Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sushant Singh Rajput

“I’m still the same inquisitive guy, filled with excitement”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the March 28, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

Just as he walks through the corridors of Yash Raj Films, you sense something different. Maybe it’s the walk. This man isn’t really walking like himself. That’s more like ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’s’ walk – brisk and confident. Dressed stylishly in a cream t-shirt with dhoti-pants, Sushant Singh Rajput further justifies that he is still in the ‘Byomkesh’ mode while he promotes the film. Though, the slightly long hair tied into a little pony is clearly for the Dhoni biopic that he’s prepping for. Now you know this guy definitely is doing something right, despite being relatively new. One minute he is easygoing, and another, he is serious enough about his craft to get all animated to explain you things. That’s probably what makes for a very interesting conversation with him. Excerpts:  

Photo credit : R. Burman
So, you are one of those actors who go the method way to the extent of even learning to eat like your character does…
Whenever you do any film, your goal is always to convince people that you’re the character. For a film like ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’, we were talking about a Bengali boy in the 1940s, so it needed to look that way. You have to get the basics correct. The only thing I was told was to not learn the language, rest everything from the art to the culture of Kolkata has been incorporated in the script. We took the liberty for the language because it’s a Hindi film and we didn’t want to dilute it by bringing in the Bengali accent. Apart from that, I working on everything else. From playing a detective to a cricketer or someone else, I have to prepare because I have to first convince myself that I can be that character. Only if I convince myself, will I be able to convince the audience.

This being a period film, was it more difficult to relate to the character, than say a ‘Kai Po Che’ or ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’?
Of course it was very challenging, but I don’t think that playing a guy of the last ten or fifteen years is easier than playing a hero from 1940s. Even if you essay a character that is of today, you have to change so many things, because he’s a different person all together. For playing Byomkesh though, I had to do a lot. For instance, there was only radio or telegram at that time, no mobile phones, no internet, so one had to keep all these things in mind while acting. What happens is when you act, you prepare a lot to get to a point where you let go. You have to be very sure that when you let go, you think like the character. If we have to talk to someone, the first thing is to grab a phone. Now changing that feeling, requires time. You have to stay in that zone for so many days just so you’re convinced. I wasn’t using my phone for about four to five months. I wasn’t reading newspapers, watching TV or using the internet.

Is that why you made a conscious decision to go into your shell and completely stay away from the media as well before you began shooting for ‘Detective Byomkesh…’? If the script is different, if the world is different, if the character in your head is different than who you are, you have to do it. There’s no other way. You have to live the character for a certain period of time before you start shooting for it. Like I mentioned earlier, the first step is to convince yourself that you are that character, and the only way to do that is to stay in that zone for a while before you actually start shooting. But, while it’s challenging fit into the mould and later come out of it, that’s the most exciting part. We’re so used to living like our own self, that it’s very tempting and exciting to change for a character, and then again come back to the neutral state when the film is over. That transformation is exciting.

Before ‘Kai Po Che’ released, you’d told me you were so inquisitive, you’d 
remain on the set even when your shot was done, to just learn the technical aspects. From then to now, how much has changed?
(smiles) It’s not something I’m supposed to do, but it interests me, because you learn so much. Film-making involves a lot of things – the lighting, the lenses, cinematography and I’m very curious. During ‘Detective Byomkesh..’ Dibakar used to give me a track which isn’t there in the film, but he’d ask me to listen to it so I get the flavor of the film or a particular scene right. Now I learnt to do that, so, that’s just one change from ‘Kai Po Che’. Another thing is, I’ve learnt a lot about the lighting. For instance, if there’s a scene, and I’m talking to a co-actor, I would stand at a spot where the light would fall on my eye because sometimes just a visual says so much. So, just getting these little things right helps so much.

Photo credit: R. Burman
Is there also a difference between how you felt then, and now?
I think, I’m happier now, because of the sheer experience of working on different characters. Otherwise, I’m still the same inquisitive guy, filled with excitement. It’s just that, because I’m surviving, and getting to work with different film-makers on different scripts, is why I’m happier now than when I started out.

