‘This script has a message for India’s youth’

‘This script has a message for India’s youth’

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Actor Sidharth Malhotra on playing an Army officer inAiyaary,being Karan Johar’s protégé and what keepshim grounded

Reflecting on the time when he was filming My Name is Khan , Karan Johar writes in his autobiography An Unsuitable Boy about how he chanced upon the leads for his next. He was shooting a scene that required close-ups of his lead actors. Director of production Ravi Chandran asked Johar’s then assistants Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan to step into the frame to test lights and composition. When the director checked the monitor, his spontaneous reaction was, “They are movie stars”.

At that time, the two actors had no clue how their careers would pan out. “I don’t think even Karan expected to launch new actors at that time. He could have chosen to work with anybody but he went ahead with three new faces. We are here today because of him,” admits Malhotra who will soon be seen inAiyaary, a spy thriller. The actor plays an army officer, one of his most layered characters. “This is the first time I have a story and a script that can make a difference and has a message for the youth of this country,” adds Malhotra.

Aiyaary , which also stars Manoj Bajpai and Naseeruddin Shah has a patriotic vibe and was originally slated for release on January 25 along with Akshay Kumar’s Pad Man. But with Padmaavat also joining the queue, the makers ofAiyaary moved its release date to February 9. Later, in a move to let Padmaavatget a solo release, Pad Man was also shifted to the same date, bringing the situation back to square one — clashing with Aiyaary. But Malhotra makes light of situation by saying,  We are very confident about the film so that’s not a concern. The issue is that the producers want certain kind of screens and show timings and that’s what they are looking out for.”

Responding to feedback

A self-confessed fan of the thriller genre, the actor is thrilled to don the uniform for the first time and reveals that this is “one of the most real films” he has worked on, so far. “There are no sets as we shot in real locations. This is probably the closest depiction of real life spies who are invisible to common man. They’ve been taught to merge in the crowd, not get noticed and get relevant information. You won’t see us in glamorous roles or with James Bond-like characters,” he says while explaining the film’s title, which means ‘the ultimate trickery’.

After his candy-floss debut in Student of the Year , Malhotra has racked up an expanding fan base who seem to be unaffected by the many forgettable roles he followed it up with. Film critics have often written him off as just another chocolate hero. The actor, however, is unfazed and feels that the feedback about his acting has always been broad-based. “I have never come across constructive criticism so I don’t know how to use it. If there’s an opinion specific to the film or scenes, it is possible to understand better as an actor. There have been good and bad reviews and if your next film works, it won’t matter.” The actor, however, relies on his team for a constructive feedback. “After a point, everybody gets the vibe about what has worked in the film and what hasn’t,” says the Kapoor and Sons actor admitting that his endeavour in the last two films ( Ittefaq and Aiyaary) has been to keep it more towards characters and performance as opposed to just “being a hero”. “While I grew up on that kind of cinema and want to work in such films, it so happened recently that I’ve been able to crack characters that have layers and are deep rooted as opposed to frivolous characters,” he shares.

Focused on work

While much newsprint has been spent on speculating his relationship with his first co-star Alia Bhatt, the actor is more indifferent towards such stories. “I’ve changed. Over the years, you learn to blank it out and not take such things seriously.

We are not here to talk about our relationships and personal life. What matters is what people talk on that Friday as opposed to what they talk in-between,” emphasises Malhotra. The actor credits his family in keeping him grounded. “I don’t come from a filmi background and had a certain middle class upbringing in Delhi.

That’s what I carry forward and it doesn’t change me as a person. I have a greater appreciation for the things I have today,” says Malhotra adding that while his family has a broad idea about his projects, they don’t get into the details.

For now, work remains his one true commitment and honing his craft his priority. Malhotra has learned to trust his instincts, whether it is, “in front of the camera or while choosing scripts. Now, there’s a tremendous amount of growth, understanding, and excitement to do better work. I now have a command and control over different emotions.”

The actor says that he has grown over the years, by becoming independent,

“Transitioning from a boy to man by taking your own calls, decisions and by following your instincts. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you don’t.”