Interview By: Amul Vikas Mohan

Quite a few hits and few lows later, Sidharth Malhotra is a much more evolved actor now, with an in-depth understanding of his craft and the box-office. Just as his latest film, ‘A Gentleman’ releases, we speak to the young actor about this genre and the variety of films he has in store in the coming months…

When Raj & DK came to you with this film, what is was the first thing you liked about ‘A Gentleman’?
The humor – I think their humor is very contemporary. It’s very clever. I love the humor which is written and it seamlessly comes in. It’s not like we’re doing punch lines or slapstick kind of stuff to make people laugh. Even for my character, it is very straight-faced, like how a tough character would do comedy. So, I liked that mix and then it had so much else – it had action, an opportunity for me to do a double role, it has a romantic portion, it has two distinct worlds – Miami and Bombay. So, visually and content wise, it was very rich. I simply felt that this is an entertaining film and it’s got action which I love and haven’t done in a while.

So, like you mentioned, the film has action, romance, comedy – what did you enjoy the most?
Romance is something I feel at home with and I enjoy. The new element came in with the action and comedy in the film. From my first film, I’ve done romance, and you can only do different versions of it, so that’s there in this film too. But the humour which Raj & DK come up with, is very interesting, it’s very well-written. So, that was very exciting for me for both the characters. And action, this is different from what I’ve done in ‘Ek Villain’ or ‘Brothers’. This is more hero-like. It’s more stylized, more real. This character goes through a lot of ups and downs and it’s very interesting to see his interaction with people. There are certain points where his action is very day to day, because that’s his job, he’s on a certain kind of mission, and there are certain parts of the action where he is emotionally charged, so which look more aggressive yet subtle. Because he’s a cooler character. He’s a much more stylised, urban character. So, it has a nice richness even in the action. I remember, when we were making the film, we consciously decided for even budget reasons that we can’t blown-up things and go larger-than-life because firstly, it’s been done and secondly, it brings in more pressure at the box-office, increases the production budget. So, I thought, let’s keep action like hand-to-hand combat and stuff which is believable to do. That should be the USP of the film. So this is why I started training as soon as we decided to do the film. We got Cyril Raffaelli who is a French choreographer, who has done the ‘Transporter’ series and he’s very good with body language, very interesting tactical stuff he teaches. So, he taught me a lot of hand-to-hand techniques and a lot of other stuff. That kind of prep really helped us being quick on the set, keep the budget in count and yet keep the thrill. We have a bike chase, a very cool rappelling down the building. We have a car sequence which people think is copied but it’s not. I feel the film is rich action wise and it’s very new. It’s presenting a new action hero who is cool but also real enough to feel emotions.

How’s it working with Jacqueline, after ‘Brothers’ where she was paired with Akshay Kumar?
We didn’t work together in ‘Brothers’, didn’t really have a scene together, we just promoted the film together. ‘A Gentleman’ is when I got to know her, work with her, we shot together in different countries, over a period of time. I think today I can say that we have an amazing friendship and that’s because she’s a very comfortable personality to have around, she’s always making sure that she’s in a positive mood, I’ve never see her take stress. That’s a very lovely atmosphere to come to work to. And secondly, she’s from the outside like me. She’s very hardworking, she can multi-task, she’s seen a gradual success over a period of time. Of course, she’s very attractive and she’s proven her mettle always. In our film she’s really worked hard to do pole dancing, so all the credit to her. It’s always good that in an action comedy, if there’s a romantic angle and people like your equation with your co-star, that’s a positive thought.

It’s been a year since ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ and despite the fact you’ve been shooting in-between. Yet do you think that’s a long gap for a young actor?
Yes, to have a year’s gap at this time is not ideal but in all honesty, this film was ready early this year. Because of certain date issues, we pushed this a little further. August 25 was a holiday, we thought it would be a good time to release it. If I had an option, I’d have released it earlier because now I have a backlog of films. In this one year I have shot for two other films. Now in the next six months, people will tell me, you’re coming thrice in three months, that’s a lot. That’ll be the other extreme and I’m prepared for that. But see eventually, as long as your content is working and it’s something worth remembering, that’s what matters. And it’s not like unnecessarily you’re coming again and again. In the next six months, I love these three scripts – ‘A Gentleman’, ‘Ittefaq’ and ‘Aiyaary’. They’ll be coming back to back, but I didn’t plan it, just the way I didn’t plan this one year gap. Everyone’s put in money and they’re looking for a good space to release it and as an actor I can only provide that much space out. There’s a gap of two months each between these releases. As an actor, this is a very exciting phase because people will get to see a range, a variety and this will be an acid test of box-office and performance to see where I stand. I may have a bit of understanding about the box-office and my craft, so there’s a lot that’s been put in as an actor. Especially, in ‘Ittefaq’ which people notice and see. So, personally also, I’m very excited to see how these three films pan out in the next six months. And if ‘A Gentleman’ goes well, people will forget whatever gap came in.

