He is no longer the Student of the Year. Young Abhimanyu Singh has, over a not so long period, graduated to become Major Jai Bakshi of Aiyaary. Sidharth Malhotra's much awaited and slightly delayed crime thriller hits the big screen on February 16 later this week. With Naseeruddin Shah, Manoj Bajpayee, Rakul Preet Singh, Pooja Chopra, Adil Hussain, Kumud Mishra and Anupam Kher, also in the movie Aiyaary makes one wish that this week passes by fast.
The film explores the lives of two Indian Army officers. A mentor and his protege. Two officers with a patriotic heart who have a fall out. The mentor, Colonel Abhay Singh, played by Manoj Bajpai, has complete faith in the system of the country. While protege Major Jai Bakshi, essayed by Sidharth Malhotra, thinks otherwise because of what he has seen and heard in his recent stint in surveillance. Jai Bakshi decides to turn rogue and this is what kicks off the story of the film.
Connected to India caught up with Sidharth Malhotra to talk about Aiyaary and his remarkable journey in Hindi cinema so far.
CtoI: Sidharth, warm welcome from Sunny Singapore and thank you for talking to us. Your film Aiyaary is creating quite a buzz. I believe you are the one with all the tricks. How many of those do you have up your sleeve?
Sidharth Malhotra: Well, I won’t say I am the only one. It is between me and Manoj Bajpai. The two different generations of India, of the Army and of military intelligence. I think it is first time I am playing a military intelligence officer who knows the art of trickery. There is lot of trickery, lot of thrill. There is some bit of action and is very relevant to what is happening in our country today.
CtoI: You are working with stalwarts like Nasseruddin Shah, Anupam Kher and Manoj Bajpai. Was it an overwhelming experience for you?
Sidharth Malhotra: It was more exciting to be a part of a cast when you have actors with so much experience, senior actors who are working for so many years. It definitely adds to your experience, you get to learn a lot. That’s exactly what happened, specially interacting a lot with Manoj Bajpai, who has done a lot of prolific work. Observing him work closely, doing lines with him, and even interacting with him off-camera, was a very enriching experience. He took out time very sweetly. I will use this experience in future.
CtoI: You share the most screen time with Manoj Bajpayee, can you please share one or two things you picked up vis a vis acting from the great actor?
Sidharth Malhotra: Acting is not a point-based thing which you pick up. It is an ongoing process. It is not a skill that leads from step 2 to step 3. So, it is lot of interaction with other actors who have done so many roles and preparations and have their own methods. So, we were talking about preparations, we were talking about Hindi poetry, we were talking about dictions, different scenes. And something that you can gain and use in your future projects.
CtoI: Neeraj Pandey is one director everyone wants to work with, how was your experience? Is he a tough task master?
Sidharth Malhotra: Well, this is my first time working with Neeraj Pandey. He does like to have a certain amount of discipline on the set, the kind of film he makes which are mostly fast paced, thrillers and subjects which are very close to reality. It goes with his personality and persona on set. Everything was on time, everything was fast and I just find him extremely clear and convinced once your are giving a scene or a dialogue, there is no question as to why does he wanted or will he change if you push him unless you have a very good reason. And he would not change it. And that gives the actor a lot of confidence that the director is convinced, which is always good.
CtoI: So, you are in august company. Any particular moment that you remember from the making of this film with these gentlemen that will stay with you for long?
Sidharth Malhotra: The whole filming experience with the senior actors, it is different scenes you do with them. There is a confrontational scene between me and Manoj Bajpai- which is a different piece of art- which is very interesting for me and my character. You understand the crux of the character, you understand why he is doing certain things. In that scene, I had lot to say to Bajpai’s character. That’s something, I really prepared for, really, I was working at. I think it has come out very well. So, we are looking forward that people will see the film which is releasing on February 16.
CtoI: You started your career by playing a young student Abhimanyu Singh, then Guru, Jai Varma, my favourite Arjun Kapoor from Kapoor and Sons and now you play Major Jai Bakshi. There is a huge variety of the characters you have played. How do you prepare for each role?
