How did films happen to you?
I just kind of fell into it actually. I was always interested in theatre. I was a very shy boy, and my teachers recommended me to go out and do something rather than sitting and reading. I started doing theatre when I was about nine. I just kept at it. It became a very interesting and warm way to meet people.
You always meet the nicest people in theatre productions. You spend so much time together that everyone becomes friends. It’s a nicer and more intelligent way to make friends, than just hanging out.
Was it difficult getting into films?
Not very difficult really, but you just have to try and find your own space. You know it’s not always easy and you are trying to be unique, you are trying to do your own thing and trying to show who you are, and not trying to fit into the pre-determined role that everyone seems to prefer you in. That gets a bit annoying.
Did you always want to get into Bollywood?
I just wanted to be in the industry. In any country that I could; no geographic preferences. I was in London for a while and was acting there when I realized that there were visa issues and it is not easy for an artist to be able to sustain a work permit, so it made more sense to come home. I knew there were some wonderful films happening in India. There is Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra, Vishal Bhardwaj, so many talented people making all sorts of movies.
There was thus a realisation that there is place for me here. I could make my own way. I wouldn’t have to become anybody’s clone.
So is it hard work or good genes that have gone into that supremely enviable physique?
I think largely just the genes. I mean I work hard but I’m not gym obsessed. You can’t get a pair of shoulders, you either have a pair of shoulders or you don’t. Gymming doesn’t make you 6’4”; you are either that tall or you are not.
Do you workout then?
I do a lot of yoga, and I workout now and then. I keep it in cycles.
What do health and fitness mean to you?
It would be peace of mind and self confidence more than anything else. Also, I think a person who exercises regularly, plays sports or is just active and has a healthier, happier life is fit. It’s about feeling better about yourself, looking better, feeling healthier, so you are able to do more because of it. I am not really a stay-at-home kind of guy. I like going out, I like travelling, so it helps. Health and fitness is basically the ability to go about doing anything and not have to restrain yourself from anything.
Do you have a daily fitness and exercise regime?
I do yoga, I run and do weights. I do one or the other on alternate days.
Are you the eat-anything kind of guy or is there a particular diet you follow?
Well, it depends on whether I am hungry or not. Luckily the things that I like to eat are the ones that are good for you anyway. Though I have a dreadful fascination for chocolates. I believe that if any diet advises me against chocolate, then the diet is not quite right. I am not very careful; I do tend to be slightly healthier though. It’s better to not eat all sorts of things as it’s not good for your cholesterol and heart, and not to mention, the abs. I think long-term.
Your arms really stand out. What did you do to make them grow this big?
The usual stuff. I don’t do anything spectacularly unique. It’s not some secret I hold... Like I secretly eat the hooves of cows or something like that! I’m just large, so they look larger. I’m sure there are people who are much stronger.
So in your case, are we to conclude that it’s just good genes...
Good genes, certainly. But yes, if everybody works at it, to the limit their body can take, they will see the difference. You can’t change your body type. You can’t suddenly become a different person. Whatever your body type is, you can get look good and get healthy as can be. I think the trouble people have with self image is that they think that anybody can look like anybody, but it’s not true. You know there are many people with lovely lean bodies, they look like long distance runners... I can never look like that. I may get lean, but I’m still very large.
All actors work towards a good physique. You think it’s important for an actor to have a great body, even if the role doesn’t demand it?
No. That is thinking about it the wrong way around. One must think of the role first and body second. I think that actors need to be healthy, so excessive drinking, smoking or anything that may affect the body in the long run isn’t good. The immediate concern is the role you are playing and how you will play it.
It’s always better to have a nice body since it’s a visual medium. The leading men need to really look good all the time. So if you look nice on screen it’s a good thing, nothing wrong with it. So there is nothing wrong with people who work out all time. One should not end up feeling too inadequate. It is a good idea to believe one is perfect just the way he/she is. Don’t worry about it too much.
What are your upcoming projects?
I did a film called ‘Ek Bura Admi’ which I was very happy to do. The film is about local UP politics. Yashpal Sharma, Raghuveer Yadav, Kitu Gidwani and I – very interesting cast, very interesting story. We are just wrapping up work on that, the dubbing, packaging and editing, and then we’ll start marketing it and hopefully people will like it.
How do you usually prepare for your role when you go for auditions? What is it that runs through your mind?
I just stay calm, have a cup of coffee and relax. There is nothing to worry about. There is nothing that cannot be done. If you are meant to get the role, you are going to get it. The calmer you go in, the better it is going to be. Either way, you stay calm, whatever the circumstance. I think it’s better to maintain equilibrium than anything else. Acting on any given day can be better or worse.
What advice would you give to people who want to get into the industry, particularly newcomers without a godfather around there?
Think long and hard. Make sure this is what you want to do. Make sure you do it for the right reasons. If you want to be famous or do it for other superficial reasons, then be prepared, because it’s not easy, and if you don’t love the job, don’t love the acting then you are going to get your heart broken. Be sure that you want to act. It’s very lonely, and lot of effort is required. I wish everyone the best. Hopefully everyone can see themselves up on the screen one day. Just be prepared. Don’t come in with wrong assumptions or the wrong kind of pride or self image.