Love Aaj Kal 2's leading light Kartik Aaryan reveals the secret to his irresistible charm

Getting into Kartik Aaryan's mind space

Signature Nehru collar shirt and trousers with contemporarised prince cut shoes, Shantanu & Nikhil Signature Nehru collar shirt and trousers with contemporarised prince cut shoes, Shantanu & Nikhil

Girls find you cute,” I stated the obvious. 

“No, ” said Kartik Aaryan with a smirk. “Girls find me hot. It's the mummies and the aunties who find me cute. Daadis and naanis want me in their houses. Aunties and mummies invite me for meals and kitty parties. Pyara lagta hoon, cute lagta hoon.”

Putting Kartik Aaryan on the cover of the February issue of THE MAN was an acknowledgement of his heartthrob status with the millennials. Take his name and the reaction (from young women) seems almost uniform — excited glint in the eyes, hand on the heart, a soft moan, his name on a soft sigh... 

Just who is this Kartik Aaryan? This young actor who evokes the kind of reaction that film stars die for? 

There's a sense of fun in him. He laughs easily and makes the most of the moment. 

Classic navy bandhgala with leather trims and intricate metallic buttons  styled with a cluster of handcrafted medallion and chain detailed brooches paired with shirt and trousers, Shantanu & Nikhil Classic navy bandhgala with leather trims and intricate metallic buttons styled with a cluster of handcrafted medallion and chain detailed brooches paired with shirt and trousers, Shantanu & Nikhil

According to the Urban dictionary, a Casanova is a smooth-talking charmer who has mastered the art of finding, meeting, attracting and seducing beautiful women. 

This seems true of him. Kartik loves his bike and is happy riding off somewhere with his date as pillion. He once presented a huge gift-wrapped box to a date with a box inside a box that had a milk chocolate in it. “I didn't have the money for a better gift,” he explains with a twinkle. “It was cute when I gave it.” 

For all that there have been some bad dates. Largely due to his own admitted OCD. “I'm finicky about hygiene and this person didn't have it, particularly about food.” Additionally, he doesn't like pretentious people, claiming he's honest and straightforward.  

Also read: Know Kartik Aaryan like never before

He's mostly called cute and hot, national crush, heartthrob and family boy. He says it's because he's a romantic at heart. “I'm a great listener and women like that.” But he would also like to be known for passion, as someone dedicated to his profession. “I really want people to know I'm passionate about my work. I want to be known as a person who can love like no one else can love.”

He refuses to answer how many times he's been in love. “How can I answer that?” he says with a laugh, his eyes in the distance as if he's actually making a mental count. In keeping with his own work ethos, he looks for a similar quality in the person he dates. “She should be focussed on her work, and we should be compatible. It would be great if there's a sense of humour and mutual trust and respect.”

Typically, he claims to have been a movie buff through his growing years with stars in his eyes and a burning desire to become a 'hero.' He knew very early on that being a doctor or an engineer wasn't for him. “I'm from Gwalior,” he said to establish his ordinary credentials. “From a very middle class family.” And so he came to Mumbai. His parents thought he was there first to sit for entrance exams to various universities and then as a student. He went through the motions for the sake of his family, but on the side, trawled the net for casting calls and auditions. “I would change my clothes and spruce up at the stations when I managed to get something.” 

He went through the by-now familiar Bollywood story of struggle with endless auditions and rejections, the roller coaster of hope and expectation, and the subsequent dejection, bouts of financial struggle, appeals to friends for meals and money. “What worked for me and continues to work for me is that I am a patient man. I knew that one day it would all work out.” Also, that he seems to be the guy with whom you can get into conversation at a coffee bar or in the metro.

