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Sometimes it’s better to resist temptation on the road to success

I never once dreamt I would achieve so much so soon. Like any small-town guy, I too had big-city dreams. As a go-getter, I have always had a hunger to win and give my best to everything I do.

I grew up in Chandigarh, and was always an active kid, whether academically or in extra-curricular activities like sports and theatre. I excelled in singing competitions and always loved to perform. While in school, I played Shylock’s character in Shakespeare’s Merchant Of Venice. That’s when I was bitten by the acting bug.

But I chose to pursue science in high school and since it took up a lot of time, acting took a backseat for a while. I was a very studious kid and wanted to study medicine and become a doctor.

But in college, I opted for Arts, and found time to get back to theatre, and even composed my own music for these plays. When I was in my final year of college, MTV’s show, Kitni Mast Hai Zindagi came my way. MTV, which usually has non-fiction shows, was trying to get into the fiction space for the first time and they were looking for actors. I auditioned and got shortlisted. But the remuneration was meagre and they wanted the actors to relocate to Mumbai.

At the same time, Roadies came my way. I didn’t think I would get past the auditions but, to my surprise, I ended up winning the title that year. Unlike most other reality show winners, who move to Mumbai to find more work, I decided against it as I wanted to complete my graduation. There are thousands of strugglers who make their way to Mumbai to make it big in cinema but a good education is a guarantee for a sustainable future. So I went back to Chandigarh to finish college. And I did not stop there. I enrolled for higher studies and did my post-graduation in journalism. I thought the media was my calling and so I took up a job as a radio jockey in Delhi.

Around the same time, MTV was looking for RJs who could become VJs, and I landed an offer to host the channel’s news talk show, Wassup. I started getting a lot of offers as emcee and to compere various shows, both on television as well as live events including the popular talent hunt show India’s Got Talent.

I also started getting a few film offers thanks to my popularity on television but nothing really appealed to me. One day, Shoojit Sircar contacted me. He had watched one of the shows I had hosted and liked my style. So he approached me for Vicky Donor. It was a bolt from the blue. He told me he wanted to cast a Punjabi boy in a film that had a great script. I knew this was the best break I would ever get and it couldn’t have been better!

I had too unlearn many things while making my acting debut. Since I was a VJ and anchor, I was used to talking to the camera. Now I had to act in front of the camera. I went through several workshops before I started working on the film. Almost everyone in the film was making their debut so we used to encourage each other.

Also, this was a dicey subject. A lot of things in the film could have gone wrong, appeared vulgar or could hurt the sentiments of childless couples. Besides, there is a very thin line between being cheap and being sensitive. But Shoojit is a very good director and he held the film together.

It was a good thing I didn’t experience success overnight. I was a VJ and an anchor so I was already a known face but what the audience gave me was love. I am now getting at least one film offer every day. Some are similar to the role I played in Vicky Donor. But a fantastic film called Nautanaki Saala by Rohan Sippy is now on the cards. Like my first film, I have also lent my voice to one of the songs in the film.

Now, I am reading scripts but I want to experiment with different roles and there are three to four films in the pipeline. Let’s hope my good run at the box office continues!

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