You are not new to playing eccentric criminals. How have you tried to take this performance to another level from earlier films?
As far as Raman Raghav is concerned, he is ruthless. He has his own philosophy and logic for committing murders. Before Raman Raghav 2.O, I played a criminal in Badlapur. Though the character was innocent, he was not correctly interpreted by some sections of the audience. He accidentally commits a murder and is convicted for it. It is not a negative character. He knows he has cancer, yet he remains so positive.
When did Anurag Kashyap talk to you about making a film on Raman Raghav?
Anurag mentioned it the first time when we were shooting for Gangs of Wasseypur. After Gangs…, he became very busy and so did I. This year, we got the time to work on the film. I shuffled my dates a bit and the shoot was completed in 22 days. To essay the role, I followed Anurag’s concept of the character. I also watched interviews of many psychopathic killers online.
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What kind of brainstorming did you have with Kashyap on the sets?
Anurag never tells me too much about the character. He corrects me only when he believes that I am doing something wrong. This is probably because I can read his mind. I have known him personally and professionally for very long, even before I acted in his film, Black Friday. The understanding that we share helps while working together. Interestingly, we rarely chat with each other. Even if we spend five hours together, all we would probably say to each other is, ‘Do you want a cigarette?’ Or ‘Do you have a matchbox?’
What is your plan for Cannes this time?
The last couple of times I was there, we didn’t give too many interviews. Instead, I would run off to attend movie screenings. This time, I have decided to take time off for media interactions. Raman Raghav 2.O is the eighth film of mine to be screened there. This time, Jas Arora, my co-actor in the Sohail-Khan-directed Ali, who also happens to be a Delhi-based designer, is taking care of my wardrobe.
Do you have any special memories of the Cannes festival?
In 2013, we had a midnight screening of Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout that got over around 1.30 am. There were people waiting for us outside and one lady said to me, ‘Today is my birthday and I want a photo with you as a memory’. I realised that it was my birthday, too. So, in front of the Grand Théâtre Lumière, we celebrated our birthday.
You are doing parallel and commercial movies with equal ease. How are you positioning yourself?
Previously, there might not have been many opportunities in the Hindi film industry for an actor to play different kinds of roles. I want to make optimum use of this time. I don’t want my work to be heavy. The challenge is to make it interesting and engaging keeping in mind the need for method acting. This is what I have learnt from Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra and from the Russian theatre legend Stanislavsky.
In Bajrangi Bhaijaan, some of your dialogues became very popular. Was that expected?
No, I did not expect it. I thought the speech towards the end, which my character records on video and posts online would become popular. The rhythm of the speech was very beautiful. I had given it a lot of attention. However, my dialogues like ‘Begum tum phir boli’ appealed to the masses more. All this is quite unpredictable.
For Ali, you have been practising golf at lot. Are you a professional now?
My back and shoulders are hurting from all the swinging I have do to play golf. Ali is the story of a lower middle-class golfer who becomes a champion. I find the game very interesting and would like to continue playing it regularly after the movie is wrapped up.
You share your birthday with your son Yaani, who turns one year old on May 19. Any plans for the day?
I am returning from Cannes that day. My wife wants to have a celebration, but we have not finalised the plan yet.