In our last interaction, you said you love to be a ‘massy hero’. With the OTT boom and the kind of movies that are being made today, are you slowly inching towards what is perhaps more experimental or unconventional? Has this year changed your outlook towards the choices you will make from now on as an actor?
Not at all. In fact, I think the OTTs are changing their approach from what it was a couple of years back. We’re seeing so many conventional big-ticket Bollywood films releasing on OTT now. I think it’s best for everyone. Our country’s DNA has commercial and massy ingrained in it. This is reflecting even in the original series that are being made for the web platforms. But it’s true that now we have a big safety net because of digital platforms and actors do not have to dismiss unconventional roles because of the risk factor. My primary criteria still remains the same though — I should get entertained by the script. I won’t choose roles just for the sake of being experimental or unconventional.
From acing the monologue act and romcoms, to entering the thriller space with Ram Madhvani’s Dhamaka. Are you happy to shed the lover boy image finally?
Dhamaka is going to be a pleasant surprise for everyone. Yes, it’s a thriller, but it’s so much more. It keeps you on the edge throughout and talks about so many relevant things that are going on in our society right now. It’s my most commercial film yet.
However, I’m never shedding the lover boy image. It’s a privilege that doesn’t trouble me at all. My favourite lover boy is still Shah Rukh Khan and so is India’s. Even after Dhamaka, I have horror-comedy, rom-com and family films coming up. I’ll keep doing a variety of films. I feel blessed to have a line-up covering so many genres.
Was Dhamaka a conscious decision to move away from the Kartik Aaryan brand of light-hearted cinema? What prompted you to do so?
It is a conscious decision to expand the Kartik Aaryan brand of cinema. Light-hearted is still the flagship. The more of my ‘light-hearted’ work people enjoy, the more they will look forward to my hard-hitting roles. Actually, KokiPoochega (his online talk show during lockdown) may have been a push in this direction. People were extremely kind and warm to me, and we spoke about serious issues.
After a spate of box office hits, your last outing Love Aaj Kal failed to make a mark. What do you think went wrong, and how did you handle its dismal performance?
I don’t think I had to ‘handle’ anything. When I was offered Love Aaj Kal, I was most excited about the process of working on an Imtiaz Ali love story. The process completely lived up to my imagination. I have learnt so much from being on Imtiaz sir’s set, and the energy was on another level. It has given me so much as an actor that I genuinely never bothered about the outcome. A great box office performance would have been nice, but a below average one doesn’t bother me at all. At least not yet. Plus, the fact that my performance was so appreciated, especially by my favourite filmmakers, is more than enough for me.
Do you think 2020 has forever changed the way we watch films or consume content? Has there been any change in how you watch films now?
I think it has only broadened our horizons. We are more accepting of different platforms than before, but that does not mean it will change cinema. People will still go to the theatres. Films are an event for us. How can that ever change? The fact that people have the capacity to now binge watch is an advantage to all makers, regardless of the format and platform.
What has been your biggest learning through this pandemic phase?
Looking ahead, I think we all will come out as better people now. I always valued relationships and people, but having got so much time to spend with family and on the phone with my friends, has refreshed me in a very positive manner. I feel great energy in life right now, which I believe everyone must be feeling. We have definitely made our bonds stronger.
Talk us through your forthcoming releases and what drew you to them?
Dhamaka talks about such an important issue that is going on around us every day that anyone will be hooked on to it from the very first minute. For Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and Dostana 2, I don’t think I need to say what drew me to them. They are two of my favourite films from recent years. To be able to do a sequel with such awesome scripts is a no-brainer.