You make it sound like I am not used to people saying such nice things about me (smiles). Of course its lovely knowing that someone as wonderful as Sonakshi considers me as a good enough friend she can turn to! Still, everybody knows that I am not the kind of a friend or a co-star or a person for that matter who lives in people's pockets on a daily basis. Some might only hear from me on their birthdays but that doesn't mean my office door or my private phone isn't always open for those who need to walk through it. I have never turned away anyone; for I always remember when I myself needed that one person I could turn to.
You also have a new co-star in the form of Imran Khan in OUATIMD. How has the face-off between the two of you turned out to be in the film?
I am in awe of this boy's performance in this film – talk about the Dark Horse coming out to play! Imran has surpassed himself. He has held on to his character with both hands and gritted his teeth through some of the toughest of shots. I love his role, more so, I love our bond in this film. You know, it is like the Son I never had who meets the lover I can't control – it's a circus of emotions that is surrounded by so much Love, Hate & Respect. (Pauses) It's definitely a story to be told!
The film's promo has pretty much established that instead of it being an out and out gangster affair, it is also an epic love affair at the core of it all. Is that a calculated gamble that you were willing to take?
No, it had nothing to do with calculation or any numbers for that matter. It was purely a passionate decision and one that has never before been approached in India. Let's look at it this way, you have witnessed so many Gangsters & Villains destroying lives over money, drugs, looting, stealing and conquering. Yet, it has never been over 'true love'!
It is also after a hiatus that you are returning as a villain on screen. Was it easy to be a part of this love saga with a gangster background to it?
Just to bring out the real essence in my newly found character was profoundly hard for me. Obviously one can't be so pure when portraying the living Devil. As Shoaib says – 'Who needs to worry about a Heaven up there when one has already created a Heaven down here'. Of course in the eyes of some people out there, this man's final destination is hell. Maybe there is another path for this man after all.
To be honest I didn't have a choice. Of course I wanted to work with the Big Guns, but they couldn't see themselves working with the likes of me. I auditioned, I gave test shots, I eventually gave up, found another fork in the road and made myself happy with the people who wanted me. Truly, I wouldn't change my path for the world.
Amongst you as well as the current generation of actors, you are the only superstar to be giving breaks to so many first time directors. What drives you to taking these steps?
It's their drive that drives me! Think about it – when babies are hungry, they don't stop crying till they get their milk. It's the same with first time directors. They don't give up till they achieve their ultimate dream. There is no complacency, there is no talking them out of what their guts are telling them to do. They work longer, harder and faster.
It's a privilege after all these years of making films to still work with directors who need you, want you and appreciate the opportunity given to them, rather than taking a situation for granted because they think they are big enough without you. In my eyes, a humble team, a family unit, an equal environment is what makes quality dreams a reel of reality. Some people call this 'A Rat Race', I call it 'A Rainbow of Opportunities'!