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“They Made Me Feel Worthless”

“They Made Me Feel Worthless”

Sidharth Malhotra opens up about the hardships of surviving the glamour world in the wake of his new film

He may have had a chocolate boy entrée into B-town with Karan Johar’s Student of the Year in 2012, but in 2018, Sidharth Malhotra is keen to shed that image. In these five short years, this racy brooder from Delhi has come a long way and proved his versatility by trying his hands on varied genres. He emulated the angry young man in Ek Villain, risked a certain Baar Baar Dekho, and garnered appreciation for the thriller Ittefaq. And now, with Aiyyary – where Siddharth stars alongside Manoj Bajpayee – he has taken another step in the direction of being taken seriously as a performer. But he wasn’t sure he could do it when the role was offered to him. “I told Neeraj Sir that there is Anupam Sir in it, Manoj Sir too! I cannot do this! But he told me, ‘how will you know if you don’t try’ That one piece of advice convinced me. That’s when I thought to myself that even if I fail, I would at least have attended a masterclass in acting with these giants,” says Sidharth.

Here are excerpts from a rather philosophical conversation with the actor who was also in recent news for making an ‘impolite’ comment on the Bhojpuri language.

Let’s first get rid of the elephant in the room, Sidharth. What was the deal with that Bhojpuri comment?

Sidharth: I tried speaking a new language while I was on a TV show. In the process I made a few mistakes in pronunciation or grammar and inadvertently ended up hurting some feelings. Yes, I should not have said what I did, but it was very spur-of-the-moment and totally not meant to appear derogatory. Manoj Sir is from Bihar and he was with me. I apologised to him too and he said it was fine. I apologise again and assure you that no disrespect was meant in any way.

Do you remember your first audition?

Sidharth: My first audition was for an ad film, it was rubbish, and I got rejected. I didn’t go through an agency, so they didn’t pay attention to me. Then, I bagged a Ponds advertisement, where the girl was Sonal Chauhan and we shot it in Bangkok. That was a big one.

Did that change anything?

Sidharth: Not really. When you bag one, you gain confidence. But you again go back and get rejected for your second, third and fourth and lose all that confidence. It’s very unpredictable. Before Student of The Year, to survive, I had to give a lot of TV auditions. And it isn’t the most heartening sign when you have 150 people, all dressed up similarly, standing in a line for auditions. Then someone would come and ask me to say something random like, ‘Naam bolo,’ in a weird way. It was like a bloody jail where you have to say your name, number and act out something. And, because half of us were clueless, we never got those jobs. At the auditions, they made me feel terribly small and worthless. Most people are not civil, and unnecessarily rude. Also, I had an immense sense of self respect even then, which people mistook for arrogance. I would turn around and say, ‘Tameez se baat karo.’ I would speak in proper English and most times, they didn’t like that. That’s why I digressed and became an assistant director. It was a very negative environment. It didn’t help me grow and kept me in a vicious loop.

 

You have completed five years in Bollywood. What do you take away from the experiences?

Sidharth: I now understand that everyone has their own work to do. And it did take me a while to get that. Now, not understanding things or being awkward about them is not an issue at all, because I know that we all lead very busy lives. I want to do work that makes people want to go beyond my looks. I want to be more creative.

Are you not guilty of making that image for yourself?

Sidharth: You are right. I am guilty of perpetuating the “eye candy” image. I want to be able to change that impression this year. Ittefaq and Aiyyary may have contributed a bit, and I think I will now solder my shirt to my body (laughs). My plans are different for this year. I want to excel and try new things when it comes to playing characters. I also feel that since I’m not a trained actor, I learn a lot of things on the job. I believe in doing more background research [for my characters]. So that is the top priority, and as we have seen this year, content is king.

How was working in Ittefaq and Aiyyary like?

Sidharth: Films like these allow me to flex a different kind of muscle – a different kind of preparation is required – one that challenges your emotional and mental faculties. And, I really enjoy that. The whole ensemble of Aiyyary is overwhelming. Naseer Sir, Anupam Sir, Manoj Bajpayee – they keep me on my toes.

What have you learnt about the industry so far?

Sidharth: I’m in the most unpredictable profession. We have no clue what works and no one has a fixed formula. So, the only thing I can do is look forward. I was advised, ‘As difficult as it could be, you have to detach yourself from setbacks, pick yourself up and move on’. And I took that advice seriously. Failure may not scare me, but yes, it does ruffle me. I do begin thinking about why a film didn’t work, but now I have grown as a person and understand much more. I was clueless about how to meet people, handle success but now I am in a phase where I understand that success is fickle.

 

 

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