Several years ago Ronit Bose Roy had predicted that the new boy in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi was very promising. But then the new boy had a fall-out with Ekta Kapoor and he was out. While he waited for almost five years for good work to surface he did a musical Taj Express with Vaibhavi Merchant, a music video with Venus Ek Ladki Shabnami Si; dance shows. The music show and the film Bittoo Boss had a common casting director Vicky. So he bagged the film.
You left the comfort of your home in Delhi in search of roles and then took on Ekta Kapoor when the freshers were vying to be in the then famous K serials... you were the first newcomer to have quit her show...
I didn't take-on anybody. It's a forgotten episode, I don't even go back to it now. It wasn't a calculated move; it was a professional decision where if I'm not convinced about something I cannot convince the audience, some things didn't make sense to me, it would have spoilt the show and my name.
I always thought of acting as a career option for me and always wanted to be part of this industry. In college (Apeejay School of Design) I used to do dramatics, and coming to Mumbai was a natural progression. I got my first job when I was already in Mumbai for a year when Kyunki... happened; I was lucky to be part of the huge star cast and learnt a lot from them and the technical team; it gave me a lot of confidence. It was hands on training for me.
In the ensuing court proceedings Justice Chandrachud instructed Ekta that she could not arm twist an actor and stop him from working elsewhere... is that true?
Ya, I was not in town when the verdict was announced. It was mentioned clearly that the producers cannot bind an actor and their talent.. I wouldn't like to take credit for anything, I did what I felt was right.
Are you like that in real life too?
Yes, if I don't like something I don't say yes to it... If I'm not wrong I wouldn't accept a punishment even from a teacher. Once a teacher told me to get out of the class because I was the only one who was answering questions; annoyed, she told me that I was not letting anybody else answer. The principal's room and parents coming to her was happening constantly. As a student I was very notorious. I would not bunk a class because I would love to trouble the teachers. I was suspended from the school once during my X Standard for bursting crackers in the school with a bunch of friends. Even though we were a gang I was singled out. In fact at that time I got more time to study. I was a science student because that's the only thing I could study, I couldn't study the Arts because I couldn't maro rattaas (cram).
For a Punju you are very subdued...
It takes me time to open up with people, and once I've known them I don't stay quiet... everyone including my teachers say that I have the most deceiving looks. The first day in the class he is the quietest, the last day he is loudest they would say.
How did you cope with rejections for all these years?
Everyone faces rejections... you have to wait for that one thing that you feel right about. I do what I like, if I don't like something I don't feel bad even if I'm rejected. I also know I have to move on for something better.
It took a Farhan Akhtar to recognise your talent...
It's strange, I have never sat with him and asked him how all this fell into place... I just got a call from Excel Entertainment. My director Mrigdeep Singh Lamba, the casting director and some people from the Fukrey team had already seen Bittoo Boss so they were unanimous in their decision. A couple of screen tests later we were on.
What was your feeling?
Whenever I start something new I'm a little scared in the beginning. Instead off being jubilant, my mind starts working on how we've to work out the character; how it will be packaged, I'm always poker faced, it was so even when I got my first film Bittoo Boss. Trust me it's very difficult to choose. For any actor the next project has to be better than the last one... The moment you read a script you instinctively know it's right, and Fukrey is that one film.
What was your brief for Fukrey?
The screen play is the hero of the film. We started doing workshops on the characters; my character is almost what my director is all about, I just had to imitate his mannerisms and his way of talking, his sense of humour. Mrig and I both are from Delhi so our sensibilities matched. Farhan Akhtar sets a new benchmark with each film.
This is Farhan's 3rd film on male bonding, how is this going to be different?
You take any film and it's about relationships whether it's between a guy and a girl that becomes a love story, or between two males or two females that becomes a friendship story... the premise is not that chalo male-bonding pe ek aur film banate hain. This is definitely about buddy bonding and the journey of each boy's life.
Do you share that kind of bond with any one?
I don't have many friends, most of my chaddi-buddies are either in Delhi or have settled abroad, I keep in touch with them on phone.
Are you a risk taker?
I'm a dream chaser, I don't know if that is being a risk taker. If I like something I get into it and that could be a risk taking action.
Do you love partying?
No, I prefer home parties with friends, or if I go to a club sometime I'm the one standing in one corner looking at people going crazy, that's more fun to watch. Also I need the time and the money to party in the first place.
You met your fiancee Shweta Rohera when you were shooting for Kyunki... you became friends and then she wrote a book on you...
That book was part of series which was being written on young turks of India from different walks of life like sports, advertising, television, films etc. I hadn't done so much work to deserve a book on me. But only a dummy of that was printed.
But she became the special person in your life...
That she is..
After Bittoo Boss how has been your fan following?
The number is growing gradually, I care about the love and the blessings that they shower on me. If I'm good at my work it will increase. I do make it a point to reply to people on my Twitter Handle as much as I can.
Did you get offers for reality shows?
If I were to give an analogy of pizzas and sandwich I would say I went for pizzas even if they took longer to prepare.
So have the pizzas arrived?
No, no. I'm still making the dough and gathering the ingredients for it; it's going to be fun.
Where did you meet your first set of fans?
In Mumbai. In Delhi's Defence Colony once a girl came up to me, kissed me and ran away; if she had stayed we could have had some conversation; that's something I'll always remember... I'd love to meet her again! There was another girl who somehow managed to arrange a meeting with me; she came with her father on my birthday and gifted me a pen with my initials on it, her name is Prajakta, she still keeps in touch with me. Gujarat was very interesting, there was a crowd of 20,000 people in an event, Canada, UK, Germany also received us very well, I was shocked to receive fan mails from Germany. If it's great to receive mails from them it's equally important to reply to them. I hope I keep doing that.
Who are you a fan of?
Madhuri Dixit undoubtedly, and I think Madhubala is the most gorgeous woman on screen.
But we all know your FIRST fan...
She's my last fan... there's no more scope of fans after that... (obviously referring to Shweta)