After spending all his growing-up years with his family in Mira Road, Kunal Khemu has just moved to his own flat in suburban Andheri. "It's far more convenient because all the movie-related activities happen on this side of Mumbai. For now, I'm living alone for the first time," says the self-declared recluse who has come into a great deal of acclaim for his double role in Superstar.
"Though I had grown up watching actors perform double roles, I had never seen or experienced how it's done on celluloid. The camera with the robotic arms, playing two different characters concurrently in the same frame was fun and challenging." It's the long hair. Or perhaps that slightly scruffy but overly sensitive look that makes Kunal Khemu look like Johnny Depp. He loves the comparisons. "Yeah, I've people comparing me with Johnny Depp. It's flattering for someone who has just done four films as an adult. But I've been doing intense roles from the age of 15 when I played Mahesh Bhatt Saab in Zakhm. Now I want to have fun. That's why I did Priyadarshan's Dhol earlier this year. Comedy was a very new territory for me. I wanted to test the waters. Working with Priyan Sir was like going to school."
Now Kunal Khemu, a self-declared recluse and an obsessive actor, is all set to do more comedy. "My next two films Jai-Veeru directed by Puneet Sira (I Proud To Be An Indian) and Dhoondte Reh Jaoge (for UTV) directed by debutant Umesh Shukla have distinct comic elements. I like that kind of comedy. I think I'm too serious in real life." Incidentally, Jai-Veeru has nothing to do with Sholay. "Fardeen Khan and I play buddies who happen to be called that. We may change the title," says Kunal. At 24, in his new film, Superstar Kunal plays a double role as wannabe Superstar and a privileged producer's son. "I quite identified with the character of the middleclass junior-artiste in Superstar, though I never had to struggle like him. Mahesh Bhatt Saab made sure of that. I did Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke with Bhatt Saab when I was only a child. Aamir and Bhatt saab were very protective. I was allowed to shoot as and when my schooling hours allowed." Aamir brings us to Taare Zameen Par and Darsheel Safary. "It's so wonderful to see Darsheel share such a high comfort level with Aamir. When I worked as a child with Aamir in Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke and Raja Hindustani, we had no workshops, no rehearsals. Today's child actor has a lot more time to prepare. And it shows."
Kunal's abiding passion is acting. "I've done theatre in college and school. And my father Ravi Khemu is a product of the National School Of Drama. He has been my mentor and guide…Among the actors Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt are my favorites. And I idolize Kamal Hassan." Personal life? "Nothing except cinema. Then if I get time, I go to a sports club to play cricket with my non-filmy friends. And before you ask, I'm not in a committed relationship. I guess I'm too shy to reach out to someone special. Acting gives me a chance to tap all those emotions and venture into all those areas of my mind and heart that I don't touch in real life."