And while films do make you very happy, what is it that gratifies your soul?
Here’s the thing. When I’m giving a take, say it’s a fourth or fifth take and I feel something, I can sense something. Sometimes, after the take I can sense that I did something which I’d never planned but it was good. There’s a gap of two-three seconds and then the director says ‘okay’. That moment is what excites me – to feel you’ve done something right and then get a validation for that. I always crave for validation from my director, because I know that he’s intelligent enough and is one of reasons why you’ve said yes to the film.

Have you now been able to let go off the methods of the TV? In the sense that there it’s more spontaneous, because you have to meet deadlines every day. Films you get time to prepare.
Yes, but I feel that a good actor on TV is a good actor. It’s not like actors on TV aren’t good, because you’re given so many pages in a day, you have to learn the dialogues, act it out. More importantly, do it well, so you have those TRPs every week. Even the technicians are so skilled. It’s difficult so, television teaches you a lot in that sense. On the other hand, for a film, you’re only working on a character for six months and then move to another so that’s very fascinating, and everything is more well-planned. So even though the process may be different, the acting part is similar. Very frequently we confuse being confident in front of the camera to spontaneity. We get confused. But the point is, because you’re playing another character, your spontaneity is different from theirs; we are all different. Normally people think, he prepares a lot, so he isn’t spontaneous. But, we prepare for so long to get to a point where the character can be spontaneous.

Since the last few years, there’s been no dearth of newcomers in our films. Somehow, you’ve always come across as very secure in your space…
It’s not like I’m secure. I’ve not met anyone in my life who’s not insecure. Everyone is. But the only reason why I’m in a state of peace is because my excitement is ten times my insecurity.

Monday, March 16, 2015

“I do films for my soul, not for money”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the March 14, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

He made a seamless transition from the small-screen to the 70mm at a time when it was believed that people from television aren’t accepted well in films. But his debut film (which might have seemed like a risk at the script level) was a game-changer. Now this is a clear indicator that he likes to break stereotypes. He was filled with anxiety and positivity when we chatted prior to the release of his maiden venture. Cut to present. It’s almost been three years to that, and today, the man is a lot more confident, despite a journey weaved with highs and lows. But, some things don’t change, do they? Like the fact that he continues to be witty, funny and charming. It’s almost a déjà vu moment for him, with his latest film ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ receiving the kind of adulation that ‘Vicky Donor’ did; his happiness is evident as he flashes those dimples. As we settle down to talk, in the conference room at the second floor of Yash Raj Films, he gets a bulawa from the fourth floor. Now you know what that means right? One can’t ignore that. So, he is back in a jiffy after meeting Aditya Chopra and we get started. In a candid chat about his recent hit, how he’s evolved and the book he’s written with his wife, here’s Ayushmann Khurrana being as real as always!

You’d told me earlier that in the initial stage of your career you’d prefer doing roles that are relatable, and that’s what reflected in your choices. But was it a conscious decision to make a shift with films like ‘Hawaizaada’ and of course, ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’?
‘Dum Laga Ke…’ gave me the same feeling I had during ‘Vicky Donor’ and I immediately said yes to it. I read the script in totality and I thought that it had a great connect. The feeling of nostalgia was awesome and apart from that, it was high time I did something different and got out of my comfort zone. I had to be someone else, not the urban guy Ayushmann. But having said that, I think in every character you find something relatable. In this one what was relatable was the Kumar Sanu factor, because I’ve been a huge fan of his. Also, the ‘papaji ki chappal’ part – my dad was very strict when I was a kid and I’m so disciplined because of him. And the way Prem was petrified of ‘angrezi ka prashna patra’, I felt the same about ‘Maths ka prashna patra’. I was really bad with numbers so I could totally relate to the examination hall scene. Those were the only relatable aspects of Prem Prakash Tiwari. But I played a simpleton and an uneducated guy for the first time. The language was completely different. I’m born and bought up in Chandigarh so nobody expected me to speak in a complete UP dialect. But that was the whole point – I had to get out of my comfort zone.

