From Ishaqzaade, in which you play the defiant and rebellious Parma, to Gunday, and now Tevar, in which you also appear to be a rebel. Are you fast being identified as the angry young man?
Actually, it’s a tag that the media has coined. I have never looked at myself in this way. There is angst and anger in all the characters, something which all the actors have played in their films at some point of time. Only the manner in which it is depicted is different. Rebellion could be shown as violence in some films, and in others it could be screaming and shouting. In Tevar you cannot call my character the angry young man because he’s a very lovable character and not a guy who picks on people and beats them. He’s just reacting to a situation that happens.
What kind of response are you getting to the film’s trailer and songs?
So far, the response to the music and the trailer has been positive. I am very excited and I really hope we fulfill people’s expectations.
In Ishaqzaade, you had mentioned how you had to transform from an urban boy to a rustic character. What was particularly challenging about Tevar?
I had to learn to play kabaddi, and it was actually nice to discover a sport. More than that, I completely relied on Amit Sharma, the director. I made sure that I was always available for him. This might be his first feature film, but he has made 500 plus ads, so he’s very experienced in that sense. He’s very sorted and even though he is an ad film-maker it was not all about style for him whe he nade Tevar. He cared about the subject.
It is the first time that you have worked with your dad, Boney Kapoor. He is known to be a very indulgent and generous producer.
Yes, he’s a flamboyant producer, something that he is synonymous with. I am very happy that I worked with him at the right time in my career where he can enjoy being flamboyant, elevate the film and produce it in his own style without being worried about the budget of the film.
How involved was he with Tevar?
Dad is a creative producer, he understands what the director wants. He was involved from the word go, from selecting the Telugu film Okkadu to be adapted into Hindi to finding Amit, to hunting for locations, to the music; he has done everything he possibly could to make the film better. And he has really enjoyed it. In fact, Sanjay (Sanjay Kapoor) and dad were both there throughout the shooting to make sure that it went off well. I am lucky to have people who are so passionate about their work.
Have you seen the original Okkadu and if so, were you influenced by it in any way?
I have seen the original. But I didn’t see it as a reference for my performance, only for the story. Tevar has been adapted for a more universal audience, so the changes are done keeping in mind their sensibilities. The original was made in 2003, so certain characters have been altered keeping in mind the changing audience taste. For instance, Bhoomika Chawla the actress who played Sonakshi’s role in the original was a very subdued and quiet girl. In Tevar, Sonakshi’s character is very fond of dancing, goes to college and is not scared of anyone … till something happens. Even the different shades and perspective that Manoj Bajpayee brings to his character are different. My character, Pinto is also sweeter and more lovable than the original.
How would you describe Sonakshi as a co-star?
Sonakshi is a fantastic co-star. She surprised me constantly with her dedication, professionalism, energy and more importantly by the effortless way in which she played out her role.
You play a kabaddi player in the film, a sport youngsters today are not very familiar with. But the recent Kabaddi Leagues have put the spotlight back on the game. Will that help the film?
Ironically the Leagues have started at the same time. So, somewhere that has obviously added to the recollect value about the sport. Today’s youngsters would not know much about kabaddi, but now they will, which is nice. Though we made sure that we represented the sport correctly in the film, the Leagues have made our job simpler, so the youngsters will enjoy the film a little bit more because of that.
Does the sport have any importance in the film, and how was the training?
There is a proper sequence in the film to justify why Pinto is so fond of kabaddi and why he is a kabbadi player. I trained for two weeks in a pitch in a garden outside dad’s office. Spending time with the players gave me an idea about their personality and how passionate they are about the sport. The idea of wearing the track pant and sneakers in the film came from them. The players are always attired in them so that they are ready to go for practise any time!
What, according to you, is the USP of the film?
It’s got all the ingredients that a Hindi film audience looks for, and it has got its heart in the right place too. It’s not just a masala entertainer, Tevar has emotions too.
Any memorable part of the shoot which will always stay with you?
The most memorable part was to shoot with my father. It was the first time that I was working with him, so the film will always be important and memorable for me.
I don’t think we should encourage this conversation about competition because it is not a rat race that we are participating in. As actors, we should just do good films and the more there are, the better will be the quality of films, plus there will be healthier work happening. It is important to have more faces around, to represent the audience sensibilities and eventually we all find a place where we deserve to be.
Do you think because of the social media, the mystique of stars is slowly fading?
Yes, to a great degree. Today’s world is one of complete accessibility and everyone knows where we are, what we are doing and how we are going about it. There was a time when stars were scarcely seen in public except if they had meetings etc. But today, people don’t expect us to be larger-than-life. They expect us to be regular people, like one of them and that’s why they appreciate us. Five years ago, this kind of accessibility was not there, but today taking into consideration the marketing and publicity, we have to be constantly on public platforms.
You were behind the camera before you became an actor. Is there any film that you would like to direct?
I think a lot of films inspire you because they have been directed in a certain way. Company, and I think Lagaan would be a film that was an achievement. If I had to select one film, I guess it would be Rang De Basanti. When I saw the film, I heard a voice in my head saying, I wish I had directed it.
Did you ever think that you would reach where you have today?
I did want to direct films and be part of this industry, but I had never imagined, that it would happen in this way. At present, I am a work-in-progress actor. I have to broaden my horizons and experience life; use that in the work I do and the choices that I make.
You are five films old. But is there any role from your films which has impacted you ?
While shooting Ishaqzaade, I realised that I had never experienced a small town life. It opened my eyes to a dimension in the country that I had heard of, seen through my films, but never lived it. I then understood how different elements make up a huge country like India. I was not known during that time and it allowed me to soak in a lot of experiences of being away from home.
What’s happening with Chetan Bhagat’s novel Revolution 20 20 which was to be helmed by Rajkumar Gupta? Are you still part of the film?
I was offered the film by UTV, but before any concrete decision could be taken, the rights were taken back by Chetan. I don’t think there is a film at this point. And I have not signed any film right now, I am just just waiting patiently to sign something that excites me. Let’s wait and see.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given which you cherish?
I guess it is just to work hard and make the best of the opportunity I have got to become an actor. I was told by everyone before I started out that I was very lucky to be in this position— and this is what has remained in my conscience all the time. At times, when you feel that the profession is being unkind to you, I remember that. It makes me work harder, because there are a billion people out there who would like to be in my position.
Are you the kind of actor who likes to watch himself on screen?
I am pretty self deprecating, because you shoot a film in January and you may see it a year later. You have enough time to dwell over things ,and so whenever you see the film you feel you could have played out a scene in another way. Acting is one of those professions where you learn what you are capable of and try and find aspects that need improvement.
Have you seen Tevar ?
Not yet. Only in bits and pieces.
An actor’s life can be quite stressful. How do you rewind?
If there is time, I watch a TV show or a film. I try to watch all the American shows and enjoy House Of Cards and Modern Family. Even though going to theaters to watch a film has become inconvenient with people always wanting to photograph you, I wouldn’t like to alter that aspect in my life.
Recently you and Ranveer Singh came together for AIB’s knee insult comedy in which you were ‘roasted’ ? How was the experience?
It is difficult to explain at this point of time, and I don’t think I can have a conversation about it right now as it’s too early to explain. It has to be seen to be understood. The idea was to do something for charity which would make it entertaining for people and to generate money by doing something nice. We have done it for the right reasons.
Does stand -up comedy come easily to you?
Actually, we didn’t do any stand-up comedy, the comedians were the ones who made all the jokes. You will get a sense when you see it.