You’ve been involved in a number of projects in the last year. What has re-energised you?
Career-wise, I was on a different path before mid-2014. Jal, which released that year, changed all that. I was extremely attached to the story and character I was playing; I fell in love with it. And that love built up a huge expectation around how it would be received. But Jal failed at the box office, though it was critically acclaimed. That shook me up. I felt that I was not ready. I had to pick up the pieces and force myself to move on.
So after Jal, you chose to pick up more mainstream projects?
Yes. Many films that I acted in after Rock On!! were critically acclaimed but not commercial successes. But as much as you might like a certain character or project, you have to make films and choose roles that appeal to people. If you put so much hard work into a film, it feels awful if only 10 people come to watch it.
Not many actors are as open about their failures.
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I talk about Jal all the time. It was the biggest learning experience of my life — it put me in my place. I could finally feel the ground. After Jal, I started to actively reach out to people and make an effort to be in movies I felt would do very well.
You seem to have succeeded. Airlift was a box office hit.
I actually had to arm twist Raja Krishna Menon, who, incidentally, was my first director. For a very long time he refused to even meet me. Many just see me as a yuppie Bandra boy they watched on Zee TV years ago. But the minute Menon saw me, he admitted he was wrong to have put me into a box, and that I looked the part.
Was Rock On 2 in the making at the time?
Yes, and I saw it as a cushion I could fall back on. I found comfort in the fact that the biggest movie of my life was getting a sequel. I knew it would be a hit, and that viewers would enjoy it.
How did you balance Rock On 2, and the TV series POW?
Sartaaj Singh in POW is a radically different character from KD in Rock On 2. Sartaaj is a prisoner of war who has been released after 17 years of torture. He’s terribly emaciated and suffers mental trauma. Honestly, though it was difficult to enter a completely opposite frame of mind, it always was a nice holiday to come back to KD after Sartaaj. KD is a fun, lovable character. He’s more mature in this sequel, and, working in the music industry, he’s finally found his groove.
You recently became a father. How has that been?
Inaya is the biggest gift I’ve ever received. It’s incredibly liberating to live for a reason other than yourself. I am no longer the centre of my universe. Before her, when someone would ask me to define myself, I would say actor, model or something on those lines. Now the first thing I say is ‘father’.