'When the film was over, Bhai gave me a look, expressing what he felt.'
'That look said it all, and meant the world to me.'
Ishaan Khatter has begin his journey in the movies with Beyond The Clouds, a film created by one of the world's finest film-makers, Iranian Director Majid Majidi.
He will follow it up with Dhadak, produced by Karan Johar, and co-starring Janhvi Kapoor.
"If Karan sir hadn't agreed to push Dhadak forward, I couln't have done Beyond The Clouds," Ishaan reveals to Subhash K Jha.
Ishaan, I believe you chose not to be a trained actor.
That's right. I never attended any acting school though I have done theatre workshops, and they have been extremely enriching experiences.
Beyond that, I don't want to acquire the skills of acting and use them on camera. I'd rather learn on the job.
Which acting school did Dilip Kumar go to?
Wasn't he from a very humble background with no connection to cinema or acting?
Even my director Majid Majidi has come from a very humble background. He trained to be an actor and could have become a leading star in Iran after acting in talked about films like Boycott.
But he chose to direct films, some of which are regarded as classics. They had such meager budgets that there was hardly any money for proper meals for the crew. But he stuck on.
It is always important to listen to the call of your heart.
Is that what you intend to do in your career?
I will try.
I don't think I can live a life of compromise.
If I did, I wouldn't be able to sleep properly -- not that I am getting much sleep anyway! (laughs)
Are you planning to do a lot of films? Or will your output be meagre like your brother Shahid Kapoor?
I will do all the films I want to do.
If I like the script, I may end up doing five films at the same time though I think that would be much overlapping.
I don't know how yesteryear actors managed to do three shifts every day.
While I am promoting Beyond The Clouds, we have almost wrapped up the shooting of my second film, Dhadak.
They happened one after the other by providence. I could have ended up not doing one of them if my (Dhadak) producer Karan Johar had not been so supportive.
How did that happen?
My debut film was going to be Dhadak. The dates schedules, everything was worked out.
I was ready to shoot for Dhadak when I was offered Beyond The Clouds.
I believe you were the first and only choice.
Majid sir had considered others, but once Honey sir (Trehan, casting director) came on board, Majid sir wanted me.
He saw my auditions and told Honey sir to cast me. That's when I was placed in a dilemma. If Karan sir had not agreed to push his film forward...
Karan postponed Dhadak to accommodate Majid Majidi's film...
I went to him with my problem and told him, honestly, that I did not want to miss out on the opportunity of doing a Majid Majidi film.
Karan sir heard me out and agreed.
It was my good fortune that I did not miss out on such an opportunity.
Now that Beyond The Clouds is about to release, what are your thoughts on it?
Exactly the same that I had before I started shooting -- thank God I didn't miss out on doing the film!
And now, look at the providence. Dhadak is releasing on the same date, July 20, that it was supposed to earlier.
Was a lot of preparation involved for Beyond The Clouds?
I had to lose eight-and-a-half kilos almost overnight before shooting Beyond The Clouds.
Since I was playing a boy from a chawl, Majid sir wanted me to look undernourished.
I stopped going to the gym to get the physique required, and that was very unusual since it (gymming) has been an instinctive part of my daily routine.
What about the language?
For that, I took the help of Akaash, the actor who plays my best friend. He is a rapper. I hung around with him and his friends to get a hang of the way they talk.
Both the characters you play -- in Beyond The Clouds and Dhadak -- are from a strata of society far removed from you. Did you find it difficult to connect with them?
The whole notion of acting hinges on assuming unknown characters.
It was a challenge doing these two films. I hope I have done what was required from me.
Did you use the same body type for both roles?
No. For Dhadak, (director) Shashank Khaitan sir wanted me to bulk up a bit, to look like an average guy.
How has your brother and mother, (actress-dancer Neelima Azim) reacted to your performance in Beyond The Clouds?
My mother is my best friend and my biggest critic.
When she saw my performance, she had one thing to say, which said it all: 'Who are you?'
It was her way of telling me I had disappeared into the character.
I have to thank my mother for bringing me up on a regular diet of Hindi and American classic films.
We have been travelling together extensively for the promotions and screenings of Beyond The Clouds. It has been an enriching experience.
I feel I am being exposed to all kinds of cinema at a very young age. It is helping me grow as an actor.
What was Shahid's reaction?
You know, for the longest time he couldn't watch the film because he was busy with Padmaavat.
Finally, I had to ask Majid sir to organise a private screening for Bhai.
Normally, Majid sir doesn't arrange private screenings for anyone, but he made an exception.
It was one of the most memorable events of my life!
Bhai didn't say anything.
When the film was over, he took an angdaai (stretched himself) and then gave me a look, expressing what he felt.
That look said it all, and meant the world to me.
I've always looked up to Bhai and will continue to seek his advice.
Are you prepared for comparisons with Shahid?
That has already started, it can't be helped.
We are brothers and people will try to see similarities between us. I don't mind.