Emerging as the newest bankable star in the industry, Kartik Aaryan in this chat with Team Box Office India talks about his latest hit, Luka Chuppi, how he went from bro-mance to romance and how important it is for him to connect with his audience
When we met before the release of the film, producer Dinesh Vijan said that you were the one person who was most positive about the film. Did you expect such massive numbers on the first day?
Thank God the film did well on the first day itself or the tables would have turned on me (Laughs). I was confident about the content of the film. Since the day I heard the narration and signed up for it, I have been very excited about Luka Chuppi. As I said in the previous interview too, I was looking for a film that had content as well as ekements of commercial cinema. I felt this film was an amazing blend of the two and would definitely strike a chord with the audience. I didn’t consider the numbers at that point but I knew that people were going to like it and that the word-of-mouth would be strong. That’s the reason I was confident during the shooting and after it. That’s why Dinu (Dinesh Vijan) said that I was the most confident about this film and I am glad it worked.
Last year, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (SKTKS) touched the `100 crore mark and you became an overnight sensation. Now you are doing many big-banner films. Would you say that you are reaping the benefits of your last hit?
Last year was definitely a year that changed my life, and Sonu is one character that will always be close to my heart. It has given me a lot. There are so many things that happened because of Sonu. I got into a zone where I became an option for directors and producers. I was never on that list before. That happened because of SKTKS. I am thankful to that film and the character and the whole team. After that, Luka Chuppi was a litmus test for me because this was the first film that was primarily selected by me. After SKTKS’s success, I had the option of selecting a film. Luka Chuppi was a test of my judgment and thankfully it worked. People are watching the film again and again and that gives me a sense of validation.
Also, playing Guddu for me meant playing a character that was diametrically opposite to that of Sonu, whether in terms of dialect, roots or personality. Through Luka Chuppi, I had to clear many tests in one.
Would you call Luka Chuppi a turning point, given that it marks your transition from bro-mance to romance?
Of course! After SKTKS and the Punchnama series, a lot of people started calling me the ‘bro-mantic’ hero. There is a transition happening post-Luka Chuppi. Now I am finally finding my way to the romantic zone. So I am travelling from being a bro-mantic hero to a romantic hero. It is another turning point, for sure. Luka Chuppi is changing people’s perception about me and even the way in which the industry sees me. I am looking for content, I am looking for different characters to play, and I will continue doing that.
After SKTKS and Luka Chuppi, would you not call yourself a bankable actor?
Every Friday there is something new coming out and you never know what is going to happen. I am just happy that my last two releases have been profitable. SKTKS made more than `100 crore, which was a milestone for me as an actor so early in my career. With Luka Chuppi, Guddu was an altogether new character for me to play and the kind of numbers the film is making right now is making it one of the most profitable films of 2019 so far. When you have back-to-back films that are hits in consecutive years, you get a sense of assurance from the producers. The producers start believing in you.
Your commercial value increases… Yes. It’s a sense of confidence more than bankability. I am really happy that there are producers who can actually be assured that they can invest in this actor without having to worry about returns. You need to have box office numbers to sustain yourself in the industry because box office numbers are really important. Thankfully my numbers are good right now, so they are speaking for me. I am really in a happy zone right now (Smiles).
When you started out in the industry, what was your definition of success, and do you think you’ve achieved it?
I don’t think I will ever be content. Right now, sitting here, if I think about the struggles I faced when I started out in the industry, I feel really happy thinking that I am now doing a success interview talking about my last two hits. I have actually had a `100 crore film; my latest film is doing very well at the box office. I am working with the kinds of directors I really wanted to work with. So I should be really happy, relieved and content. But sitting here, I am also thinking about the future, and about achieving more. Right now I am an option for directors, but I want to be in that place where directors are writing roles for me. The aim changes after every achievement. So when I look back, of course I feel happy, but then I also have a sense of reality that this is temporary. It changes every Friday and you just have to keep working very hard and keep changing with time.
You have a very strong fan base. There are all these videos of them crying and going gaga over you. How do you stay grounded seeing this kind of thing every day, especially now in the age of social media?
I have been on the other side too. I have been that crazy fan, so I know how it feels to actually see the actor you have loved so much on screen. When I came to Mumbai, on my first Sunday here, I went to Bandstand and stood outside Mannat because I had heard that Shah Rukh (Khan) sir comes out to greet fans on Sundays. So I know what it feels like when you so want to see that actor that you love.
Now, when I see girls crying for me, I don’t know how to react. I feel sad that I can’t express how I feel. I just say sorry and thank you, because they are crying tears of happiness. It’s weird in a way. I completely understand it. I always try to be there when they want to click selfies with me. I want them to click more and more selfies and stick them up on their walls. I never feel like not meeting my fans (Chuckles).
You are happy to be with them…
Yes, that I am. I never say no unless there is a shoot going on. I am grateful for the kind of fan following I have. I believe people love me so much because of the kinds of films I have done and the kinds of characters I have played. More than Kartik, people’s love is for Sonu or Guddu or Gogo or Rajjo. Last year, when SKTKS came out, I realised that there were a lot of people who wanted that friend in their life; the kind of friend Sonu was. With Guddu, girls really want that guy in their lives who is so honest and who you want to marry. Those characters are translating off-screen and getting attached to me, which is great. I love interacting with my fans and I hope that this continues.
