What made you sign up for Shamshera?
I loved the subject and what Karan was doing. It’s an action bonanza set in the 1800s, an adventure, like an amusement park with thrills, and a great story and character. When I heard the script, the selfish actor in me woke up and I offered myself for both the parts. This was exciting for me as an actor. So Shamshera was a no-brainer when it came to saying yes to the script.
You are playing a double role for the first time. Your experience?
When the film was narrated to me, it wasn’t really offered to me as a double role. But when I heard the story, my immediate response to Aditya Chopra and Karan Malhotra was that let me play the father also! Because it is such a great role, it is such an interesting, juicy part for an actor to play. Then, I really had to convince Adi and Karan. I think after that Karan did a couple of look tests and that’s when he got convinced also. So, initially it wasn’t offered to me but it hooked me thoroughly as an actor. They were two unique characters and for an actor like me, to play two distinctive characters and make them different was very challenging and very exciting for me.
Working with Vaani Kapoor?
Vaani is a very fine actor. She is someone who works very hard. She is so focused that she is always wearing headphones, listening to music and trying to be in the character. Many times I’ve tried to distract her and just have stupid conversation. We really befriended each other. We really enjoyed each other’s company. I think what she’s done in ‘Shamshera’ is quite outstanding and I am looking forward to see how people find her character and her performance. She has a very important role in the film and people will have to wait to see it to understand how important her role is.
You played Sanjay Dutt in your last film Sanju. And in this one you are pitted against him. How was it working with him?
When I started working on Shamshera Sanju sir was not cast at that time. I have so much love and respect for him not just as an actor or a personality on screen but also as a human being. I was ecstatic that I was finally getting an opportunity to work with my screen hero, in a film. It’s amazing that Sanjay Dutt is my antagonist! When I was 10 or 11, I had Sanjay Dutt’s poster in my cupboard. Then eventually getting to play him in a biopic directed by Rajkumar Hirani was a dream come true. And finally getting an opportunity to work with him, to act with him, where I am the protagonist and he is the antagonist, it’s incredible! Sanjay Dutt has given us some epic villains with his brilliant acting performances and people are going to love him as Shuddh Singh in Shamshera!
You underwent a body transformation. What was the prep like?
Physically, this film has been, by far, the toughest film for me because I am a very thin guy; that’s my genetic build. So, losing weight is very easy for me but putting it on is harder. Director Karan Malhotra wanted a worker’s body. This guy (Shamshera) had spent some serious time in jail. He practically grew in it. This was physically tough to do.
You are returning to the big screen after 4 years. What do you have to say about your comeback?
Well a lot of them are saying that Shamshera is my comeback picture. But where was I gone? And why are they calling it my comeback picture? Sanju was a hit. It is not that my seven eight films flopped and then Shamshera is coming. But you keep getting such tags.