When actor Sidharth Malhotra danced his way into our hearts with the nostalgic Disco Deewane from his debut film, Student of The Year, few people thought he had the makings of a tough guy. Not only was he naïve and fresh, but there was a certain kind of innocence that turned him into a heartthrob overnight. With time though he delivered one hit film after another like Ek Villain, Kapoor & Sons and Hasee Toh Phasee to make his mark as a serious actor.
And, the actor is currently basking in the praise coming his for playing the Kargil War martyr, Captain Vikram Batra in his recent release, Shershaah. “Captain Vikram Batra’s role has been one of the most fulfilling and creatively satisfying one because he was this Punjabi guy who was friendly and happy-go-lucky. Playing a man like him is actually an honour for someone like me. Even though I have played army men before, this one is special,” Sidharth said.
Most actors are scared of reviews, especially if it is a real-life hero or a biopic of this stature. When asked about the kind of pressure he felt while working in the film he said, “You know when I went to meet the family it was emotionally draining for me. Primarily because this wasn’t any commercial story. It was the story of their son, their brother, their man! So, that is the only review I am scared of, the one that will come from his parents. I hope they like the film and I can emote right in their eyes. That I think has been the biggest pressure while doing this film because he was a hero everyone had seen and known!”
A lot of actors play army officers and later forget about them. What then could be his takeaway as a human being after this association with the Indian Army? “India is the largest democracy in the world, which also makes it vulnerable to outside pressure, especially in the border areas. After our freedom fighters, it is the armed forces which are ensuring our freedom. We owe our comfortable lives to them, there is no two way about it. As an actor, wearing the uniform brings in a personal sense of pride! Not just Independence Day, we should respect them at all times,” he added.
When asked how he came on board for the film he recalled, “I met Vishal Batra five years ago. We took it to Dharma and even then, it has been in the works for two and a half years. So, it has been a long process and hopefully now that it is finally out, the audience will like it. Also, since he was a real-life character, as an actor your craft is limited. You cannot go overboard with it. The whole film has been about wanting to inspire people, especially the youth. We have tried to be as authentic as possible, though there are a few cinematic liberties that had to be taken, because we had to show everything within a span of two hours.”
A lot of actors would have shied away from playing such a strong character on screen. So, what is that one thing that he could have learnt as a human being from the character that he was playing? “As a person I have learnt to get over my fears. Captain Batra was someone who was fearless, didn’t let anyone in his battalion get wounded, but suffered the injuries himself. So, as a person I realised that he had moved beyond the point in his mind where a person is pulled down by fears within himself. I have learnt to conquer my fears, that is my takeaway from the film. It has made me mentally strong. Also, the training I got from the Indian Army, made me a disciplined person.”
Recalling his days of struggle as an actor, Sidharth said, “I remember when I came to Mumbai as a 21-year-old, I was dying to make it on my own. That phase in my life helped me grow up. I was taking care of myself, paying my bills, going for auditions. That really made me independent and in a way I realised that I was all by myself. That also brought in a sense of independence.”
Also, he was all smiles when quizzed about his chemistry with rumoured girlfriend Kiara Advani. “You know if we really had to explore the romantic side to Vikram Batra, it would have made for another full-length film. But our focus was his career, his love life was just a part. I think Kiara has played the character with great sincerity and honesty. That purity of heart really reflects on the screen. This is our first film together and she is an instinctive actor. I am the one who always wants to do rehearsals and she will never say no to that. So, together we make a good team. She is not a Punjabi, but she has learnt the language and said the dialogues beautifully,” he added.
When asked about one memorable incident while shooting in Kargil he said, “The landscape in Kargil is such that there are no trees or grass. Rather it is full of stones and mud. I remember dusting myself after a particular scene and complaining about all the mud, when an army man called out to me and said ‘apni mitti hi to hain, jhaarna kyun!’ To us it sounds like a great dialogue, but at that time I realised they actually live that life where they believe they are made of that mitti, the land for which they give up their lives if needed. That conversation has stayed with me, it was a phenomenal way to point out that we should take pride to be citizens in this blessed land!”
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