Do you think it’s important for an actor to be on social media in order to stay relevant?
More than staying relevant, I am someone who has always been into social media. I like putting up posts and I like interacting with fans. In fact, I used to look for auditions on Facebook when I didn’t know anyone from the industry. Social media has played an important role in my life. I am sitting here because of that access that social media has given me. As an actor, a social media account is like having a portal of your own. I consider my Instagram account my own portal. If I want to communicate something, I communicate it through Instagram or Twitter. It helps you connect better with everyone, be it fans, friends, family, the audience or the industry.
There is also this hashtag, #PoseLikeKartikAaryan, that’s trending. Tell us more about it!
(Laughs) It just happened on its own. There was a meme that came out which said that in photographs, Kartik Aaryan always looks like he’s standing in front of someone and desperately trying to remember who the person is. The hashtag took off from there. There were collages of four or five pictures of me posing. I found it really funny. Then there was this group of people who made a video of me posing like that and it started trending and people started posing like me. The moment I post a photograph, they start posing like me and put up a story. Now I also repost their stories and I love it (Laughs).
Coming back to films, how do you think you have evolved over time as an actor?
A lot has changed in real as well as reel life. As an actor, I keep working on my craft. I do a lot of workshops before and after each film, just to update myself. From my first film to now, one change in terms of acting is that I now concentrate more on the nuances of a character. At first I didn’t have the option of picking characters that I could explore, but now I am finally getting those chances. Now you can see me in different avatars, using a different kind of approach to my characters. There have been a lot of other changes also, including a lot of grooming. But the one thing that has stayed intact is my roots. I am still a Gwalior boy who lives with his family and who talks in a particular manner.
It might be that this is the thing that makes you unique.
Yes, it may be. I am still in touch with my old friends, so there is not much change there. Something that has changed in my personal life is that I do not get to spend much time with my family. At first, when I was staying away from them, I used to talk to them over the phone all the time. Now that I have gotten them to shift here too, ironically, I don’t have enough time to spend with them. That’s the only guilt that I bear.
Other than that, you have to keep working hard on yourself. With every character, with every film that you do, you have to try and make yourself better. For example, with Guddu, I have worked very specifically on the dialect. He was an educated reporter but from Mathura. So you will see him talking differently while reporting and while casually chatting with someone. There are these minute things that always make a difference. You will see a drastic difference between Sonu and Guddu’s character in terms of body language and a lot else too. I have always been observant as an actor. I consider it one of my plus points that I can observe things really well and use them in my characters.
Sitting here today, what message you would want to give to the Kartik Aaryan starting out seven years ago?
To all the Kartiks?
Yes, to your younger self too.
(Laughs) Well, what worked for me was that I was always patient. I never lost hope and that is something I really believe in. One more thing that was really important were the rejections. The number of rejections you get can make you lose hope; make you think that there is something wrong with you. That is one thing that I never allowed myself to believe. I always told myself that if they are rejecting you, then it is their loss and they are making a mistake. After getting rejected, I used to work harder on myself but at the same time, I used to believe that I could have done this thing better. I never used to let my confidence break with the rejections I faced. That is one thing that everyone should believe in; believe in themselves. Maybe that character was never yours. There will be one audition where your capabilities will be proven and then everything will change for you.
A year ago, you had said you would want to do those films that would help you click with the younger audience. Now that you have a very strong fan base among the youth, are you open to taking more risks?
Again, before this I really didn’t have many options, compared to what I have now. This is one zone I will never leave. The kind of zone that may be SKTKS had or Luka Chuppi or my next films will have. This is one zone which connects with the youth. But I would also like to try something else. I might do a thriller or a negative character, you never know. I might do something which is different from what I have done but I will not leave this zone because I love doing this and I enjoy entertaining people. I secretly went to watch Luka Chuppi in a theatre and when people laughed and clapped, that was an altogether different feeling. I don’t want to ever lose that. I want to relive that feeling with every character that I play.
How far would you go for a character in terms of physical transformations? Is there anything you would not want to do?
I don’t have any inhibitions as an actor. I would go to any lengths in terms of physical as well as emotional transformations because I want to act and this is what I learnt from my acting institute. I enjoy the process of being a character. So many times it happens that I start behaving like my character even in real life. And yes, I would go to any extent and leave no stone unturned (Smiles).
After Luka Chuppi, you have announced some projects that you are working on and then there is some speculation about others. Are you willing to clear any of them?
No, there won’t be any clearing up of speculations. Let them be (Laughs). The next film that I am doing is Pati Patni Aur Woh, which we have already started shooting for. That is again something totally different from what I have been doing. Again a lot of memes came out based on the first look and they were hilarious. The script is also very funny and it is something I am really looking forward to. I am working with Bhumi Pednekar and Ananya Panday and the film is directed by Mudassar Aziz and produced by Juno Chopra and T-Series. There is another film by Aneez Bazmee, which is a massy film. Other than that, it is too early to talk about right now.
And what were you doing in Delhi?
(Chuckles) Well, right now we are in Mumbai to celebrate the success of Luka Chuppi. (Pauses) Actually, I go to see India Gate in Delhi whenever I get a holiday.
Is that so?
Yes, I like to see India Gate after every film. Right now that’s all I can say. I hope I make sense (Laughs).