“I didn’t come to Mumbai from Delhi just for a certain kind of lifestyle or to earn some big money. The reactions to this film is true gold for me which is more valuable than any financial or materialistic gain," says actor Sidharth Malhotra, who is elated with the positive response that he has been getting for Shershaah. The encouraging reactions have reaffirmed his faith in his choice of projects and has also given him the much need boost to his career. Excerpts from an interview:
Captain Vikram Batra’s mother cried after watching the climax of the film. What was the reaction from his family after watching the film?
We made the film for a complete family audience to understand the sacrifices that Captain Vikram Batra made along with all the 500 plus soldiers that we lost. When I showed it to Captain Batra’s family in Delhi, it was a special and emotional moment for all of us. Emotionally, they were all in tears. I remember his mother said, ‘These are tears of pride and not of sadness. As a team, you have made the world and even us realise the sacrifice our son along with all the other soldiers made for their country.’ Even Vishal Batra, his brother, said that I have always seen him post his service and never in combat, so now whenever I think of battlefield, I get your visual. So, it is a proud moment for us. It’s an amazing feeling and this is the kind of appreciation any creative person would wish for.
Do you finally feel validated for being appreciated for your acting in movies after spending a decade in the industry?
Yes, there is a sense of validation. Going by the kind of response and love coming my way, it definitely feels like the long journey of this film and journey in general worth it. As an actor, this is what I am striving for. I didn’t come to Mumbai from Delhi just for a certain kind of lifestyle or to earn some big money. The reactions to this film is true gold for me which is more valuable than any financial or materialistic gain. This is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. It has also given me a sense of motivation, for future films that I have to keep at it and keep working hard, so that I get this kind of amazing response. My focus on being a working actor is to bring in a larger audience. I have consciously not allowed the fate of my past films to affect my current choices.
Does it also get daunting because all your upcoming performances will be compared to Shershaah.
I think the bar is set high, which I’m really excited about. I feel very passionately about moviemaking and filmmaking and a script like Shershaah just inspires me as an actor. So more than getting a feeling of being daunting, it’s given me a direction to choose scripts. And I am up for the challenge and work harder to get the kind of response that I have got for this film.
Does the success of the film change your approach towards your craft?
I think craft is more from other people to say that they now realise that if I make a suggestion, it’s coming with a lot of thought and just to make the film better. Yes, my choices will matter now because I have realised that you require this kind of passion and love for a script to get that kind of result.
Actors are generally surrounded by people who are always praising them or saying good things about them. In this case, how do you create a circle, one that consists of people who don’t say things that you want to hear but the truth?
I have never interacted with people or hung out with people who always say ‘Yes sir.’ I think it stems from my background. I don’t belong to a filmi family. I have friends who are working in different walks of life and are genuine in general. They have nothing to gain from me by saying anything, which is apart from the truth.
In a recent interview, Kriti Sanon mentioned that good looking people are not taken seriously in showbiz. She even mentioned that she even faced rejection as she was too pretty for the role. Has it ever happened with you?
We wouldn’t have Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or George Clooney as the biggest stars if that was the case. I think it’s correct casting with the right intention which matters. Whether it’s a murder mystery or a love story or an action film, I have done almost all genre. More than a good looking face, people have to stop equating success with business. The industry or media equates success with business. Any good business can override bad writing bad scripts, bad actors. And I don’t think that’s an apt, we have to judge anyone’s creative intention.
Coming back to Shershaah, one of the things that is being widely discussed is the fact that the film never turned jingoistic in nature. Was it a conscious decision?
Yes, it was definitely a conscious effort. Whether it stems from Sandeep Srivastava’s writing or Vishnuvardhan’s direction or me as an actor to not use or portray Captain Vikram Batra’s life to say anything about another country or point of view or take a political stand. His life story in general had such heroic moments, such emotional moments, such great high points that we didn’t need to make up anything. Captain Vikram Batra himself was a filmi and warm-hearted personality. So all the dialogues that you hear will possibly sound very Hindi film-like, but that is how he was. Whether the lines he said on the battlefield or with friends and his lover (Dimple Cheema, essayed by Kiara Advani), all the lines are real.
For instance, the dialogue ‘Ya Tiranga lehra kar aunga ya to Tirange me lipat kar aaunga’, could have been said in so many different ways but I consciously took that route because he had said this to a friend and we wanted to document it in the same way. I feel that Shershaah is a fresher take and a more respectable take on a war film. We are not trying to put any other country down. We’re just telling a more personal story. We wanted to consciously keep the realism alive.
Another thing that is being appreciated is the chemistry between you and Kiara. The delay in the release due to the pandemic and the rumours about you two dating just added to the audience’s anticipation. Do you think the off-screen friendship translated to on screen?
We actually met for the film and we shot for it immediately after meeting. The love story was shot in about 15 days. I don’t think it (the chemistry) stems from anything else but us doing our jobs as actors. We are happy to come on board for a film like Shershaah which is so special. We are playing real characters and Captain Vikram Batra’s love story is true and I think that was the key factor. Nothing else matters when you are portraying any role. We are happy that people are giving love to Vikram and Dimple’s love story.