|Barun Sobti at The Tollygunge Club. Picture: Anindya Shankar Ray|
He's no longer Arnav Singh Raizada of Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, but that role continues to define TV heart-throb Barun Sobti. In town to shoot for Mitali Ghoshal's22 Yards, a Hindi film by MS Productions, the Delhi boy chatted with t2 about quitting television and playing a cricket agent raised in Calcutta...
So, what do you like and don't like about Calcutta?
I don't like the humidity. I like the food. It is new for me. I have been to Park Street. That looks good. And Calcutta looks traditional. I don't think it is old school.
What food have you tried here?
I like shukto. I like the yellow dal a lot and the mustard fish.
When 22 Yards was offered to you, what did you make of the story?
I just got lucky I believe. I remember Samrat (Ghoshal, the script-writer) narrated it to me the first time last year in November. I loved it from the beginning. I play a sports agent (Ron) in the film... he is a modern-day boy yaar. See, I first of all did not know that you have sports agents, despite the fact that I am an avid follower of cricket. So, to know about the concept was exciting. There is not a dull moment in the script. There is nothing in the film that you will feel we have done for the heck of it. Everything seems a natural progression of events. That's what I like. I am not that kind of person who would do out-and-out filmi and loud stuff.
What kind of a body language will Ron have? Have you seen Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise's famous sports agent act?
I haven't seen that film but I have been told that we are not trying to make a Jerry Maguire.
What has Mitali told you about the character?
He is flamboyant, a cricket agent who pretty much does everything right. Sometimes, time is not that kind…. Mitali, what should I say are Ron's characteristics? Deep! It is way beyond words now!
["He lives in south Calcutta now but has grown up in the north. He left north Calcutta when he was 10," says Mitali]
This is one of your first films and Mitali's debut. How are you helping each other?
We have done a lot of workshops. I have done a lot of scenes with everyone in the film. So, we think we are doing everything right.
You have had a successful television career. Your fans would have the same expectations about your films…
I hope people expect that and I deliver. Watching television is very different and drawing someone to shell out 1,000 bucks for three hours is very different. That's where promise comes in.
You've never dreamt of a big-banner debut…
Yaar, if I was thinking that I would be walking down (the street) and some big producer would be like, 'Oh! That's the guy!'... I did not have that expectation.
Despite the success TV gave you?
I keep giving myself reality checks. I know that nothing is impossible but instead of dreaming, I thought hard work would be a better option.
Did you give this TV-to-screen switch a lot of thought?
No, it wasn't thought out. Even if films did not happen, I would have still quit television because it is gruelling. I don't think I can work for 12 hours, without break. So, it wasn't a very calculated move. And it wasn't for films that I left. I left for health reasons... I extended it by seven months. I wanted to leave a long time back but my producers did not want.
You must have got fan mails asking why you quit…
Oh a lot! It was remarkable because I hadn't seen such popularity of a character even when a show was off air. What I had heard and seen was out-of-sight-is-out-of-mind, especially in the television industry. People haven't done that to me.
Even that did not make you think twice about going back?
See, people perceive it this way that, 'Oh! He is dreaming Bollywood now.' That is not the problem. I have a problem with the amount of hard work you have to put in. And if I go back, I can do character roles, which are not that bad. But then they are not given that much attention in television. They shoot for 10-15 days a month. If you are a lead and a hit, you are gone. You will be shooting every day. No breaks, no personal time. For my marriage (to Pashmeen Manchanda), I took a one-day leave. I got married in a rush. I chose not to give that life to myself and my family. That is why I quit television. My plan was to move out of the country initially. It just so happened that I started getting films.
Move out of the country and do what?
I could sell groceries! I don't have a problem. (Smiles)
That's brave of you…
It is not the first time actually. I am sure I will be able to make it if something goes wrong.
Your favourite TV-to-screen success story, in terms of role models?
No one… see, I respect people, but the point of having no role model is that everyone has his own story. I don't want to think that if it has happened to him, the same would happen to me. I would have to carve my own path.
Coming back to 22 Yards, are you a sporty guy?
I am sporty in the sense that when I was a kid, I wanted to play all the time. Even in the blistering Delhi afternoon, when no one wanted to play with me, I would bang the ball against the wall and bat.
And it's always been cricket for you?
Cricket, football and now squash. If I am at home, I play squash every day. Sometimes we play five-a-side football matches. I follow Sachin Tendulkar. In football, I used to like (Zinedine) Zidane and Ryan Giggs. Now Messi.
We will have to ask you about your huge female following. You've always had this kind of attention from girls?
It is not new. Every time this question is asked, I am like why?! (Smiles) What do I say? I am obviously not going to say that I feel bad. I am not trying very hard to charm them. I have never done that! I think that's the reason why they are charmed! (Smiles) In school, office (a call centre in Delhi where Barun worked for seven years), I was quite popular.
Have you ever been this crazy for anybody?
I have loved Sachin Tendulkar…
A girl, we mean!
Nahin nahin… I am pretty subtle in my ways. I think my wife is pretty happy with what she's got. For me too, I got lucky that we got married.
Currently digging into: Curry and rice
A movie that inspires: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar
Current soundtrack I love: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Favourite actors: Aamir Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan
Favourite actresses: Sonali Bendre, Tabu
BARUN'S MESSAGE FOR HIS t2 READER FANS
Don't trouble the newspaper too much! Take things easy. Thank you for loving and watching my shows. Carry on doing the same. (Mitali: And please watch 22 Yards) Everyone's going to watch 22 Yards! Don't worry!