Updated: January 17, 2022 9:02:13 am
Nine years ago, a 27-year-old Sidharth Malhotra appeared on our screens to the soulful tune of Kukkad Kamaal Da in his debut film Student Of The Year. Emanating charm and swag, he worked hard to convince us that he was playing a 17-year-old, who just wanted to earn the ‘Student Of The Year’ trophy. Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt also made their debuts with him in SOTY and over the course of the following decade, they established themselves firmly in the industry, while Sidharth’s journey was far from smooth.
This is not to say that he didn’t have successes — it’s just that they were few and far in between. His emotional range was not explored properly and he appeared to be grasping at straws, or he tried to recreate the success of his earlier films. Sometimes it was the choice of the film itself, for instance, the rather baffling Baar Baar Dekho, or the loud Marjaavan and the entirely forgettable Jabariya Jodi, where he and Parineeti Chopra tried to recreate their success of Hasee Toh Phasee. Even a hit like Kapoor & Sons couldn’t be entirely credited to him, as Fawad Khan, Alia Bhatt and Ratna Pathak Shah took the lead with exemplary acting. Sidharth’s role in the film was a complex and layered one — story of a son who had always felt slighted because of his over-achieving brother. However, Sidharth was unable to completely sink himself into the character, and the pent-up frustration and resentment bubbled slightly to the surface and faded away. As he struggled to find his place, the story of Captain Vikram Batra was brought to him. But that journey wasn’t easy either.
While he was being written off by certain quarters, Sidharth delved into the story of Captain Batra. Around five years ago, Vishal Batra, the late Captain Batra’s brother approached him with the producer Sabbir Boxxwala. In an interview to indianexpress.com, Sidharth opened up about how he was not satisfied with the script, as he felt it was an enormous responsibility to tell someone’s life story within just two hours. It became a passion project for Sidharth, and he delved freely into the life and personality of Captain Batra.
They worked on the script for one-and-a-half years, and many people came and left to work on the project. Finally, Sidharth took the film to Dharma Productions. “It was the longest that I’ve spent on any film, but it helped me get to know Captain Vikram Batra better, his family and friends,” he said. Sidharth was finally able to sink himself fully into a role, walk in the Captain Batra’s shoes, and this effort shone through. He spoke to Captain Batra’s comrades, and submerged himself in the actual footage, and how he was awed by the way the soldier led from the front. They trained for about a month with actual drills and with the army personnel training them basics – from holding weapons to maintaining army decorum.
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He also understood the emotional complexity of such a film, and it overwhelmed him at points. He told Indian Express, “It’s nerve-wracking to see that I might be doing my job as an actor, we might be making films but for that family, who’s letting us use their story, it’s not just a commercial film. It’s their family’s story, it’s their son and brother there. I remember when I was shooting in Palampur, I had met the family before, but it was the first time I visited their house. On the first floor they have a lovely museum of all his belongings, his clothes, camera or his diary, medals, it was very overwhelming.”
It was out of his comfort zone, but he was determined to pull through. Shooting for the film was gruelling too, as they filmed in the rough terrains of Kargil. However, Sidharth had no grievances, “We were just acting, it is nothing compared to what our soldiers go through while serving the nation at this height and on such a terrain. They do not have the option of a retake. My regard for the Indian Army went much higher,” he had told Forbes.
Shershaah faced an OTT release owing to the pandemic, something that Sidharth was unused to. Yet, his performance in the film received much praise and left many emotional, as he was able to capture the fiery patriotism of Captain Batra as well as his fun-loving side.
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