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“I don’t talk about my personal life”

How would you define yourself as an actor? Are you a natural actor, a trained actor or a director's actor?
For me, it is a combination of all three. I trained in acting at the Atlantic Theatre in New York for one year in 2003 much after I began working in films and on television. I could afford the sabbatical because I had no work at all, so my 'career' did not suffer. I am a natural actor because I believe in giving myself totally to the character I am doing at a given point of time. I am a director's actor because I believe that the director is the captain of the ship and I listen to him and also suggest if he is open to suggestions.

How did the transition from television to films happen?
I deejayed for Channel V from 1997 to 2002. I also did some theatre and Ek Chhotisi Love Story with Maneesha Koirala in 2002. It was an adaptation of one of the stories from the Kieslowski Decalogue. This was my first film. I also did roles in Freaky Chakra, Jism and The Great Indian Comedy Show for another television channel. But I always wanted to do films. Much before my face became familiar through television, I worked behind the camera for non-fiction, assisted some directors in television fiction, worked for films as well and then shifted to the other side of the camera. It's been 15 years I have been around. Films had to happen and they did. It's been a long journey.

Do you prepare for your roles?
The preparation differs from script to script and from one character to another. For example, for the drug-addict-cum-conman in Traffic Signal, I did not sleep the night before the shoot because I have to look drugged and that vacant expression in the eyes, a familiar sight in the nooks and corners of Mumbai especially in the Fort area. Mere observation is not enough. I needed to recreate it for the screen and that needed some preparation. For Mithya, I had to play a struggling actor. I was one myself for some years but that was not enough. I had seen lots of struggling actors around me. Usually, the preparation is born out of the script itself except for historical or period films where one has to do some academic research apart from preparation. Usually, the entire preparation is done with the conjunction of the script, the director and the actor to make the character credible on screen.

What is your character like in Ugly Aur Pugly?
I play Ugly, the hero opposite Pugly, being portrayed by Mallika Sherawat. I am the only child of middle-class Maharashtrian parents who have protected me so much that I have never really grown up. I have cheerfully remained in the same class in college for four years. The girl I fall in love with is also an only child and the entire film traces my journey in love that is also a process of my coming-of-age. It is a love story that is also a coming-of-age film. It is Sachin Khot's debut film as director.

Now that you are in a position to pick and choose, what is your criteria for accepting a role or a film? The banner, the director, the role, the money, or the script?
I have devised a two-tier list of priorities for myself as my criteria for accepting a role. I look at the script, the director and the role. My business manager takes care of the logistics like dates, schedules and money. The length of the role does not matter to me at all. In Singh is Kinng I do not have a very big role. But I wanted to do it and so I am in the film.

What is your personal response to so many big releases beginning August?
I simply focus on my work and work means much more than finishing with your shooting and your dubbing these days. I have to be present at promotional events linked to the film to be released, I must be prepared for interviews for television and the print media, it comes with the trade. My emotional involvement is with the shooting and my role. I feel that as an actor, I have a responsibility towards my audience and I must be honest to them.

What is your definition of acting and do you believe in freedom given to an actor by the director?
I will borrow from someone else's definition because I truly believe in it. Acting is all about living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. And yes, I do expect a lot of freedom from my directors whether I am anchoring a television show, a stage show or doing a film. I am lucky that all the directors I have worked with from Rajat Kapoor to Saurav Shukla to Nikhil Advani and Madhur Bhandarkar have given me a lot of freedom to explore and interpret within the framework the script spelt out.

How do you cope with the constant clashes between the media's probing into your personal life and professional life?
I think this invasion into the privacy of actors comes with the territory. I have just one sentence for all of them %u2013 "I don't talk about my personal life." As for coping, I fall back on lots of stress-busters such as friends, listening to music, watching films and reading a lot.

Pick you personal favourites from among the films you have done so far and the directors you would love to work with.
My personal favourites are %u2013 Mithya, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Traffic Signal and I am 24 (to be released). I would love to work again and again with Rajat Kapoor, Nikhil Advani, Saurav Shukla and Anees Bazmi though I have worked with them already. Among those I have not worked with are Gulzar, Mukesh Bhatt, Vishal Bharadwaj and Anurag Basu.

What is your take on success?
Choices are the luxuries of life. To put it in another way, success happens when the choice is yours.
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