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1 Do you see yourself as an actor or a singer?
I am passionate about music, but acting is closer to my heart. Though both disciplines are intrinsic to me, I feel I am more versatile when I am acting because I feel I can do much more as an actor. I have a natural flair for comedy but I would like to do dark edgy roles. I guess I would describe myself as an actor-singer rather than a singer-actor.
2 In this journey as a film actor, did you ever have phases where you had self-doubt?
I think I did go a bit low after "Hawaizaada," and questioned my own choices, wondering where I was going wrong. Happily, "Dum Laga Ke Haisha" released exactly three weeks after it and was a legit hit!
3 How attached do you get to these very different characters?
I don't take a character back home. I detach from a film after it's over, and from a role after the shoot. If there is self-obsession, you can't do anything fresh, anything more.
4 What do you consider your one big failure which brought you your biggest learning?
My three back-to-back films after Vicky Donor. They didn't do well. You know when you strike a goal with your very first film, you feel you have that Midas touch and that anything you touch will now turn to gold. And [when] that doesn't happen it has to be beyond you. It is a team effort. I got my basics right eventually. You just go with the content – the material it doesn't depend on your co-actor, if that person is an A-lister or not. Or the stature of the director A-lister or a big name. Anybody can write a great script sitting in the remote corner of Aaram Nagar or Chandigarh or anywhere.
5 What were the most important decisions you made and the experiences you had that got you here?
Failures, of course. You know, success is a very lousy teacher. Failure is a philosopher and guide, and you learn everything from your failures. You haven't lived your life if you haven't failed.
6 Tell me about all the hard work and discipline that goes into being an actor and a musician.
Discipline, yes. You can't do anything without discipline. Talent is overrated at times. Hard working artists overtake talented artists. I had written a line I remember: 'Bachpan mein papa ki lagayi hui pabandiyo ko todne me bada maza aata tha/ par bade hokar khud pe lagayi hui pabandiya todi nahi jaati? (What fun it was to rebel against your parents as a kid/ Today, I find it tough breaking free from my own shackles) That's the story of life itself – hard work is extremely important. But wisdom is more important, even more than intelligence. You have to be wise enough to take the right decisions.
7 You have served as a guinea pig of sorts; a few filmmakers test the waters with you thinking, 'This guy will do it and the rest follow suit...
I don't know about that. I just love taking risks. Thats my USP. You know you would carve your own path, [that] you would tread the territory that was untreaded till now. And that's my space. I have created that space for myself.
8 How amazing! You must feel very grateful too?
I feel really grateful. I was always there at the right place at the right time. I started doing radio in 2006, when radio was surging, and then I became a VJ [when] people were looking for a VJ. And then Vicky Donor happened. That [film] was kind of a case study for the taboo subjects that never did well in Indian cinema. So I think I'm very fortunate.
9 How does it feel to be on the cover of Rolling Stone India?
I'm too excited! Probably doubly excited because it was on my bucket list to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and it has happened, finally!
10 What he said about the journey from being a radio person to national award winner?
The journeys used to be quite long. The trains would sometimes take between 28 to 48 hours. But the journey from being a radio person to a TV guy to an actor and finally the national award, has been a really long one.
11 What is your best memory?
When I was in college, I used to avel to Mumbai in second class sleeper compartments along with my friends. Every year, we used to travel by second class sleeper for different competitions. That's my best memory
12 What he said about his family's reaction on winning the award?
My father was almost choking on the phone when we spoke, after hearing the news. He was so overwhelmed that he could not talk properly. I feel it was even more overwhelming for him than me. Tahira (the actor's wife) was also emotional.
13 Would you call yourself a natural, spontaneous or method actor?
During my theatre days, I was a method actor. But over the years, radio and television have made me more natural. Also, your method changes with time. I believe method acting could be dangerous. You need to come out of the character. It's important to preserve your sanity. Of course, I imbibed a certain method for AndhaDhun. I met a lot of blind students. Method chahiye hota hai when the subject is alien for you.
14 How difficult or easy is it to do comedy?
Comedy is always difficult. But it has to be novel. I believe in situational comedy rather than verbal comedy. Most of my comedies from Vicky Donor to Bala have been situational. Sometimes, it's a mix of satire and irony.
15 Your Twitter and Instagram posts reveal a poetic and philosophical side. How do you balance that with the materialism of showbiz?
There was a time when it used to affect me. After Vicky Donor I had this major FOMO (fear of missing out). I wanted to be everywhere. Now, I've realised that until you aren't secure in your own being, you can't be successful. You must be confident with the way you are. You can't let people affect you in a negative way. You must keep away from that. Maintain your core and go with your gut. That's about it.