‘I Feel Glad I Didn’t Give Up’
Q. 2019 has been amazing year for you with the blockbuster success of Kabir Singh. Recently in an interview, you mentioned that there was a time when directors rejected you for films and now, you have a interesting line-up of films. How does it feel to finally get that validation in the industry?
A. It feels like finally, I am doing the kind of films that I am really excited to do. I am excited to go to work and learn. It’s making me more hungry to do better. It’s very motivating when directors from the industry call you up just to talk to you about your performance as they have dissected your work and brought out certain scenes which they really like. I was like, ‘wow’. When I was enacting those scenes, I was giving it my best shot but I didn’t realize that it had created such an impact. In creative field, sometimes people really enjoy the scene in many different ways. I don’t know what’s happening. (laughs). I just want to work now. I have had days where I have wanted to be busy working on a film set but I didn’t get those opportunities because I wasn’t signing films like I am today. I was waiting for these opportunities. It can make you feel a little low. I feel glad that I didn’t give up and went after my dream. Today, I am getting those roles.
For me, the moral of the story is never to give up. If you have talent, that’s one thing which nobody can take away from you. Work on your talent, hone on your craft and learn to be better. I keep doing that as and when I can.
Q. Your character Preeti in Kabir Singh was appreciated by the audience…
A. Some characters just stick with you and I felt that recently when I was in Chandigarh to launch a song from Good Newwz. At the song launch, Akshay Sir and I were there and when I walked on to the stage, everyone started chanting ‘Preeti, Preeti’. This happened with me for the first time. It’s amazing to be addressed as a character. There are still memes on Kabir and Preeti on everything else I am doing in life. I feel that they will also be there and it’s very special. That film is very special for me. It will always be. But now, the goal is to make each character that I play as memorable as this one. I hope people give that much love to other characters that I’ll be playing. Fingers crossed.
‘There Are Kabirs And Preetis Who Exist In This World’
Q. But the film also had its share of controversies for the portrayal of characters of Kabir Singh and Preeti. Do you think that you have a responsibility towards the society or is it that you want to enjoy playing the characters?
A. Everyone is being responsible, but how does Kabir Singh become an irresponsible film? I understand the debate over the differing viewpoints of scenes. It was great that it impacted people so much that it made it to prime time news debating over these things. But it was a bit shocking at first. You realize that certain films will have topics that make people debate, and that people have left the theatre still thinking about the film. That’s a huge thing for any filmmaker. I did not feel in any way that it was an irresponsible film. I looked at it as a flawed character. In no way was Kabir Singh a ‘hero’ for me. He was a flawed character, whose biggest weakness was his love for this girl which made him do all sort of things which led to his own downfall. As for Preeti, there are Kabirs and Preetis who exist in this world. We can’t deny it. But at the same time, this is a fictional story. People are discussing it as though we are telling everyone to be like Kabir or Preeti. Never. It’s the story about these two individuals and their lives. Watch it and just leave it there. But, whatever happened, happened.
As an actor and a person, I will have different views in terms of how someone behaves. I am very different from Preeti. It was very challenging for me to play a character. But when a story connects with you, and it is a beautiful story because it is so flawed and so imperfect. If I was in that situation as Kiara, I would have walked out and not given that person a second chance. Preeti does walk out. But I guess that’s what love makes you do at the end of it that you end up forgiving. People give marriages chance, they go through separations and come back. This happens. This is life. We are all human beings and we are all imperfect. We learn from our mistakes. Nobody is saying it is right or justified. The character Kabir Singh was responsible for his own downfall. Both are equally wrong. Even Preeti was wrong in many ways. Even she wacked him at the bus stop. That slap was such a big deal. Had he slapped her, that would have been an even bigger thing. What didn’t people pick up on that point? They thought to move on just because she’s a girl, so it’s okay. Of course not. Nobody should be violent.
As an actor, I had to really make myself believe that a character like this exists. I couldn’t judge those actions of hers because I had to play her. If at all I had the slightest inhibition while playing her and allowed my thoughts to come into that, you wouldn’t have believed in it as an audience. Then, we wouldn’t have got these reactions.
Q. Do you think the audience today is getting very critical about the entertainment quotient of a film?
A. Everyone is free to have an opinion. Today on social media, every single person is a critic and everyone wants to put their viewpoint out. It’s fine. But then, everything should be done in a limit. Beyond a point, me as an actor, I stop reading. Initially, I would read every single viewpoint. But now, I have realized that one needs to stop somewhere. Now with social media, every single person is just writing stuff left, right and centre. It’s fine; we have freedom of expression so you are allowed to say. But then, there are hundred other more important topics which should be written as well.
‘Cheez Badi Hai Mast Gave Me Karan Johar’s Lust Stories’
Q. The runaway of success has catapulted your career to a different league. But when a film like Machine bombed in 2016, did you ever doubt your calibre as an actor?
A. No. I was very well aware of what I was doing. During Machine, I wanted to work with Abbas Mastan. To be really honest with you, I was not getting any great opportunity for films and I really wanted to work. Here were two amazing directors who have given such iconic films and they were probably the best ones who had come to me at that point. The film itself was a little larger-than-life and unrealistic in certain sense. But then, they are the kind of directors who make such films. I believed that I would learn a lot from them. I genuinely feel that irrespective of the outcome of the film, I have learnt whatever I wanted to from the experience of working on that film as an actor. It’s always about the journey. The end result is always left to the audience.
Yes, I felt bad that it didn’t work at the box office. But, I really bring that work brings work. That film gave me the song ‘Cheez Badi Hai Mast’ and that song gave me Karan Johar’s Lust Stories. Everybody ask me what’s my turning point. Yes, there are some characters like the ones in Kabir Singh, Lust Stories which have been huge turning points professionally in my career. But personally and as an actor, every film that I do is a turning point for me.
There’s always an audience for certain kind of films. Machine may not have been appreciated in urban setup but when I visit places like Nashik and other small towns, they don’t know me because of my character in MS Dhoni. They know me because of Machine. They have loved that film. As an actor, you want to cater to everybody. I have worked in South films as well. If you bring me a Korean film, I will do that as well. (laughs)
Q. When a filmmaker like Karan Johar signs you for back-to-back projects, do you think in your head that you have finally arrived in the industry?
A. Not at all. I feel I still have a long way to go. But I do feel is that, it gives me the confidence that someone like him has put so much faith in me. To take risks, to take my challenging roles which are different from my personality and outside my comfort zone. It makes me little more confident to get into the skin of those characters. Right from Lust Stories, it was very challenging to take up a role like that. But the minute I know that Karan Johar was directing it and he has put that faith and belief that I could pull off that genre, it just gave me that confidence.
‘When People Don’t Expect Anything From You, There’s No Fear Of Losing Out’
Q. You have an interesting line-up of films in 2020. Do you think that there’s a pressure on you to perform?
A. I am excited for all the films. Right now, I am putting all my energy in Good Newwz. I think pressure comes from expectations. Now, there’s a certain expectation that people have from me. But, I don’t want to allow myself to be bogged down by that. When people don’t expect anything from you, there’s no fear of losing out. That’s what happened with me when I was doing Lust Stories. When I am doing a film, I am not thinking about the result. I don’t think about what’s going to happen. It’s only a week before the film that I start getting butterflies. Yes, there’s a pressure now. I want people to like my films. But, I am trying not to let the pressure take away the excitement and the fun. I am looking forward to how people will react to my upcoming films because each character is different from the other. I don’t know if they will accept me or not. I’m hoping that I will be able to prove my versatility.