By Isha Manchanda
How was your first day of the Kaminey shoot?
Kaminey happened as a coincidence. I went for a screen test for Delhi Belly and after many more screen tests and confusions landed the role of Mikhail. The first day was the Dhan te nan sequence. It was surreal. The assistant directors were running behind me with Red Bull cans for the dance sequence! They — Rahat, Aditya and Pallavi — took great care of me during the schedules. I would come back home at 4 in the morning and pour myself a glass of wine. I’d pass out before drinking it and wake up with the glass in my hand, bathe and rush for the shoot.
Tell us about your childhood.
I was born in Delhi but spent the first year in Kangra. After that, I moved to Ludhiana, where we stayed till I was five or six. We moved to Delhi because of the 1984 riots. The fallout in Ludhiana was massive and it was considered unsafe there, so we moved to Delhi where we settled in Karol Bagh. My mother’s three brothers were a huge influence on me. The youngest would come back from Bahrain or Muscat with ABBA and Boney M records and cassettes. He introduced me to music. The middle uncle introduced me to films; he would take us to durga puja functions where we’d watch old Bengali films. The oldest uncle used to run a bookshop and introduced me to literature. I used to work with him after school, keeping a record of all the books people would borrow.
Do you remember the riots?
I remember some things very clearly. I remember seeing the Hindus run around with things they would steal from people’s houses. I remember hearing a lot of gun shots and seeing people burnt alive. There were a lot of Sikhs in the area.
Are you religious?
My family used to go to dargahs and gurdwaras a lot. I used to love going to Bangla Sahib because it has so much space. I still like sitting in gurdwaras. I go to the Ramakrishna ashram to see the aarti and to the Nizamuddin dargah in the evenings. Religion to me is synonymous with music, that’s how I’ve always understood it.
What’s your earliest memory?
It’s of a song on the radio, I was very young and we were still living in Ludhiana. I was eating dahi and parantha and a song from the movie Love Story was playing on the radio.