Tell us something about yourself and your background. How did you end up becoming an actor?
Iíve wanted to be an actor since I was a child. Throughout my school years I used to participate in debates, plays etc. I was never very good at academics or sport. But what I used to excel in was cultural activities, creative stuff, dancing. When I won, I loved it! I always knew I was inclined towards entertainment. I used to watch a lot of TV. I used to be glued! Then when I was 14 or 15, I felt this was a very far-fetched idea for someone like me who does not have any family backing. Prime opportunities came with lineage. So I pursued my second passion which was creative writing. I thought I would become a copywriter. Then when I was in America, in college, I took an acting class, just randomly. When I came to Mumbai I became an Assistant Director. It was a good decision because I got on set experience. Network a little with people in the industry. Then did theatre. I wanted to only act in mainstream Hindi movies. Thing was I wanted to keep my face fresh. I made it a point not to give my face away. Went through the conventional way: got my pictures clicked, went to casting agents, anyone who was willing to see my pics. Went on for a good 3 and a half years. One day I got a call, saying itís a Yashraj role, lead role, so I came, gave it my best shot. And I crossed many stages. Then finally I met Maneesh, the director of Band Baaja Baaraat again. He took me to meet Mr. Aditya Chopra. Adi sir gave me good words of advice. They handed me the script so I had a tangible symbol of my achievement.
Tell us something about Bittoo Sharma.
The good thing about being an actor is you get to play so many characters, you get to be so many people. I am so happy I got to play this part. Bittoo ek Delhi university ka launda hai - awara, typical loafer, always doing masti with friends. He has no interest in studies, bas maza karne hain, chill karna hai. Aage nahi sochta. Third year khatam hota hai. Now he has to decide what to do. That is when he meets Shruti. Bittoo sochta hai, yaar yeh badi sorted ladki dikhti hai, main iske saath chipak jaata hun. Iske bhale mein meri bhi kuch setting ho jayegi. Zyaada kaam nai karna padega. Yeh life mein kuch karegi. Somehow convinces her that we should start a business together. You do all the thinking and Iíll do all the execution. And then the story goes forward: about their relationship.
You both play wedding planners in the film. How did you put this into your character? During the recce you learnt a lot, so by the time you reached shoot, had you understood what was needed?
I only learnt and studied up until you see him first in the film, when he is a university boy. Uske baad jo bhi dikhaya hai, woh uske liye bhi naya hai. He is also planning a wedding for the first time, and going to places in Delhi for the first time. So I let that be a new experience for me too. That was why I could be most natural; it would all be new for me, not rehearsed, so I could act it out well.
Maneesh Sharma. The director of the film: How is he as a person and a director?
Maneesh is crazy! He is a raging bull on set! But in a good way. He has a very clear vision. He knows what heís saying; he knows his style, his vision of the end product is so clear! It just makes everyoneís job so easy. You just have to take instructions from him. Thatís what is remarkable. To be clear at the very outset. He knew every nuance of every line, how he wanted, where he wanted. This script was so much in his system. And it had gone through so much processing in his mind. And the way he would speak, you would know how much and how well he knows Band Baaja Baaraat! He is not unclear at ANY given point. And he doesnít compromise. Till he gets it, he doesnít move forward. Everybody has to get on the same page. So for me he is the best director in the world! He really has natural talent and is a great story teller.
What was your experience of meeting Anushka for the first time?
I remember it was during the audition process, a Sunday morning. Maneesh told me to come for a reading, and said it would be with a fellow actor. I had no idea it was going to be with Anushka! I was already very nervous. And when the door opened, there was Anushka! It was like a scene out of a film. I was stunned! I had been a fan of hers. Loved her work in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. I was stunned. She is so gorgeous in person, twice as she is on screen. Anyway, that was my first face to face with her. I was taken in by her presence. I was already nervous, then you popped Anushka in front of me. She is very hard to ignore.
The film being character driven requires tremendous chemistry between the actors for its success. What did you do for chemistry?
Iím lucky that she was cast to be Shruti. Anushka and my approach to acting are very different. I rehearse and rehearse and she leaves it to be as spontaneous as possible. Because itís such a beautifully written script, the chemistry was already on paper. The rest was just our approach to it, and I guess the chemistry just followed.
Did Anushka explain to you from her experience?
I am a nervous kind of guy! But I never allow my nerves to be detrimental to my performance. Iíve learnt how to channel them and make them a positive energy. And that time Anushka helped me. She would help me at every level. When she says something itís like reggae music. When it comes at you itís not harsh. She had a wonderful way of supporting and encouraging me at every step of the way. Whatís remarkable is she accepts another actor whose approach is totally different. We learnt from each other. She is very cool collected calm. Operates from a space of extreme confidence. And she has so much that even I became confident! She was like a pillar of support throughout the process.
Did dancing come easy to you?
For my first audition, I was required to enact a couple of scenes, but the second one required me to dance! Maneesh rolled the camera and said pick your song! I chose My Name Is Lakhan and Chaiya Chaiya.
In the feedback, they said you can dance, you have rhythm but your moves are terrible!
Then I met Vaibhavi maíam who made me dance and then made moves according to what I naturally can do. I am not trained, but enjoy it. Thatís why I get away with it! She made me do dance classes. Finally we rehearsed before the shoot. The songs are so much fun, I never felt like I was going to work. If you choose a job you love, you will never feel like youíre going to work.
I will give you words. You comment briefly.
Bittoo Ė endearing
Delhi Ė love it
Delhi University Ė awesome place, amazing energy
Weddings Ė hectic!
Wedding planning Ė nightmarish at times!
Maneesh Ė mad man
Vaibhavi Ė master ji
How would you sum up your whole experience?
I hope I do many more films in my life but BBB will just be that special one! I feel really lucky to play a superb character like Bittoo in my first film. The people I worked with are so awesome and are so good at their work. YRF has spoilt me to bits. I am so thankful to Adi sir. I owed it to him and Iíve tried to give it my best shot. Iíve given it everything. Itís the best thing Iíve ever done in my life. The kind of growth and personal development during BBB has been the best, the coolest, the most fun and most satisfying thing Iíve done in my life.