Friday, June 28, 2013

Shruti Haasan

“I’m like that beast which keeps growing stronger, every time you push it down”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the June 22, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Considering where she comes from, one would expect that Shruti Haasan would be looking up to her parents for all the advice related to films and acting. But here’s a surprise! She’s quite the independent tough girl, who’s made her own choices so far, when it comes to her career. What’s interesting is, while she looks stunningly beautiful, she’s not quite girly. Her soft low-pitched voice may not really make you feel she’s a singer, but she is, and a fine one. Shruti is slightly reserved, which is why, giving interviews may not really be her favourite thing, but well, here she is! While her debut vehicle ‘Luck’ may not have created wonders at the box office, that hasn’t deterred her confidence in any way. For now, she’s ready to sparkle the screen with two movies, and interestingly, both of them – ‘D-Day’ and ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ release on the same day. In a brief chat, Shruti shares her excitement and experience of her upcoming projects, reveals few things about herself, and talks about her parents, Kamal Haasan and Sarika:

You seem to be surprising everyone with ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’…
(Laughs) Everyone is like ‘Shruti is in this desi look, but I’ve been doing it a lot in the south.’ I’ve been keeping extremely busy there as well so I’m happy that people are liking the look. The character is very simple, she’s a pure village girl, so it’s quite a departure from what people have seen me so far. The response so far has been so good for the trailer and music, that I’m quite excited. It’s so different from any character I’ve played. For me, the challenging thing was, she’s so far-removed from who I am as a personality and whatever I’ve played before. Even in the south, I’ve been offered strong, independent girls, with strong personalities. She’s so simple and pure. I’m not naïve, this character is naïve. The only similarity is that she’s very happy with what she has, which is how I am.

Would it be wrong to call this your formulaic Hindi cinema debut?
It would be wrong. Debut is the first film you do. But, unfortunately, a character is considered a perfect debut only if the film is a hit. If the film is not a hit, it’s not considered a good debut then. But, if ‘Luck’ was hit, people would have told me, ‘Oh that’s a perfect debut!’. Also, as far as ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ is concerned, it’s not released yet, so you don’t really know whether this would be a hit or no. There’s no formula to say that this is a perfect debut character. I could have chosen some other film for my debut, but doing ‘Luck’ was a very last minute decision, but, I stand by my decisions, there’s no point regretting it. Though, ‘Luck’ didn’t do well, my responsibility began and ended with the character that I played. And people like it, so I was okay with that.

So, how do you go about approaching your roles?
In some films, the characters just scream out saying, you have to play me. It’s a combination of a team, and when you have a director like Prabhudeva, and a company like Tips backing the film, that’s also a consideration of the scale and how the project is going to look and stuff. So, it totally depends. I’m character-driven, mostly.

The kind of films you’re doing now, are they matching to your expectations?
No, not enough, but hopefully I’ll get there. It depends. There are certain elements of a character which make me feel that these are the kind of characters I want to play. Some of them are different from what I expected, but I enjoy the process. It’s changed also over the years, what it is that I want to do. But yes, it’s definitely, will move closer to what I want.

Considering your parents have done such wonderful films, it may be difficult to choose, but which is your favourite film, of your mother and father?
They’ve had very comprehensive careers because they both started acting when they were about five. My mom, I liked her work in ‘Parzania’, I think it’s great because she came back to acting after so many years. Like she walked on to the set, and won a national award, that was very good. I thought it was a great message for all the women out there. You know it’s not the end of the road, if you decide to do something, the universe is your oyster, you can go out there, and do what you want. Dad has so many roles to pick from. I like his film ‘Mahanadi’ a lot.

And how do your parents react to your journey so far?
My parents have always let me do my own thing. And fortunately, the success, the failure, all of it has been mine so the learning experience has also been mine, completely. I feel good that I have nobody to blame, and at the end of the day, I have a lot of people to thank. So, it’s a good feeling. They’re there to support me, but they don’t even really advice me. All my script choices, everything I’ve made myself.

Were you always sure you wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry?
Yes, absolutely. There were times when I thought of other jobs, but ultimately I knew I wanted to entertain people.

It may be hard to pick, but singing or acting?
I don’t have to choose. God has been really kind. Both in their different ways are creatively satisfying.

