Q. You are among the first few actors who established himself as a qualified singer. What are your thoughts on this emerging trend in Bollywood these days—of actors turning into singers?
A. What they are doing is different from what I did. There are a few actor-singers who perform live with a band, and I do live singing. Diljit does live singing, Farhan does live singing. So there is a difference. Sometimes an actor may just sing to promote a film but he may not be able to sing live. But it is okay as far as the film’s promotion is concerned. It is a promotional gimmick. So it’s fine if it works for the film.
Q. So is it also a promotional gimmick for you, a means to draw the audiences to the theatre?
A. It depends on the person who is doing the singing. For example, Diljit is a professional singer. He sings, he is more of a singer. I sing, I do a lot of live shows. I travel with my band. Last year I performed in the United States and Canada. In September I am performing in Goa and Bombay. So, I guess, to each his own. There are actors who sing a bit and they do it for the promotion of their film.
Q. As you said, Diljit is more of a singer. How do you see yourself? You see yourself more as singer or as an actor?
A. No Diljit is not more of a singer. He is a good singer and a great actor. I see myself as more of an actor than a singer.
Q. What do you consider your biggest strengths as an actor?
A. I think my biggest strength is that I am quite real as an actor. I can make it real and believable. I don’t go overboard with my acting, I keep it subtle. And at the same time I incorporate my experiences in acting and I keep it real, that’s it.
Q. After all these years, do you still get nervous before your Friday releases?
A. Everybody gets nervous because you feel like you are having the board exam results. Having said that, after five years in the industry I have started being slightly detached from the success and failure of a film. Because you have to be detached from your films and to move on to the next project as soon as possible. Also, I see my films just once. I don’t get obsessive about my songs or films.
Q. We have had several movies in Bollywood on the age-old idea of the “love triangle”. Your recent film, Bareilly Ki Barfi, can also be fitted in the same category. So what do you think it is that makes the film stand out?
A. I think it is the feel of the film that really makes it different. Till now we have seen love triangles in a very filmy setup. So here we will see the love triangle in a realistic setup. The kind of cinema that [directors] Ashwiny Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari support, they don’t go overboard with the tonality of the film. That makes it different. Every film is different due to the tonality and the treatment they get.
Q. How is this particular movie special to you?
A. The film is special to me because I play a character which is different, the kind I have not played in the past. I am sort of a bully in the film. I am slightly aggressive, slightly vulnerable and realistic and believable at the same time. Usually, you see me as a simple, sweet boy. This one is slightly edgy and even alpha.
Q. In a recent interview, we heard you saying that Kriti Sanon in Bareilly Ki Barfi was “a revelation”. Could you please elaborate?
A. Yes, because this is the first time she is playing something which is not urban. It is real, desi, rooted, and that’s why she is a revelation. Because this is a different character for her. She is a revelation both as an actress and a person to me. It is because I saw a desi side of hers while filming. She is a very simple girl. She has been a model and she has portrayed different urban roles. So this side is new for us.
“After five years in the industry, I have started being slightly detached from the success and failure of a film. Because you have to be detached from your films and to move on to the next project as soon as possible. Also, I see my films just once. I don’t get obsessive about my songs or films.”
Q. With many big-banner movies falling flat at the box office, do you think the audiences have given out a strong message that mainstream cinema needs to reinvent itself?
A. I think it boils down to entertainment. And, of course, we need to see something different and we need something that is novel. That’s the path Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan have taken. They are marrying their concepts with commerce and they are doing great. They have set the benchmark. They empower us to do films that are now a part of that genre. At the same time, more credit needs to go to the scriptwriters. There is a dearth of great scriptwriters in the industry and you know that the best of them are underrated. They are behind the scenes. You see actors walk away with all the accolades followed by the director and the music director. The accolades don’t come to the scriptwriters. Till the time you don’t make superstar scriptwriters, don’t give them that motivation, you will not get brilliant scripts. Because in a year’s time, there are so many films that are produced and directed, but there are only 3-4 films that make a mark as far as the script is concerned.
