'Before my scene with Amitabh Bachchan, my father asked me, "You are acting opposite Amitji. Are you scared?"'
'I foolishly said, "No. He is an actor and so am I. He will say his lines and I will say mine. Why should I be scared?".'
Remember the cute child who played Sunny Deol and Ameesha Patel's son in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha?
Well, he's all grown up now.
Utkarsh Sharma is all set to make his Bollywood debut in his daddy Anil Sharma's new film Genius.
"I want to do all kinds of roles in every genre," Utkarsh tells Rediff.com's Patcy N.
You were five years old when your father asked you to star in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. Do you remember?
I remember it vaguely.
I did not what acting was, and what I had to do.
I remember asking my mom, 'What are we going to do?'
Mum said we will be going on the sets.
I forgot about it when we reached Lucknow.
My dad was shooting the scene where Sunny sir enters Pakistan to meet his wife.
Suddenly, I was called.
Make-up was applied on my face and a wig was put on.
There was music and band bajaa. It felt like a real wedding was going on. (When Sunny Deol's Tara goes to Pakistan to his wife, she is forcibly getting remarried).
I was told to run and hug Ameesha Patelji.
I said okay and did exactly that.
I was not aware what was happening.
What was the shoot like?
I had to stay awake for two consecutive nights -- I was awake for 40 hours!
I was not aware that I was acting. I was just told to show anger and I would made an angry face.
There were so many dialogues and people were yelling and shouting.
Do you remember the scene where Sunny Deol runs on top of a moving train, carrying you?
Sunny sir had picked me up on his shoulders and was running. He was holding Ameeshaji's and Vivek Shaque's hands.
The train was moving at 40 or 50 km an hour.
I was looking down, and was genuinely scared.
I held on to him really tight. There were no safety measures.
The difference between two compartments is quite a bit, and he jumped over it.
It wasn't an easy leap, and we were wearing kurtas. To manage that with those clothes was tough.
Even though I was a kid, I knew it was risky.
I think at that time, even dad had not realised how risky that shot was.
Then, we were shooting in an rickshaw, and it toppled.
We did some very difficult scenes in Gadar, like I was put in a moving truck once.
What were Sunny Deol and Ameesha Patel like?
Sunny sir is very sweet, calm and down to earth.
He was that way during Gadar and also when I met him (years later) during Singh Saab The Great.
He's the sweetest and simplest person ever.
On camera, he changes completely.
He doesn't talk much.
He stays in his character and thinks about the script all the time.
Ameeshaji was very nice to me.
I have not met her recently.
When the whole unit was looking for a child artist in Gadar, it was she who suggested me to dad.
She would treat me like her own son on the sets.
After Gadar, you acted in two more films as a child artist. Why didn't you star in more movies?
Yes, I did small roles in Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo and Apne.
My dad says I got offers around that time, but my mother did not want to jeopardise my education.
I did Gadar because they needed a kid and were stuck. I fell in the right age bracket.
Plus, there is a general feeling that if you get overused as a child, it gets difficult to be an actor as an adult.
You wanted to become an engineer since you were good at studies.
Yes. But everything changed after I started assisting dad on Veer.
I had given my board exams and gone with dad to London for the shoot.
Due to a bomb blast in London around that time, visas became a big problem.
Salman Khan and the crew reached, but my dad's assistants did not.
I was there on vacation, so my mom asked me to help him.
I did odd jobs like giving the clap, making continuity sheets... I worked for a month and that inspired me to become an actor.
After my Standard 12, I went to Chapman University, California, for three years to learn direction, production and writing.
After that, I went to the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute to learn acting for nine months.
What did you learn from the films you assisted your father on?
On the sets of Apne, I saw how Dharamji works.
I always thought Dharamji was very spontaneous, but the kind of emotional preparation he does before the camera rolls is mindblowing.
He goes through the emotions that his character experiences in the film. When he does an emotional scene, you get goose bumps.
I met Preity Zinta on the sets of Hero. She is also spontaneous.
It was Priyanka Chopra ma'am's break, but she was very confident.
When I was working with Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan) in Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo, I did a stupid thing.
Before my scene with Amitabh Bachchan, my father asked me, 'You are acting opposite Amitji. Are you scared?'
I foolishly said, 'No. He is an actor and so am I. He will say his lines and I will say mine. Why should I be scared?'
Dad was shocked by my reply. Amitji laughed when he heard of it.
But when the shot started, he did his part and I could not.
I got nervous and needed a couple of retakes.
Then, Amitji started laughing.
How did Genius happen?
My dad had the story of Genius for five years.
When I was in college, dad and I had worked on the character. Then, it had an older character, and was a serious film.
After my studies were over, and I came back to India, dad told me he was rewriting Genius and making it the story of a younger boy.
Meanwhile, I prepared for my character.
He is from Mathura; my father belongs to that place.
I have never lived there, so I had to learn the Braj bhasha, how they live, what they wear, how they carry themselves...
I play a R&AW officer. I had to meet those officers to understand their world.
Your father has directed Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Deol, Salman Khan and many more actors. How did he direct you? Was he lenient?
He was the same.
He is very collaborative when it comes to direction.
He is a taskmaster and doesn't like to waste time.
He will keep taking retakes until he is satisfied.
I understand him because I have worked with him.
Also, the scripting happens at home, so I know what he wants.
Rehearsals also take place at home.
After the first schedule, things went smoother.
He never loses his cool with actors. He understands their job.
Did you have to audition?
I gave an audition the day I told my father I wanted to be an actor.
He would give me situations and ask me to act and improvise.
What was it like working with Mithun Chakraborty?
With three National Awards behind him, Mithunda is so experienced.
He has an enigmatic personality, but when he shoots, he becomes the character.
In my first schedule, I had to do a confrontational scene with Mithunda.
There was a lot of pressure on me to perform.
Will you work with other directors?
Yes, that is the intention.
I want to do all kinds of roles in every genre.