Q. You had to play the role of a visually challenged man in Andhadhun. How different was the experience from anything you have done till now?
Ans. It’s the most challenging role in my career, especially since I had no reference point for it. Since I didn’t know any blind person, I went to the blind school and participated in the workshops there. Even while playing the piano, Shriram (Raghavan) did not to use any body double for my fingers. He told me you will have to play the instrument, so I learnt the pieces that were played in the film.
The first shot had to look convincing, so I rehearsed for three months, devoting five hours a day to learn the piece. He also did not want to me to watch any film where the hero has played a blind man. Instead he took me the National School of Blind to learn the nuances. Since no two persons are the same, I picked up the nuances, learnt how to hold to the stick and climb the stairs. I had to also to make an omelette without seeing. It was difficult, but I had a lot of fun learning and doing the workshops for three months.
Q. Did this film change you in any way in terms of approaching a character?
Ans. It was part of my bucket list to work with Shriram Raghavan, a thriller and to break the mould. And my interaction with the blind was quite enlightening - and each had a different story to tell. Some were blind from birth, some lost their sight recently, some were depressed and needed counselling, while some were happy and always kept smiling.
I also noticed that while we consume music visually by watching video, they enjoyed it in the purest sense. I met this blind pianist Rahul and asked him about my music, he said, ‘Sunn ke batata soon”. That was the purist approach of a musician, which inspired me to change my approach. I think your other senses are heightened when one sense is not there.
Q. Is it true that you approached Raghavan to do the film?
Ans. Yes, I approached him myself. I was not on his radar. I got to know about this role from Mukesh Chhabra who gave me one line of the film that a blind man witnesses a murder. So, when I met Shriram, he said I never thought about you. The next day we shot a couple of scenes and he scheduled dates it was that impromptu which was good fun. It was ballsy of me and for an established actor to ask for a screen test. It happens in the West all the time—we don’t have to have egos for such things.
Q. What is the kind of reaction you’ve been getting from the film industry and people at large?
Ans. I am so happy and overwhelmed with the kind of reaction I am getting for Andhadhun and the best compliment I got was Ayushmann ‘is a revelation’. I always knew I could do this but was not getting the opportunity for myself. I am glad I did that I am also happy that he was open minded in a way. More than the opportunity that he gave me, he was drawn towards my passion. He wanted passionate people in the project who really feel for the script and who want to make this happen. Aadhi cheez toh passion se solve ho jaata hai aapka. Sriram told me if there was another actor he would use a body double – because I was a musician it was easier for me to learn the piano as it came naturally to me.
Q. What was it like to work with Tabu?
Ans. She is amazing. I think she is one of the best actresses around. She is one actress who has changed herself with the times. In the 90s, the tonality of our films were very filmy—She did films like Vijaypath, Viraasat, Golmaal, Cheeni Kum and now Andhadhun. She is fabulous as a co-actor. She is somebody who will sit in one corner before canning or get totally serious in front of the camera. Just like me, she is switch-off and on artiste.
Q. So now do you intend to go from King of Quirks to becoming King of Thrills?
Ans. It depends on the kind of films I get. I would like to do different stuff—but Quirk is my zone. If someone does a film that is taboo, people say Ayushmaan ke zone like film hai. It is important to own your space. Nobody can do better action than Tiger Shroff and Varun Dhawan is commercial and kids love him. Knowingly or unknowingly that has become their space. In between Varun goes and does a Sui Dhaaga or October and for me, it is Andhadhun. It is important to break the mould in between.
Q. Your next Badhaai Ho is also Amit Sharma’s second film?
Ans. He had directed Tevar, But Badhaai Ho is his zone. He is from Delhi and knows the milleu. He has invested a lot in this film. And though he is basically an ad filmmaker, he will arrive with this film.
Q. Neena Gupta said there is no hero in the film.
Ans. That’s true because each and everyone Is a hero in this film—the only reference I can give is that Badhaai Ho is like Kapoor and Sons.