Sidharth Malhotra: Yes, I have always tried to do different content, different roles, different world as opposed to sticking to one particular world and I feel that the future is to provide various content as opposed to keep playing yourself. But the thing is to find similarities between those characters and those worlds to your life and to your personality. The Arjun Kapoor in Kapoor and Sons was very different to what I am in real life. I come from a Punjabi family of four. I have a grandfather and grandmother in Delhi. So, a lot was taken from there.
Over here, Major Jai Bakshi, this character….I start looking at similarities as to what I can relate to this character and my real life. Again, this guy is very focussed, very honest, work hard and make a difference within the armed forces, within the system of military intelligence. He has a strong belief system and he wants to imbibe them by action and not only by giving lectures and talking about it. He is a doer. So, I could relate to it a lot.
Coming from outside the industry and coming to Mumbai, having a dream, focussing on it and working really hard at it. So, I started what Major Jai Bakshi wants to do. Being a spy, I found it very very fascinating, I love this espionage world. Basically, it is a spy thriller and the time we haven’t seen it before in India because you only glorify them and make their life extremely look glamorous and they can get out of any situation. But, one of the best spies are the ones who don’t get into any situation. Its is not about how they get out of the situation.
So Neeraj Pandey being Neeraj Pandey and the kind of films he make has kept it very real and close to reality- the technology we use or the clothing they wear and how would they operate.
The whole espionage world is very exciting and close to similarity between Jai Bakshi and me.
CtoI: You are not from the film industry but a lot of your contemporaries are, what has your experience been as a so-called outsider in the industry?
Sidharth Malhotra: We talked about that in the previous question. It is something that I have got into my lifetime. My first-hand experience. I think that it is an ongoing process and it is something that you can’t say that you have figured out. Everybody has their own journey. For me, the most important thing is to pursue and having that kind of particular instinct as an actor, as a creative person, whether it is on a director, whether it on a script, whether it is on a story. I think what all the actors eventually have. It is just to have a pure instinct- whether you want to do this script, you will be a part of this imaginary world a director wants to create. Otherwise, there is no hard and fast rule- what works or what doesn’t work.
I also feel coming from outside- I have lesser obligation and fears intact. All outsiders have covered so many obstacles.
Being an outsider, fear of being a failure is something that we have been used to from the very beginning of our careers, being rejected in the auditions or struggling to get work. That is something that all of us don’t let us get bogged down by. Again, I think it is the beginning of my journey, so much I want to do, so many kind of roles, so many kinds of content. I am just looking forward to creating new stuff and creating new stories
CtoI: Bollywood has always had a huge connect with the NRI community and Indian diaspora. It is even more heartening to see how Indian film industry is entering new frontiers. I am referring to the incredible success of Dangal and Secret Superstar have enjoyed in China. Do you reckon this is happening because of the choice of subjects and new way of storytelling we are adopting which is more believable?
Sidharth Malhotra: Yes, of course, I think the way of story-telling has definitely changed over the years. Also picking up of stories is something that…of course it depends on which country connects with what kind of content in a way. For example, Bahubali, which is a regional film, doing differently in India, catering to pan-India and then around the world. It has done massive business and something we never saw in our country. That kind of effect, that kind of fantasy world.
For Dangal, it is pure content of a daughter and father relationship connects with China because they could relate to it. You know, China would have kind of culture and upbringing where there would be restriction to a girl’s life in a male dominated country. They connect to it. I think it also depends on what kind of flavour of films connect with the region and the country. Definitely, it is great for us.
Universal makes more worldly and I am hoping that it is just the beginning and we can make cinema that can be seen by the world just like the Hollywood.
CtoI: Is there a role that Siddarth Mahohtra really wants to do? Like Steven Spielberg’s well known desire to direct a Bond film.
Sidharth Malhotra: Talking about Spielberg, I am a big Indiana Jones fan and wish we had a character like that. Or just to play, I keep saying that India needs many superheroes. We do have heroes but we do not have a particular superhero that has so far convinced audience with a particular power so . I think it would be great to play a character which we built on in a series and maybe somebody can write the charcter of superhero.
Catch Aiyaary in Golden Village movie halls island wide and Carnival Cinemas located in Shaw Tower. A Reliance Entertainment film Aiyaary is distributed by Darpan Singapore in Singapore.