When you get some time off from work, what do you like doing?
That’s rare! I get very little alone time and which is precious to me. Actually, as a rule, I write music a lot. It could be a script idea or poem, or music. Or otherwise I just vegetate in front of the TV because I love watching TV. I also like shopping, eating, hanging out with friends, just normal things.

Oh so are you a foodie? Doesn’t really look like!
I am! It doesn’t show because I’ve to run and work out. And I’ve to watch what I eat, but I’m a huge foodie! I love good food!

You seem like a very tough girl. So, do failures affect you in any way, or do they make you stronger?
I get very strong with failures. I’m like that beast which keeps growing stronger, every time you push it down. It’s a slow process, but failures have taught me a lot. They’ve taught me a lot more than success to be honest. There have been tough phases, personally and professionally but I’ve found a way out, and come out of it, stronger. For me God has been a great energy that has helped me through that.  

So, there’s ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ and then there’s ‘D-Day’. That’s quite a transition!
Every character that I’ve played so far, I’ve not been able to pick and say that these two characters are similar, and touchwood I’ve been very lucky that way. And ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’, like I said is a very simple, lovable character. That also is completely out of my zone and this also is completely out of my zone. It was challenging and it was fun. That as well, is a very interesting character. I’m excited for people to see me in that part because it’s a very intense role. I know people are looking the initial pictures and forming their own perceptions of it. But it’s a beautiful character and extremely intense.

But then how do you make that transition from character to character. Do you prepare?
Your transition into a character is your responsibility from set to set.  ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ didn’t require that kind of preparation to be very honest. The intensity of this character in ‘D-Day’ though, is very different, and for this character I think it was language preparation, learning Urdu and stuff. And preparation in terms of the look, with the prosthetic scar to make it look authentic, from hair to clothes everything. She had to look like she was from Karachi. So, yes that was the kind of basic preparation and the basic amount of research, but I don’t know how much one can do even in terms of researching the content. For me, it was a lot about what the director had in his mind, and also preparing for the emotion and intensity of that character.

I believe you’ve only worked with Arjun in
‘D-day’. So how was it working with him, and being directed by Nikhil Advani?
Yes, I worked only with Arjun. It was very nice working with him. He’s very nice, a lovely co-star, very helpful and chilled out. Nikhil’s very passionate about this film, and I think that shows. And this is a different voice for him as well, something different that he wants to say and put across. Everyone has brought a very positive energy to this film.

Is south cinema any different from Hindi cinema? In terms of the styles of working.
No, I find the difference from set to set. Each unit has a different energy, and a different approach. I look at it, comprehensively as Indian cinema to begin with, and I don’t think it’s region to region, I think it’s a set to set difference.

What do you like the most, and not like the most about being an actor?
I don’t like packing and unpacking so many times. But, because I travel so much, I have to. I like almost everything about being an actor. I’d say that it gives me the opportunity to see and be in lives that I wouldn’t have, otherwise. Even as a singer, it’s very much a world in my head. If I’m doing a playback, it’s a voice, but as an actor, comprehensively, you get to be somebody else, and live somebody else’s life, and give life to the person and touch the audience in a different way.

While as an actor, you have to change your look with every film, how do you like dressing off-screen?
I’m pretty chilled out. I like a mix between feminine and comfortable.

Are you content, as an artist?

No, not really. I don’t think it’s an artist’s prerogative to be content at all. It’s always about wanting better, and more and bigger. And that may not always translate to box office or pay-cheques. It’s what you feel inside. I think it’s an artist’s responsibility to keep growing. So, no definitely not! I don’t think I’ll be content till the day I die. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Neil Nitin Mukesh

