything about it, whether it was ‘Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi’, ‘Raaz’, ‘Guna Plan’, ‘Acid Factory’, ’Holiday’, ‘Aksar’, ‘Pyar Impossible’… all the experiences in all my movies have been wonderful. We’ve had great times during the shooting of those films. And they all remain, in a way, close to my heart because I made some new friends. You start some new equations with people, and so those are the memories I cherish. Whether the projects turned out to be good or not so good, they were all close to my heart.
Do you have friends from the industry you love to hang out with?
I hang out with my industry friends every now and then. The thing is, most people from the film industry are busy working and are always either travelling or shooting. We meet at social functions or filmy gatherings. I don’t like the word filmy gatherings, but at gatherings where you’re celebrating Diwali, celebrating some occasion or somebody’s wedding. That’s when you get to actually meet everybody again. And that’s fantastic. On a regular basis, there’s no one particular person who I regularly hang out with. Like I said, everybody is so busy with their lives and doing what they do.
What more does 2023 have in store for you?
2023 has ‘Bandra’ and ‘Mere Husband Ki Biwi’ releasing. I am also reading and hoping to start filming something interesting.