He plays the not-so-good guy also so well – that the audience is left wooed. Be it ‘Kaminey’, ‘Udta Punjab’ or now ‘Kabir Singh’. In his latest venture, he plays this unapologetic, brash, passionately-in-love guy who is all heart. He looks leaner than before, since he’d also lost some weight for the film. Donning all black, he settles down for a chat where we speak about his new release amidst more…

You’re a teetotaller in real-life so was it challenging to play a character like Kabir Singh?
Well, it is. If you’ve not done something in real life, you don’t know how it feels to do so, then that becomes a challenge. That’s why many of such roles have been challenging for me as an actor because I’ve never experienced it. It takes a lot more work to understand how to internalise it. Because I’ve seen a lot more people like that, I might have seen how they behaved but that’s externalising it. If you want to internalise it, then you need to connect with how they’re feeling and not how they’re being. But I just loved ‘Arjun Reddy’ when I saw it and loved the character, the tonality of the film and film-maker. It was so raw, real, and unapologetic. He didn’t shy away from any emotion, and that gave me a complete experience. I enjoyed the film so much that I felt that I wanted to take it to the Hindi audience.

What was the mental, physical prep which went into it?
The prep has been very mental, internal so you can’t describe it in words. The physical transformation was obvious wherein, I had to put on weight for one portion and lost weight. But that’s the easy part. The difficult part was the mental preparation which takes time, you have to spend time with the film-maker. Once you do the scenes, you start connecting to the character little bit. It’s like a relationship. The more you meet someone you understand them; similarly, the more you play a character, you understand him better.

What attracts you to deviating characters?
Actually, it’s the audience who loves such characters. Why have we loved Mr. Bachchan playing the ‘Angry Young Man’. Why is ‘Devdas’ considered a classic film although it’s such a complex character. Why are Robert De Niro and Al Pacino considered the greatest actors in the world? Why is ‘Maqbool’ one of my father’s greatest films. Why is ‘Haider’ considered one of my best work. Why is Vishal Bhardwaj considered a great film-maker? In movies you sometimes want to see something you see in real life. Many a times, who you are and your alter ego are two separate things and sometimes what comes across on-screen is your alter ego and that’s what people connect with. If the emotion is connecting with the audience, how that character brings the emotion out, becomes the new experience. If the character behaves exactly how you’re behaving, he’s not giving you anything new. If you’re feeling pain, heartbreak and if you express it aggressively, many people who felt it and have not been able to bring it out like that, will connect to the character. So, I think grey characters are more exciting. People always want to see something which has the worthiness of being on a big-screen and isn’t mundane as life. I think mundane characters are exciting characters which give you like an adrenaline rush. Film-making is about the craft of acting and everyone recognises that it’s an art. The more complex the art-form, the more you appreciate it. When you know it’s so difficult to achieve a character which is so complex and when someone does it, you appreciate it more.

How do you get such characters out of your system?
My children help me, I had no choice but to convert in that one hour when I was travelling in the car because I definitely didn’t want them to experience Kabir Singh. I had to learn to completely disconnect and get back to normal. It was helpful because when you come back to normal atmosphere, it helps you to rejuvenate to go and do it again.

Does your experience and the years you’ve spent here, help at this point when a character is quite uninhibited?
Yes, I think ‘Kabir Singh’ has come to me at a good time. If it came earlier, I don’t know how I would have done it. It was a good time when the film came in.

And how draining was it?
It was very draining, tiring. Because it’s such an emotional character, with so many heartbreaks, a lot of highly passionate moments. Kabir is volume full most times and sometimes empty, so lots of layers.

Are you happy with the films you’ve been delivering at this point?
I think as an actor you should never be content. I don’t think I should be content, if you’ve seen my film career. I think there are a lot more people who’ve achieved much more than me in their 10-year old career if you compare. I still have a long way to go. But now I’ve realised that I can’t do a film without a great character on paper. It should be something that makes you want to sink your teeth into it. If a film-maker has this need to present you in a different light, only then you can do it. Trade Magazine