EXCLUSIVE | Sidharth Malhotra: I have never looked at film business as a factory to churn out new stories | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

EXCLUSIVE | Sidharth Malhotra: I have never looked at film business as a factory to churn out new stories

Dec 13, 2022 10:10 AM IST

Actor Sidharth Malhotra, who is gearing for his next OTT film, Mission Majnu, admits that while the intent is to work constantly, and not have breaks, it doesn’t mean he will start choosing films for wrong reasons.

Having spent 10 years in the Hindi film industry and with 13 films in his kitty, actor Sidharth Malhotra has no qualms about taking it slow and steady, professionally. While he admits that the intent is to work constantly without any breaks, he is quick to add “it doesn’t mean I start choosing films for wrong reasons.” With three projects -- Mission Majnu, Yodha and Indian Police Force, already announced, Sidharth says there is “enough” for his fans to look forward to in the coming year. In a freewheeling chat, the actor also talks about his love for true-story genre, scripts inspired from real-life heroes and doing a lot of action in his upcoming projects.

Sidharth Malhotra will next be seen in Mission Majnu that releases on Netflix on January 20, 2023.
Sidharth Malhotra will next be seen in Mission Majnu that releases on Netflix on January 20, 2023.

This last one decade in Bollywood has been quite a roller coaster ride for you. Looking back at all the high and low points, how important it is for you to celebrate these small yet important milestones in your career?

Yes, it’s the first decade, but in today’s times, things are moving so fast, it doesn’t feel that long. There’s so much that I’ve learned and I feel a lot of gratitude for the journey I have had looking from the background that I came from. I came to Mumbai (from Delhi) 15 years ago, to become an actor, possibly. But, I saw a lot of ups and downs in the beginning of my trip to Mumbai, actually, even before I became an actor, my struggle was there.

I feel once you become an actor, you have different struggles, or you have different things to achieve. The one thing I’ve realised in all these years is that you can’t wait for your time, you have to prepare for your time. You have to be ready for that audition, ready for that film, ready for that meeting, ready for your scene. And that’s what I tried to do in the last 10 years in front of the camera as well, to always prepare or be prepared to portray different roles on screen. And it’s still the beginning. There’s so much to do, so many more characters to do, so many more stories to tell... possibly expand in the business, and get more embroiled and involved with different stories, maybe in more capacity than just an actor. So, let’s see. It has been 10 years, and so far I’m grateful and happy.

If one looks at your body of work, you’ve haven’t done too many films in the last one decade... a total of 13 to be precise. Do you believe in taking it slow and steady? Do you ever think of pacing up this frequency? Is there any strategy in place about for choosing the number of films per year?

I’ve never looked at movies or movie business as something that’s about just a factory to churn out new movies and stories. I feel we’re all answerable to the business, to the creator and even our fans. While the intent needs to be to tell a special story, I find it difficult to just create special stories, multiple times. I have always tried to do different genres and entertain my audience with interesting films. Whether they turn out to be good or bad is up to the audience (smiles). But I’ve never planned it like, ‘These are my dates and I really want to fill them up’. That possibly might be the trend in the business, but I feel if any of my films have been looked at in the long run, say 20 years from now, and if I’m happy and proud of doing that film, that’s true victory. That’s how I look back at it. While the intent is to work constantly, and not have breaks, but it doesn’t mean I start choosing films for the wrong reasons.

Despite the number of films, you’ve still managed to show variety on screen. After Student of the Year and Hasee to Phasee, in your third film -- Ek Villain, you played a dark, intense character and then you experimented with projects such as Ittefaq, Aiyaary, Marjaavan and so on. As an artiste, how difficult it gets to step out of our comfort zone or do something which audiences haven’t seen before?

Yeah, I’ve pretty much covered a wide rainbow of genres, and happily so. It’s also a personal choice as an actor... it’s something that keeps me excited and going, and I hope it keeps my fans excited, too. Whether they see me on a poster or in a trailer, they’ll always feel a sense of freshness and excitement. Moreover, I feel our audience is more ready to accept actors in different moulds now. None of my two posters or trailers look the same, and that’s something I’m happy and proud of. That being said, sometimes after a decade, you feel like, ‘Okay, maybe I’m repeating a bit of this and that’, but that’s bound to happen because every actor then develops a particular style, or expectation from the audience.

Your fans are already super excited for your next, Mission Majnu and very little, actually nothing is known about the film than the fact that you play a RAW agent. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what the film is all about?

We’ve all had a massive pause with the pandemic, and now all of us are eager to showcase all our different sides. Mission Majnu is inspired by true events, something that concerns the history of India with our neighbouring country. I play a fictitious RAW agent, and we have dived into his possible personal life or an identity that he takes in a foreign country. There are multiple dynamics, a lot of interesting scenes, and in the end, it leaves you seeing the effort and sacrifice that our forces make, even when they’re not wearing a uniform. Shershaah (2021) saw me a playing a national hero who wears a uniform, and Captain Vikram Batra will always be remembered and extremely special because that’s equally imperative and difficult to do -- to fight at the border and protect your country. That being said, this RAW agent is also one such another hero, which possibly did exist in real life, maybe because we’ll never know the records, we’ll never know the exact truth and details of the these missions. But I’m playing one such hero who doesn’t wear the uniform, and is possibly not living in India and trying to protect India from international borders and international countries. That I find interesting, heroic and exciting, but not in your typical mainstream way.

