You've been out of circulation for too long.
A 14-month exile. And I'm back, this time with a slapstick comedy. But it isn't slapstick for its own sake. In one line, "Masti" is a sex comedy without sex. I took it on because I had never done a comedy. It seemed a tantalising challenge.
Though it does have its scandalous moments, once I decided to take the plunge I enjoyed every minute of it... Actually Mani Sir's (Mani Rathnam) "Yuva" would've been my first post-accident release had it not been delayed.
Wouldn't you have preferred to come back with "Yuva"?
Not really. When I joined movies I didn't get a launch vehicle. I was just a part of a film. People would ask me why I was doing "Company" when there were so many stars in it? I had as great a time shooting with Ajay Devgan in "Company", as I had shooting for "Masti". Ajay is also with me in "Yuva". I must admit he's a major brother-figure in my life.
You've done so many interactive films!
Yes I have. It wasn't a calculated move. From the beginning, I've believed acting is like a tennis match. Both the sides have to play well for the match to be successful. I feel working with Ajay in "Company", "Masti" and "Yuva" has helped me grow. Likewise with all the co-stars I've worked with.
In "Masti" I've done my job and let other actors do theirs. There are portions where Aftab Shivdasani and Ritesh Deshmukh have excelled, as I am sure I've excelled elsewhere.
What are your other projects.
I'm doing work I love with some of the best directors in the country. Subash Ghai has completed a large chunk of "Kissna", about 30 percent. It's a period film based in the 1930s and 1940s. But it could be a story of any time.
I'm doing one film to be directed Shekhar Kapur called "Paani", and I might be doing another one with Shekhar that he'll produce. I've also signed a fantastic subject to be directed by John Matthew Mathan.
How does it feel to be up in such ambitious projects after the accident and the Salman Khan controversy?
For the record, I signed the best films of my career after the controversy. It's funny because everyone was saying that the industry was polarised and no one wanted to work with me. Ironically I signed Subhash Ghai, Shekhar Kapur, Mani Ratnam and John Matthew Mathan within a few months. The accident didn't shake my faith in my abilities as an actor.
I'm thankful for all the storms in my life. They've made me stronger. I was bitter about people calling my accident a publicity stunt and calling my parents names. Some of the biggest names in the media behaved very irresponsibly. God forbid, if any of these judgemental journalists went through what I did, they'd understand how cruel they were to someone who had gone through a near-fatal accident.
The whole experience has made me compassionate. I'm working with various charitable institutions for delinquent children. My heart breaks when I see unfortunate children. Can you imagine a 12-year-old girl pushed into prostitution?
Is this an offshoot of your accident?
Only partly. I've grown up watching my parents do charity all their lives. The accident has helped me evolve as a person. As far as experience goes, I've really jumped forward with a double promotion in the last one year.
You've spoken extensively about your relationship with Aishwarya Rai in one of your recent interviews. Is this a public acknowledgement of your plans together for the future?
It was just a spontaneous outpouring. I was probably in a frame of mind where I needed to speak my mind. I didn't mind it. Beyond that it's too private to comment on the relationship. And why do I need to publicly acknowledge our relationship through an interview? We do go out together, make public appearances. Isn't that a public acknowledgement?
What films are you doing together?
Samir Karnik's "Kyun Ho Gaya Na" is almost ready. As of now we're doing one more film Vishal Bharadwaj's "Timbuctoo". As for "Invaders", it's a completely changed project. I'll look at Roland Joffe's script anew. Interestingly, besides Aishwarya, I'm getting offers to do films with Preity Zinta and Kareena Kapoor.
What was it like working with Kareena Kapoor in "Yuva"?
Fabulous. There was a strangely complementary chemistry between us. According to me, Kareena has given her career's best performance in "Yuva". She came to "Yuva" from a totally different school of acting.