'It's almost as if it was fate, it was destiny,' Ahan Shetty tells me while recalling how Sajid Nadiadwala, the producer of his big Bollywood debut Tadap had also launched his actor-father Suniel Shetty in Bollywood with the 1993 film Waqt Hamara Hai co-starring Akshay Kumar, Mamta Kulkarni and Ayesha Jhulka.
A little trivia here; not many people know that the first movie which Suniel signed was Waqt Hamara Hai. However, Nadiadwala allowed Balwaan to get an early release as he wanted the actor to step into the industry with a solo hero film. Cut to present, Ahan is all set to make his first appearance on the marquee with Milan Luthria's Tadap which is an official remake of Kartikeya Gummakonda-Payal Ghosh's Telugu action drama RX 100.
In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Filmibeat.com, Ahan Shetty gets chatty about taking a risk with a debut film like Tadap, his equation with his father and much more.
Excerpts from the interview...
'Milan Sir Never Made Me Feel Like A Newcomer'
Q. You said that you trained for 12-13 years in acting, dance, Hindi diction before you bagged your debut film Tadap? How did it feel when you received that call from Sajid Nadiadwala saying that he is going to launch you and how did your dad react to the news?
A. I will tell you the story about how all of that happened. I had posted a video...I don't remember whether it was a dance or an action one on my Instagram page and Sajid Sir happened to see that. He called up one of my dad's friends Vikram Razdan. The latter got in touch with my dad saying Sajid Sir wants to meet Ahan. I was very excited. Sajid Nadiadwala is such a fantastic producer. He had also launched Tiger (Tiger Shroff). I knew how big a producer he is and was very excited to meet him. When I met him, he asked me whether I knew acting. I replied, "Of course, I have been training'. So, I used to share some acting videos of mine with him. I used to do a lot of theatre in school and had recorded those performances. I shared those videos with Sajid Sir. That's how it went forward. Two-three months after our first interaction, Sajid Sir decided that he wanted to sign me. So, it was almost as if I was doing auditions for him before that final signature was put on to the paper.
My dad was very happy. I don't think a lot of people know that Sajid Sir had actually launched my father (Suniel Shetty). Even though Balwaan was his first release, Waqt Hamara Hai was the first film that my father signed with Sajid Sir.
Q. Director Milan Luthria says that you remind of a very young Ajay Devgn from his early days with those smouldering eyes and underplaying emotions. He also mentioned that you are a very sensitive actor who responds very instinctively? Did that help you in playing your character Ishaana in Tadap who has two different personalities to him?
A. Definitely. When you have such a fantastic director with you, it's amazing. To give me such a compliment like he said, it just boosts my confidence. I am definitely a very sensitive person and he understood that. And that's how he kind of moulded me as an actor. But at the same time as an actor, you have to completely surrender yourself to the director. That's what I did. Milan Sir gave me so much freedom to do what I wanted to do with Ishaana. I was very grateful to that because that showed me that he trusted me as an actor and a performer. Even though it was my first film, he never made me feel like a newcomer. He always treated me with respect that I had been training hard for this film.
Q. He also said that you never came to see yourself on the monitor while enacting your scenes. Were you never curious to know how you looked on screen?
A. You know I was curious but at the same time, like I said that I completely surrendered myself to Milan Sir. He is such an experienced director that I felt that if the take was okay with him, it was okay with me as well. I never felt the need to 'Arey let me go and see the monitor. Maybe he is just seeing it for the sake of saying it.' He also wants the film to do well (laughs). So, I just surrendered myself to him. I never felt the need to go behind the monitor because he trusted me and I trusted him so much.
'My Father Is My Biggest Critic'
Q. You watched RX 100 before you started working on Tadap. Kartikeya Gummakonda as the male lead Shiva, played his character in a certain way. What was your approach towards your role? Were you like, let me look at Ishaana with a fresh mindset or did you somewhere keep that characterization what Kartikeya used in the original film at the back of your mind?
A. Basically, the character's personal journey throughout the film for Ishaana and Kartikeya's character Shiva was very similar. So, I had to keep that in mind. But obviously, I wanted to use my own skills and strengths in performing Ishaana. When it came to enacting with Tara (Tara Sutaria), it was very important for such a film that the two actors are very comfortable with one another. I think me and Tara are both comfortable with each other. We also did a lot of workshops before we started shooting not in terms of the script. Milan Sir had given us the script for only ten days and decided to take it back. The workshops were solely based on Tara and I getting to know each other so that on screen we could share that chemistry.
Q. Your father believes that you are way more focused and confident on screen than how he was in his debut film. Generally when I speak to actors especially debutantes, most of them tell me that their parents are their harshest critics. How does it feel when you hear your father complimenting you instead?
A. You know it feels amazing because my father is my biggest critic. He does tell me when I have made those mistakes and what I need to correct. But at the same time, it's very important that he compliments me on the things that I have done right. He has been an amazing support system for me and I have got to learn so much from him; not in terms of acting in such. He never really gave me too much advice on acting because he wanted to give me that complete freedom. But in terms of guiding me through life which in turn helps you in your performances on screen. He has really been there for me.
'It's Very Risky To Choose A Film Like Tadap For A Debut'
Q. Sometime back in an interview, he had said that it's very important for actors to take risks and create their own individual style. How do you plan to carve your path from hereon?
A. Definitely, It's important to have your own style. I feel me taking a risk and doing a film like Tadap is the beginning. It's a very different type of a love story. For a debut, it's very risky to choose something like this. Once you watch the film, you will understand what I am talking about but I love challenging myself. I feel like when I challenge myself is when I get the best out of me. So, I am just looking forward to working on the films to come. I am very happy to be a part of the industry. I have already received so much love and appreciation for which I am very grateful.
'I Wanted To Join The Indian Army; That Was My Dream'
Q. I remember you saying that you always wanted to be an actor. What is it about this profession that draws you towards it? Do you discuss films with your father at home?
A. I wanted to join the Indian army. That was my dream. I am very shy and an introvert. I like to keep a lot to myself. But when I started acting, I realized that all the emotions that I kept within myself, I could express through my characters. So, it's a very therapeutic experience for me. Playing someone new every single day, I really enjoy that. That's how I got into acting and wanted to join the industry. It was also subconsciously because my father is an actor and every son wants to be like his father. We do discuss films but we try not to talk about it so much at home. We try to leave work life where it belongs (laughs). At home, we like to talk about other things like sports and other films, not particularly our careers.
Q. As a kid, do you used to accompany him on the sets?
A. I used to love being on the sets not because I would love watching my father perform (laughs), but just mainly for the entire environment. I used to have a great time playing cricket with the crew, running around and exploring the sets. That's what I used to do on sets.
Q. After Tadap, what's next for you?
A. There are certain directors and producers that I am talking to. There are a few scripts that have come my way. There will be some announcements very soon.