What sparked your interest in theatre?
Radio fascinated me a lot during childhood. Back in those days, it used to be a lot more popular than television, which was not so easily accessible. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, listening to dramas on air. In Class VII, I penned down a play that I had heard on the radio and performed it with my friends during our school’s Annual Day. Later, as I changed schools, I realised that the stage was the only place for me. Eventually, I figured it was my calling.
How and where did you hone your craft?
While in college, I was also taking coaching to crack engineering entrances. Three months into it, I realised how dull life had become. Then I joined the drama society of Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, and began taking theatre more seriously. I got more involved with scripts and dialogue writing. Keval Arora, our teacher, never considered me a good actor, which I now completely agree with. During my initial acting days, I was nothing but a mimic of Amitabh Bachchan.
When did the first movie project come along?
Chetan Anand had finalised me for a lead role but the project did not take off as the producer had some apprehensions. Soon after, Satya happened out of nowhere, and things began to roll for me.
Why are most of your acclaimed performances in supporting roles?
The length of the character matters little to me. What counts is how pivotal the role is. Being the best person for the role in the eyes of the director — that is important to me. It is very difficult to take a stand and reject a role that fails to excite you.
How does it feel to essay a negative role?
I find negative roles to be both exciting and challenging. They help you grow and expand your gamut of acting. For me, it is about getting into the skin of someone I can’t ever be in real life. That is what excites me about playing roles with grey shades. Durga Narayan’s character in Jungle was inspired by Veerappan, but it was a more intense portrayal of the forest brigand. I played the role with conviction and made it a larger-than-life character. In Hate Story 2 also, I did my best to add value to the role and make the audience fear the character. I still have a long way to go.