December 7, 2021 11:37:27 am
Bollywood actor Aayush Sharma made his debut with the film Loveyatri in 2018, where he played an ardent and romantic lover. Cut to 2021, the audience saw him as a hardened gangster in his second film, Antim: The Final Truth. In the film, he plays the role of Rahulya, a man who goes up against Salman Khan’s character Sartaj Singh, a righteous cop. In an interview to Indian Express, Aayush talks about his journey, the challenges that he has faced in Bollywood, his equation with Salman Khan and how his family reacted to the film.
Talking about his journey from Loveyatri to Antim, he says, “It has been fun. When I did my first film, I had to learn how to dance. I couldn’t dance to save my life. In the first film, the challenge was to learn how to play Garba. I am a North Indian, I am from Himachal, I’ve never been to a garba festival. I never thought I’ll be able to do it. So I had to learn and practise it, and that was my first experience of being in movies. I was 41 kilos when I moved to Bombay in 2009. To become an actor, I had to put on weight. So I reached 60 kilos, by the time I did Loveyatri.”
He added, “After Loveyatri, I got to know that this is the film I needed to be a part of — I knew it was a big platform. It has Salman Khan, it has Mahesh Manjrekar directing it. Antim was the biggest platform a one-movie old actor can ask for. So again the journey of putting on weight. As an actor, you need to justify your acting.”
It wasn’t such an easy task for him to be in a film opposite Salman Khan, who is also his brother-in-law. Did he feel intimidated? Aayush answers in the affirmative, “Yes, because he’s also my family member. The thing is an actor, you also love him as a star. I’m a fan myself. Here I am, as a fan, going loggerheads with him. I know he has superstardom. So I had to change the way I speak, put on this kind of muscle. On the other hand, despite doing all this, when he is on the sets, nobody sees anything else. The thought that runs through my head at the time is I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold my own.”
Aayush says that Antim was a sort of experiment for Salman as well. “He decided to do this film. He knew this was not a typical Salman Khan film, and he knew this would be riding on Rahulya — his story is what we are presenting to the people. He was very certain about the fact that this is the right role for me. But, it is an experiment for him as well. We don’t know if audience will be able to accept him, without a love interest, or so much dancing in the film.”
There was a different kind of synergy required for this film, and Aayush realised that a lot of the burden was on his shoulders. “When we set out to do this film, we didn’t know what the outcome would be. If the film was mounted on Rahulya’s journey, I have to prove myself. If Salman bhai is there in the film and he’s supporting a film like this, and if Rahulya only doesn’t keep the audience engaged, so will the film survive?”
Aayush’s Rahulya is a far cry from the besotted lover in Loveyatri. How did he prepare to get into such a dark mindset? Aayush explains, “When I understood the character, I knew there was a dark side to it. In the first few weeks, I was preparing to be the villain. At first, I couldn’t understand what the problem was. Then, there was an exercise I did. I broke a glass intentionally, and I got disturbed by that. And then I kept breaking the glasses, till I started enjoying it, the madness of doing it for no reason. Humans want to be liked. Here is a character who doesn’t believe in what people say. I have to let go of judging my character — this boy wanted to rule and that is what his intentions were. I will not judge him. I am coming to tell people my story, it’s for them to decide whether this is a villain or not.”
Asked if he ever approached Salman Khan for guidance, he says, “I brought it to his notice, and asked him if he could help me. He said, ‘Help yourself.’ Early in my life he told me, ‘I can only give you the chance of coming on camera. What you do, that is between you and the audience’. That’s his firm belief. He would always tell me, I would give you the weapons to fight a war. I cannot fight the war for you. When I said that it was a difficult character, he just told me one thing, ‘Listen, I don’t want another Salman on screen. I am also an actor. People need to see you, and connect with Aayush.'”
How did his wife Arpita Khan react to seeing him play such a cold-blooded person on screen, opposite her own brother, no less? Aayush says, “My wife was very emotional, when she saw the film. When I was starting the film, she called me and said, ‘I am 32, and all my life, I’ve always prayed for my brother that he outshines everyone in his films. But this is the first time that I am praying that you outshine him. She said, ‘I am fighting the biggest battle, because my two most favourite people are going to be in the same frame, and I cannot watch them fight.'”
Arpita also gave him some difficult advice. “She also told me, ‘This is an opportunity. He is one of the biggest superstars in the country, and this platform you can never get again. If this time around, just know that it’s a do-or-die opportunity. If you mess this up, there’s no coming back. You will never be redeemed.'”
On reacting to claims of aping Salman Khan and the usual nepotism shadow that hangs over Bollywood like a sword, Aayush remains calm. He says, “When people tell me, ‘you are who you are, because of Salman Khan’, I don’t deny it. They think they’re trolling me, but it’s a fact. I can’t be upset about it. I have not done anything till now, that I can say no, ‘you know me for something else.’ I am under a big banyan tree — it gives me shelter, but takes the sun away. The only way I can reply is with my work. If I go on a social media rant, it’s wrong. Only work is the answer.”
Aayush remains nonchalant about trolls and hateful comments on social media. He says, “People pay too much attention to negativity. The actors themselves should stop reading such comments. If you don’t like me, why are you wasting your time on me?”
Despite Antim being a rather dark and grim film, there was much fun on the sets. Aayush recalls a prank he played on Mahima Makwana, who plays his lover Manda on the show. He explains, “We were supposed to do the song, Hone Laga, and while we had to do the intimate moments, as my hand was fractured that day, I said okay, Mahima can continue shooting with a body double. She was already paranoid, as it was her first Bollywood film. I behaved as if my body double was going to come, and she was already so jittery. She was stressed, so I made things more awkward and ran away. When I heard she was crying, I came back and said, no, no, I’m going to do it myself. She said, ‘You are so irritating!’ and she had tears rolling down her eyes.”
Antim: The Final Truth, has been directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. It released in cinemas on November 25.
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