How and when did Rohit Shetty offer you Indian Air Force?
We’ve met multiple times mostly over social and charitable causes because we align on that. He’s always been there for me whenever I’ve Ddne anything through my organization for police families, people in uniform,free cancers, screenings, testing, sometimes treatments for their children, of the police, more of the foot soldiers than the officers. And Rohit bhai has always been a phone call away every time I’ve asked him to come in and support any of these campaigns. We’ve always said let’s work together, let’s do something together.
And then it finally happened?
He always said to me that when there is a role which I think would be of your caliber or value, that’s when I’ll call you. And he did,true to his word. I’ve loved playing the role of Vikram Bakshi and I think it’s been a wonderful experience finally being on set and working with Rohit.
You were one of the most sought after actors after Company and Saathiya…what do you think went wrong and are you poised for a comeback with Indian Police Force?
I believe that while there would be a lot of analysis or data if you evaluate anybody’s career, you look at any actor’s career, good choices, bad choices, you get so much evaluation there. So I think you can’t drive forward when you’re looking into the rearview mirror. I don’t do that as a practice because it slowly turns into an obsession with the past, which is something you cannot change. In terms of where I am today, the confidence, the self-assuredness, the acknowledgement to myself that, ‘Hey, you did well, man.It’s been 21 years and more than 50, 60 movies. You have stood your ground,you’re still growing in terms of your craft.’
So there is a feeling of self-satisfaction?
That appreciation to myself,genuine appreciation to myself, not to the outer world, but to myself, the conversation with myself when I look at myself in the mirror, appreciating and loving who I am today, holistically, not just as an actor, a star, a commodity,but a person, a human being, a father, a so…when I look at that whole story with complete context, it gives me a sense that I’ve achieved a lot in my life.And I’m actually super-poised, relaxed, excited for all the work that I’m doing in the future because the sense of insecurity and fear of consequences has long departed from my life.
How tough was it doing out-and-out action?
It’s not an out and out action series. It has tremendous scale, it has intrigue, it has a lot of dramatic scenes. It also has a depth of emotion that peels beyond the khaki, goes deeper beyond the uniform. That’s what I loved about it.
I believe there is another reason why Indian Air Force is special?
Yes, that was the first time Vivan, my son, came onset. I think he was super awed by the explosions and the bullets and the gunfire and all of that. I guess boys will be boys.
You seem to have enjoyed yourself with this project. Do you like working on the OTT platform?
It’s a very liberating avenue because here you are completely able to delve very deeply into a character because you have six,seven, eight, ten episodes to peel layer upon layer of the character. That’s what’s exciting. From a creative perspective, I think it’s very, very democratic in its discoverability. You’ll have Indian Police Force which is a big well-promoted show. Then you’ll have a smaller show that Amazon is putting up. That doesn’t have the budgets. But when you go to discover the Indian Police Force, you’ll also see something like that. You’ll be drawn to it and maybe check it out. If it’s good, then it has a chance to have the same number of eyeballs. There’s nothing holding it back. There’s no limitations in terms of screens and show times. There’s none of that. That’s out of the equation.
Do you see the OTT as the way forward for the film industry?
If your content is good, it can reach anywhere. That’s the beauty of OTT. That’s what I enjoy the most.So it’s slowly coming to a point where the film is the star,the story is the star, the trailer is the star. Is it being able to engage you?And what the star adds to it is beyond the performance, adds to it is an awareness factor. It creates awareness because it has those eyeballs to him.But the actual decision of going out to see that movie or not see that movie, I think, is now all about the trailer and the way you’re experiencing it. Because you’ve just been so flooded with so much good content on OTT on the platforms that to take that extra effort, to pay those extra bucks to go out there, make that effort to watch a movie in the theaters, you really need to be able to give them something to draw them out.
Do you see your show as improving the image of the police force?
We’ve always had that admiration for our men in uniform and the armed forces, but of the police force, we’ve always had a lesser opinion of in our country. And this has changed, Rohit Shetty’s Copverse has single-handedly evolved that. I think the difference between the other worlds and the other characters and this is that those are meant to be much, much larger than life characters that at some point requires some degree of suspension of belief because it’s entertaining popcorn cinema. Whereas Indian Police Force encapsulates that same spirit, the essence of scale, the essence of action and that riveted rhythm that Rohit Shetty brings about, but is complete with absolute realism. It feels authentic in terms of on the OTT space, it absolutely feels real, it feels like when I would watch a well-researched Jack Ryan, which I incidentally voiced in Hindi for Amazon Prime Video, I feel that it’s the same rhythm and the same energy and the same authenticity and realism with which that rawness and grittiness, with which Rohit Shetty has shot this,keeping the same larger than life heroism of the men in uniform and women in uniform.