It’s again true-story genre, which I’ve done in the past, but here, I play a character in the 70s for the first time, so you can call it my first period film in that sense. Shershaah was only 90s, which isn’t so far off. But this still half a century away. So, you’ll see a lot of that look in terms of costumes, which makes it really fresh.

With Aiyaary where you played Major Bakshi, Shershaah where you played Captain Vikram Batra and now Mission Majnu that sees you as a RAW agent, you seem to be developing an inclination towards this genre where you get to celebrate patriotism, heroism and love for the country. Do you agree?

Yes, I love a true-story genre, real-life heroes and inspiring stories where characters will sacrifice the livelihood or life, for a bigger and larger cause. I really like such characters, as I feel there’s true inspiration to be to be taken from these character from different walks of life.

There’s a lot of anticipation about your on-screen pairing with Rashmika Mandanna in Mission Majnu. How was this collaboration on set? As a co-star, what more would you say she brought to the table that made the whole shooting process more exciting?

I met Rashmika on the film only, and because of the content of the script, we did a lot of prep. Her character is of a Muslim girl based in Pakistan, so we had a lot of dialect work to do. Once people see the song of the film, they’ll understand more characteristics about her character that’s in front of the camera. But behind the camera, one very interesting quality that I observed of her is her sense of surrender. When she came in to this team, she was extremely sporting on trying different things, trying a different dialect or trying a scene in different way, or prepping for it. Even on set, from a first-time director like Shantanu Bagchi, she was extremely easy-going and would never mind giving that one more take. I really liked that because I’m one of those greedy actors who always wants one more take to try something different. And I found her being so relaxed, and surrender to the process. That’s something that felt is a big positive, and makes it very easy for everyone around you to work.

In this film, we have a very interesting love story, not your typical run-of-the-mill tale, because of the backdrop of India and Pakistan politics. I’m pretty excited for people to see our song, it’s a lovely, romantic number. Romantic songs are something that I’m very happy and proud of whatever I’ve done in the past, and I hope people will enjoy and make this as big as my previous love songs.

Mission Majnu is going to have an OTT release on Netflix. And even Shershaah saw a direct-to-OTT release. While I understand during the pandemic, it became a norm of sorts to have web releases, what would you tell your fans now who wish to see you only on the big screen? And how comfortable you are as a quintessential Bollywood hero to watch yourself on web platforms?

These are new and interesting times that we are living in, and instead of audiences coming to the theatres, I’m bringing my film to them, to their homes. That will possibly get a much larger audience, bigger than bringing them to the theatres in today’s times. So, I look at it this way: Every filmmaker, every creative person wants their content and work to be seen by maximum number of people, and OTT allows us just that. Also, we’ve seen many examples of people appreciating content despite on what medium it is on. The way I look at it is that I’m giving them a very interesting and special film, right to their homes, their private screens, where they can enjoy it, and have the same experience. A good film always gets the love from the audience and this is what I expect from Mission Majnu.

In fact, you are even making your series debut with Rohit Shetty’s Indian Police Force, I must say that’s quite a brave move to take this plunge to make your digital debut early on in your career. Were you apprehensive at all?

This is all a reflection of the times that are changing. If you’re diving back a little bit, even movie business before used to be for months, films used to play on in theatres for weeks, but now it’s only become about say two weeks or the first week. The culture is changing, things are moving much faster. Having another platform like OTT space is only a positive sign for actors in general, as so many have gotten opportunities to show their skills, which they possibly wouldn’t have, if there was only one medium. That’s where I look at it.

For me, films have always been about content, and Indian Police Force is something again very special, because the first time I put on a Delhi Police uniform. And that too for director Rohit Shetty, and nobody else does it better than him; it (cop universe) is completely his domain. And I really liked what he narrated, and the concept of what he wants to do with Indian Police Force. That’s what we are at today; we all consume content on all these platforms. It’s only a natural progression for actors like me, who’ve been launched in cinema and have been doing cinema for last 10 years, to also do this, to also dive into a new medium. It just makes it better for me to connect with my audience through different platforms and in different roles.

Your next, Yodha, is an action-thriller and that’s one genre that audiences perhaps relate the least with you -- courtesy your lover-boy image -- but still love watching you in the most. Personally, how much you enjoy being part of action films as an actor?

Action thrillers are something that I’ve always gotten love for. There’s a big craving for these despite doing softer characters in Hasee Toh Phasee or Kapoor & Sons. Obviously, an actor would not want to dive into only one zone, and a framework of roles, but action is something that even I personally enjoy, besides the true-story genre. And I try to portray them in different ways. Mission Majnu is one such example of doing an action-thriller about a spy, which gives me a similar tonality but in a complete different new avatar. That’s why Yodha comes in as a correct theatrical release. It’s also our endeavour to create an action franchise with Yodha. People have seen the poster and teaser, and it’s got a hijack involved, it’s got a plane involved, which is very new. That’s the actor in me trying to always try and get a genre with a new backdrop, so it’ll be exciting for the audience. And that’s the aim, to do these strong characters that are heroic in their nature, and hopefully audiences get entertained and inspired by their journey on screen.

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