From goofy and vulnerable characters, you played a tough cop in Article 15…
Your body language turns confident when you wear uniform. You feel a certain sense of responsibility. Even when I was doing the look test for Article 15, my posture had changed. After playing goofy characters, here I’m playing someone in control. Whether it was Vicky Donor, AndhaDhun or Badhaai Ho,
I was the victim of circumstances. Here I’m trying to be the champion of circumstances. That’s the difference.
Your portrayal of a cop is different from those regularly played in Hindi films…
My portrayal is subtle and so is the message of the film. The film tackles inequality, discrimination, cast… Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk was also subtle. He has taken that legacy forward with Article 15. While Mulk dealt with Hindu-Muslim issues, this one is about conflict between the upper castes and the lower castes. It will compel the audience to introspect. I did it for the love of cinema and as a social responsibility. People need to see this film for their own good, for the good of the country.
How was it working with Anubhav Sinha?
I’m glad that he’s found his voice as a director and as a social commentator. He shifted gears with Mulk. He understands the social fabric and the complexities of our country. Till recently, he was making these big-budget films. Now, he’s listening to his self, following his instinct. This career high in his 50s is amazing.
When you sign an avant garde film like Article 15, are you nervous about the box-office outcome?
I always do consider the box-office but with this particular film, the belief was that this film had to be made. It’s an important and a relevant film. Also, it’s an investigative social drama, which is absorbing.
What were your concerns when you did AndhaDhun?
I didn’t think about box-office during AndhaDhun as well. I knew it was an out-of- the-box film. It was an experiment, a genre-defining film. I wasn’t sure how the audience would receive it. The film was dark but humorous too in a bizarre way. I’m glad our audience was receptive to such a film. AndhaDhun made 75 crores at the box-office. This was a huge victory.
What would you say is your USP as an actor?
My pre-exquisite for signing a film has always been a fresh concept. There should be no reference to my past characters. India is a multi-cultural country, which is full of taboos and also fun. There’s scope to tackle so many of these in films.
The Black Lady seems to be smitten by you. How was it holding the Filmfare Award for AndhaDhun?
It was a dream come true. I had this feeling that I’d win it for AndhaDhun. That’s why I brought my father (P. Khurrana) along. It was my dad’s dream also, not just mine. So, seeing him happy made me happy. When we were travelling back home, he was numb with emotion. Being honoured with the Critics’ Award for AndhaDhun, which was a commercial success, was special because it’s a revered category.
It’s heartening that content is winning praise. It was a personal victory for me. I came with this dream to Mumbai that I’d win a Filmfare Award some day. Today, I have three. Earlier, in 2012, I got the Best Male Debut and Best Playback for Pani da – both for Vicky Donor.
How close are you to
I’m close to both my parents. My father is an astrologer. He’s the best and the worst critic of my performances. He taught me to grasp the audience’s pulse right from childhood. When as a kid, I was asked to dance at parties, dad would say if a few are insisting it’s not necessary to perform but if many are then go ahead. Public kya chaahti hai… that has been my focus even today.
How did being a 100-crore actor change the perception around you?
First and foremost you get respect from the trade. You also receive love from the masses. With Vicky Donor and Dum Laga Ke Haisha, I was adored for my performances. But now the reach has become bigger and so has the respect from the industry. People take you seriously; you feel empowered as an artiste. Your opinion begins to matter.
Does that come with the pressure of matching up to your last success?
Even if there’s pressure, I view it as a happy expectation. People expect something out of me. You take on a project relying on your gut feeling. It depends on the audience how they reciprocate. I can only promise that my films will be different. They will have a message and be entertaining at the same time.
With experimental actors like Vicky Kaushal and Kartik Aaryan coming in, will the competition get stiffer?
I guess, it will only increase. Now content is most important, way beyond actors or stars. There will be newcomers and better films coming in. The idea is to be just consistent and play your own game. Follow your intuition, own your space. I’ve done films, which most wouldn’t dare to do. So many actors had said no to AndhaDhun. I guess, no leading actor would have agreed to play second fiddle to
the parents in Badhaai Ho. But what matters is that I’ve a beautiful film in my filmography.
What did you learn from your wife, Tahira during her fight with cancer?
To remain undefeated is the inspiration I derived from her. We both are similar in a way. I’ve been through a low phase in my professional life too. We maintain calm and composure through tough times be it physical, personal or professional.
Is she your hero?
Of course. She’s my hero. She inspires me the most. The way she dealt with the situation, no one else could have. It’s easy to be broken in certain circumstances. But she refused to be. I only saw her smile when she was undergoing chemotherapy. The operation was painful. But she was brave. It’s not that she was putting up a brave front, she was genuinely happy.
Are you glad she’s turning a feature film director after directing the short film Toffee?
Yes. I hope it happens soon. She’s been doing pre-production for some time. She should do it independently (Toffee was produced by Ayushmann). We will probably collaborate some