You’ve been part of several international projects and outings, but Death On The Nile became one of the most anticipated ones…
I’m really flattered. I’m so flattered that there are people waiting for it. People have recognized how global this particular film has become. In fact, just two days back, we were sitting in the British Museum, dining with the entire cast, and just discussing that it’s such a huge release, especially since it’s coming after the pandemic. It’s actually maybe my biggest release ever.
I’m happy and glad that India is on the map, and I keep up to fit in, in some form. And I am very proud of that. I say this because growing up I was a sportsman, I was a basketball player, I used to play hockey, so I had this desire to represent India. Today, at least in my own way I can.
You play the role of the Bride’s cousin, what was it about Andrew (Katchadourian) that attracted you the most? How did you approach this role?
I was very surprised actually, to begin with when Kenneth Branagh offered me this part. That’s when I read the book. And what surprised me was in the original, its uncle Andrew, even in the film that was made before, it was George Kennedy, who played my part, as Uncle Andrew.
So this time, the age of the character was brought down, so I could play it. Gal Gadot’s character and my character are cousins in the film, and so there’s that context and history, that they have grown up together with the same family backdrop. I end up becoming a lawyer, accountant, or sort of confidant and financial advisor to Gal’s character.
Of course, I’m also one of the major suspects in this murder that takes place on the boat. It’s a classic, whodunit. I felt pretty good about being part of that.
The character that we’ve crafted is actually from scratch because I have to make something new and something refreshing. I suppose every actor does that with every part. The part has to feel refreshing to me first and not be boring or predictable, only then it makes sense.
You have shared your excitement of working on this project on your social media. Having shared screen space with such an amazingly talented cast, what was your biggest takeaway?
Well, just being able to share notes. Because I know that we are a very talented country. And I take pride in that. To be able to share notes at that global stage with everybody, it’s just a nice chance to showcase and also have fun and to be able to tell stories, and bring my worldview to it.
But one of the reasons I’m gushing about it is because it’s my film, and I think I’ve been humble for too long. I didn’t want to do that. Everybody in my family was like, ‘shut up for once and it’s okay to do your own stuff’. (Laughs) I’m usually very sceptical about marketing myself, I have too many questions on that, but this time I said, screw it. Let’s have fun.
There have been quite a few times, you were written off as being a ‘blink-and-miss’ character in previous Hollywood films. How do you take these comments, do you feel affected by them?
No, I feel sad, I feel sad for people who write such comments, or even for media houses that look at something like that. There is nothing like blink and miss. I kid you not, the day we start championing our own people, is the day we will start excelling. We don’t do that enough.
On the contrary, I see it happening down South, in the Malayalam industry, in Tamil industry, Telugu and Kannada, too, they really take care of each other. It’s so important to do that. We don’t do that here. We just don’t do that. That lack of support can affect someone, I’ll be lying if I say that it doesn’t affect, of course, it makes you think like ‘arey yaar, mai raggad raha hoon yaha pe (I am toiling hard), working hard out there, you all just don’t have my back, meri vaat laga rahe ho (I am getting bashed)’. I get that it’s for all the spice, or maybe for a headline. It might give you better views. But you also have to understand how fickle that is.
That is why social media doesn’t bother me, because I know all of our lives on social media are fickle, everything can be deleted by a third-person one day. So you can’t let that affect you, you can’t have that control you. And that’s what keeps me sane. I feel these things can’t control my narrative.
Going back, these opportunities are not ‘blink-and-miss’. We’ve never had leading parts in Hollywood films. Actually, that door opened with ‘Victoria and Abdul’ that was probably the first leading part in every sense for an Indian in a major Hollywood movie. And in Death On The Nile, the entire cast is leading characters in a sense. I’m happy to take that blink and miss.
Since you are focussed on OTT, Bollywood and Hollywood, do you ever feel the pressure of consistency, staying relevant and not missing out?
Well, I don’t feel pressured with consistency, it comes eventually with your craft, but when it comes to missing out, I think every actor is going to feel concerned about that. It’s the worst feeling. It happened to me recently, during the making of Kandahar. There was a beautiful remake of one of my favourite shows happening in India and I just couldn’t do it because of the dates. I couldn’t do another film which is very dear to me, because the dates were clashing. I think that’s been my biggest dilemma because half my work now is in the West and balancing both worlds can sometimes be a challenge.
It’s something I have to just make peace with. I want to enjoy my life as well. It’s not just about doing movies. My life is bigger than just my movie career.
Having dabbled with success both at home and internationally, have you become more conscious about taking risks now?
I have become more conscious. I still like taking risks, but I have become conscious about my next step. Not just because of playing a game, but because like I said earlier, I’m short on time. I am trying to get the best of both worlds. One day, I hope I don’t have to make that choice anymore, that part of choosing one over the other.
We hear that Richa Chadha and you will be tying the knot soon in March, during the ‘Fukrey 3′ shoot.
I think this wedding is happening between the media and I. (Laughs). It’s like every three months some paparazzo brings up this topic and says it happens because Richa and I have not been, ‘peetoing any dindoras’ (shouting from the rooftops) about it. We’re actually just taking our sweet time because we had a lot of projects pending because of the pandemic. We will actually officially announce our wedding in good time.
You and Richa have been together for quite some time now. What is that one change that she has brought in your life and personality and one that you have affected in her?
I can’t speak for her. I hope she had good things to say. (Laughs) I started off being a fan of Richa’s work. For me, it’s been an enriching experience in all avenues and factors of life. I think that’s the broadest way I can explain it. I will not be too specific. It’s my personal life. I want to keep it like that.