“Today, the game is not about competition, the game has changed to survival”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the June 15, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Now what do you say about a man who leaves you intimidated with his tough on-screen portrayal, but in reality is someone who watches cartoons and animated films? It could probably be hard to believe that Neil Nitin Mukesh has a child-like heart, because, those grey roles he essays on the 70mm seem so effortless, but well, that’s what the fact is. He unwraps that dark on-screen image when he meets you, and you explore the sensitive man behind that. He may not have struck gold at the box office, but that shouldn’t really be the reason to deny that he is a fine actor. I meet Neil for a long afternoon chat, where he seems completely sleep-deprived as he’s spent the previous night shooting. He has maintained this particular look for his upcoming film ‘Dussehra’, but looks as handsome as ever. At the moment though, he’s completely pepped about ‘Shortcut Romeo’ which is a departure from the kind of films he’s been associated with, in the past. There’s this huge smile on his face, a glint in his eyes, and lots of positivity, despite the fact that his previous films ‘David’ and ‘3G’ didn’t really do well at the box office window. Probably, that only comes from the fact that he’s so passionate towards his craft, and he only thinks about getting better and better. This guy is certainly, insane about films! In a heart-to-heart conversation, Neil speaks about ‘Shortcut Romeo’, why he chooses the films he chooses, and a lot more! Literally, a lot more! Read on…

You’ve told me earlier that you don’t know the difference between ‘off-beat’ and ‘commercial’ cinema. Do you still maintain that?
I still maintain what I always said, very strongly. There’s no difference for me between commercial cinema and off-beat cinema. For me, a film is a film. Though, I just have categorised ‘Shortcut Romeo’ as an entertaining film. Earlier people have mentioned that the films I’ve done are slightly dark, so in comparison to them, ‘Shortcut Romeo’ is a much entertaining film in the terms of songs, action, drama, story-line. But it still has what Neil specialises in. It has my individual touch. It’s still got its shades of grey, but this time, probably it will leave you with a smile on your face.

Tell us about your ‘Shortcut Romeo’ experience.
I think ‘Shortcut Romeo’ has taught me a lot. It has just loosened me slightly more. It’s opened up the horizons and shown me a lot more than what I thought I could reach out to. For that, all the credit goes to one man – Susi Ganeshan. He’s a fabulous director. He’s made a brilliant film, and ‘Shortcut Romeo’ definitely happens to be one of my best films. I’m extremely proud of the film. The shooting took a while, but it went very smooth. It took time because we’ve shot extensively all over the world. We’ve shot in Kenya, Goa, Mumbai, so many places. There’s a lot of action in the film. While I’ve done a lot of action earlier in films like ‘Johnny Gaddaar’, ‘Jail’, ‘New York’, it was all realistic action. ‘Shortcut Romeo’ has larger-than-life, unreal action. I used to feel strong when I saw the edits (laughs).

While most newcomers opt for more relatable roles, in the initial stages of their career, you’ve always done roles drastically different from yourself, right from your debut film…
I don’t like being in a comfort zone at any time, and besides, I love pushing the envelope. What’s there to look forward to getting up in the morning and going on a set if you’re going to go out there and portray the same boring stuff. There has to be a challenge, something that you keep thinking about, something that you are looking forward to going on set and portraying.

You’ve had two releases this year, so far, and they unfortunately didn’t do well box-office wise, despite you getting good feedback for your work. Do you think about what went wrong when a film doesn’t work?
I got great feedback for both the films, as far as performances are concerned, but unfortunately, both did terribly at the box office, and I don’t know whether to say if I expected it. But, actually, with ‘David’, I didn’t expect that kind of response, considering the fact that the filmmaker, Bejoy Nambiar, is so good. I personally was in awe of ‘Shaitaan’, and I still maintain that ‘David’ is fine film. So, that’s the thing you know! I get confused as to what to cater to the audience. ‘3G’ was a very small-budgeted film and it’s recovered its money beautifully, so that’s not the issue at all, but what we expected its business to do, it didn’t do that well. Again, I don’t know whether it was the marketing or whether it was the story, or performances, what is it that lacked for the audience not to like it. Today, that’s the thing. If a film does well, at the box office, even if it’s a bad film, it becomes a good film. If there are third-class performances, just because it does well, everyone would say, ‘Oh what performances!’, but if a film is a superb film and it doesn’t do commercially well, then nothing matters, even performances will not be spoken. Look at our awards. Our awards are all given to popular films. A lot has to do with perception today. We have people who see the film, individually, they go and write about the film, who are in today’s times, extremely influential people, as far as the public is concerned. People do read the reviews and make opinions about it, even if it’s that individual’s choice.

