His good looks were hard to ignore even when he roughed it out as an assistant director during My Name Is Khan. It was his handsome demeanour and his passion for the craft that got him a picture-perfect launch with mentor Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year. Then on he’s had a sundry string of films with Ek Villain and Kapoor & Sons adding to his success score and Baar Baar Dekho, A Gentleman and Aiyaary detracting from it. Right now, Jabariya Jodi has him shed his suave avatar only to revel in Bihari bonhomie. He’s betraying a certain abandonment in his personal life too. After a much-publicised heartbreak, the diffident Sidharth Malhotra says he’d rather invest in films now even though rumours suggest otherwise. The grapevine is linking him with Kiara Advani and Tara Sutaria. Love, he however insists, has taken a backseat. Right now, he’s happy being in the driver’s seat steering his career towards the expressway once again… We catch up with him on the eve of the release of Jabariya Jodi and this is what he has to say…
What was the takeaway from Jabariya Jodi?
The character Abhay Singh, a Patna lad, was completely new for me. Mujhe bahut mazaa aaya ise karne mein. Also, I was an assistant director for a few years before Student Of The Year. So I realise the importance of background music, dubbing, editing and how certain techniques can make your film better by at least 20-30 per cent. Of course, 80 per cent is what you shoot.
There’s an ease that you seem to share with Parineeti Chopra…
Parineeti and I bond well off-screen. That’s an advantage. When you work with someone again (after Hasee Toh Phasee), you don’t have to waste time in breaking ice. There’s a comfort level. You can improvise without having to ask should I hold you like this or should I say this line. Pari’s a fabulous actor. We enjoyed working in Jabariya Jodi.
In a short span of time, you’ve experienced struggle, success and uncertainty. What insights have you gained about the industry?
I guess the Universe is training me for something bigger. I had the best launch with Student Of The Year. Then I had a spate of good and bad films… it’s been a roller-coaster ride. You come out of it stronger and more sorted. A sense of confidence sets in. The first truth I learnt is that if a film’s success or non-success is associated with me, then as an actor I’ve got to be more involved with the film, take more ownership, of course without overriding anyone else. I can add my bit in terms of having the correct music or the right studio set up. You should feel you’ve done your best. I don’t want to have any regrets on that Friday when you can’t change anything. Also, it’s easier when you’re working with a first-time director because you have more experience than him. When you have an established director, then you have to give in because they come with their own understanding. These are the two major learnings.
Any other realisation?
That it’s an ongoing process. It’s about reinventing yourself every few months. It’s never-ending like a flowing river. I hope I keep flowing. In India, in every generation, there are only a handful of actors, who get accepted as heroes and heroines. I feel blessed to be one of them. Also, there’s no superstar, who’s not had bad films. It’s part of the journey.
Rumours about your romance with Tara Sutaria and Kiara Advani abound…
These are just jabariya rumours. That’s the only answer I can give. I’m devoted to my work and every aspect of it.
So you have no time for love?
I don’t miss love in my life because I’m totally passionate about and consumed by films. I’m in that phase of my life, where films require most of my energy. Maybe, subconsciously I’ve blocked love. I’m longing for the audience’s love. That’s the only love I want. There’s an audience, which has loved me so far no matter what. Now, I want a larger audience to love me for years to come.
Jabariya Jodi, Marjaavaan, Sher Shah… you seem to be focussing more on commercial fare…
I want to focus on subjects that appeal to a larger audience. That’s a conscious decision. But the film needs to have an X-factor. The world of pakadwa vivaah in Jabariya Jodi was exciting. Marjaavaan has larger-than-life action. The Vikram Batra biopic, Sher Shah, is a real story of a Kargil hero.
Are you getting offers for web shows?
Not so far. Most actors are busy doing films. In India, it’s not become so big or attractive for us. The change will take time. We still have a huge movie-going audience. The viewership for films is much larger than that for digital content right now. It may be the future but not the present.
How do you view yourself?
I’m instinctive and passionate about certain things. I crave to work with people, who’re as passionate and driven. Once something’s put on screen, you have to live with it for the rest of your life. So you’ve got to be responsible about the work you do. The majority of India enjoys entertainment. We’re doing a good deed. You need passion for that.
You have a clean image. Have you worked at it?
Being upfront is my inherent nature. I don’t come from a film background. I grew up in Delhi. I had no idea about the workings of the industry. It took me a while to understand. But I’ve always remained honest. I like to say what I feel on the person’s face. Though it’s tough in this industry, I like to keep it clean – dealings or relationships.
Have you come across pretence and double standards here?
Of course. There’s a lot of insecurity in people here. People tend to say things they don’t mean or are scared to say what they mean. So either way, you’re left confused. The way to survive is not to become like them. You need to be able to read between the lines and understand the truth. I’ve been here for seven years now. As much as I may try, I can only change myself and not the other person.
A crazy fan moment?
Recently, I was promoting Jabariya Jodi on a show. Six young girls from the audience were wearing white T-shirts with ‘We love you Sid’ written on them. They were sisters. One got emotional and started crying when she met me. It was a sweet moment. It’s moments like these that make it all worthwhile.