Tell me about your background!
Not many are aware of the fact that though I was born in Gujarat, I make a living all over the world as a stand up comedian. Badmaash Company is not exactly my first film as an actor. Actually I had made my debut in a serious role in Mumbai Salsa, after having been brought up in Bangalore.
Did the fact that Mumbai Salsa flopped badly deter you from pursuing your dream to act?
The fact that the film did not do well at the box office has not deterred me at all, because the idea in the first place was to show that a comedian can also act. I wanted to prove wrong people"s perception that a comedian cannot do anything beyond comedy. I was signed to play a straight character called Raj, not a comedian in Mumbai Salsa.
Where did you disappear after Mumbai Salsa?
Not many are aware of the fact that I am a gold medalist graduate in B.A (Psychology). Though I was offered a lot of stuff, some good, some not, after Mumbai Salsa, I chose to do only Aamir Khan"s Delhi Belly and Parmeet Sethi"s Badmaash Company for Yash Raj Films. I did Namastey London too, in which I played a Hyderabadi groom. While in Abhinay Deol"s Delhi Belly, in which I am one of the leading men, my co-stars are Imraan Khan, Kunal Roy Kapoor, and Shehnaz Treasurywala, in Parmeet"s film I have been teamed along with Shahid Kapoor, Meiyang Chang (of Indian Idol fame) and Anushka Sharma. I am also committed to Tanuja Chandra for her film with Rajeev Khandelwal. By 2011, two more films of mine will go on the floors.
What is your role in Badmaash Company?
I play the role of Chandan Malpani alias Chandu, one of the four friends- Shahid Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Meiyang Chang and I. The role that I play is exactly opposite to that of what I am in real life. Chandu is a Roadside Romeo, whose father is a failed actor. Chandu is innocent. Basically Badmaash Company is about the four friends whose dreams come true. I have a romantic interest too in the film, which is going to be the surprise package.
How did you prepare for your part?
Parmeet Sethi and I had long discussions on how to interpret my character. Parmeet told me that he had a friend called Chandu. I gathered more details about him from Parmeet and modelled after him. I also made it a point to watch movies of Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, etc. to observe their hair styles in the 90"s, because Badmaash Company has been set in 1994. I had to work hard to get the lingo of that era. The 90"s was the year of the entrepreneurs for India, trend wise. It was very scary to read about the ingenious scams written by Parmeet Sethi for the film.
How would you describe Parmeet Sethi as a director?
Parmeet"s approach is different. He has a singular and honest focus as a director. I make it a point to ask a lot of questions to all my directors. If your moment is honest, whether you are in a wooden box or a Rolls Royce, it could be unique. Parmeet understands his actors well because he himself is an actor on his own right.
What is your role in Delhi Belly?
I play the role of Aroop. It is the story of 3 boys Imran, Kunal Roy Kapoor and me. It is the kind of a role you would never expect a comedian to do.
What difference do you find between acting and being a stand up comedian?
I feel that though as a comedian, you have got to look hot, as a leading man, you have to act. I have a rock band where I play the lead guitar and sings. Since I am a staunch bachelor, I can afford to be on the road for four days of the week in different cities, with my One Man comedy stand up shows. Since I am doing Johnny Lever in real life, I would not find it challenging to do one in a film too and I avoid taking up offers to do comedy films. The fact is I am a successful stand up comedian and do not need a film to earn my living. I do a film only if I get a new zone of audiences. I"d say that acting to me is like getting back to your ex girl friend.
Can you elucidate?
Look here. My stand up comedy audience is niche and corporate. I do on an average around 80 to 90 shows of mine in a period of six months, whereas I would have to block six months just to act in one film. I had given 7 months to Delhi Belly and six months to Badmaash Company. I agreed to do Badmaash Company only because it is a dream come true for any actor to be in the poster of a film of Yash Raj Films.
Which are your current shows?
I have 'Walking On Broken Das", a stand up comedy. We are the largest selling show. I am on stage for two hours non stop regaling then audiences. Ashwin Gidwani is the producer
How tough is the stand up comedy act for you?
60% of what I do is in the script itself and I have to resort to 40% improvisation in all my stand up comedy shows. It sin the audiences, which dictate to me when I am on the stage. Your bar is very high when you are an English stand up comedian. It is a very tough job. The essence of a stand up comedy show is that you have to tell the truth, tell what you see with my ability to observe characters in real life all around me.
What have you learnt as an actor after working in Delhi Belly and Badmaash Company?
When you work with Aamir Khan Productions and Yash Raj Films, every day is a learning experience for you. I am a method actor. I had undergone training in Stanlavsky for four and a half years of my life before I decided to take up a career as a stand up comedian.
How did you manage to shoot for Badmaash Company as well as do your stand up comedy when abroad?
We shot in New York and Philadelphia for Badmaash Company. I used to shoot till 9 pm, go to the Comedy Club three times a week at nights to do my act. It beats going to the gym because I am on my feet when I do a stand up comedy act. My spaces in films and comedy do not clash, because cinematically India has a big intelligent audience
Where do you find yourself position wise among stand up comedian in India?
I can say with confidence that though in India there are 80 to 100 stand up comedians, I am way above all of them. I have come a long way from the time when I came on the scene when the reigning stand up comedians were Boman Irani, Cyrus Broacha and Ash Chandler who were doing comedy for years. Mimicry has been done to death in India. I try not to mimic in my acts.
What else do you do besides acting in films and doing your stand up comedy acts?
I have also written the script for Filmfare Awards for the last two years. My comedy company is called Weirdass.
In what way are you different in real life?
I would say that I am a huge disappointment in real life, because people expect me to be a wacky character off screen, whereas I am not. The curse of a comedian is that wherever you go, people ask you to tell a joke.
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