You have bagged a National Award just a few days before the release of Aatma. Do you think it will help the prospect of the film?
It will have a positive impact. Koi kamaal ho jaaye, bas. Director Suparn Verma has made a brilliant film.
Did you expect to bag the National Award?
No. I was not even aware that my films had been entered for the National Awards. Because it was unexpected, I am happier. I would like to dedicate it to the directors who implicitly trusted my talent when I was a nobody: Anurag Kashyap, Reema Kagti and Sujoy Ghosh. I value this award because my career started off with 50-second roles before I graduated to 10-minute roles -- my onscreen time has been increasing day by day. If you are dedicated, hard working and passionate about cinema, it pays off. The results may be delayed but not denied.
Now, in Aatma, you play a ghost -- a first for you.
For this film too, I took a realistic approach. The scenes in this film are performance-oriented, and don’t rely on an over-the-top ambience as is generally witnessed in horror flicks.
Like your onscreen character, you have a daughter in real life too. What is your bond with her like?
My daughter, Shora, is just two years old. I feel bad that I don’t get to spend much time with her. When my wife was expecting, I prayed to God for a daughter. I had already decided her name too.
Bipasha Basu says she shares a cute relationship with you in which she talks and you listen. Were you short of words or chose to stay mum?
Bipasha always had interesting things to talk about. I take some time to open up with anyone. But after a week of the shooting schedule, I began talking too. The best thing about Bipasha is that she has surrendered herself completely as an actress. Bipasha’s performance in Aatma is her best.
Are you scared of death?
I am scared of death, but death is the biggest reality.
You now maintain that you want to do only lead roles. But do you fear that you will only get unconventional lead roles like Aatma and you will have to be content doing fewer films?
An actor has to explore different genres. I won’t be doing conventional lead roles. If I do the same thing over and over again, I might just get bored and leave films. Also, I can’t keep doing the same roles as stars do. There’s a lot of scope in unconventional roles. You are forced to think and then act unlike conventional roles where one’s body language, dialogues and look is fixed.
You have been in the industry for 12 years. Are you happy or do you look back in anger?
I am happy. At the end of the day, I have got everything that an artiste is constantly searching for. I have got recognition and awards. A lot of people take the conventional route to become a star. But I have gone by my instinct while choosing films. Often, I was dejected when things didn’t go as expected. For a large part of my career, I did any role that was offered to me. I have even stood in the crowd for work. I was out of work for three years! Even after Black Friday happened, it was again followed by a break. There was so much rejection that I became immune.
What was the first materialistic thing you procured after becoming successful?
I didn’t have many dreams. I worked as a security guard at a toy-making factory for almost two years. When I got paid for doing street plays, I went to the Sunday bazaar in Delhi and bought a couple of T-shirts and pants. I have a habit of misplacing my glasses, so I wear glasses worth Rs 250, though people expect me to buy expensive ones.
With all the recognition and fame, have the people around you, your family and friends, changed?
No. I have the same set of friends, joh abhi bhi gaaliyon se baat karte hain (laughs). My parents are happy, but they haven’t changed. Biwi toh kal bhi pareshan karti thi, aaj bhi pareshan karti hai.
Bollywood News Service