But does it affect you when a film doesn’t do well at the box office? Because, apparently, today, that’s the only criteria to judge a film.
No, but it builds up a certain amount of pressure as far as work is concerned. Today, the game is not about competition, the game has changed to survival. There are so many actors out there, and each one is good, so the game today is about survival. It’s like a tidal wave. Every five years, six years, there’s a wave that comes which brings a new lot of actors, and the old ones have to just survive that wave, just swim through it beautifully. Right now it’s not about swimming fast and going first, it’s just about staying afloat, and making sure that you reach the shore. Each one has a Friday, and my Friday is coming very soon, I think. Perception changes the minute one good thing happens.

Do you think the fate of an actor’s previous film affects the perception of the audience towards his next film?
Not necessarily. I’ve seen so many big and small actors, whose previous films have been disastrous. And then the next film has been superb. So, each film has its own perception. I think very honestly, each actor has his perception as a performer but the audience just smells the film that they want to watch, and that, you can’t take away. So, right now, I’m just trying to figure out the ingredients. I’ll give you an example. John did a film called ‘I Me Aur Main’, which was an interesting film, but unfortunately, it didn’t do well. But his other producer Ekta Kapoor, had so much faith in him and the product, and everybody, that they went all out there to promote the film, and today it’s a success story. One film right after that, it breaks perception. Akshay Kumar gave some back-to-back flop films, and with ‘Rowdy Rathore’ he striked back, he was back in the reckoning, and all those films are being telecast a thousand times. So, the day, Neil or I become successful, David will become a benchmark, and David will become a cult. It’s nothing but perception. Today, people are going and beating drums without even having anything in their hand. They’re making themselves into such big stars for no reason.

You’ll be completing six years now in the industry. How much have you changed as a person and as an actor?
I haven’t changed as a person at all, as an actor I have grown a lot. There have been ups and downs but that’s a part of life. As a person I haven’t changed, if I have, I’ve only become slightly more knowledgeable about the technical aspects of filmmaking, that’s all.

I was just wondering that when you live such complex, intense characters on-screen, don’t they stay with you and somewhere affect you emotionally off-screen?
Luckily, what I do is, I disconnect every day. I come back home, I watch a lot of cartoons, and animated films and I even tend to repeat my animated films a lot. You’ll catch me watching one animated film a day, it’s like that. I tend to disconnect everyday from my character. And the next day, is a fresh approach all over again, so I make sure I don’t take any character with me, otherwise, it can be scary, isn’t it? The only character that took me a while to get out of, and disconnect from, is Parag Dixit of ‘Jail’. That was more of a life routine than portrayal of fictitious character, and that was more real, so somewhere it just took me into a certain space.

So, aren’t you tired of being asked again and again that why do you choose to play grey characters?
(Laughs) The reason I think I do these characters is because as a child, I was always bullied. So, the reason why I like doing these grey characters is that they somehow bring more strength to me, and somewhere, psychologically, I feel that’s just my answer to all the bully and all the ragging that I’ve been through, as a child in school. But luckily, I’ve never had something that has traumatised me or scared me, just a normal share of ragging. But I’ve been influenced by a lot of western films, I guess. Where I’ve seen mainstream actors just go out there, get out of their comfort zone and portray characters which are so menacing and interestingly evil. It just kind of put a thought in me, that why do we always cater and do films which are same old stuff and in our comfort zone. We talk of difference in cinema, we talk of doing different films, but we’re shy of doing it. A very few hand-picked filmmakers – Anurag Kashyap, Tigmanshu Dhulia, and more, go out there and make a difference by making interesting cinema. So, I’m saying, luckily with me, I’ve been a very lucky child, that’s where I say luck has favoured me, is that in 6 years, I’ve worked with 8 national award winning directors in the span of 14-15 films that I’ve done. From Kabir Khan, to Pradeep Sarkar, Vishal Bhardwaj, Madhur Bhandarkar,  Abbas-Mastan, Bejoy Nambiar so many of them. So, I’ve had a range of directors who’ve taught me a lot, who’ve left a lasting impression on my mind, but I’m sure I’ve left a lasting impression on their minds as a performer also. You can ask any of them, what they think of me as a performer. I think me talking about me as an actor is completely useless, my directors, co-actors, must talk about me.

