Q. From being a known TV celebrity, to now making your film debut, how has this transition been for you?
A. They used to say that actors on television do not get an entry in films but that’s not true. In fact TV actors have a vast fan base as TV shows now are dubbed in various languages for different markets. A few of our Indian television shows have become hugely popular across the world. One of my shows is now pretty popular in Latin America and Indonesia. Audiences there might not know every Bollywood actor but they have been showing immense love for our TV actors.
Bollywood filmmakers do understand this and capitalising on the same is always a good idea. Some TV shows have reached the areas in different countries where Bollywood movies haven’t been able to reach. This has helped greatly to shorten the gap for TV actors to enter in Bollywood, as there is acceptance.
Q. You made your debut in 2002. What made you decide to become an actor, and how did you get your first break?
A. I got my first break in the world of modelling, in a Close-Up ad—I was in college back then... The meeting point was at my friend’s studio and we were to head to Shimla. During that time, HUL [Hindustan Unilever]was touring across India looking for a fresh face for Close-Up ads. This lady walked up to me and asked me if I could audition. I wasn’t sure as I’d never faced the camera before but I did try. She asked me to narrate one line in English, Hindi and Tamil. I vividly remember those lines even now. I got selected and shot for the ad. I thought that was it. My dad was a stockbroker and I thought I would do that once college got over. But I had come to Mumbai and also my father retired around the same time, so I decided to stick around.
A friend also suggested that since I had good diction and also did an ad commercial, I should go and audition for television, which would take care of my rent and expenses for my stay in Mumbai. That’s when I got my first 26-episode show, Apna Apna Style, with Zee.
Q. How difficult was it to get a break in Bollywood?
A. Honestly, Aksar 2 came very easily to me. I didn’t have to audition for the role. I was doing Suryaputra Karn back then. The producers and Anantji had seen my work in the past and offered me the role. I immediately started shooting for Aksar 2 after wrapping up my television show.
Q.Your character will reportedly be a complex one in the film. Does it have shades of grey?
A. My character has shades of grey, as well as a positive side to him. My character is very diplomatic, but vulnerable at the same time. It is a very layered character, which was challenging but wonderful to play. I learned a lot through the process, and enjoyed portraying my role well.
Q. In most of your TV shows, you have played a very likeable character. Do you think fans will accept you in Aksar 2?
A. I feel that as an actor, experimenting with various roles is very important to improve oneself. So, for this film too, I will be seen in a different avatar, which my admirers would surely be happy to see me in!
Q. What were the challenges you faced while playing this character?
A. Honestly, the brief from our director Anant Mahadevan was quite clear. He had really guided me well. I had managed to underplay the whole thing. I played a lot more with my eyes rather than my body language.
Q. Which medium do you enjoy working in more—TV or films?
A. Both are great mediums to work in. TV is a very fun and fast medium. There is a lot of running around to do; the scripts are also given on the same day of the shoot while shooting for a TV show. In films, the shoot setup is all very different and the scripts, too, come well in advance. But as an actor, be it films or TV, I always give in an absolute 100% to both mediums of my work.
Q. How was it working with Zareen Khan?
A. Zareen is a very confident actor. A great girl to work with. Her Hindi, too, is very polished. So overall, it was a wonderful experience working with her.
Q. What kinds of films are you keen on trying your hand at?
A. I would love to experiment with various genres and roles overall. Trying out different genres and as many characters as I can, is what I am aiming for. So, post-Aksar2, I would like to work on something new, something different, another character which will challenge me to the fullest!
Q. Almost all television actors have been part of reality shows. Why have you chosen to keep away from those?
A. Somehow, I just don’t connect to reality shows in the form of a contestant. Hence I have stayed away from them. Besides the hosting bit of course, which I have done in the past.
Q. Apart from your acting prowess, you are also known for your fitness and your stand against using any form of steroids. What keeps you going?
A. That is what keeps me going the most! No steriods, no unhealthy habits, but everything organic for my body! I believe that eating right and working out all in balance, is what keeps the body going strong and helps you to be fit and healthy. It is the combination of 70% diet and 30% workout. It is always about eating right, and balancing it out with a good hardcore workout.
Q. People who have moved on from TV to films are reluctant to do TV serials again. Would you like to work on the small screen again?
A. Honestly, I am quite happy to be working in both mediums. No medium is big or small for me. Be it television or films, if the script is creatively satisfying and good, I will take up the project.
Q. Who all from the present lot of directors or actors would you want to work with?
A. I have favourites, but hands down, Rajkumar Hirani. He is an impeccable storyteller. I have loved his films and could watch it over and over again. I love his narration and his stories. There is a different, unique story that unfolds with every film and it stays with you. It’s a dream to work with him.
Q.What are your plans ahead?
A.There are a few things in the pipeline, but nothing officially planned as of now. I will soon begin working on a few other tentative things.