What was it about the Gibson GuitART For Good project that got you interested enough to tie up with them? And if there was one thing you hope your associating with this project achieves, what would you wish it to be?
Gibson GuitART for Good, in keeping with its name, is spreading awareness and generating funds for some worthy causes like Breast Cancer Awareness, Support of the Arts, Children’s education and wildlife conservation. For me the issues that MARD addresses like gender equality and respect for women needs every possible avenue and platform to spread awareness. We believe this is an issue that needs constant and continuous attention and we’re glad to come together with Gibson to do so.
Starting an initiative like MARD is one thing, but ensuring sustained momentum is another. As the brains behind it, where do you focus your efforts on?
For me, it really is like a people’s initiative. What we are hoping for is some kind of a trickle-down effect of the message. The message talks about boys and girls treating each other as equal. I try and give as much time as I possibly can, and wherever I travel, I try and talk to students. And I hope that they become messengers. MARD is essentially promoting a basic human value. Truly the only way forward is — we’re not raising any money, it’s just promoting a social behaviour – to constantly try and make more and more people aware of what the message of MARD is.
It has been barely two years but the MARD moustache logo has become a recognisable icon. Are you satisfied with the way the initiative’s progressing today?
For all the effort that is being put in, the effect seems to be positive. I do feel that I could give a lot more time. It is fortunate and unfortunate that I’m busy with other commitments but we’re tying up with Magic Bus which is a good association going forward. They reach out to children from underprivileged backgrounds. A lot of times parents in those situations choose not to educate the girl child. They don’t want to pay for books, uniform, school fees because they don’t think it’s a good investment. That’s the notion that Magic Bus tries to change. It teaches parents the value of educating girls. It’s a step in a very positive direction for MARD. For me honestly, the logo catching on or not catching isn’t an important thing. It’s whether the idea does. As long as people connect with the message, understand it and propagate it, that’s all I want.
Are you a confident musician today? We are asking this because you headlined at the Kala Ghoda Arts Fair last Sunday.
Nothing is easy if you want to make it worthwhile for people to come in and invest their time. A certain degree of work does go into it but I do enjoy it. Tremendously. I think more than being confident, I just enjoy being a musician. The connection with the audience that music gives me is amazing. I share an amazing level of comfort with the band that I perform with. Sure, being a singer means that you keep away from frozen drinks. I also have a perennial cold, since the age of seven (laughs). My doctor has told me that these are allergies, mostly from dust. And I don’t want to go down the pill-popping route. I try my best to control it with food and being careful but dust is a part of living in Mumbai. The environment that we keep shooting in, old studios and dusty outdoors keeps the cold constantly activated. But still, I play the guitar everyday and sing, that’s my daily riyaaz, so to say.
Shaadi Ke Side Effects is the next release we’ll see you in. This role must have been a breeze after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag...
It was roughly three weeks after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag wrapped up that I started work on Shaadi Ke Side Effects. By far, it was way easier to prep for this role. There was no prep actually. The role belongs to the world of what we do in everyday life. Wrapping my head around what needed to be done was much simpler. The reason I wanted to work on the movie was because I enjoyed the script and I really wanted to work with Vidya (Balan). This was the only time she had available before she started work on Jagga Jasoos. I thought it would be worthwhile to just start work on it as soon as I could.
Post-Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, are you a greedier actor today ? Has choosing scripts become about doing something even more challenging?
On a sub-conscious level, you’re always hoping that something like this will come your way and inspire you. It’s very difficult to go out and look for it. Unless you read a story or an article in the newspaper and you think it would make a great movie. One of the true benefits of being an actor is to be able to create characters that are so far removed from who you are. That is truly, truly exciting. I guess in that sense yeah, maybe I’m a bit greedier now. The process of choosing scripts hasn’t changed. There’s an instinct you have and you’d rather succeed or fail on that instinct than let the mind over-analyse. There is a gut feeling because you connect to a role or a character. If you’re engaged by something, you feel others will connect with it too. If you don’t like a role but someone tells that people will like it, then there’s no point doing it.
Getting back to guitars, your early memories of it and how many do you have today?
My first memory of a guitar is when my dad bought me a guitar when I was 16. It was a “Givson”. It was just one alphabet off (laughs). He bought me that guitar to make up for the three years that he made me learn the harmonium. “Give son a Givson” (laughs). I don’t have a vast collection. I have four, out of which three are Gibson guitars —two electric and one acoustic — and one is an Ehsaan Noorani signature Fender. It was wonderful of him to gift me one.
1. Your all-time favourite book is: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. That’s a great book.
2. A film that you can watch time and again: I am not very fussy about what film I watch. I watch any film to unwind. I don’t have a film to fall back on but if I had to choose one, it would be A Fish Called Wanda.
3. Food that cheers you up: Oh that’s very simple - roti or paratha with anything. That’s all I need.