Gaurav is not a psychotic or mad person running behind a girl like my character in Darr. It’s about innocence. When you’re young, you have stars in your eyes. When things don’t happen the way you want, it disturbs you. As a film and a character, it is way different than my negative portrayals in Baazigar, Don or Darr.
In the film, Gaurav resembles Aryan Khanna the superstar. How believable is that?
When I was young, people used to tell me I look like Kumar Gaurav of Love Story. I used to get so happy when I’d wear red checkered shirt and was called Kumar Gaurav. There is nothing wrong when you look like someone as long as they inspire you. When I grew up, I thought I look like Al Pacino and now I think I look like my father. I’m sure a time will come when I’ll look like myself and be happy.
You must have also been someone’s fan at some point. Have you done anything crazy for them?
I’ve been a fan of movies. Jo bhi maine pacchis saal main kiya hain, woh filmon ki deewangi main hi kiya hain. So whichever role I play, whatever work I do is because I’m a fan of movies. I love films so much that I even love the bad films. I’m a bad person to show films in trials because I like them so much that I can’t find flaws in them.
What are the craziest things fans have done for you?
There was this one guy who broke into my house, swam in my swimming pool and left. Woh sirf mere swimming pool mein nahana chahte tha! When police caught him at night he said, ‘Mujhko maarna mat, main toh sirf unke pool mein nahana chahta tha’. There have been people who’ve come to Mannat and climbed seven stories. But I don’t want to talk about these stories because I don’t want to encourage the youngsters to do anything that might be harmful and wrong for them to do. And writing letters in blood is a big no no! Send me an e-mail or tweet to me. That’s much better.
If you encounter a fan like Gaurav someday, what will you do?
Bohot maarunga usko (laughs). I will make them understand first. In movies we tend to extend the reality, so maybe in reality if I make them understand they will actually understand. Sometimes a superstar is unable to say what he feels to millions of people and it gets misunderstood. This is also a story of a misunderstood movie star. So, after this movie if something like this happens to me in reality, I’ll sit with that girl or guy for a good 10 to 12 days and make them understand.
Where did you get the reference of Gaurav’s body language and dialect from?
The director Maneesh Sharma is from Delhi. Initially when I had come to Mumbai from Delhi, I used to be very sad that nobody was giving me to play a character from Delhi. That time I used to speak like a typical Delhi-ite. It has been 25 years since then and I had forgotten how to talk like that. But Maneesh and everyone involved with the film remembers the dialect and the whole body language of Delhi. So they helped a lot. A lot of actors in this film were also from Delhi. Toh main sun sun key koshish karta tha key Delhi ka jo flavour hai usko character mein realistically le kar ayu. I’m from Delhi so it should be genuine and not sound wrong to Delhi-ites.
What was the most challenging part for you in Fan?
As a professional actor you should do things to the best of your capabilities. Having said that, physically this was a very challenging film for me. There was a lot of running in the action scenes. I’m a little injured now… In fact, I was injured while shooting for the Jabra song. I think the whole unit was very kind to me while shooting it. While shooting in Croatia and London it was even more difficult because it was so cold. At this age, to turn around and play a 24-year-old and to keep that energy plus to play two different roles in a day, yes it was difficult. But the team made it very easy, they constantly asked me to sit down, relax and take a break.
Do you remember your first encounter with a Fan?
I don’t know if they were fans or not. But I was driving in a two-wheeler in Delhi and there was a mother-daughter duo. When my scooter crossed them, both of them yelled, ‘Abhimanyu Rai!’(the character he played in the hit TV serial Fauji in 1989). For the next two years everyone only called me Abhimanyu or Abhi. So I got the first taste of people recognizing me because of these two ladies. I don’t know where they are today but I want to tell them thank you for making me feel like a star at that point in time.
Did people recognize you in the streets of Delhi in your Gaurav make-up while shooting for Jabra? How difficult was it for you?
It was very difficult to shoot with the make-up because it was very sticky! While shooting a lot of pictures had also leaked. We were shooting in Indra vihar colony in Delhi when a lady came up to me and said, ‘Arre Shah Rukh Khan ke asli daant nahi hain. Yeh toh nakli daant lagata hai!’ Some women wanted to click pictures with me but I didn’t want to reveal the look so I denied. But they said, ‘Kyu nahi? Tum toh bade young aur acchhe lag rahe ho!” (laughs) I got such reactions. Maneesh was very particular about shooting Jabra only in Delhi and nowhere else. Many people gathered during the shoot but it was a great experience. It wouldn’t have turned out the way it is without the Delhi touch.
What can fans expect from Fan?
People may not like the fan Gaurav because he may not turn out to be someone they thought he was. Or maybe they won’t like the superstar Aryan Khanna because he may turn out to be mean. But at the end of the day it’s just a film. I’m not like any of the characters that I have played in 25 years. Very few people know the real me. This film is just for entertainment and you can’t please everyone. So, hopefully people will like it and enjoy the two characters that Maneesh has etched out superbly.
Fans see you in a certain way and that’s how they become your fan. Do you consciously need to maintain that certain image of yours all the time in front of them?
I have never acted in front of people. I have been one of the most normal actors. I was always like this. So many times in awards functions I have been told ‘suit toh pehen ke aa jate, shirt pehen ke aa gaye ho.’ I have never been bothered about how I am. I have always believed that my stardom needs to be worn like a tee-shirt, not a tuxedo! I have never hidden the way I am from people. Sometimes it may go wrong but I don’t need to maintain a certain image. I look exactly like this when I wake up in the morning and take a bath. In real life, I don’t look the way I look in films. In fact, if I start doing all the things that I have done in my films in real life, I will become mad. Pahado mein khade hoke, haath failakey, ladkiyo ke saath gaana gakey… ladkiya bhaag jayegi agar aise gaana gaya toh! (giggles) Yes, I have never put up a front.
Do you remember the time you first came from Delhi to Mumbai?
Yes, I came by train. And I didn’t know that once the train enters Mumbai, it turns into a local train. My friends and I had a reserved berth and we knew nothing about this concept because Delhi didn’t have any local trains then. When a few people came to sit, we told them that we have paid for this berth and it is ours. I was slapped by the lady!
You had some bad experience before Dilwale’s release where you were called anti-national by some people. Would you like to make an appeal before Fan’s release now?
Freedom of speech also means the right to stay silent. So, I’m staying silent about this.
How do you relate to your fans on social media?
Most of the people in the film industry have social media to connect to the outside world. A lot of actors and actresses also give clarifications through this medium. I’m eternally grateful to the fans who take your message correctly and take the goodness and good thoughts forward. At this point of time, it’s one the most important mouthpiece if it is used correctly. And just for those lonely nights when you’re not feeling loved, you can just be on social media and feel so much love (smiles).