First, I want to thank my director Subhash Kapoor for giving me the film Guddu Rangeela because it was the first time I had shot for 18 to 20 days compared to the films I had done before. I have been part of some acclaimed films like Paan Singh Tomar and Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns but my roles were always restricted to only a few scenes. It was Subhash sir who gave me a role where I had more than just a few scenes.
It was also the first film which required me to attend a workshop and the first film where the critics mentioned me by name in the reviews. After that, it was back to doing only a few scenes in the films that followed. It was when I was shooting for Madari in Mumbai and a year had passed after the release of Guddu Rangeela that I met Subhash sir. We discussed my dilemma as an actor and how I wanted to do much better roles with more screen time. A few days later, I got a call from him, telling me about this role. I am grateful to him for giving me this opportunity as he could easily have cast an actor from Mumbai but, still, he chose me.
On working with Akshay Kumar
I have worked with many A-list actors, from Amitabh Bachchanji to Aamir Khan and Irrfan. But those were very brief shoots. Here, I shot with Akshay paaji for 20 to 30 days. In Punjabi, ’paaji’ is ‘big brother’ and that’s exactly what he is like. Despite being such a big star, Akshay paaji is still very grounded. He is one of the few actors who lifts their co-actors and doesn’t throw attitude.
When we were shooting in Benares, there was this incident where Akshay paaji was eating lunch and I was going towards the other lunch section where the other team members were eating. He stopped me and asked me where I was off to. When I told him I was headed to have lunch, he joked and said, ‘Yahan bhi toh lunch hi kar rahe hai aur kuch thori, yahi aaja kyu jaa raha hai.’ He is one of the humblest men I have ever met. He makes sure his co-actors are comfortable to work with him and breaks the ice.
On the brief
When Subhash sir briefed me about the part, he told me that Birbal, my character, was Jolly’s old friend and was always there when Jolly needed him. As old friends, they help each other, no matter what. I immediately realised that if Jolly is Ram, then Birbal is his Laxman.
I have a small automobile parts business in Delhi and now I have become a big star here. Ghar pe toh jaise Diwali ho gayi. I have been part of films before as well but this is the first time I got so much screen space. I also want to thank Tishu bhai (Tigmanshu Dhulia) as he has been instrumental in supporting my acting career.
On future projects
Next, I will be doing Excel Entertainments Fukrey Returns. Other than that, I am still reading a few scripts. Yes, now I get to read scripts before I approach a filmmaker! (Smiles)