“As an actor, this is a very exciting phase because people will get to see a range, a variety and this will be an acid test of box-office and performance to see where I stand”

How was it getting into the space of ‘Ittefaq’?
When I read that script I thought it was an amazing, tight script, going really fast. It’s probably going to be shorter than two hours once the final edit comes in. It’s very intimate in the sense that there’s nothing to play with, visually. It’s only the actors. Whether it’s me, or Sonakshi Sinha or Akshaye Khanna, there’s minimal shift of locations and it has a first time director. So, I thought I should be more responsible because it’s someone’s first film, it’s a great film and I also want to bring out a certain shade to me. So I did a lot more prep for this film than any other film. I sat down with my director Abhay, sat down alone to go through the scenes again and again, the pros and cons. It’s not a linear story because you’re solving a murder, so it goes a lot of back and forth. There are lots of sub-layers to play with. And I think half-way through, I started enjoying that much more – playing this interesting character who leaves you guessing because there’s a lot of mystery to him. So, I’m very excited, also because it’s a genre which is dead. Nobody is making clean murder mysteries. We’ve attempted that and hope it’s a good surprise for people after ‘A Gentleman’.

How’s it working with Neeraj Pandey for your next?
I think it’s going good, in the upward space. I always wanted to work with Neeraj. I had met him in the past for a couple of other projects. This happened in a very good phase, just when I think I began ‘Ittefaq’, I met him for this particular film. He has an amazing track record and he has the knack of being socially relevant, entertaining and keep the performances of his actors good and the films also perform well at the box-office. That combination a very few directors have. It’s very difficult to keep consistency and give out good content always. It was a no-brainer that I had to do this film. We’ve pretty much shot most of the film. He’s the most clear director I’ve worked with, very fast and yet he makes sure that the actors are performing to the T. It’s a mentor-protégé film, again relevant to the country, it’s a drama-cum-thriller. It’s again a new space for me. In today’s day and age, to get to do three different scripts which are very different in their world, characters and performance, I feel very lucky as an actor that I’m getting to work in all three. Because regardless of whether they were coming together or no, I would have said yes to all these scripts. I just feel the impact will be more since all are coming within six months and I hope they have a good recall memory so they’ll remember how different all these characters are. So, if all goes well, it should be a good round-up to the year.

‘Baar Baar Dekho’ didn’t do as well box-office wise and it was your first step-back of sort. Did something change in your approach post that?
It definitely changes your point of view and your understanding of the business, script and content. I still believe in the message of ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ but there was probably some drawback in the communication for it to not be accepted so widely. But it definitely made me understand that there’s a long gap between what on paper makes you feel and how it turns out to be on-screen. But this is unavoidable in anyone’s career. There’s not been anyone who has never had a film which was unaccepted. Different films work for different reasons and an actor gets different things out of different films. Sometimes you get appreciation, sometimes box-office success, sometimes you just do a film because you want to work with certain people. ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ gave me a nice push, also because I was unaware, not having such an in-depth understanding of the business being an outsider. So, it was an eye-opener. What I also felt that, people start writing you off because of social media. Again, that is something I am now thick skinned about because I’ve come from the outside, with people only telling me that you won’t make it. I’ve never met anyone in my early 20s who told me, you’ll be a big star. There are so many people who’ve come in and I’ve met very few people who have the heart and gumption to give you something encouraging and positive. I would say that Karan Johar is the only person I can give that credit to, because he has that wonderful point of view, and heart to give careers to people. Now my answer to that, is coming with more zest and more work, a variety of scripts. I feel if things go my way in the next six months, it will shut all the naysayers.

Lastly, what do you want people to take back from ‘A Gentleman’?
I can assure that none of my two scripts or trailers look alike so I’ve kept a conscious effort to kept my content and world very different so I hope people understand that, regardless of whether it does well or no. That being said, with ‘A Gentlemen’, I’m excited to be in that action zone. I enjoyed it so much. This hero type action or stylized action is what I grew up on so this is my version, a younger, smaller version of it and I want to see how it’s accepted. If all goes well with this film, I don’t think this is the last time you’ll see me doing this kind of action and it’ll only get bigger and better. This is the first attempt to do entertaining action. So, I hope I can surprise people with my action side as well. I’m going to the energy of ‘Ek Villain’ where nobody expected the film to do well but the whole film pulled it off so well. It’s unheard of, for a young actor to get that sort of opening which I also feel, it’s so funny that on hindset, I’m more aware and prepared to handle a success than I was then. At my third film, I was new to understand what was going on. Now to understand, if I have a hit, I’m more equipped to handle success and take it forward than I was with ‘Ek Villain’, because I’m more involved with my work today. There’s more zest, focus towards my work now, as opposed to the awe of the industry that I had earlier. So, I hope this film is accepted.

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