Yes. In Bewakoofiyan. It was peer pressure, I guess. I've so far played normal characters in a more realistic kind of cinema. But Bewakoofiyan is the kind of film where I could afford the indulgence of being somewhat larger-than life. Yup, I can this time show my abs and still seem like a normal person. It is a slice-of-life rom-com about the guy, girl and her father.
Your progress has been pretty rapid?
I wouldn't say that. I've one hit to my credit in my two-year film career. That's just about a decent average. Luckily our cinema is constantly evolving. There are many kinds of films happening in our country. There is a cinema that's going into the past and cinema that's very contemporary. I am happy to be part of both through my roles in Bombay Fairytale and Bewakoofiyan.
Sonam Kapoor your co-star in Bewakoofiyan thinks you are very cool?
You know, in the guise of a style icon she's such a simple person at heart. I had a really good time working with her.
And Rishi Kapoor?
He had all of us on our toes. He is basically a one-take actor. He is such a natural actor he can act even in his sleep. He is most natural in his first take. He believes in two takes at the most. I take time to warm up in front of the camera. I take at least three takes to warm up. But he was very sweet and tolerant. Food was the common bond between us.
He force-fed you Punjabi khana?
When we were shooting in Delhi the yummiest food made in shuddh ghee used to come from his daughter's home. I had to hide from my trainer who was on the sets constantly and I am a foodie, though it doesn't show on me. I had to just work-out more. And my metabolism is high right now. I don't know how it will be five years down the line.
Because I had to look extra-fit. I am a squash player. I've played squash in college.
You are currently playing a 19th century Maharashtrian scientist Bapuji Talpade in Vibhu Puri's Bombay Fairytale. How tough is that?
It's different, a different language and a different universe. So far I've only been playing variations on myself. But in Bombay Fairytale I started living in the past.
Did you have to learn Marathi for Bombay Fairytale?
I am a 21st century boy born and brought up in Chandigarh. For the past five years I've been in Mumbai. The first thing that I did when I landed in Mumbai was to buy myself a book on how to speak Marathi. By now I can understand Marathi, but not speak the language. All my staff members are Marathi. That helps me a lot in getting the character and accent right in Bombay Fairytale. Mercifully this is a Hindi film with Marathi here and there.
I am ashamed to say I had never heard of Bapuji Talpade before this?
Neither had I. Even when I googled I hardly got any information on Babuji Talpade. So I had to kind of build the character from scratch. I just had one bleached picture of his. But we've changed his looks. Besides being a scientist, Bapuji was also charmer. That part came easily to me (laughs). He is as endearing as a little child. The character has a graph. My hair is completely different for the role. I had to hide my look from the press photographers.
Are you going to really a fly a plane?
I don't know. We still have to get there.
But as an actor it is very important for me to switch on and switch off. So I didn't go into any intense preparation. But I've always loved history. I am a fan of William Dalrymple's writing. When I was shooting for Bombay Fairytale in a place called Gondol in Gujarat, I'd take bucket baths just to get a feel of the era. We were staying in a palace constructed in 1880. I had this huge room with a huge bathroom where I took bucket baths with Hamam soap….just for the retro feel. That was the oldest soap available. Now I am shooting for Sharat Kataria's Dum Lagake Haisha in Hardwar, It's a light-hearted small-town film. I am very excited about it. This is my first visit to Hardwar.
How is life looking for you?
This year seems really exciting. I have completed Bewakoofiyan. I am shooting for Bombay Fairytale and Dum Lagake Haisha and then I go into Shoojit Sircar's football film 1911 which would again be period film. Shoojit is a very good football player. And my brother is also a terrific player. He's the sports champ of our family.
What was it like working with the amazing Mithun Chakraborty in Bombay Fairytale?
I remember dancing to his song 'I Am A Disco Dancer' as a kid at birthday parties. And now I am working with him! During shooting he would cook, not just for himself but his staff and sometime for me and my staff too. I used to love him. Now I love him even more. Mithunda is such an animal lover. He has his own sanctuary.
How is your son doing?
He is with his mother in Chandigarh. He thinks I live inside the television set and once in a while come out to meet him.
When will your wife and son join you permanently in Mumbai?
Well, I am living out of suitcases. There is no point in having them here when I am not around. Besides my wife loves Chandigarh. She does theatre there.