You’re someone who likes to prepare. What’s your process like, from the time you give your nod to a project?
What I like to do is, the first time I hear a script, is the last time I hear it. If the story stays with me, it’s got an impact on me as an actor, and I understand my character in the first sitting itself, I give a nod, after which I just like to go through it as a student. A very few films have required me to prepare. Otherwise I like living those characters each day. Some roles don’t require you to prepare. It’ll be me trying to be very pompous and cool by saying that I had to sit down and prepare but none of that happens. These films just require to be worldly wise, they require you to have noticed and lived life a lot, which I have. I’ve experienced life a lot, met a lot of different type of people, I’ve been through a struggle from the day I was 14-15 years old and I’m still struggling so I feel slightly more realistic about myself now. When I see others, I laugh, I’m like, ‘Wow! What a pretence these guys stay in.’ At least, I know where I stand. Success is good, but the most important thing for success is to accept failure. I’ve accepted the fact that few of my films haven’t worked. But I’m working harder to make sure that my films are good, and the rest is not in my hands. Also, the sad thing is, when your one film doesn’t do well, at least that’s what has happened with me, I’ve had my producer come and tell me that I’m sorry I can’t promote your film very well because your last film hasn’t done well, and people have this perception that your film really did badly. And then what happens? That next film also doesn’t do well, because of lack of promotion, publicity and visibility. Many of my own friends didn’t know the release date of ‘3G’ for example.

You still don’t behave like a star…
I’m not a star. I don’t consider myself a star. I’m a simple guy who likes to act, who understands acting and who provides his family with bread and butter, through his acting. For me, acting is something I worship. I’m an actor, always been called an actor, not a star. If I were a star, then the perception would have been really different. Star I will become the day I become successful. I don’t understand when people tell me that you shouldn’t be available. Why shouldn’t I be available? It’s okay. If I’m a human being, so is the other person. If that person wants to say hi hello, I will say hi hello. If I’m free and sitting in my room doing nothing, why do I have to pretend to be all tied up?

What is the line-up of your upcoming films?
I’m really looking forward to ‘Ishqeria’. It’s a very simple, little film from Mussoorie. And my co-star is Riccha Chhada, a fine actor. After that I’m playing an encounter specialist in ‘Dussehra’. It’s directed by Manisha Vatsalya. Again, ‘Dussehra’ is a hardcore entertaining film, with action and ‘dhamaal’.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tusshar Kapoor

“We star kids don’t come with a bank of knowledge. We also make mistakes”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the May 25, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

On a bright and hot Monday afternoon, when I go and meet Tusshar Kapoor at his beautiful house, he is still basking in the glory of ‘Shootout At Wadala’. He continues to smile. He’s as comfortable and casually dressed as anyone would be in their house. Over some chilled juice, we settle down for a chat. The actor completes 12 years in the industry, and over the years, he’s faced quite a bit of criticism, but only shown immense dignity in dealing with it. Yet, he’s had no apprehensions about doing distinct roles – be it films like ‘Golmaal’, or the slightly niche ‘Shor In The City’. And the endearing bit is that he has no qualms about accepting that he has gone wrong, made wrong choices, but only learnt from his mistakes. In a freewheeling conversation, Tusshar talks about dealing with criticism and insecurity, why he got saved from comparisons with his father, and his journey so far, among several other things:

Your character in ‘Shootout At Wadala’ got a great response, and of course the film has also been doing well. You must be overwhelmed!
Yes, absolutely! Also, because this was a much more intense role. Though the character in ‘Shootout At Lokhandwala’ comes across as a more daring, villainous kind of a character, this character was more difficult. Because he’s a gangster, but at the same time he’s very casual a person, he has this light-hearted side, he is very philosophical, he’s romantic, but he has got that aggression of a gangster. So, even though you might not see him going all over-the-top like most gangsters do in movies, he’s very intense internally. There are many shades to his character. This is a much more intense internalised character which is harder to portray. On the surface it’s underplayed but there’s a lot that has to come through the eyes, while in ‘Shooutout At Lokhandwala’ it was a more outwardly expressive character, more psycho, more negative. Of course, this one was shot in many schedules so coming back into that zone, while shooting different films, maintaining the look, continuity, attitude, was so difficult. But when you get this kind of response, it’s just so good!

