Did you expect to win so many awards for Vicky Donor?
I was sort of expecting the Best Debutant because I had won several awards in that category earlier during the month. But the award for best playback singer was totally expected. I came to Mumbai five years back to be an actor. I never thought I'd be singing as well.
Are you a trained singer?
As a kid I took singing lessons. But I never took it seriously. I won't call myself an amateur. When I was doing theatre in Chandigarh my friends and I used to compose our songs. Riyaaz saath-saath hota gaya. I've sung live on stage at many events. But there was no desperation to show my talent as a singer. Mujhe lagta tha main kahin kho jaata bheed mein. There were so many other singers around. But yes, I've a long way to go as a singer. I still think I am an actor who sings, and not the other way around.
Are you enthused to sing more vehemently now?
Yes, I am doing my riyaaz every day. And I will be singing in all my films. I think I've sung better in my second film Nautanki Saala than I have in Vicky Donor. Yeah, I feel more confident as a singer.
What did you think of the competition in the debutant section this year?
I think all the newcomers this year are really good. I had these conspiracy theories in my head that I may not get the awards because I am not a producer's son. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. People like Shabana Azmi, Sridevi, Boney Kapoor and Tabu complimented me for Vicky Donor. When Tabu called to compliment me she came across as such a simple person!
Has Kunal Kohli with whom you lately exchanged some barbed comments, congratulated you?
I met him at the Filmfare awards. We were warm to one another. It's all forgotten.
Arjun Kapoor is your closest contender. Do we see daggers drawn?
In fact he was the first to congratulate when my film Vicky Donor was released. I saw his film Ishaqzaade pretty late. I watched it on DVD and congratulated him. At the awards we sat together and chatted. Now we're both working for Yash Raj films where I've a three-film deal.
Yes. He called me up. In fact he was quite surprised I wasn't signing any new films.
Why weren't you?
I wasn't getting good offers. I wasn't desperate. Even before I did Vicky Donor I waited four years. So after my first film I was short listing the offers. Adi was impressed by the fact that being a newcomer I wasn't impatient. He offered me a 3-film deal and I accepted.
Did you ever think your song 'Paani Da Rang' would become such a hit?
I am a kid at heart. I live only in the present. I don't think about what will happen in the future. Even in college where I'd sing 'Paani Da…' it was the cult song in our theatre group of twenty boys. When we composed songs in college we did it for the love of music. I had no agenda when I composed 'Paani Da Rang'. I never thought or even hoped it would be in a movie some day.
There is a lot of pressure on you now of stardom. How do you keep yourself grounded?
I think the basic nature must remain untouched. People now want a piece of me. But my heart is still beating the way it used to. But a lot of things have changed. I still remember when I came to Mumbai I auditioned for television at Balaji Films while Yash Raj was a distant dream.
You've done fiction on television?
Yeah. But luckily I chose a show which was not aired. It was for one of the main channels. I had to do it because I needed money to survive in Mumbai. Luckily that's when I was approached by MTV. Today the transition from television to cinema is easier. Even Sushant Singh Rajput is doing well for himself. But I was lucky to have done just anchoring on television. Anchoring allows you to hold on to your identity on television. But there are no rules for success. You see people who are more talented than you stuck for opportunities while those who are less talented than you doing better than they expect.
My second film Nautanki Saala is complete. It releases on April 12. I start shooting for the untitled Yash Raj film in February. It's an urban rom-com where I play a Delhi guy. But this character is not as earthy as Vicky in Vicky Donor. It's about love during the time of recession. Sonam Kapoor is the one who earns more. I am a down-and-out case. Rishi Kapoor plays Sonam's father. He's very important to the plot. My director is a woman. But Nupur Asthana is an alpha female.
How does your wife react to your new success?
I was happier when I was an anchor. I used to be free to spend time with her for at least ten days every a month.
Now she can afford to shop while you make the bucks?
Yes, but my wife doesn't like shopping. Both of us don't like shopping. We like traveling. Our latest destinations are all the Sufi shrines across the world. Sufism attracts her a lot. In fact she's doing a paper on spiritualism. So we travel for pleasure and her work.
How are you coping with the enhanced fan following?
It has multiplied for sure. It doesn't affect me. Earlier too I was recognized because I was a known anchor on television. The transition from television to the big screen was gradual and smooth. I've been on the other side interviewing figures from the entertainment industry. Now I am on this side. I am okay with it. If one doesn't forget where one comes from, nothing matters.
What are you work plans for 2013?
I will first complete the Yash Raj film with Sonam Kapoor and then do my Vicky Donor director Shoojit Sircar's Hamara Bajaj. Shoojit wants either Parineeti Chopra or Yami Gautam opposite me. I am fine with either. Both are beautiful and talented. I met Yaami again when we shot an ad in Thailand. I think she is now doing a film with Ali Zafar.
Quirky is the mood you seem to epitomize in your performances?
Yes, but I also want to do normal conventional characters. Every film cannot be quirky. I think it is important to do normal characters. I know Vicky Donor cannot happen again. My job is to do my best as a singer and actor. The rest is not in my hands.
Any investments after the success in Vicky Donor?
Yeah, I've opened a jewellery store in Delhi. Since I already had a home in Delhi and Mumbai I thought it's best to use my money in another way.