Getting that dialect right, post the Marathi accent in ‘Hawaizaada’ must have been more difficult because you were shooting both the films simultaneously…
Yes, but there’s this guy called Mahesh Sharma who plays my friend in ‘Dum Laga Ke…’ helped me. He speaks that way naturally, so he was sent to the ‘Hawaaizaada’ set in Gujarat and he was staying with me for a month’s time, reading the script with me every day so I got the dialect from him. You know when you’re in the United States for two months, you get that American accent, so similarly, when I was in Haridwar I got the accent of the local people there. Even the cast – be it Sanjay Mishra, Alka Amin, Sheeba Chadda, these people speak in such good Hindi that it was infectious and I got the hang of it.

There was an undertone of humour even in the serious scenes. One moment the audience would emphathise with your character and another moment laugh. How did you get the balance of emotions right?
I think we never tried to emote comedy. We took everything very seriously. Yes, there was an undertone of humour in the script, and as actors, we just had to be earnest with our performance, that’s it. For instance, I cannot be funny in the scene where my character is committing suicide but the scene is still funny. We treated every scene seriously. I think humour just comes out of situations. When I read the script for the first time, I understood that the humour is very unusual. You hardly find these pieces in contemporary Indian cinema. Even coming out of the bathroom again and again in the cassette changing scene, I was doing everything seriously. Nobody attempted humour in the film, that’s why it was so real.

The film also reminded one of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s brand of cinema and humour. Did you also feel that when you read the script, because like you said, we don’t see such films these days?
This one certainly belongs to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s school of films, and I think it’s very unusual for YRF to produce a film like that. It is not a typical chiffon-saree kind of glossy film. It’s as real as it can get. Nobody expected this kind of a film from YRF. It’s a small budget film with a big heart. It’s content-driven and I’m glad that Adi sir (Aditya Chopra) is patronising this kind of cinema. It’ll only help Indian cinema evolve more.

In the sense of pushing the envelope as an actor, has this one been the most challenging by far?
Yes, because it was challenging both physically and mentally! Mentally it was draining, because the lines of the character were very straight, and I could only make it interesting by doing something different with my accent my body language. The lines were very bland because this character had no talent. And it was physically draining also because I was 65 kilos that time while Bhumi was 85 kilos and it took five days to shoot that part. I had to lift her up, say my dialogues and also emote at the same time, so it wasn’t easy. I trained for two months with my trainer who was also 85 kilos, just so that I could get used to it. I think, getting habitual to something also helps. My trainer gave me the example of a coolie. Coolies are very lean, lanky but they can pick up heavy weights, because they’re habitual and there’s a certain way they do it. Because I was training for two months, during the shoot I sailed through. There was a body double also, by the way. The funny thing was, he could not do it. For the back shot and top shot, they thought they could have a body double, but since he couldn’t do it, I had to do it all.

While you're garnering all the appreciation for ‘Dum Laga Ke…’, does it affect you when efforts go unnoticed otherwise, sometimes with a film not doing well commercially?
It’s the notion in the industry that you’re as good as the film. So, the efforts may get unnoticed but overall, as a performer, your craft always gets better in every film and that’s the best thing. You take something from every film. I’ve put in a lot of effort in each film, and that’s why people have suddenly discovered me in ‘Dum Laga…’ after ‘Vicky Donor’ and are saying I’m so good. That’s may be because I’ve also done three more films, put in efforts in those and became more confident in front of the camera. So, you learn something from every film, and that’s what counts.

Apart from being more confident in front of the camera, how else have you evolved?
Earlier I used to feel that it’s easier to perform when you have real-life references and when I have something to relate to, but now I think I’m comfortable doing stuff which is beyond me. Now I can try different stuff and get into characters which aren’t close to me as a person.

The fate of your previous films doesn’t seem to have deterred your choices which are quite unusual…
I’m pretty brave with decisions. I won’t think twice before experimenting, whether or not, the experiments do well. I just met Adi sir and he told me, ‘I’m so proud that you gave me the confidence in the script of ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’.’ When I was getting all the debut awards for ‘Vicky Donor’ is when they offered me this script and they were sure that I’ll say no to it because it wasn’t a typical good-looking hero film. It was very character-driven, unconventional. Adi sir thought that after giving a hit like ‘Vicky Donor’, I’d want to do a larger-than-life film. I told him I was waiting for this kind of script. After ‘Vicky Donor’ I could not get a film which was clutter-breaking and this was that script. I read it in two hours and said yes. He was very confident about the film but was surprised to know I liked the script.

