How does life look to you now?
Absolutely cool. I've just started shooting for Priyadarshan's "Garam Masala". It's my first time with Priyan, my first film with Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal and also my first comedy.
After "Dhoom" I'm so immersed in my career, I've no time for anything else. I like going into unexplored territory. I like the sense of adventure that my roles seem to offer me now.
How has "Dhoom" changed your life?
Honestly in terms of project, nothing has changed. I had signed three films before "Dhoom" and they're in various stages of completion: Soham Shah's "Kaal", Priyan's "Garam Masala" and a Milan Luthria film that Ramesh Sippy is producing, arguably the best script I've heard.
But yes, after "Dhoom" I did feel more accepted by the film industry. The film fell into the commercial framework, so I was finally looked at as a mainstream actor. But to me, success means getting to work with an 'A' list of directors and producers. From where I stand I can't gauge where I am.
Didn't you get greedy after "Dhoom"?
No. People said I had hiked my price after "Dhoom". But it's a nominal hike. I don't think I'm in the position to demand too much money. At the risk of sounding ignorant I just don't know where I stand.
In fact I signed just one film after "Dhoom" - "Kabul Express". It's a mind-blowing script by a new director, Kabir Khan. In terms of political message and drama it's 10 times more powerful than "No Man's Land".
Why aren't you in "Dhoom 2"?
I'd rather look at the glass as half-full. I'd rather be happy for being in "Dhoom" than be unhappy for not being in the sequel.
I'm really happy with what "Dhoom" gave me. Aditya Chopra signed me at a time when four of my films had failed in a row. "Dhoom" gave me all the success that I could hope for. A lot of people think it gave cinema a cool villain.
But the logic for not having you in the sequel is that your character dies in the first part.
In that case, I understand and let's close the chapter. Honestly I'm not just being politically correct. Adi understands the audiences' pulse. If he feels I don't need to be in "Dhoom 2", I've no argument.
You've also been finalized for B.R. Chopra's "Babul"?
Yes, and I'm really excited about it. Salman Khan is playing Rani Mukherjee's first husband while I play the second one. I truly, truly love the role.
When Ravi Chopra narrated the role, I had the same gut feeling about it as I did when I heard "Dhoom". And "Babul" will be my first family film. Irrespective of what others feel, I stand by it completely.
Are you constantly looking for new beginnings?
I'm constantly looking for challenging scripts. So far I had always stuck to a comfort zone for role selection. The only way I could grow was to go beyond my comfort zone.
Now in "Babul", I'm doing a family drama for the first time and in "Garam Masala", a comedy, which is the toughest thing to do onscreen. Even the best of actors have a bad time with comedy. When I shot for this comedy I realized how difficult it was. I feel I'm starting anew.
When Sanjay F. Gupta first offered me "Karam", I thought it was going to be an action film. But he said it was an emotional love story between my character and his wife. It was a very, very special film. Honestly, I found it pretty easy to play the intense character.
My career was supposed to be launched by Sanjay F. Gupta. It was supposed to be with his "Musafir". That didn't work out, but Gupta and I were constantly searching for a reason to come together. When we came across the script for "Karam", we decided to go for it.
Priyanka Chopra looked like Liz Taylor in "Karam". Didn't she?
She was looking unbelievable. And she performs so well too. She is such a sweet, punctual, professional girl with all the qualities to become successful. I had worked with her during our modelling days. In "Karam", we didn't have too many scenes together. We were separated almost throughout. But whatever scenes we did share, were memorable. I really need to work with people who are as excited about their work as I am.