To die for

Sidharth Malhotra’s hunger to play the archetypal hero gets satiated in his latest outing ‘Marjaavaan’, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

Sidharth Malhotra

His filmography proves that he has always been a hungry actor — never mind if some of his films have not set the cash registers ringing. Student Of The Year, Hasee Toh Phasee, Ek Villain (his biggest hit till date), and Kapoor & Sons as well as the unsuccessful Brothers, Baar Baar Dekho, Ittefaq, A Gentleman and Aiyaary showed Sidharth Malhotra’s evolving acting skills.

Note how every film, in terms of setting and theme, was completely different from each other, and we start our chat on this note — that with his latest release, Marjaavaan, due on November 15, Sidharth treads new ground again, of a ‘heroic’ action hero who follows the swag and superman quotient of all those toughies that dotted the cinematic landscape of the 1970s and 1980s.

“Yes, this is a full-on commercial space,” he grins broadly. “I am back to action again after Ek Villain, Brothers and A Gentleman, but this is a larger-than-life kind of setting that we saw in the 70s and 80s and of which I have been a great fan. That is the treatment, as my director (Milap Milan Zaveri) is very convinced about it, and I love that kind of presentation. So I am beating up 10 men at a time, pulling up tankers and breaking helmets. And at the same time, there is an intense love story at its heart. Milap would often say this film is something like Tezaab, which was tagged as a violent love story.”

Most actors find this zone much more challenging than the normal assignments, especially in terms of today’s movies. What does he think? “I just think that it needs more conviction,” he answers. “You have to cultivate that style, that anger, and the way you beat up that many people. But I have been a big fan of Mr Bachchan’s films, and of Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt. And that helps me believe in this kind of cinema. And I think audiences like such a journey — two hours of entertainment also with an intense love story. Our love story adds a very lovely flavour to the film.” What does he think are the unique points of this film? “That one lover is killing the other, and why that is so you will realise when you watch the film. As you know, every film of mine has been set in a completely different world, and I had met Milap a year before Satyameva Jayate was released as I wanted to do an intense love story, and he had written my Ek Villain. He told me that he had a script. We needed someone unique as a villain, and when Ritesih Deshmukh came in, as a dwarf, the project started becoming very interesting. After all, we three had worked together in Ek Villain.”

Quintessential

He goes on, “Marjaavaan is a very cast-friendly film. Today, we have the technology to show Riteish as a dwarf, a three-foot-high villain who is as entertaining as he is menacing. And the child in me always wanted to play a quintessential hero. Besides, my heroine Tara Sutaria plays a mute character.”

The music of the film has become a hit, and we ask what he thinks in general about the decline in its importance, especially in the last two or three years. After all, his films like Student Of The Year, Ek Villain and A Gentleman have been musicals of sorts. “I think that in a love story, the visuals of the music are very essential. I do not agree that the importance of music has gone down,” he says. 

He explains his stand, “Music is still integral to our films, and it is up to the makers to decide if an original song must be made or an old song re-created. Yes, song formats have changed. People today do not take kindly to a sudden song. Our films are shorter by an hour now, whereas in olden times, a film would be three hours long as the songs themselves would amount to 30 or 40 minutes of screen time together. So I think that’s absolutely fine as every cinema is evolving. In Hollywood, they are returning to musicals, so I guess that can later happen here as well.”

A reunion of sorts

Talking about his reunion with Riteish Deshmukh, he says, “Actually this film has a lot of reunions for me—with Milap, who wrote Ek Villain, with Rakul Preet Singh, my heroine in Aiyaary and with Riteish.” He says there’s a strange coincidence as, “Whenever Riteish comes into my love story my girl dies. This is very interesting, as I have never had this kind of pairing with anyone. As for the shooting part, it was often very tedious as we had to do several scenes differently. I would shoot against a green screen and it was very funny talking to a blank space where Riteish would be put in later. Then we had sequences where I would be looking down at his midriff because he would be technologically shrunk later and I had to make eye-contact in the sequence as seen on screen.”

Riteish is mainly known for comedy, so would he not like to do something like that with him and make us laugh? “Of course!” he smiles. “We can even make each other laugh, and he will not kill my girl. Both of us have discussed this. But so far, I have never been offered a total comedy.”

Sidharth was an assistant director to Karan Johar before becoming an actor. So when can we expect him to direct a film? “That won’t happen for a while,” he muses. “I became an AD as I had never joined any film institute, and that was like my school. Actually, I am a very hungry and selfish actor now and all that can happen soon is maybe I will be producing a film and giving inputs as an actor. Someone asked me recently if I would do a web series. But that does not excite me enough. I think there is enough audience for cinema and a huge variety of roles.”

Right now, Sidharth has some work left on Shershaah, his next film and first biopic—he plays Captain Vikram Batra, the Kargil hero. How challenging was that? “Every film is challenging and no film is easy,” he says. “This film had its share of tough aspects — location-wise, then the 1990s setting, and the fact that I was playing someone real. I also visited his house. Captain Vikram also has a twin brother and I am playing him as well.”

Why is the film called Shershaah? “That was his code name during the Kargil operation," he smiles. Does he have a wish-list of the kind of roles and movies he would like to do?

“I would love to do a unique superhero film, where the lead character is someone new and completely Indian, and not someone on the lines of what the West is doing very well,” he says instantly.

 

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