A fighting chance

Bollywood buzz

A fighting chance

Three films old, Sidharth Malhotra has already carved his definite niche among the toppers of GenY — like Ranveer Singh and Varun Dhawan. His fourth film, Brothers, has only just hit the screens, and from his releases so far, he is yet to have a flop. His debut film, Student Of The Year, was a moderate success, Hasee Toh Phasee made a small profit, while Ek Villain entered the 100 crore club, made a fortune abroad, and was one of the few critically-acclaimed super-hits last year.

The intense actor is in great form when we meet up at the office of Dharma Productions, the banner behind all his releases today except Ek Villain, and chats with me as he keeps digging into a bowl of oats and salad.

He rapidly enumerates the reasons why he could not have possibly nixed Brothers, even if it had come from a producer other than his mentor Karan Johar. “The other Karan (Malhotra), my director, was my boss when I was first assistant director on his debut film, Agneepath, and even there, he was so sure of what he wanted, and was a hard worker. He was an even harder taskmaster, and would use gaali-galoch (cusswords), and so in a way, it was sweet revenge, and this is what he pointed out.”

Packing a punch

Sidharth chuckles and adds the other reasons, “The role, the prospect of learning a new sport, being a fan of Warrior, the Hollywood film from which this is adapted, and Akshay Kumar as a co-star. Why would I not do such a film?”

He admits that his first intimation that Akshay would be his co-star and brother in the film was a shade unnerving. “I just went ‘accha (Okay)!’ and ‘Accha, I have to fight him!’ when they first elaborated on my sequences with him. I had to also put on a dozen kilos to match Akshay-sir losing the same amount — which was a good call on my director’s part. But overall, Akshay-sir was like a real brother and mentor.”

Sidharth reveals that his character is the only one that differs from the corresponding character in Warrior. “I play Monty, a guy with a traumatic past because of his abusive father, who has become this nasty, scarred and angry young man who wants his space within his family, and no one thinks well of him. He also hates his brother.”

Jackie Shroff (who plays his father) is someone he really loved to work with, and Sidharth says that it is amazing that after over three decades of stardom the man is so grounded and unchanged. “He was the best man to correct our Bambaiya lingo as he speaks in it. He was the in-house bhidu (chum) who would be so cool and relaxed, and would love to talk about his farm or sit calmly listening to his collection of songs.”

Jacqueline Fernandez, of course, plays Akshay’s wife in the movie and Sidharth rues the fact that he does not get to romance her after having co-stars like Alia Bhatt, Parineeti Chopra and Shraddha Kapoor. “Why do you think I am so angry in the film?” he jokes with a wink. “They made her my bhabhi!”

The cool demeanour reflects his success as an outsider in the profession. What are his exact feelings on the fact that each of his films has worked? “I have been accepted by the audience and that naturally has given me a lot of confidence, because I am an outsider,” he replies. “I have made a place for myself in the crowd, which can be a scary prospect for any actor at a time when so many newcomers are coming in. In fact, things will become quite difficult if another 50 or 100 come in.”

Taking risks

Sidharth has never repeated himself so far, either in the genre of films or in his roles. Was that intentional, or did he just get lucky? “I started planning on these lines only with my third film, Ek Villain,” he replies. “As an actor, I want to be known as someone who adapts to every kind of role, and does not stick to just one genre, or to only soft or action-oriented tough characters. And I am lucky I have been accepted as much in an intimate film like Hasee Toh Phasee as in Ek Villain, which was a big film with great music and did great numbers. And now I have done Brothers.”

The variety continues in both his films to come: Kapoor & Sons (also being produced by Karan Johar) has him play the youngest in a family, a goofy writer who likes to have fun. In Nitya Mehra’s film, produced by Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, he romances Katrina Kaif in a time-travel love story in which he is shown aging up to 60, with his make-up as a key factor.

However, it was still Brothers that took a lot out of him, he says. “For four months after Ek Villain, I instructed my surprised managers that I would do nothing other than eating, training and sleeping. I was eating oats with meat, all at the expense of this company. The trainers from Los Angeles were focussed on my fitness, and I also had to put on weight.”

Sidharth enjoyed learning something new as he has always been a fitness freak and into gyms and rugby before he came into films. “This time, the action was such that there was no scope for cheating in any fashion. Because both Akshay-sir and I were shown wearing only shorts, we could not use any padding or wires. Apart from that, strength and energy were needed as much as control. In fact, Akshay-sir once got a duplicate of my crotch-guard and fooled me into believing that I had dropped it during one of the bouts. All the fight sequences were like choreographed dancing. We would fall and get hurt, and especially for the climax, which we shot for 50 days without a break for rest or recovery.”
That’s when Sidharth says that he discovered ice-bath, a 15-minute process that accelerated the blood flow and healed the bruises they would get every single day.

When asked to describe his journey as an actor so far, he smiles and says, “I have grown from someone who just wanted to show everything I could do as actor to someone who understands a script better and realises that acting is about communicating something to the character within a sequence.”

And, is he doing the Ram Lakhan remake as we have been hearing?
“Oh, I have just heard of that one too!” he laughs.

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