After Kyunki… you were seen in Bollywood after a gap of six years and haven't really been active on small screen… Was it because you did not want to do any more serials?
Nothing creative came in that time! The only exciting thing was a musical show that I did with Vaibhavi Merchant called 'Taj Express' because it was something new for me as I had never done live singing in front of so many people before that. I had never been a part of musical where I was doing 10-12 songs along with doing some scenes and some fight sequences. It groomed me a lot and gave me back my confidence. For me, the work has to be creatively challenging. God has been kind enough that I don't have to work for money!
You started off with small screen… how have you accepted the change now that you are a popular Bollywood star?
There hasn't much of a change! I started with entertaining people and I am still doing the same. I think there is a difference in the working ways that's all! Like for serials the deadlines are more stringent where stars have to constantly work to deliver episodes to the channel on time while in film it's more about detailing. Films do not have a set deadline; we set one for ourselves for our own progress. Apart from that, there is no other change. People loved me then, people love me now. It's the same.
Cinema is a strong medium that affects people in a huge way. Guys pataofy girls like heroes, girls dress up like heroines; they try to follow the ideologies of their screen idols. And when I got a chance to give a message through that medium, I thought why not do it? Every morning we come across so many news and scams. In fact, soon there will be a situation where scams will have anniversaries! So it is a film that talks about these scams. But at the same time, I am not a fan of films which talk about them in a serious manner and bore people. You could as well watch a documentary if you are looking for knowledge. When I got the script of O Teri, I realized there is a message but it is subtly incorporated amidst all the fun. You are just enjoying with the characters, singing and dancing. And then there is that one moment where you yourself decide whether you want to change or no because the world will change only if you decide to.
How was it dancing with Salman Khan?
Frankly, I and Bilal were dancing with him as if we are some contestant fans who got an opportunity to dance with Salman Khan. In the beginning, we were nervous and we knew we are totally going to mess up first four takes in spite of rehearsals and knowing the steps. But Bhai made us so comfortable. He has his own way of doing it. In fact we were so happy! If somebody asks me what is your O Teri moment then this is it – dancing with Bhai was my dream come true!
How was your first shooting experience with Sarah and Bilal and having Atul Agnihotri as your producer?
I think there can't be a better maker than Atul bhai for this film. Even Alvira di has been so supportive. They know exactly how to pitch their films and correctly market it and even the songs. After all, it runs in their family, so it has to show! Apart from that, they all pampered me on the sets including Bilal and Sarah. I and Bilal obviously know Atul bhai since a long time. It was just as if the entire family is trying to make something interesting. And Bilal is one crazy ball of energy – he was the one who spread laughter and I used to be docile one sitting in the corner watching him. We started getting closer when we went to Delhi to research on our characters to a certain film city in Noida where there are media houses. I was the one taking Bilal around Delhi to metros, remote historic places etc. As far as, the chemistry with Sarah is concerned, look at her, isn't she gorgeous? How can I not express those feelings naturally? She is superb and she bajaos our case very nicely in the film.
Bittoo Boss had less comedy comparatively. While Fukrey was a comic caper and O Teri is a satire and yes they all have laughter in common. But for me, if there is no laughter there is no use of watching a film. I don't want to cry and come out of the film. We have grown up watching films which make you happy in the end. That's what films are all about!
Do you have inhibitions in experimenting with genres like action?
An action film without a thought wouldn't make sense! I can't be randomly running behind a guy to hit him! It is important to know how strong is the reason, how emotional it is! I haven't found a script that will interest me in such genres till now. I don't have any inhibitions since I have done a little bit of action in Jai Ho and there is some in O Teri as well! It's addictive and it's a great feeling to knock someone out! Un sabke chehre dikhte hain action sequence mein jinki vaat lagani hoti hai. So I would like to do an action film with all the people I want to hit.
What's the progress on your future projects?
We have started workshops for Dolly Ki Doli and it will go on floors very soon. Then we have Bangistan which is a satire I have never read in Indian cinema. Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani will be producing it while we also have Ritiesh Deshmukh acting with me. It's about how people exploit religion and a take on world peace yet it's a very funny film.