There’s a fair bit about Bollywood that bothers actor Sahil Salathia, but he loves acting and his audience with a passion. In an exclusive interview with The Man, the versatile actor bares his heart on what he loves doing the most.
The small screen is now the new big screen. Is that good news for actors in terms of opportunities and challenges?
Content is always king for me. Be it any medium, the quality of storytelling is what any actor must always focus on. I agreed to do P.O.W. Bandi Yuddh Ke and Everest for the small screen because of the filmmakers. Nikkhil Advani and Ashutosh Gowariker are living legends when it comes to the art of storytelling. Now, with platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and so many others coming to India, there is more quality work for everybody. It brings more opportunities, but unfortunately there is a challenge here already. The only content we seem to be creating at the moment are dark stories based out of India’s towns and villages, most of them peppered with cuss words and abusive language. Suddenly, everybody seems to be consumed with domestic violence; throw in a little bit of sex, and you think you’ll get all the eyeballs. I hope we start creating quality content, irrespective of the platform, soon. I did Hasmukh on Netflix recently, and it was fun. I am waiting for more path-breaking stories and characters to come alive!
After Panipat, what projects have you been working on?
I was to begin filming for a web show in April but, thanks to the pandemic, it has been delayed now. It’s a part I am stoked about, but can’t reveal much about it before an official announcement.
Does modelling help you prepare for a film role?
I think my career as a model has worked against me most of the time! It is an actor’s job to transform from one person to another… but here actors are mostly cast for exactly what they look like. History is proof that most supermodels are really bad actors. I feel modelling doesn’t help you in being an actor at all.
Acting is all in the eyes and your voice. I like to look and feel and behave like a new person every time I am on screen. I am a trained actor from the Barry John Acting Studio and I know the tricks of my craft. You will never see Sahil on screen — you will see an Arjun from Ashutosh Gowariker’s Everest or a Shamsher Bahadur from Panipat. Going from supermodel to actor is not the natural progression anymore, nor should it be. I have done a lot of independent films, partly because they satisfied me creatively, but also due to a lack of opportunities, since I am an outsider to the business or family of Bollywood. Today, if people like my work, it is because I have invested my soul into it. I am a very creative soul, so modelling did not excite me as much as the prospect of living somebody else’s life as an actor.
What got you into modelling and then acting?
I was an engineering student at UIET, Chandigarh. If you are doing engineering just to fulfil your parent’s dream of having an engineer for a son, it does get boring and monotonous after a point. To add a little excitement to my life, I took part in a Kingfisher Model Hunt contest while I was still in college and won. By God’s grace, there has been no looking back. Having my face plastered on billboards was a high back then. Now I have different dreams. Acting happened because of the several television commercials I did as a model. Casting director Nalini Rathnam called me to test for Everest and once Ashutosh sir signed me on, my acting journey began.
You’ve played both the boy-next-door and a villain. Does playing the antagonist brand you for future projects?
Both roles came with their own challenges and both were fulfilling. I see actors playing the same parts again and again, which kills the purpose of being an actor. I don’t think your role selection brands you anymore, unless you play a single tone character all the time. That brands you as a mediocre actor (laughs)! I hope to keep exploring varied roles. Look at Priyanka Chopra, who played an antagonist in Aitraaz back in the day — it could easily be one of her best performances. Even a Saif Ali Khan killed it as Langda Tyagi in Omkara. That’s what I am in Bollywood for. To be fulfilled as an artist.
Also read: Vikrant Massey: The man on the move
Bollywood is not an easy industry to be in. What keeps you going back and looking forward?
It’s a very difficult industry to be in because there are no rules and limited ethics. If talent was of prime importance, we would be producing exceptional quality products every single time. Every profession needs to have the basics in place. Here, in the movies, some people portraying lives on screen cannot even act. Some have zero commitment and artistic credibility. I am very certain about the kind of work I have been doing and will continue to do. I think this saves me a lot of pain and heartbreak; still there are way too many on the way, I’m sure. But that is life! The amount of love and appreciation I get from the audience is exactly what keeps me going.
How do you measure your success — by the length of your role, or box office response?
A meaty role in a box office success is the ideal scenario. But sometimes things are not in our hands. So doing our best is the best bet without thinking about the outcome. For me, doing anything for just fame or money isn’t possible. I think I can write a book on the shows I have refused, because I want to be known for my acting skills and my filmography
Your idea of a gentleman: A true man is empathetic, kind-hearted and sensitive. A true man is not a face of toxic masculinity and is human at all levels.
Your idea of friendship: When one gives love without any ulterior motive, that’s friendship. It isn’t a barter. It is pure and heartfelt.
Your ideal relationship: I don’t think an ideal relationship exists. No matter who your partner is, you will always have to work at it. Two people will always have points of friction. I think the ideal relationship would be when you want to adjust a little, to make the other person smile.
What are you reading currently?: The Secret (by Rhonda Byrne). This year has been a little bit of a shit show, no (laughs)? So I’m trying to stay mentally positive and talk to the Universe.
What is a cheat meal for you?: My cheat meals are way too many (laughs). The best guilt trip would be mutton biriyani — a few kilos of it in one go.
Is there a role you’d never play?: I am open to playing everything under the sun if it is a good investment of my time. I wouldn’t be too interested in repeating myself on-screen though.
Also read: Getting candid with Aditi Rao Hydari
What’s on your bucket list?: I want to skydive again. I did that in Mauritius a few years ago. Going to Japan and interacting with Geishas is on my list too.
One piece of advice for the world: Just be empathetic! Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes before you say anything. Being empathetic will save this world and all of us a lot of pain!
What is your most luxurious indulgence?: I would say my sunglasses. I own more than two hundred pairs and some of them are Playboy vintage. So you can imagine — I think I need a therapist to fix this problem of mine.
What attracts you most in a woman?: Strong, independent women interest me. A woman with a mind of her own is my type. On top of that, if she has great eyes and a body, I will take it as a bonus (laughs).
Styling assistant: Chintan Shah