ETimes sat down with the actor for an exclusive interview where Shreyas opened up about hailing from a film family, his due as an actor in the industry, his love story with wife Deepti, his daughter Aadya’s reaction to his films and so much more. Read on…
You have been in this industry for a long time now and have been a part of some very interesting stories. We still feel you have not gotten your due as an actor. Do you agree?
I have been a part of some really interesting stories and worked with some of the best in the industry. I don’t know about my due in the industry. I don’t want to sound pompous or immodest. Coming from a humble, middle-class background, I never imagined myself as someone who could be a part of the Hindi industry. To top it all off, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have played the lead in films that performed exceptionally well at the box office. I have got more than I asked for. I sometimes feel I got more than I deserved.
As an actor, I do feel that there is a lot more in me to be explored and exploited. In that respect, I feel I am not done yet. I also treat each of my films as if it were my first. I try to give it my best. As an actor, I still have a lot of things to do before I settle down.
Were there times when you went through a phase of self-doubt? How did you overcome them?
I think every actor goes through this particular phase. You begin to question whether you are in the right profession, whether you truly deserve to be here, or whether you should be doing something else that your parents most likely wanted you to do. But I think you meet certain people in your life, and their advice makes things fall into place. For example, I met Johnny Lever, who motivated me. It helps when someone tells you to just hold on and that what you are doing is good. The best actors have all gone through this phase, and there is nothing you can do about it.
This is when you start believing that there is a higher power and there is a destiny. There is a cycle, and both good and bad times don’t last forever. Things keep changing, and you just need to be patient. In times like these, family support is of the utmost importance, without it, it is a lonely battle. My family really supported me in my lowest phase.
Not many know that you come from a family that has had ties with the film industry. However, unlike the so-called ‘star kids’, you managed to carve your own path…
Yes, my aunts (Meena T and Jayshree T) have been a part of this industry, but that is not how or why I got into acting. I got into this because I started doing theatre and got noticed while I was doing some plays. My work got me more work, and that is how I got here. The fact that I had people from my family in the industry was not on my mind for the longest time. I really respected and appreciated their work. Whenever I visited their place as a kid, I used to be in awe of them. They were partly responsible for the aspiration that I had for the industry.
Having said that, I just try to carve my own niche in whatever way possible. I have made mistakes, but I have also learnt from them. I have no regrets. I don’t know if I have been successful yet. If not, I will keep trying.
Do you recall the moment when you decided that this is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
There comes a time when you go into self-doubt. You start feeling that things are not working and that you should try different things. But then you have a family to support and can’t be sitting at home. You realise that this is the only thing that you know and can do best, in your own way. You know you won’t be able to do the job because you probably don’t have the temperament for it. It was during my college days that I realised that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I might as well think of it as a career option. That’s how I started working towards it.
You became a filmmaker in 2017 with ‘Poshter Boyz’. Can we expect something coming up soon on that front?
Yes, very soon. I have directed one more film, which I am also a part of as an actor. It is called ‘Sarkar Ki Seva Mein’. Hopefully, we will be releasing it sometime early next year. It is a slice-of-life film about a guy who is a taxi driver and wants to be a government servant. However, for the longest time, he has not been able to. He buys his own taxi, and unfortunately, the taxi gets stolen. Eventually, he has to steal his taxi back. What happens in between is what the film is all about.
Unlike many others, who are sceptical of featuring in multi-starrers, you have always held your ground as a secure actor who has managed to stand out with his performance even in the crowd. Your thoughts…
I sincerely follow my gut. You have one life, and you have to live it up. You have to take chances and risks. if you want to work with certain people. No matter what it is, you do it. Doing ‘Om Shanti Om’ was a spontaneous decision because I wanted to work with Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan. I just jumped into it and the rest is history. Similarly, when I narrated ‘Golmaal Returns’, I loved the story. After that, I just became part of the family. You just can’t say no to Rohit Shetty because of the kind of director that he is.
As far as my work is concerned, I love it. I come from a theatre background where we are taught to respect our teammates and their work. Whatever you do is teamwork. You cannot do it on your own. I don’t give much thought to these things. I don’t mind doing a multi-starrer. No matter how many dialogues you have, if you say it right, you will automatically garner attention. It is as simple as that. This is what I have observed, learnt and tried to do.
Do you have any friends from the industry that you hang out with?
I usually hang out with my childhood friends and college friends. I do have some friends in the industry, but they are more acquaintances. I don’t usually hang out with them. I am not a great party guy. I pretty much finish my work and head back home. I try to spend as much time as possible with my family.
Tell us something about your love story with your wife, Deepti. How did the love blossom between you two?
Well, Deepti’s and my love story has been pretty unique. She was a general secretary at the college, and I had just started doing TV. The show and my character got popular. I got invited to her college. It was my first ever event as a “celebrity.” That is where I met her for the first time. It was a ‘dekha jo tujhe yaar dil mein baji guitar’ moment. Love happened, and I didn’t really waste any time. Four days after meeting her, I proposed her. I told her I wanted to get married to her. Obviously, she took her time to say yes. She took a whole four years to get married.
However, I was sure about her right from the start. The reason she took so much time was because she wanted to go out of the country for further studies but due to some issues, she couldn’t go. We eventually got serious about the relationship, and after four years, she agreed to get married. She is the only girl I ever dated.
Does your daughter, Aadya, watch your films?
Aadya has started watching songs and some scenes from my movies now. She is four years old, and she doesn’t really have the patience to sit through the entire film. Bits and pieces are what she watches. Sometimes she comes on the sets and watches me work. She is getting used to the idea that her father is an actor and that he appears on TV. She doesn’t react much to my films, unless it is a song on which she dances. There was a time when she felt every hero on TV was her father. It doesn’t matter if it was Shah Rukh Khan or Akshay Kumar on screen, the moment she saw them, she would say, ‘Dada, you are dancing’.
Do you still have a bucket list of actors you want to work with?
There is a huge list of actors I want to work with, and Amitabh Bachchan tops that list. I just follow my gut, and that is probably the reason why I am still working. I don’t have false notions, nor do I have these idiotic ideas about myself. I am an actor, a performer. I think you should leave certain things to the director and destiny. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, but you just keep doing your work.
You will soon be seen essaying the role of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in ‘Emergency’. How are you preparing for the role?
Our director has prepared more for that part than I have. Kangana is very clear about what she wants. I have done my homework, and that is how I am portraying my part. After a very long time, I was really nervous about portraying a certain character. Atal ji is huge and is loved across the world. It is a tough one, but thanks to Kangana, she is very clear. She expresses clearly whether she is pleased or dissatisfied with the take. I trust her and go with her gut. She has been happy with it so far. After the film is released, the audience will give their verdict.
Interestingly, there are a few films in my line-up, and luckily they are not comedy films. I have been approached for comedy films too, and I am considering them. There are two thrillers and one romantic-comedy. Right now, I cannot really speak much about them. But whenever I am given the green signal to talk more about it, I will definitely do that.