Your debut film, ‘Makdee’ completed 20 glorious years. How does it feel?
It’s a wonderful, nostalgic feeling. I can’t really believe 20 years have passed. The camera loves me, and I love this industry. This industry has so much to give. It is a lie when people say outsiders don’t get work and the industry doesn’t appreciate talent. It is bullshit! I am here. I am an outsider. I have literally grown up in this industry, and let me tell you, it only encourages good talent. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have so many people working today. I don’t know any actor or technician who is sitting without work today. It is a very fair industry. Don’t mind me saying this, but the media has made a very weird generalisation about this industry. There are good directors and producers who give work to good actors.
There are also actors who are delusional. They make themselves bigger than the art. I am very grateful that I have worked with good people who have had a profound impact on me. There is Vishal Bhardwaj,, ji or even Gulzar sahab. I feel very lucky, and I am thankful to my parents that they chose those films for me. I have had interactions with some of the greatest legends of the industry at a very early age in my life, and it has shaped my mind, my way of working, and my professional attitude. Today, I feel like an artist. I am an audience member more than anything else. It is a lovely industry, and it is my home.
What inspires you to take up a role or choose a film?
For me, I am an audience first. The choice that I make is always from the audience’s point of view. I don’t want to cheat my audience. When I hear the excitement in your voice when I remember the film ‘Makdee’ that is because you loved the film, and by extension, you have loved me. For that, it is very important that I don’t cheat my audience and that I don’t cheat myself. Metaphorically, if I get offers for about 10 films a year, I say no to most of them. I am very selective about my work. As they say, cinema reflects society, and as an actor, it is my responsibility to take on projects that would empower somebody who is watching them. I don’t care who the director is, what platform it is for, or which big stars are working in it. If it is something I don’t want to watch, I will not do it. It is as simple as that. That is, at least, the intention. How the project turns out and what happens after that is something that depends on fate.
I recently attended IFFI in Goa, where I attended workshops. I watched four films a day. I was a cinema student. I interacted with a lot of cinema enthusiasts there. I attended the editing workshop of A Sreekar Prasad, who edited ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. It was absolutely wonderful. For me, my cinema, my art, is bigger than who I am, and it will always be that way.
What, according to you, is the best and worst part of being a celebrity?
I don’t even know if I am a celebrity. I am just an actor. But yes, being popular validates your hard work. People recognise you and talk about your performances and movies. It feels good. There is no worst part about it.
Have you ever experienced a fangirl moment?
I had a “fangirl” moment with Pakistani Ghazal singer Ghulam Ali Sahab when I attended his concert recently. I went to Shanmukhanand Hall, and I met him there. I started crying when I met him because I love his ghazals. Another fangirl moment I had was with AR Rahman.
When I metsahab, I had a huge fangirl moment. I first met him about 7 to 8 years ago. I have been a huge fan of his. When I was making a documentary on classical music, I asked him to dub it for me. He had done a voiceover for the teaser, but I couldn’t use it in my documentary. But I remember meeting him. Whether it is ‘Aakrosh’, ‘Mandi’ or ‘Sparsh’, he has given us so many memorable films. I just loved him.