To think of it, you’ve actually never played the larger-than-life, quintessential Hindi cinema hero…
It’s not like I don’t want to do it. But I think the audience has matured a lot and they need to see good content. I’ve said this earlier as well, that either you are super-star, or you have a super script. There’s no in-between. If you are a superstar, people will go watch the film, even if it’s not a good script. Otherwise, you need to have a script which is different and will elevate you to a certain level. The script has to propel you in a certain way. And that’s happened with ‘Vicky Donor’ and this one. It’s not like I don’t want to play the larger-than-life guy. But I’m more in the real zone of cinema.

You also seem to believe in being real, otherwise. 
If you’re playing a part on-screen, you don’t have to act off-screen. If you’re acting both on and off-screen you’ll eventually go through a mental turmoil. So, rather be real. I don’t take the frills of this industry very seriously, because I’ve also seen it from the other side, by things like taking interviews and being a journalist. I just live in the present. For instance, right now, I’m just concentrating on this interview (smiles).

Is it because you don’t take the frills of the industry too seriously that you’ve remained positive and there’s never been a moment of self-doubt even during a low phase?
I have always believed in my craft because I’ve been doing this since childhood. I think the only time the belief got slightly haywire was with my choices. I wasn’t sure if they were the right but now I’m glad I’ve made these choices and learnt from them. I’ve learnt so much at an early phase in my career. Every actor gives flops. Sooner or later it will happen. It’s good that it happened early in my life, because I’m at least learning from it. I have said this earlier too that success is a lousy teacher, it’s your failure that teaches you a lot. So, I think it is okay to fail and the best part is that public memory is fickle. Two days later after ‘Hawaizaada’ released, the trailer of ‘Dum Laga Ke…’ was out and everyone started talking about that. It’s difficult to believe that ‘Hawaizaada’ happened only recently because people have now forgotten about it. A lot of people believed that it was a bad choice and said things like what have I done to my career, but now they’re talking about ‘Dum Laga Ke..’ so yes, public memory is very fickle, the perception changes every Friday, I’m glad this Friday is mine. You’re as good as your last film. That’s how it works in this industry. As far as being positive is concerned, I don’t do films for money. My bread and butter comes from events, ever since my college days. I do films for my own soul, it may work or not work, but if I’m happy with my life, I am financially secure, then I have no reason to not be positive.

Talking about doing things for the soul…what inspired you to write a book?
I’ve written my songs and I maintain a blog so that was always one wish list. I know it’s quite early to write a book, because I’ve just started my career, but the book isn’t about my career in Bollywood. It’s about my struggle to Bollywood, and how I somehow managed to break that door. After a lot of time, a television person was able to make a transition into films and after that, every year, there are a lot of actors making that transition. Apart from that, the book gives you the change in the trend of struggles of aspiring actors. For example, in the yesteryears, aspiring actors weren’t allowed inside a studio, studios were like fortresses. Now it’s very democratic. If you have the talent, you audition and you’re there. It’s easy to be an actor, director or producer now, especially for outsiders. Earlier there was nepotism, only the film fraternity was operating here. Now it has become so easy but the supply is also so much. So, this book is an ode to the strugglers of Aram Nagar and people who’ve packed their bags and come to Mumbai, and also people who are packing their bags and going back. It’s got a lot of incidents and stories from my real life.

Does writing come naturally to you?
It doesn’t come naturally. I cannot be employed as a writer, or I can’t be a full-time writer. I write when I feel like writing. Same thing is with music. If someone gives me a deadline to write something in a week, or compose a song in a week, I may not be able to do it. I can do it only when it comes naturally to me. But I can act at will, if someone gives me a scene; that I can do. With writing or composing music, you need to be in that frame of mind. I broke a lot of deadlines by Rupa Publications for this particular book. I got delayed by six months.