Q. What is your take on the way movie releases are made to clash with each other? Do you think that in this scenario some genuinely good movies end up getting eclipsed by the overhyped ones?
A. It really depends. Of course, you need a better release date for sure. I firmly believe that if Meri Pyaari Bindu had a better release date, it would have earned more. It was near Bahubali and after that there was Hindi Medium. I think my genre of films needs that space to survive. Bareilly Ki Barfi, for example, was a solo release. It has that elbow room. And the same goes for Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. Though it is not a solo release, we have that sort of space. The next big film will be at the end of September, Judwaa 2. So it is a good film, it will survive at the box office. We need that good release date mostly.
Q. With Meri Pyaari Bindu, do you think it was only the release date that was the problem, or do you feel that something else went wrong as well?
A. When you look at your films you lose objectivity. But of course, I have got reviews from my friends and family. Some people loved the film, some people didn’t like the film. Some people didn’t believe in its ending. Some thought it was different because it was not a happy ending. It is art, it is subjective. You can have different opinions. But having said that, here you cannot have a set format for a film. It can either connect or you can’t have the connect. That’s incidental.
Q. Your next, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, has got everybody talking. Especially the character you are playing has caught everybody’s fancy. So could you spill some interesting details about your shooting experience and your character in the film?
A. Filming it was like one huge party. When we were shooting for Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, we were shooting in Delhi, Rishikesh and Haridwar, the weather was amazing. We shot last winter and we loved working on the film. Bhumi [Pednekar, his co-star] and I are good friends. So when we have friends like that nothing can go wrong.
Q. Since Bhumi Pednekar and you are good friends, what is your take on her amazing body transformation post-Dum Laga Ke Haisha?
A. She was never that fat. She had gained weight for Dum Laga Ke Haisha. You would hardly see that body transformation among Indian actors, especially women. Aamir Khan is the only actor who underwent that transformation for Dangal.
Bhumi is the only actress I think who went through that kind of transformation for a film and then went back into shape for the next film. I think it speaks volumes about her talent as an artiste. She is an incredible actor and I am really proud of her.
Q. You and your brother, Aparshakti, are both part of the showbiz industry now. Do you guys discuss movies and offer each other advice?
A. Apar is a very commercial viewer. He loves watching all the films. In fact, he loves all films and is the most critical person when it comes to films. So yes, we discuss and we have arguments and we talk a lot about cinema and music. But I am glad that he got a great launch with Dangal and he was brilliant in it. He is following his passion: both cricket and cinema. He is anchoring for cricket shows and doing cinema as well. So I am very proud of him.
Q. How was experience being a part of Mixtape, the online singing platform? What perked your interest in this project?
A. I have always been associated with T-Series. I have launched all my singles with T-Series, my last one was “Kunwari”. I really liked the concept. Most of the time, Coke Studio and other such platforms support independent music. Mixtape was a very independent setup but it chose commercial songs.
Q. The most fun co-star you have ever worked with?
A. Rajkummar [Rao] is the most fun co-star I have worked with. I discovered a new friend in him. He is very talented and simple at the same time. He is very much like me. We have had a similar upbringing. Apart from Rakummar, it is also Seema Pahwa. Shubh Mangal Saavdhan is my third film with Seema Pahwa.
Q. Apart from cinema, you have also worked in theatre and television. Any particular medium you enjoy performing in the most?
A. I think the stage is a very exciting medium. On stage as an anchor, actor, singer you can really enjoy. I think it gives you another high, an adrenaline rush, because you receive instant gratification as a performer. You have to improvise instantly because the audiences may be dull, may be energetic. You exchange energies with the audiences. But as far as films are concerned, you first shoot and then for three months it’s post-production, and then you read your reviews. There is no instant reaction that you get.