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"I have no fear of failure"

Actor Sikandar Kher talks to Bhavi Gathani about his recent release, RAW – Romeo Akbar Walter, his journey as an actor and more

You have done different kinds of films, including comedy, romance, action and spy thrillers. What do you look for when selecting your projects?

As an actor, I want to be able to do everything. I want to feel like I can bring something to the character and, in doing so, show something of myself as an actor. The script should essentially have some scope for me to make my character stand out, even if it’s in just three scenes in the film. If it’s just a few scenes in a really big film and the character doesn’t have any meat to it, I would rather not do the role.

Is there anything left that you specifically want to try out, as an actor?

I want to do everything. I have done Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive, where I played a white guy who becomes a brown guy. That kind of character might never be written in cinema again. It was such a crazy character. I got to play a Pakistani ISI officer in my recent film, RAW. Now, The Zoya Factor is coming out, where I play a brother, which is a completely different dynamic. One that I have never had. I don’t even have siblings, to help relate to that. It is, again, an entirely new space for me. Who knows, maybe in my next film I will want to play a woman, like Mrs Doubtfire or Tootsie, or maybe play a homosexual in a film. Since you have asked, I am coming up with random bizarre things, but that’s how I look at work. Of everything that I have done, a lot has not done well, so I don’t even have that fear of failure. 

You have one of the most important roles in RAW. How did that film happen for you?

I was on a flight with a friend of mine, Bunty Walia. I told him that I needed work. I never shy away from asking people for work. He said that there was a script, but I would have to meet the director first. ‘I can only make you meet the director,’ he told me. So I met Robby Grewal, and I took my three-minute show reel with me, which has four or five scenes of mine. I do that every time I meet anyone for work. When I offered to show it to Robby, he said he had already seen my work and liked it. So things started on a very positive note. In this industry, as they say, there is also a lot of luck involved.

When we talked to Grewal, he said that a lot of research and preparation went into the film. What kind of prep did you have to do for your character?

My character was based entirely in Karachi. I said to Robby, what if I try and pick up the Pakistani lehja? He didn’t agree initially. He said everyone would be speaking in Hindi only.

 I find that the more I can get into character, the easier it makes it for me to become that person. And once I become the person then I don’t have to think about acting the part. It all just comes naturally. But when I insisted that I wanted to try, Robby said, ‘You can try but I don’t want it’. So every day I would go to their office and there was this person called Ishraqbhai who would help me with my lines. I would practice the western Pakistani lehja with him. I had never tried it before and I realised it was a very difficult accent. Now, I wanted to either do it perfectly or not at all. So we worked on it and finally when we felt that I had grasped the diction well, I went to Robby’s cabin and performed a scene. Robby liked the diction and it worked out well. That was my prep.

Do you always improvise like this in your films?

Yes; I did that with 24 also, the TV series that I was in. I played a Gorakhpuri guy and there also they said that everyone needs to speak in Hindi only. I said, let us at least try to do something in Gorakhpuri. So after I worked on the Gorakhpuri accent, the first call I made was to Mr Anil Kapoor. I called and said (in a different accent), kyun bei Rathod, aise tumko pakdenge hain… samje ki nahi… ka be samje ki nai…, and he loved it. That was my way of selling it to him. Then he took me to meet Rensil D’Silva, the director, and then I met Abhinay Deo, the show runner in the series. Eventually after many discussions and a few changes in the story, things worked out. It’s just that you should always try something different. If you don’t try, you will never know. I don’t have a problem with making a fool of myself.

You are doing The Zoya Factor next. Is there anything that you are looking forward to?

Apart from The Zoya Factor, I will leave to shoot another film on May 20. It’s a big film that I am doing and that’s all I can say about it. But if I talk about The Zoya Factor, which is based on a book by Anuja Chauhan, there is cricket involved and it’s a light and breezy film with funny as well as emotional moments. I play Zoravar, who is Zoya’s brother, and the chemistry between brother and sister is beautiful.

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