Though, it must have been of help that your wife was the co-writer on the book, also because she knows you that well.
Yes, of course! Though in general cases, the wife doesn’t know the husband well (laughs loudly), but yes, in my case, she does. She is a writer, and can write anytime. So, thank God for that! She’s written the majority of it.

A book, a hit film…now what next?
There’s no plan. It’s a clean slate, and I don’t wish to make any decision right now. To not have a plan I think is a good place to be. That’s what Adi sir and Shoojit Sircar have told me, to chill in life, paint, go farming, spend time with family, read scripts and only say yes to a film when I get a strong intuition to do it. I have to be more about the scripts I choose now, is the advice I’ve got from the fourth floor (laughs). 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Anushka Sharma

“You cannot completely like your own films the way you can like someone else’s work”

By Ankita R. Kanabar and Amul Mohan

(This interview has been published in the March 7, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

Photo credit - Zaheer Abbass
Her plush penthouse apartment sprawled over the 20th floor is covered in shades of white, almost giving you a royal, vintage feel. The house completely reflects this girl’s personality who’s come a long way, making it on her own. Her manager then guided us to another room and there she was – in a printed blue top and a pair of denim capri pants almost sans make-up. Somehow she didn’t give us this quintessential prim-and-proper Hindi cinema heroine vibe. The fact that she was a normal girl in the comfort of her house made her such a refreshing change. She’s seated in one corner of the couch, with her feet curled up and a cushion placed on her lap just as we begin to talk. Her next film ‘NH10’, that she describes as her most challenging role so far, is just a few days away from release and also sees her turn producer. Clearly then, that forms the crux of this chat. Shedding light on her latest venture, turning producer and the nitty-gritties of her craft – here’s Anushka Sharma for you!

You had an extensive workshop before ‘NH10’ went on floors…do you prefer having workshops before every film?
I would like to, and it has happened with certain films, but not always do you get to do that. Sometimes you’re doing too much work, sometimes your co-actors are running in-between films, it’s not always possible, but we’ve done that in ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’. I feel workshops help me so even if sometimes my co-star isn’t available, I like to sit with the director. During ‘PK’ I would sit with Rajkumar Hirani, rehearse my lines and discuss the scenes. What it does is, it saves your time because you have already worked things out, you know how to approach the scene, the director has pretty much told you what he wants from you. So on the set, you’re just shooting the scene. It really helps because then you’re already developing the character before you go on set. I think every actor should do workshops, it’s important. Also, it helps you do a back-story. In a film like ‘NH10’, a lot of time isn’t given to dwell into the back-story of the characters, despite it being character-driven. Fifteen minutes into the film and the plot has already started. You have only that much time to make the audience invest in you. So, you have to come prepared as an actor. You need to have a back-story in your head, which might not play on-screen. Your relationship with your co-actor has to kind of speak of many years, which you’re not showing. For instance, in ‘NH10’, within the first few minutes of the film, you establish that Neil (Bhoopalam) and I are a couple, you need to see that chemistry. Now because, people also haven’t seen Neil and me together earlier, it probably would take that much longer for them to accept, but by doing workshops the chemistry comes easy and you save time on the set. When you do workshops you can be spontaneous, and when you don’t, you’re still figuring out the basics on the set.

Is there any one thing that you can pin point on, which made you turn producer for this film?
With certain films like ‘NH10’, it’s commercially more viable to let go off your actor fee and get involved in risk-sharing with the studio. Because, while I feel there’s scope for more of these films to be made with people willing to watch them, they’re not getting picked up by producers. When you get involved like that, there’s a reason for people to back those films. That was the motive. I’ve really believed in this film, and wanted it to get made by giving it whatever it took, to go on floors. The project was brought to us by Phantom, but they hadn’t spoken to a studio. So, I got into a fifty per cent partnership with Phantom, and then Eros picked up the film.

