Did you always want to act?
No, the thought of acting came later on. I was more into sports, gymnastics and martial arts. I was never really academically inclined. I’m a visual learner. If I look at something I can mimic it. I grew up watching Michael Jackson (MJ). According to me, he is the King of entertainment. I took up dancing because I wanted to dance like MJ. While growing up, MJ and Bruce Lee were my inspiration. After I finished school, I was really lost and didn’t know what to do next. By this time I had started getting film offers and one day something just clicked in my head. I thought if I could show off my skills in a film then it would be great. That’s pretty much how I ended up acting.
How did you tell your parents about your intention to act?
I don’t think we had a real conversation about it. I told my mother who is my closest friend, my biggest critic and my biggest support. My dad usually keeps busy with his work and travel, so it had to be mom.
What was your dad’s reaction? Did he offer you any pearls of wisdom?
Dad told me, “bolna kam, sunna zyaada”. Mom just said, be happy and have fun. I think I surprised my parents. They didn’t visit me on the sets of Heropanti even once. They didn’t see a single shot. The first time they saw me on screen was when the media saw me at the trailer launch. They were quite surprised. They would keep saying, “Tu aise baat karta hai? Tu aise dance karta hai?” They had no idea what I was doing, but once they saw the trailer, they were reassured.
I remember reading it in film magazines that filmmaker Subhash Ghai sent a cheque of Rs 21,000 to your father when you were born as a signing amount for you. Is it a true story?
Yes. So I’ve been told. Apparently when I was born, he saw me and said, “That’s my hero”. So yes, in a way he did sign me. In fact, I met him early on when talks of remaking Hero were ongoing, but nothing materialised.
Every young hero wants to debut in a love story but how have you made your loverboy in Heropanti different from the rest?
The character I play is exactly what my father is in real life — he’s full of positivity, loves himself, loves his family and friends and has a strong sense of right or wrong. He’s the kind of a person who would do anything for his friends. The film is about what happens to such a guy when he meets the girl. That’s when he realises what true Heropanti is.
Tell me about your name, Tiger. It’s literally your pet name, right? Was there ever a debate about the name you will debut with?
My full name is Jai continued…