After playing the boy-next-door in a bunch of movies, how excited were you to be part of the upcoming thriller Andhadhun?
Andhadhun will break the mould for me. That’s the reason I always wanted to work with Sriram Raghavan, who is known for his crime thrillers. This role was very demanding. I didn’t know how to play the piano. It was a new craft. Since I was playing a blind pianist, I could not see the keys. We had an intensive session with the piano teacher Akshay Verma, who is from Los Angeles and is now based in Mumbai. He was present on the sets all the time.
Being a musician, was it easier for you to learn the piano?
Being a musician, it was relatively easy. I know how to play the guitar and have a sense of music. So, I picked it up faster. We did not use any body double. It is all me. To play the blind man, I did not take any reference from any movie. Instead, I observed visually impaired people at the Worli school (Happy Home and School for the Blind). I also studied a blind pianist in Mumbai. These reference points were very organic. By the time I was on the sets, I was ready to play my piece on the piano. Since Akshay was always around to guide me, it was a huge help. I had a lot of fun.
For Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) and other movies, I had reference points. I know a certain Chirag Dubey or Prem Prakash Tiwari. However, I had never interacted with a blind musician before. This required a lot more research. I don’t watch a lot of movies. I watch theatre, read books and observe life.
Why was it crucial for you to break the mould?
For the last six years, I have done slice-of-life movies. What better way to change that image than work with the master of thrillers. You want to break the mould every now and then because otherwise you will be exhausted as an actor. I have a lot to show as an actor and I will take my own sweet time for that. Sriram has gone for anti-casting with Saif Ali Khan (in Ek Haseena Thi) and Varun Dhawan (Badlapur). I’m glad this time I’m there.
As an actor, how do you wish to position yourself?
I want to give this promise to the audience that whatever I do will be interesting. I want to evolve with my performances. Consistency is really important. Having said that I generally don’t try too hard. I go with my gut feeling. The story should excite me as a viewer. Then comes my character. Many actors wish to portray themselves in a different way than their previous outings. It’s important to understand that they wish to see themselves in an interesting story in totality. That’s the way to go about it. However, everyone has their own method. How to present yourself in a different milieu is the real challenge. This time, in Andhadhun, my character and my situation are different. With Badhaai Ho, I will be back to my ‘staple’ zone.
You had shot for Manmarziyan till it was stalled and later the cast was changed. Any regrets?
We shot for 10 days. However, the director and the producer were not on the same page. Later, I got busy with Bareily Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, while my co-actor Bhumi Pednekar got busy with Shubh Mangal… and Toilet Ek Prem Katha (2017). So, they had to cast new actors. These movies worked for us. So, there is no regret.
You dabble with writing. Do you see yourself writing a script or directing?
I would love to write a script, for sure. I write poetry and songs. But writing a script needs a lot of time and discipline. One has to devote at least three months to write a script. As an actor and singer, I right now don’t have the required mindspace to write a script.
Do you get to spend time with your son and daughter?
I don’t get much time. So, when I am with them, I cherish those moments. They don’t travel with me. However, when I shoot outdoors, they visit me.
How much time are you able to devote to music these days?
I am regular with my concerts. I have my own band. Both music and acting are going on well parallelly. Yet, acting in movies remains my priority. Acting is going to keep me busy in the near future. I will make some announcements regarding this soon.