While people think you’re a pro at comedy, you also fit into these gangster films with ease…
And I started out with a romantic film (smiles). I just do my best. Every film requires a certain kind of homework. Some films require you to just come as yourself. Like in ‘Khakee’, the director took care of everything, I just came as myself. I didn’t really have to do any homework. But some films require you to research a bit, rehearse a lot, read the script many times. For ‘Shootout at Wadala’, I felt that I had to really prepare a lot, and then you also have to know the graph of that character. Some films, you just have to shoot in isolation. So, I never really thought of myself as being a romantic hero or comedy hero or action hero. I just do what I feel I need to do to play the character. I’m comfortable in most of these genres. It’s people who give you that image. It’s probably because of ‘Golmaal’ that people associate me with comedy a lot. Since that character worked well with the audience, the association with ‘Golmaal’ is much stronger. But from my side, it was as difficult to do ‘Golmaal’, as it was to do ‘Shootout at Wadala’. I don’t really treat the genres differently.

Which is why, you’ve never been typecast?
Maybe I’m a man with all these sides to me. What you are in real life always comes through in your films. So I think I’m a mixture of all this. I’m a bit of an aggressive guy also, a bit of a romantic also, funny also, and a bit of all. What comes across I think is, people think of me as this really nice, family guy, but maybe there’s a lot that people who only know me well, know about me. I’m a scorpion. Scorpians are mysterious. They keep it all inside.

So, you’re saying you’re quite mysterious?
Mysterious in the sense that I’m reserved. I open up only to a few people who I’m comfortable with. I mean I’ll enjoy with everyone, but I don’t open up emotionally, or show my anger, show my emotions; that’s with a very few people at very few times, so then when people see a different side to me, they’re shocked.

On May 25, you complete 12 years in the industry. You think you’ve got your due as an actor?  
Yes, I shall complete 12 years (smiles). As an actor, I think I have got quite a good share of the due I deserve, because I have been offered so many different types of roles and the kind of appreciation I’ve got, for the ‘Shootout’ series, ‘Shor In The City’, ‘Khakee’, ‘Kyaa Super Kool Hai Hum’, ‘Golmaal’ series, ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’, ‘Gayab’. I have been appreciated for these very diverse roles. But, definitely, there’s much more to be achieved, if I have to go to the level where my father reached, then I have a lot more to achieve, and miles to go. I’m happy with what I’ve got, but not satisfied. Let’s put it that way. But yes, today, you have to market yourself so much more. It has to come to people’s notice that you are doing so many different roles, or your film is a hit. To make sure that people know you’re delivering, you have to really scream out, that’s become the mantra of today. I used to think that your work can speak for itself, but it isn’t so now; you have to really let people know, and that’s where the perception comes into picture. Somewhere, even if a film is good it suffers because of people’s perception, which is why marketing is important. For instance, ‘Shor In The City’ got a little scattered in terms of the marketing, but people really liked the film, even people who saw it on TV later, have really liked it.

And so far, which has been the most challenging role for you?
The first part of ‘Golmaal’ was the most challenging, because I didn’t know how people would react to it. And for me, it wasn’t comedy, or fun, for me it was just a character that I had to portray. It was completely different from who I am as a person as far as the speech is concerned, and the whole trying to speak without speaking is concerned. I had to do workshops, work on my expressions, work on the voice and pitch. I had to be at a higher pitch. When you’re not really speaking, you have to express so much through your face, I had to practice a lot on my facial expressions and body language.

So when you started out, you obviously must be prepared for the fact that people would expect more from you since you are Jeetendra’s son, and comparisons would be inevitable?
If you’re not from a film family, even if you do a little, people will make a big deal out of it, but when you’re from a film family, there are always a lot of expectations from you. But somewhere, I’ve gotten saved from the comparisons because my career path has been different from my father’s career path. I’ve played more characters than ‘hero’ kind of roles. I’ve kind of made the characters main lead. My dad has done hardcore hero roles. We’ve done different kind of films. So, I’ve never really been compared to my dad in that sense. I have not really faced any kind of negativity because of comparisons.