Bandhgala inspired drape jacket with leather trims, styled with a cluster of handcrafted medallion and chain detailed brooches, Shantanu & Nikhil Bandhgala inspired drape jacket with leather trims, styled with a cluster of handcrafted medallion and chain detailed brooches, Shantanu & Nikhil

When he signed on the dotted line for Pyaar Ka Punchnama, he finally told his family what he'd been doing all those years. After the initial shock, his parents went to Mumbai to meet the producers and see the set-up to reassure themselves that this was not a hoax. Six months of reading, prep and training for the role insured that he was able to face the camera with confidence. “I was upbeat, not nervous. It was all finally happening. I was excited about the script and feel blessed today that it had all the elements that it did.” The movie turned out to be a sleeper hit, and a star was indeed born. But the attending hoopla didn't quite come about. “I thought I had arrived and the world would receive me with open arms, that fans would be shrieking my name and asking for selfies, put up my posters.”  

Also read: Getting candid with Aditi Rao Hydari

Critics were quick to point out the chauvinistic and misogynistic overtones of the character. Kartik isn't fazed by any of that. “I owe a lot to Pyaar Ka Punchnama. The film has achieved a cult status. From colleges and hostels to all age groups, married women to young boys, everybody loved it. Ask anyone.” He gestures to the crew standing around who are all nodding their head in agreement. He believes people will exaggerate things. “You have to take it all with a pinch of salt. We always knew we were entertaining, we were not generalising. It is possible that there are characters like that out there and it is equally possible that something like that could have happened to them. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. The audience is smart, it knows, they get it and understand when something is serious or comical. Those dialogues you are referring to were said in a comical way  and that's what worked because they were taken in the right spirit.”

But after that the struggle was on for the next film . This time he chose one with marital rape (Akaash Vani )as its central theme, and it bombed. He followed it up with Subhash Ghai's Kaanchi, a women oriented film. 

A script must have content, he said. But that's what they all say! “If it's what I would go and watch in a theatre then that's the script for me,” he clarified. He spends a lot of time training in the run up to the shooting of the film. From workshops on body language to dialect classes, he works hard on the character. But what he aims for each time is relatability. “My audience should be able to relate to me in the film.” 

He feels that way about everything, even the clothes styled by designers Shantanu & Nikhil that he wore for the photo shoot. “The clothes and all the wonderful things I wore, people would surely want to wear them. Most importantly , people would relate to them. What I was wearing today was relatable and a lot of people would want to dress like that.” And that is at the heart of his success — he's that chap you know, have met, or the one you bump into and with whom you exchange inanities.

He needn't have chosen to do another movie with a message because by that time, it wasn't a matter of picking up whatever came his way. He did by then have the option of being a little more selective. The struggle had started all over again. He didn't lose hope. He brushed up on his acting skills and continued to improve with every performance. Those failures taught him to have patience and to persevere, to keep the faith that a role would come by and change everything for the better. The perseverance paid off at last with Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety followed quickly with Luka Chuppi and Pati Patni aur Woh. 

Cocktail bandhgala with an  intricate  applique of cherry  metallic fabric and trims paired with trousers,  Shantanu & Nikhil Cocktail bandhgala with an intricate applique of cherry metallic fabric and trims paired with trousers, Shantanu & Nikhil

Also read: Rajkummar Rao: A good film is a good film, but we look only at the commercials

The last year saw him ride high at the box-office and he's comfortable with that. “It's because people can relate to me. I'm this guy from a regular sort of family.” Living under the spotlight even when the camera is off is not an irritant (as yet). He switches off and continues to do what he wants, except that time is now at a premium. Every moment is accounted for. “I always had so much time for friends and family. For the last year and a half, there has been no time for anyone, not even myself. Everything else remains the same.” 

This he believes is because Mumbai is a city that lets you be. “The best thing about Mumbai is that you don't feel like an outsider. If you decide to live and work here, this city really helps you. People are warm and helpful. I have never felt alone. There are so many avenues here. The best thing is that it becomes your home. I wear everything on my sleeve. I'm okay about being papped also.”

Pictures: Errikos Andreou

Creative & fashion director: Nupur Mehta Puri

Clothes and accessories: Shantanu & Nikhil

Location: Sin City Rooftop Cafe, Mumbai

Hair : Milan Thapa;  Make-up:  Vicky Salvi; Assistant styling: Kajal Singh  Production: Neha Ahuja for N2Root

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