Raazi is a film where the central protagonist is a woman. What was your take on it?
It’s the journey of Sehmat, a girl from Kashmir who has to become a spy. She is not the typical Lara Croft or James Bond, who knows everything and who is just perfect; she is very vulnerable. She is learning on the job and yet she has got one of the biggest responsibilities. So, of course, it’s her story but when I read the script, it filled me with this feeling of gratitude towards these unknown legends who live in anonymity to safeguard their own countrymen — whom they don’t know, whom they are not related to. And we don’t know anything about them. I felt that if I am getting an opportunity to be a part of this film in any capacity, I would love to.
Your father was an action director who has done great work. How was it while growing up for you? Was joining the film industry the first thing that came to your mind?
Never consciously. Subconsciously, there was always an actor inside me. But while growing up, it was a very normal childhood because my dad never got films to the dining table and never discussed films. Me and my brother Sunny never had the enthusiasm of visiting a film set or going to a screening or attending parties and meeting actors. My friends at school used to ask me, ‘Tu iss hero se mila hai? Tu uss hero se mila hai kya?’ And I would say. ‘No, I haven’t met them’. They used to be very disappointed. I am glad that’s how our upbringing was. But we were never glittery-eyed about Bollywood. But I was really fond of cricket, watching movies and being on stage. Be it in school, society or college, I just wanted to be on stage and used to love performing.
Which was your first fan moment, when somebody came up to you and asked you for an autograph or a selfie?
It happened at the Cannes Film Festival a few years ago. I went there for Masaan, which was being screened. One doesn’t expect someone coming up to you in France. But there was this Englishman who walked up to me while we were having dinner, and started discussing the film at length. He started crying, held my hand and said that it was just very special. He clicked a picture. That was the first time I felt like speaking to an unknown person, because he had seen my work and was talking to me.
One hears that you are a very sincere actor and person. Do you ever feel taken for granted because of that or is that your strength?
I have never felt that I am being taken for granted. I have only received love. On a film set, it’s important to be good at your work, but it’s also important to be a compassionate and understanding human being. Because it’s a luxury to be an actor. There is a team of 200-300 people working through the day and night, so that you, as an actor, can get those 10 seconds in front of the camera, for that moment when you can emote with complete honesty. People come at 4 am and set up the lights, and then there are the spot boys. There are light men working for you, only so that when the director says action, there’s correct light on your face. It’s a privilege and the least you can do is make sure that the people on the sets are happy.