At this point of time, does criticism affect you in any way?
Criticism affects you only if you are feeling critical about yourself. Criticism would affect me initially, because I knew that I was doing wrong films and goofing up with my choices. When I was going through that learning curve, I knew I was going wrong with everything that goes into making a hero. I knew I was learning, I was failing and learning. So that was the phase when I would feel the pinch when I was criticised but that’s because I was being criticial of myself also. It hurts the most when it’s true right? After that, I’ve improved. ‘Khakee’ was the turning point for me I guess, and since then it’s just been upwards. I’ve been getting better and better, so in my eyes, it’s all been getting better and better. No matter what people say, if ten people like me and ten don’t like me, if three films do well, and one doesn’t do well, it doesn’t really affect me much, because I know where I stand. It affects you only when you know there’s something wrong with yourself and your work. You need to know what criticism to take seriously, and what criticism to let go because, there are times when people will want to criticise you for no reason and then, there are times when you have to take criticism seriously because yes, you have goofed up! I do at times makes mistakes and feel bad about them, but it’s gone lesser and lesser over time, thankfully. So then it shows you know, that we star kids are not coming with the bank of knowledge. We also make mistakes. When actors make statements like ‘we have never been pampered like a star kid’, I’m like, ‘wake up and smell the coffee’. These are jealous people. At the end of the day your films will work if you’re good and if you choose the right films. Your father, your mother, your brother, or sister, no one will be able to get you hit films.

While most actors would want a solo-hero film, you’ve had no qualms about doing so many multi-starrers…
Nothing is risk-free. Playing a quintessential hero can be risky. Playing one of the four guys in ‘Golmaal’ can be risky. Like obviously, ‘Golmaal’ was a bigger hit for me, than even ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’. There’s no formula today. Everything can work, and everything can be risky. You just have to do good films. If it’s a good film, you will be noticed. No matter what the genre is, or how you’re presented, it’s going to build your fan following. I’m just trying to build my fan following, in some way or the other, doing all kinds of things, and let’s see where that takes me. Though, initially, I had just thought that I would do solo-hero films, because ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’ was a hit, but then I realised that it’s not the best thing maybe, because if the film doesn’t work then what’s the point. So, I said I’m going to change my policy. I did ‘Khakee’, that was my first multi-starrer. The thought process was that I’ll be at least adding to the list of good films that I’ll be associated with. And that really worked for me. I was appreciated for that. Then I said I’ll keep myself open to all kinds of films. But I still do solo-hero films every now and then. I did ‘Gayab’ at that time, I did ‘C KKompany’, then I did ‘Chaar Din Ki Chaandni’ recently, ‘Shor In the City’ was also sort of a solo-hero film. These films may not have been able to register huge box office numbers, but I don’t think it’s because they were solo-hero films. Maybe they were just not good films. So, I’ll still do solo films. What matters is the script and the role. Earlier I used to not care about who the producer is. But now, it’s the script, the role, the director, and the producer, because marketing a film is so very important.

But you’re in a profession, where somewhere down the line, one could feel insecure. Have you never been insecure? 
I won’t say that I’ve never been insecure. I’m a human being, and as actors we all go through phases of insecurity, but you have to not let it get to you, you have to believe in yourself. You have said yes to a story or a character because you’ve liked it and you have to trust the director and trust that the role is going to stand out well if it’s portrayed well. You might as well concentrate on the performance then. That belief has to be there. You know it gets really stressful to get into comparisons, but of course if someone is trying to steal your mileage, or trying to cheat you or whatever, you have to stand up for your rights. But ‘bewajah ki insecurity’, that’s self-destructive. So, I try to stay out of that zone. I know I’m not the most sorted person, nobody is. We get into that zone sometimes where greed or insecurity seeps in, but you’ve got to balance it, or control it.

What are your upcoming films?
I’m going to hopefully surprise people with ‘Bhajathe Raho’. It’s a very off-beat comedy. It’s the first time that I have done a comedy in the slightly new-age zone and I’m working with a really new team – Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Dolly Ahluwahlia, Ravi Kissan. Shashant Shah who directed ‘Chalo Delhi’ is directing this one. It’s a small film but it’s a new genre for me – comedy with subtlety and my character is very real. So, right now that is the only film I’m working on. Now, I shall soon take a call, and sign something else.