How challenging has juggling between two roles, that of an actor and producer, been?
Because this company is run by my brother and me, we’ve divided the responsibilities. There are certain things I don’t understand, and it’s not good for me as an actor to get into those things also. I’ve worked in the capacity of a creative producer. My brother takes care of the other things, which I’ll be aware of, but I don’t dwell into them much, because then it’ll be a disservice to the film as an actor. But what I’ve now realised is that I think shooting is the easiest of the entire process. What happens before and after is the worse. You understand that when you produce a film. So, yes it was challenging, and even more, for a film like ‘NH10’ because you’re fighting a lot of issues. I was also fighting creatively. I didn’t want the promotional song. But what made it a little easy was the fact that I was working with Phantom that also believes in pushing the envelope in that sense. If I wasn’t working with them, if our wavelengths didn’t match, then it would be harder and there would be creative conflicts.

Also for a film as intense, didn’t the entire shooting process affect your psyche in any way? Even physically, it must have been demanding…
It has been the most challenging film for me, so far. I would shoot some scenes and feel gloomy for the rest of the day, because I got into it so much. When we were shooting, at one point, we were in a secluded area, pretty much away from the city. So, it was more like you’re living, breathing, waking up to this film and are surrounded by people making it so you get sucked into it even more. I think I felt emotionally drained after some scenes. Physically, I had issues like a back-problem because a lot of running, falling and getting up. We were shooting in jungles, and 12 hours of running can be really tiring. You don’t realise it at that point, because the adrenaline is so much, but once you go back to your room, you feel you’re in a lot of pain.

Were you shooting for any other films along with ‘NH10’? How was it getting out of that zone and move into another?
We had two schedules. A larger chunk of the film was over in one schedule, and then we just had a 12-day shoot in Gurgaon. And in between I shot for ‘Bombay Velvet’ and ‘PK’. The first day of the shoot when you move from one film to another film, is scary. There’s something called as ‘traitor syndrome’ that you feel. It’s a fear that people will come to know I can’t act. The director feels people will know he can’t direct. You feel that way, because you don’t really know what will happen. How much ever you plan it, what happens after action is not in your control, you go into a different space all together. When you are so involved in the process, coming back to a film, after shooting another is difficult. It takes a couple of days to get into it again, but once you’re in it, then it everything else comes automatically.

At this stage in your career, what is it that you look for in a script? Is it a conscious decision to make choices that will push you higher?
I want to pick up new stories, different roles. The roles that I’m doing right now - whether it’s ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, ‘Bombay Velvet’ or ‘NH10’, when I read these scripts, I had not seen something like that, on-screen before. That’s the idea – to do things which haven’t been done before because otherwise, it’s very boring for me, to follow the same routine even in life. I get bored too easily. Ever since the beginning of my career, I haven’t done too many films. I think people who’ve come after me have done more films than I have. But now I think, I’m at a place where, I’ve got that security of having established myself  so I can take that liberty even further.

Photo credit : Zaheer Abbass
A while back, during an interview with us, Ranveer Singh had said, you gave him a very good advice during ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ – ‘don’t talk at your co-actor, talk to them’. That was just your second film and you still were so evolved. How much have you changed since then?
(Laughs) I’m still talking to the actor, just talking better. Yes, I remember telling him that. You can’t come over-prepared on the set. That’s one thing you can go very wrong with, as an actor. On the set, you’ve got to be someone who can be moulded into something very different. If you plan out everything in your head, then you create boundaries and you cannot have boundaries as an actor. It’s very important. What helps Ranveer is that he is not inhibited at all. I would say that to him, because I knew that was his strength and he wasn’t playing to it at that point. I knew he’d be so much better if he did that.

Even you’ve been quite uninhibited…
Yes, as an actor, I think I have been. Always! (smiles).

Do you also analyse your own self that way and think about how you can improve?
You’ll always see your work and feel you can do it better. That’s why you don’t like your films. You cannot completely like your own films like how you can like someone else’s work, because you know you could have done it better. You can always do things better, but it’s just that one chance you get. But honestly, to think of it, if you had to do the same things again, probably you wouldn’t be able to create that magic. So, eventually, what happens is the best for the film.

