How has the response been so far for your new show, Kyun Utthey Dil Chhod Aaye?
The response has been amazing. I never thought… it’s unbelievable the kind of love I am getting as Randheer or #AmDheer because of my pairing with Gracy Goswami. Fans coin such terms for on-screen couples and we are called #AmDheer. Our on-screen jodi is in the fourth rank of most loved Indian jodis of television. So that is a big thing for me. It is going good.
You are portraying a retro look in the show. What kind of prep-up have you done?
I am mostly doing cardio. Our story is based in the 1940’s and in those days people wouldn’t be much of fitness enthusiasts. They would have learner bodies and no abs. So I am just concentrating on my cardio. However, I do have to take care of my moustache and see it doesn’t grow beyond what is required. It looks easy, but it is difficult to maintain. And I am maintaining this because it gives the feeling of being in my character – Randheer all the time. I also have to take care of my diction, language, tehzeeb and feel that era. It’s quite a lot of hard work.
On wearing hats in real life taking style inspiration from on-screen character
I had never worn those hats before. When I learnt from the stylists that this is going to be my look, I loved it. I started wearing them and roaming around in Mumbai. My friends loved my new look and I was happy.
Does it get difficult to carry on a period look for a TV show in the long run?
I am a method actor. When I get a character, I don’t see the platform. This is my personal choice. I was given an option to sport a fake moustache too but I thought of keep it real.
How does it feel to bounce back on track?
On a serious note, I have been through a lot and it was very difficult. Having said that, I was also very confident. I knew that it is a bad time and it shall pass. I never lost hope. I was on it. Before this, I wasn’t giving auditions because I was already fighting for 120 people. For me that was more important. I thought once I am free from the battle, I will concentrate on myself. I am really thankful to the makers for giving me this opportunity.
During the financial crisis, how did you overcome mental challenges?
You won’t believe I would be on the phone 24*7. I would constantly be in talks with my advocates, the crew members. They would call me and share their grievances. I would collaborate with the NGOs seeking financial aid. It was a tough time but I had faith in God. It’s all good now. It was a long battle for one and half year.
How did you maintain your composure and supported everyone?
I belong to a family, where had I not got my hard-earned money… I would have let it go. Even my parents told me to let it go and said, ‘God is watching them.’ But then my mom told me that I might be living it easy but what about those people who are dependent on that money and waiting for it to get it clear. It hit me hard. And I thought of fighting for it. We were just fighting for our money and sat on a silent protest. Even the producers were tied up but thankfully everything is sorted now. I would like to thank JD Majethia sir, Rashid bhai, Amit Sir from CINTAA and many others who helped us.
On Hamari Bahu Silk makers badmouthing him from bagging other projects
I got to know it through and I was shocked. I felt that if fighting for my own money is a wrong thing then I am working in a wrong industry. You make someone work for 8-9 months, 16-18 hours a day and then you say ‘We can’t pay,’ how would you feel? I can’t describe in words what I was feeling at that time. Whatever show I do, I work with a lot of diligence and promote it with all my heart. I will stop people midway and tell them to watch my show. While doing this show too, I will tell the guard or any random people while walking that ‘Please do watch my show.’ They might laugh at me but I think they might atleast watch it. I am that kind of a person. But let bygones be bygones.
Did this entire incident make you more cautious about projects you will be taking up in future?
Nobody harms anyone knowingly. There has to be a reason. They had their own limitations and then Covid-19 happened. The situation worsened then and everything happened all together. Situation went out of control. We didn’t think of what else to do. Industry people also supported us. Because of lockdown, people gave importance to this matter. Before that, the non-payment issue wasn’t highlighted.
How has life been now?
Mumbai has always been extra kind to me. I feel when you are true to you work and is passionate, hardworking be it any year or time – you will keep working.
What inspires you and keeps you down to earth?
When I was very young, I remember my father’s teaching. “When a tree bears fruits, it bends down and people can easily reach out to the tree. They eat fruits and feel happy. Had it not bent, the fruits will just fall.” This has stayed with me. No matter how much you succeed, always stay grounded. I share similar respect towards everyone on the sets. Slowly climb the stairs and enjoy the journey.
Who are you closest to and confide in?
I have many friends in the industry but I consider Sanjay Gagnani (of Kundali Bhagya fame) as my brother. His fiancé Poonam is also very close to me.
Have you faced rejections and how do you get over low phases in life?
I have faced many, many rejections. There have been times when at the last stage I lose out to some other boy. But I take it as if, ‘You don’t deserve me.’ I feel if you don’t feel like a hero from inside, how will you convince others that you are an actor. For me it is, ‘You are not taking me… it’s your loss.’
Your turning point in life.
My turning point was when I was doing my engineering and I decided to be an actor. No one in my family is connected to this industry. There have been some difficulties initially to convince the family but everybody is happy now. I think they are proud of me. It wasn’t easy but I convinced them badly to give me a chance, some months. You need to believe in your dreams and yourself.
Before making into showbiz, did you act in school or college?
Believe me, I never acted in school or college. I just did ‘Herogiri’. I was into sports and would be the captain. I was the centre of attraction and was hyped. That time I used to think, why don’t I have fans? From then I started weaving the dreams and thought of giving acting a shot.
From being centre of attraction to getting female attention, how does that feel?
Truly speaking, I quite enjoy it. When people like you for your work, look, your behaviour, it is a good feeling. I always feel like interacting with them. When someone likes you, it is a good thing. I remember, there was a girl who started shivering after seeing me. I got scared and thought she might not feel well. But it was a sweet moment.
What’s your relationship status and have you been through heartbreaks?
Currently, I am single and focusing on work. But I am full ‘Aashiq’ material. I feel everyone needs to go through that pain to realise your artistic call – It’s showtime.
First time when you faced camera
The first time I faced camera was in front of Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn (For Satyagraha, which was shot in Bhopal). That was the moment I realised, ‘Why can’t I be a hero?’ Maybe not of their level, but I am also a human and let’s just give it a try. I was not nervous at all. I have always been very confident. I got two dialogues and when Sir (Prakash Jha) asked if I was nervous, and I was like ‘No, not at all.’ The guy, who started his career in front of Amitabh Bachchan Sir, why wouldn’t he dream of becoming an actor. I came to Mumbai a year later.
Do you feel social media plays an important role in today’s time for an actor professionally?
I don’t do any collaborations and I don’t believe in it. I want to be an actor and want to move forward in life as an actor. All these things happen naturally, I don’t need to give extra efforts. When people like my work, I will automatically gain followers. But yes, I do have friends who create content for social media and always online. That’s their passion. I keep it genuine, real and raw.