A rendezvous with actor Kartik Aaryanby Opinion Express March 4, 2019 0 comments
Actor Kartik Aaryan is often mistakenly believed to be a Delhiite, but his heart still beats for his hometown Gwalior. In conversation with Saimi Sattar
“Have you eaten?” Even before I could ask a question, actor Kartik Aaryan fires the first one, making you wonder whether you are on a “social visit” at his home or for an “interview” at a hotel! But then it is this next-door comfort that has made him the nation’s heartthrob, one who equalises reality and aspiration on his sneakers. Dressed in a dark blue suit blazer with a barely there print, white shirt that is unbuttoned and blue trousers, the actor sips his tea perched on the 20th floor and glances around at the people who are assembled in the room.
The actor, who is known for his comic capers in films like Pyaar Ka Punchnama and its sequel as well as Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, is often mistaken for a Delhi boy. “May be it is because of the way I look or my lahja (tone). May be it has to do with the fact that I have done a lot of films that have seen me play a character from Delhi. But yes, this idea has caught on in popular imagination,” says the 29-year-old actor.
Kartik is from Gwalior where his new film, Luka Chuppi, is set. “I could never imagine that I would be shooting in the place where I had dreamt of being an actor. My friends, families and relatives are all there. Everyone knows each other as it is a small town. The welcome was surreal. They started calling me Son of Gwalior. There were huge hoardings with my name and photographs which were a bit embarrassing, especially because they all were from my scrawny days. I wish they had asked me for some better ones,” he guffaws. “It was surreal.”
However the love for the city comes through in his voice. “I took my entire cast and crew around. I loved these boondi laddoos from Bahadura Sweets as a child. So I got those and rasmalai for everyone everyday. Everybody had to chuck their diet plans. The aloo patties are famous as is the poha,” he says as he seems to to be savouring all the delicacies once again.
But it is also in his values that he continues to remain a small town boy who is not affected by failures and success. “I keep on working on myself because that is what I did after getting scolded by my parents,” he says.
Coming back to the present, the actor says that his entire trajectory has been about doing relatable cinema. “Luka Chuppi is about the problems that a small town couple faces when wanting to live-in. But it has a quirk. It is live-in sah parivar (with family). It is a social satire and many can identify themselves with the characters. After watching Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, a lot of people felt that they wanted a Sonu in their life as they felt that they were Titus,” he says.
The actor believes that Guddu Shukla, the protagonist in this film, is the most earnest and honest character that he has ever played. “He is the guy you would want to take home to mum,” he says.
And when one asks him if his claim of being marriage material in a recent interview is true, he immediately answers, “Yes,” without batting an eyelid. And then laughs and adds, “May be I became the character of Guddu. I am shaadi material as I am a person who believes in being together with family. I have shifted to a bigger place recently so that I could get mine to Mumbai after staying alone for seven-eight years.” However, he believes that he is not as righteous as Guddu. “And that is me being honest,” he says guffawing again. The other characteristics that he believes he shares with his role are that he is upfront and committed. If he is convinced about any choice that he makes, he goes for it with great passion.
Besides the relatability factor, what excited Kartik was that for the first time he was speaking in a dialect in the film. “My character is from Mathura, so he talks like the people from there. But the manner of speaking is situational because he is educated. So it changes depending on the people that he is interacting with. I think my rawness will be visible here. While Sonu and the other characters were flamboyant, street smart and with grey shades, here I play an average guy who fits in the setting and is not stylish. His appearance, too, is such that he fits into the scenery. From the first scene you will see Guddu and not Kartik Aaryan.”
So is that his way of making a mark when all the young actors are competing for the same set of roles? “Whatever I am doing, I believe it is working. I have that belief in my sense that it is going in the right direction and I don’t want to change it. I am relying on my gut feel,” he says. About his compatriots, he adds, “I think that this is a very good time for the young brigade as there are so many content creators and avenues of expression. Content is king and that is the reason why there is ample amount of chance for all of us to put ourselves out there in projects which are different and also work on screen.”
Few know that he locked on to this character soon after he finished Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety. “It is not just the protagonists. The side track in the film is an interesting commentary on our intrusive culture. Everybody has a habit of poking their noses in other people’s lives instead of minding their own business. So the elder brother wants to know what the younger one is up to and the third bhabhi might be jealous that the first one has an important position in the family. In this too, everyone has an agenda. Each character has a separate track. That is the funniest thing. There was a lot of situational comedy. When I heard the script I decided that this has to be my next film. I was actually the first person on board.”
It is apparent that Kartik follows everything with a deep conviction and passion. “I was in class VIII when I decided that I wanted to be an actor,” he says. It was in pursuit of this goal that he applied to all the engineering colleges only in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. “In Gwalior, appearing for PMT and IIT entrance exams was the done thing. I could not have told my parents that I wanted to pursue acting as they would not have been able to afford a course. So engineering in Mumbai became an excuse. I never attended classes as I was busy with auditions,” says the actor who did manage to complete his engineering during Pyaar ka Punchnama 2.
Kartik burst on in the popular imagination with a six-minute monologue in his first film, Pyaar Ka Punchnama, and he has an interesting story behind it. “For three years, I searched online with key words like audition and actors required. I got an advertisement where I was paid Rs 2,500 which was a channel promo where I was holding a placard,” he recalls. It was during this time that he saw an audition call for an unnamed film. “I caught the train from Belapur to Andheri which took 2.5 hours and gave an audition,” he says. The back and forth went on for six months and as a part of the last audition he had to say this monologue which was five and a half pages long! “It was the first time something like this was being attempted. But this was crucial to clinching the role. To add to my woes, I had to perform it the next day,” he recalls. So Kartik did what he knew best. Took it up passionately. “I didn’t sleep. I kept learning it throughout my train journey and then in my PG. I enacted it, recorded it, then saw the mistakes and attempted it again. The next day I kept on doing it in the train. But it was worth the effort as people actually clapped when I finished,” he says, the pride still surfacing in his voice.
During the actual shooting, they worked on a reel camera which has a limit unlike the newer digital ones which are used now. “There was only four-and-a-half minutes of the film left when I started my monologue of six minutes. No one told me that the camera was not rolling for the last one-and-a-half minutes. As I was drawing to a close, the reel finished. I had to do a retake again. I shot at one go and it was okayed in Take 2,” he says. But he feels it was well worth the effort as the monologue is the most popular scene from the film. “It has been circulated all over the world and has been a hit,” he says.
Having nailed it, Kartik went on to top this further. In Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, the monologue was seven minutes long. “They kept working on the final draft so it came to me when I was in the midst of shooting. But somehow I managed to pull through,” he says.
One reason that his films have drawn flak is the misogynist gaze on the female characters. “See, we are not generalising boys. It is these characters in the films that are roguish and loveable rakes.”
Another reason why Kartik has been in the news is on account of Sara Ali Khan taking a shine to him and wanting to date him or his alleged link-up with Ananya Pandey. Something that has kept his name in circulation among Bollywood’s swish set. But the young star likes to keep it grounded. “I don’t pay attention. I only feel good and flattered but that is bound to happen when someone says something good about you. Link-ups are a part and parcel of the industry and I know how to deal with it,” he nods sagely. The small town boy is growing up.
Photo: Pankaj Kumar
Writer: Saimi Sattar