The actor, fresh off the success of period drama "Padmaavat", spoke to Reuters about life after marriage and children, why filmmakers are increasingly making movies targeting Indian audiences, and why he thinks he hasn't peaked yet.
Q: Now that you are about to be a father again, do you miss life before marriage and children?
A: I don’t regret it, but yeah, I miss it. But I have made that flip where I really enjoy my time with Misha (his daughter), and of course with Mira (his wife). That was a different time in my life where there were different pros and cons. I don’t go back to that (time in life) too much. What is important in life is to recognise ye kaunsa chapter chal raha hai aur uss chapter mein jeete hain (which phase of life you are in and to live that). You don’t need to either get nostalgic or go future-hunting.
Q: Does that advice work for your career too?
A: 100 percent. It is so unpredictable, this job. You give so much of yourself, and sometimes, nothing comes back. So, there is this huge void, and you are reeling in it. One day, you realise - bro, the void is there. Either you move forward and forget about it, or you stay here. The only constructive way to look at life is to always grow. Even if something great has happened in your life, move on.
Q: Did this learning come the hard way?
A: Of course. Being actors, we are emotional beings. You go through phases where you get absorbed in one specific feeling or state of mind. It is possible to wallow in self-pity. And that is your biggest enemy. It feels so good to be in it, when everyone is wrong except you. But the only person suffering is you, so you better move on.
Q: The times when you give it your all and it doesn’t come back to you, what is your coping mechanism?
A: I think you should never reject a situation that you are in, and you should never allow it for longer than it needs to. That is the only way you will get through it. If I may generalise, women are better at it than men. Women are really bad right after a break-up, and then they move on. Men don’t want to deal with how they are feeling, so they act cool at first, but realise how many relationships they messed up much later.
The great thing about this job is that it is a creative job. Which means that I have the ability and opportunity to create something new every day. Regardless of how I felt today, I can wake up tomorrow and create something new. That’s a great place to be in. So, wake up, create, let go. Easier said than done, of course.
Q: Your film "Batti Gul Meter Chalu" is about electricity theft and corruption in a small town. The director's earlier film was about toilets and the issue of hygiene and health. Why do you think films like these are resonating and working with audiences?
A: Because, finally, hallelujah! India wants to talk about Indian stories. We want to listen to stories that are about us. We don’t want to live in delusional worlds and watch films that are based in worlds that don’t exist. People really want to see films they can relate to, connect to, and which represent them. We are being true to ourselves, we are digging deep within our culture and our society to tell our stories. I think that is phenomenal.
Q: Do you think it's the end of the NRI film (movies made for Indians in overseas markets)?
A: I think that is a statement made very late. This is a business and there is a growth pattern to that business. There was a time when the overseas market was expanding, and the kind of numbers you saw coming from there were increasing. Naturally, the focus of the entire fraternity was on that. Now, it is the reverse. Movie theatres and multiplexes are going within the heartland of the country. The people who we are making movies for are now different, so the energy has shifted. This change is better, for sure.
Q: In terms of age and experience, you fall somewhere in the middle. Most leading men are either younger or older. In terms of the work you get, is that a good space to be in?
A: I am 37, and have worked for 15 years. It is great to be where I am, because having worked for that long, it brings a lot of experience, but I have also reached an age where I can do a little bit of everything. I don’t think I have been humongously successful yet. I don’t think I have peaked yet, which is great, because there is a peak somewhere, yet to come. I should be able to stick around for another 15 years, if I want to. After that, I might just go off to the mountains, or the beach. I am driven enough because I feel like I can do much better. When I take on something that is large, I have enough work behind me to be able to deal with it.
Q: You spoke about hitting your peak. How do you envision that peak?
A: Everything I touch should turn to gold (laughs). No, but on a serious note, if everything I do meets its potential. It is delusional to think that every film will be a blockbuster, but if the work that I do meets its potential, I will be happy.
Editing by Tony Tharakan; This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission.