Your trajectory in the film industry has been marked by blockbuster movies, but also by others that didn’t fare well. How have you navigated the highs and lows over the years?
I’ve had a very gratifying journey so far. At times it may not have been particularly satisfying, but nevertheless I am grateful. I’ve always got that next chance whenever I have needed it the most. Whether the films have worked in my favour or not, I have always found people who were willing to work with me. I am positive in my outlook and fortunate to have had a steady run. What’s wonderful is that I am also on the threshold of becoming a producer with Laxmmi Bomb. Turbulence is part of everyone’s journey. Navigating it has a lot to do with your inner strength and survival instincts. Happiness cannot be a by-product of external factors like Bollywood hits and flops. I have learnt to absorb, understand, take my learnings and move on.
The measure of a man is how well he copes with pressure and expectations. Does your own perseverance impress you?
With time, I have grown stronger. The industry has helped me become a more public person, as I am otherwise a very shy guy. It has also sharpened my survival instincts. Bollywood is a big leveller — a teaching ground for individuals to learn and grow with each passing film and day. I don’t think I am someone who gets impressed by himself. I don’t feel the need to judge myself. My journey has taught me never to give up. I do not just let things go by; rather I fight tooth and nail till the end.
You’ve been busy with your son Laksshya during the lockdown. What are some of the life lessons being a father has taught you?
I’ve learnt to be patient. I wasn’t just a father to my son during this lockdown; I’ve had to double up as a teacher too, with home-schooling being the need of the hour. I have learnt that you have to let children be. You cannot expect them to always do the right thing. They need to explore and experience things and also be naughty. My other big lockdown lesson has been in technology. Between school apps, learning apps and the work from home mandate, I have learnt how to stay connected without stepping out.
Bollywood, as an industry, is struggling at the moment. Has this impacted you personally?
Yes, the industry is going through a tough phase, but it has seen tough times before. We’ve survived Swine Flu, climatic conditions impacting collections, strikes… nothing like the COVID crisis, of course. But I am going to be positive and say that some good will come out of it. Maybe it was time for us to introspect, become better filmmakers, actors and producers, and come back stronger.
What are the projects you are working on currently?
I am currently working on Laxmmi Bomb. It will release on Hotstar on November 9. Maarich is lined up next. The film will showcase me in a new light — as a cop, who is handling a very complex case. It’s an amalgamation of murder mystery, thriller and emotional drama. Then there’s Golmaal 5, but I don’t really know when we will start filming.
Growing up in a film family, did you have a lot of exposure to the industry? Did your father guide you in the initial stages of your career?
My passion for film comes from the exposure I’ve had to different kinds of cinema since childhood. Being part of a film family, I had a fair understanding of scripts and also of the impermanent nature of the profession. My father didn’t really guide me as such; he instilled in me values like professionalism, humility and work ethics. Also, by the time I entered the industry in 2000, so many things had changed... I wanted to get launched on my own and not via a home production. Of course, by virtue of my background, I did have some people who were willing to introduce me in their films. I was blessed to get an offer from Vashu Bhagnani and Satish Kaushik — Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai — but I chose that film myself. I trained on the job, according to the producer’s requirement. Unfortunately, most of the films I was advised to do didn’t really turn out the way one expected. So I had to find my own path, make my own choices and learn from my own mistakes. I am proud that I have been independent in terms of my career choices.
That said, my family is always there — supporting and encouraging me. I do take their advice, but I make my own informed decisions.
As an actor, what do you view as your strength?
Versatility, I think. I’ve proved myself, not just in comedy with the Golmaal series, but also in drama with Khakee and The Dirty Picture, serious film with Shor in the City and action with the Shootout… films. I think patience and perseverance are my strong suit.
Is it tough being a single parent?
It’s tough. Time management is crucial. Being a single parent — an adult in his forties. But I don’t think my life is any more challenging than a married couple. What I have usually seen in married couples is that one parent is more focussed on the child and the other takes on work. It’s all about being a hands-on parent so, if you are one, it will be challenging. As for me, parenthood brings me joy. I always wanted to be a parent and I think I did it at the right age. I have no regrets.
Your idea of friendship: Trust is everything. The ability to put ego aside and work on the friendship.
Your ideal relationship: One that can weather the storm and go through the highs and lows that come with every relationship. An ideal relationship rises above these challenges, to make it stronger and long lasting.
The ideal woman: Who can be my true friend and, of course, I have to be attracted to her.
Your cheat meals:Sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta and some Indian sweets like gulab jamun, halwa, prasad and cakes.
A role you’d say no to: I think the only reason I would turn down a role would be if I have to work with people I don’t like. If it’s going to be mental torture, I will never give it a nod — no matter how good the role may be.
A book that has inspired you: I read a lot of Buddhist books. The New Human Revolution volumes 1, 2 and 3 are really inspiring.
What’s on your bucket list: I haven’t made one yet, but one thing will certainly feature: a long vacation with my son, with nothing to worry about.
Your most luxurious indulgence: I haven’t really indulged in too many luxurious things. Most of them have been gifted to me. But I think my son is my prized possession. The way I had him broke norms and set standards. So this audacity and bravery of mine has turned out to be a beautiful indulgence!
What’s your most useless talent: I don’t think any talent is absolutely useless, but my least useful one would be gluttony! I am a foodie and I love food. That’s a talent too!
If you had to offer one piece of advice to the world, it would be…: Try not to worry about things which are not in your control. Let go. If it’s meant for you, it will come to you.