Patcy N in Mumbai
From a clapper boy to the lead star of one of the year's much-awaited films, Siddharth Malhotra has come a long way.
Siddharth Malhotra burst onto the Bollywood screen with a dream debut -- a director like Karan Johar, a production house like Dharma and a film like Student Of The Year.
Not many know of the road to that film.
The actor returns to the screen with a second film that holds as much as of promise as the first -- titled Hasee Toh Phasee, the film co-stars Parineeti Chopra.
Siddharth speaks to Patcy N about the years before the top billing.
‘Hasee toh phasee’ is a common Indian phrase denoting if the girl smiles, she is hooked. Do you think really girls really are that easy?
Hasee Toh Phasee is a very common term used in north India. Nobody gets hooked because of smiling, but as soon as a girl smiles, the chances for the boy to date that girl increases.
And has such a thing happened to you in real life?
Every relationship is different, every girl is different. Sometimes you have to chase a girl for long and sometimes it is easier.
I was not a very bright student academically. I tried making girls laugh and trap them (to make them give him a chance).
'My parents never thought much of me'
What is your role in Hasee Toh Phasee?
I don’t play a typical hero. I play a middle-class boy, who is unsuccessful in life; he is trying his best to run an event management company.
He wants to earn money as his parents have given him an aim to make money and keep pressuring him. Even his girlfriend puts pressure on him. He is lost and is not sure about his career.
He is very senti(mental) and emotional and cultured guy. He is not a bad boy. But his parents and his friends don’t think much of him.
We have stressed on our performance in this film. It is very realistic character. He is not a ‘cool’ hero.
You said you were not good in studies. How did your parents view you before entering films?
My parents also never thought much of me. My mother was always tense about what I would do when I grew up. I could relate to this character.
My marks were not good, and my parents couldn’t set up any business for me as my father was from the service background.
'I came to Mumbai to do a film I had signed, but that did not take off'
You were an assistant director before you started acting. How did you start assisting Karan Johar in My Name Is Khan?
I came to Mumbai to do a film I had signed, but that did not take off.
I wanted to learn and being on a set is one of the best experiences an actor can get, especially for an outsider like me who doesn’t have any awareness of how these things work and how people work on the sets.
I started assisting, to learn something about films and the making process.
For which film did you come to Mumbai and how did the assisting start?
I came to Mumbai to work in an Anubhav Sinha film; we trained for six months for the film. I made lots of friends at White Water Production, which has closed now.
They suggested we start assisting, I did assisting for the songs of Dostana. After Dostana, I entered Dharma Productions as a clapper boy and after that became an AD.
'When you are on the sets, you have to do anything from cleaning the floor to getting the costumes for the star'
When you decided to come to Mumbai to act what was your father’s reaction?
My father said, ‘Do you know what you are doing?’
Luckily when Adlab Productions signed us, there was a contract. I did not just walk into Mumbai with my bags. I was paid for it. They gave us a place to stay and they trained us.
So my father agreed, but it took him sometime.
Hats off to them (his parents). When I did not have any work for two years, before I started assisting I was in two minds about staying back in Mumbai or going to Delhi, they never forced me to come back home. They gave me time.
How did you survive those two years?
There were financial problems. I was frustrated because Anubhav Sinha stopped our film for Ra.One obviously because that had Shah Rukh Khan.
They told us someone else would direct it, but I opted out and said I didn’t sign up for this. I opted out because they were dilly-dallying; none looked serious.
I had left modeling before coming to Mumbai, so I stuck to that (decision). I did not model; I did not audition for ad films. The only thing I did was the Pantaloon ad, which I was already doing.
My friend suggested that I assist and I liked the idea and started doing that. I learnt a lot over there.
My family helped me. ADs are not paid very well so you have to small things here and there.
For me, it was a big thing that I was an AD on a Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan-starrer like My Name Is Khan.
Karan Malhotra, who made Agneepath (the remake), was the first AD on the film. He was a bit skeptical about giving me work as an AD because he knew I wanted to be a hero.
I started giving claps initially and later I started taking care of the backgrounds.
When you are on the sets, you have to do anything from cleaning the floor to getting the costumes for the star.
'Shah Rukh Khan would sit and talk to us about acting'
Does that knowledge help you now?
Yes. Now when an AD speaks to me about something, I understand what he is saying and why he saying that.
Plus, you know why they are taking extra shots and why they are taking from another angle, why they are doing things again and again.
What did you learn from Shah Rukh Khan?
When you see him perform in front of you, you don’t think much of it, but you look at the same on camera and you know his nuances. He improvises a lot.
When I was in San Francisco as an AD sitting with the clap, Shah Rukh saw there was a parking meter where he was shooting, so he improvised and before the scene he went to the parking meter and dropped some coins in it and then started the scene.
Then he told us that you should improvise; you should come on the sets early and look around for what you could use in the scene, what interesting thing you can do with your props.
He was very sweet. He knew Varun (Dhawan) and I wanted to be actors, so he would sit and talk to us about acting. Because we (SRK and Siddharth) were both from Delhi he would ask where I was from and all about me.
He is very aware on the sets. He improvises a lot in songs; there is a step in a song that he himself came up with. He is spontaneous and energetic.
There is something to observe and learn from him.
'Ranbir Kapoor is the best right now'
You recently said Ranbir Kapoor is competition for you…
I was asked to say one name that I felt was competition.
There are a few of us who are of the same age like Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput, Ayushmann Khurrana and I, so to say I am competing against one of them was difficult. I thought you should compete with the best and according to me Ranbir Kapoor is the best right now.
What are your films after Hasee Toh Phasee?
I have just one film this year after Hasee Toh Phasee, Mohit Suri’s Villain.
Mohit is trying to show every person has a villain in them. There is no larger-than-life action. In fact, it is intense and emotionally driven. There is lot of grief and drama. I have worked on my look, put on some weight.
There is another film with Remo D’Souza, but nothing is finalised yet.