Lastly, ‘NH10’ is obviously adult and hard-hitting in its content, and with new guidelines of the censor board, what are the steps that you’ve been taking to avoid complications during the release?
If the adult content is seen in the context of the script, then all of it makes sense. From the trailer itself, it’s very evident that it’s a real film with real characters, so their body language is very organic and real. We’d always decided to present it the way it was, then follow the guidelines of the censor board and see what happens. But I believe if things are looked at in the film’s context then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Sidhant Gupta

“Acting is just the sensibility to portray the experiences of life”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the March 7, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

Aren’t newcomers like a breath of fresh air sometimes? With their newer ideas, lots of positivity, enthusiasm filled to the brim and unending passion for their craft – they’re a complete delight to speak to. That’s just how one can describe Sidhant Gupta, whose film ‘Badmashiyaan’ has recently hit the marquee. He read the script of the film 50 times before the shoot, and also ended up remembering his co-actors’ dialogues. Now that’s some kind of a dedication!
In a freewheeling chat, the newbie talks all about this film and his journey so far…

When you read the script of ‘Badmashiyaan’, what did you think of it and your character?
What I thought is that though it’s a romantic comedy, it’s not the usual girl-meets-guy, falls in love kind of a regular film. The script was actually very relatable and funny. My character is someone loves very purely. The interesting part was, I had to sit with the director and we had a lot of brainstorming sessions as to how I would say my lines. That’s when you realise that there are so many things one has inside this small brain. I had to refresh all the memories of my teenage years because this kind of love is very pure and unconditional, which is very difficult to feel once we grow up, and become a bit materialistic in life.

On one hand, your character has this romantic side while you also had to display your comic timing. How did you go about it?
I love comedy. Comedy and romance, basically emotions, form my favourite part of acting and thankfully, I got to do both in the film. My way of preparing is different. Before we started shooting I read the script at least 50 times. This is a slow process, but it’s just my way of preparing because every time you read the script, you discover a new aspect. You see every line and keep getting ideas and eventually recollect instances where you’ve gone through something similar in real life. That’s just how you can make that character your own.

But then laughter and crying being such raw emotions, most actors find it challenging. Despite being relatively new, you’re saying that’s your favourite part….
I would say that these emotions come effortlessly to me, because of the experiences I have had in life. I have laughed a lot in my life. At the same time, I’m very emotional. So, I can relate to it. I feel, acting is the sensibility to portray the experiences of life. Plus, my acting course really transformed me. That’s when I realised, I cannot do anything better in life than act. It just comes naturally to me.

For this film obviously, your preparation included reading the script so many times. But generally, just to be an actor…what is the kind of training or preparations you’ve been through?
I believe that just the way singers do riyaaz everyday, actors also should act every day. Even if you don’t act for a month, it gets very difficult. You need to know your emotions and expressing those emotions in the right way requires riyaaz. Usually what I do is I have a book where I’ve written a lot of monologues which I enact. Then I also judge myself and how I should get better. I usually pick scenes from English films, translate them in Hindi and perform. On a day-to-day basis as well, you pick stuff from others. But then, when you’re working on a film and acting so many hours a day, it helps honing your skills, making you more confident.

Coming from a non-filmy background, how has your journey been so far?
It’s a lot of struggle if you come from a non-filmy background. But, I strongly believe that if you’re really good, nobody can stop you. I just kept honing my skills every day and thought that God has given me a good face, good enough height, but maintaining things is in my hands. I was mentally prepared for the fact that, being fit, or working on my dancing skills, and just acting each day, should be my lifestyle itself, because eventually, you have to come as a package. Otherwise there’s no place for you here. Just a good face doesn’t do anything, I feel. One thing I love about acting is that there’s no end to learning, and there’s no end to making yourself proud of you. These are the two important things which are keeping me going.

And is there something you don’t like about being here?
I think sometimes it’s easier to get caught in the stereotypes. You’re expected to behave a certain way. I would talk to someone if I feel like, but otherwise, you can’t be fake and entertain someone even if you don’t want to. People judge you by how you are with people, not knowing your life experiences. A lot of people ask me who is my idol, or who do I follow, or if I try to emula
 te Shah Rukh Khan, since I’m playing this guy in love, him being the king of romance. Obviously I’m a big fan and have grown up watching his films, but when I prepare for a role, I put my life experiences to get into that zone. Like I said, acting is all about that. Some actors do inspire you but you cannot become exactly like them. There’s a thin line between the two and people just need to understand that (smiles).