Why did you choose a film on politics?
The story came to me when director Syed told me that he wants me to play a 28 year old Prime Minister and a love story. For me playing the Prime Minister in Youngistaan was like a dream role just like for a woman it is her dream to play Cleopatra. Moreover, playing my age, having shades to that character was challenging and appealing at the same time. For a young actor, when you get an opportunity to star in a concept driven film where you can add youthfulness to it, it becomes more interesting.
What makes Youngistaan different from political dramas like Nayak?
Firstly, no one has ever made a film on an Indian Prime Minister. We have seen it on Chief Minister in Nayak but never on a PM. Also, when we think of political dramas, we think of grim and gritty film but not like a cool film which brings about a change. Moreover, it has a love story where the young lad has a girlfriend! We may not have seen this in real life since political leaders prefer to keep mum about their love life, but honestly today's youth are broadminded and can take these concepts in their stride. We decided to call the film Youngistaan because it may not necessarily mean young by age; it's an attitude where one is progressive, modern and young at heart. Purely, on concept level I think Youngistaan should get some brownie points because it's too far-fetched a thought.
The experience has surely been tough for us because we were worried that we should not reduce or drop the sanctity of PM's office. It's about a Prime Minister so it can't be caricaturish in anyway even if it includes romance or humour. It was very difficult for me as an actor to pull it off in that way. Even though I am playing my age in the film, it required some amount of experience where I had to play someone who knows his job and who knows how politics works.
This film is Farooq Sheikh's last film… What are your most beautiful memories with the veteran star?
To be very honest, I credit my character to him. He has walked me through every part of this film. Every moment spent with him has been beautiful. He was always the most positive person on the sets. He always believed even if it's a far-fetched idea, if we are able to pull it off and make people believe what we are trying to portray, we'll have some good times coming. He is the most experienced but most young at heart person. I don't feel that he is no longer with us. He is somewhere watching out for us.
We are not like other political dramas where we say 'Hum badlao layenge'. In this film, I am just applying common sense as a leader and I am looking at this from the point of view of a youngster and trying to sort out the difficulties that youth in India face. The largest population of youth is in India and I am just playing the representative for them. We tried our level best to not go into the preachy zone. And moreover, if we can inspire 0.00000001 percent of people, even then we'll think that our job is done.
Considering that F.A.L.T.U, Rangrezz and now Youngistaan talk about bringing change, do you deliberately like to be a part of films with social messages?
Yes, I prefer to be in such films where I can entertain at the same time pass on some small message to my audience. I am born in a fortunate family. So if I can put that to use and act in films which inspire youth in a way, then isn't that worth it? I am doing social service while making pursuing my passion of filmmaking and acting and at the same time making money out of it. If I can reach out to 10 to 12 lakh people and entertain them and gain popularity, it's a win-win situation for all of us.