From marketing to acting... how did the transition happen?
I had some misleading ambitions earlier, which were more or less like desires. I had these false ambitions — marketing and MBA. I didn't do very badly at it, but I realised my calling was something else. So, one fine day, I decided to drop everything and take a plunge into acting. I have no complaints.
How was your experience shooting for Haider in Kashmir?
This was my first visit to Kashmir and it's an intriguing place. Switzerland is no match to what I observed. It's truly a paradise. Shooting over there was tough in terms of environment and conditions. Autumn was fine, but winter was severe. We had the highest recorded snowfall last year in the past 20 years. It was great fun. Snowfall looks great on screen, but if you are living there for 30 days and see snow every single day, it can get a bit depressing.
How far have you gone to prepare for a role?
I follow the same yardstick or training process for all the roles I do. Unless it is a historical character that requires some research, I don't do research outside the script.
You've done a lot of grey roles. What is it about them that attracts you?
I believe I have played people, they might be the wrong kind of people, but I have played people. I don't play roles. Roles are extremely finite, but human beings are infinite. The script beckons me. Every acting is internal. External acting is hamming. You have got to dig deep into your own spectrum while playing a character. If I am playing evil, believe me, I am bringing out the evil from within me. This is basically my approach.
Any movie that is close to your heart?
There are about 12 films from the ones I have done that have a shelf life. There's Paanch, Sarkar, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Shaurya, Sankat City, Life In A Metro, Haider, Gulaal, Black Friday and Honeymoon Travels that I quite enjoyed. I believe that cinema should be made for posterity and not just for a three-day business.
Who is more romantic between you and your wife Nivedita?
I guess the romantic decorum is maintained by my wife. For me, it's more to do with intent than manifestation.
What's a typical day in your life like?
I ponder a lot. I like to be by myself, probably because I have been a single child. You are left to your own devices from the start.
Any message for your follo'ers?
I'm no guru. I am humbled by the appreciation I get. Every actor looks forward to it. I'm pretty happy about the response to Haider for the simple reason that I am getting to see a mature side of the audience who I guess is deprived of quality cinema. I was happy when they liked Paan Singh Tomar. It is possible to make mainstream cinema with content. The problem is escapism. Don't fear your mediocrity so much that you muscle your way through money power.