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"I’m glad it has not been an easy ride"

Ahead of the release of Student Of The Year 2 (SOTY2), a landmark film in his career, actor Aditya Seal talks to Titas Chowdhury about his face-off with Tiger Shroff, playing a grey character and his journey so far

The trailer of Student Of The Year 2 looks very interesting. I am sure you must have had a wonderful time shooting the film.

Oh yes! It was like a party throughout the shoot. The average age of the people was 26-27 years, so everybody was young, barring our director Punit Malhotra. He is 16 years old (Laughs)! It was a lot of fun, the energy was high. The girls are new, so they were pumped up, Tiger (Shroff) was flying high everywhere. 

Punit told us that you were the perfect choice to play the antagonist. What do you have to say about that?

Well, he told me that as well, and I asked him to repeat those words one more time. I was not sure I was hearing right (Laughs). I thanked him for the praise. Honestly, when people look at me, they can’t see a single shade of gray. That look doesn’t suit me. Without my beard, I look much younger. I knew I had to put extra effort into it, something I had to do to make people believe I could be the baddie.

Take us back to when you were offered the film.

Auditions! I remember people suggesting that I audition for the film. So I did but couldn’t get through. Then I heard that somebody had been cast for the role and I thought I had missed the chance. Then, suddenly, Shanoo Sharma, the casting director and a dear friend of mine, told Karan (Johar), ‘I don’t think they have found the boy.’ She mentioned me to Karan and he must have told Mukesh Chhabra, who called me and we did the auditions.

I got through that, then the second round was with Punit. After the auditions, he told me, ‘For me, you are final but Karan needs to like it too.’ When he said I was ‘final’, I was so excited but when he added that Karan needed to like it too, I became unsure as it may or may not have happened. It took 10 days of me biting my nails and constantly calling Punit and asking for an update. Eventually, I met Karan. It was to be a 15-minute meeting but it lasted an hour and 15 minutes. We were just chatting, talking about life, getting to know each other and I got to know the man behind the director, the producer, the host and the actor. I got to know him as a person.

Every actor wants to be part of Dharma Productions. Now that you have worked with Dharma, how does it feel?

It feels absolutely surreal. When you walk onto a Dharma set, it feels like you are in heaven. It is a very different feeling, everything is larger than life, they treat you so fantastically, but, of course, you have your head on your shoulders, and you have to perform. But it is so beautiful. It’s like a dream land, a beautiful ride.

In an interview, you had said that you always wanted to explore the action genre. Now that you are finally doing it, how was the face-off with an action hero like Tiger Shroff?

Fantastic, actually. Tiger and I have been trained together for a very long time. We have known each other for quite some time. I am a trained Taekwondo black belt; I am a Taekwondo world champion and have won gold medals for the country. He knows what I can do and I know what he can do. We share techniques and we play off each other pretty well. It’s just that we had to restrict ourselves in a certain way. This had to be a high-school fight. It couldn’t be fictional, it had to be real. We tried to be as real as possible. Each of us knew that if we attempted to hit or punch the other, the other guy would block him. So that’s what we tried to do, hit each other, and that made it look very real. People around us were very happy with our action sequence. And, yes it came at a cost; I had swollen forearms for a week after that.

People believe that commercial films are easy to make.

Well, it’s not easy to keep looking good. It is very difficult (Laughs). That was Karan’s first criterion. He said, ‘you have to look smashing hot.’ I said, I can try, it’s not easy…

It should come easily to you…

No, yaar, a lot goes into it.

You wanted to become a cricketer but you became an actor. How would you describe the journey so far?

I started my career with Ek Chhotisi Love Story and since then it’s been a roller coaster ride. After Ek Chhotisi Love Story, I took a sabbatical, I wanted to finish my education, I wanted to have a degree so that there was something to fall back on. Being an outsider, you need something that you can rely on if things don’t work out here. Then I plunged into films with Tum Bin 2.  I had my expectations, I had high hopes. Call me naïve but I am a very positive person, so I felt that this was it. I had a good franchise in hand, I had a great director and I had a great production house. I was expecting a few things, people around me were expecting a few things but things didn’t pan out the way they usually do. I was shattered, although no completely because I am a very positive person. I made myself believe there was something else for me, something bigger in store, that this was not it.

Failure doesn’t affect me a lot but when people around me are affected by it, it affects me. Like my parents, who were obviously affected. They wanted their son to succeed. My mother was extremely worried. My father was still, like, ‘people have spoken well about you so that’s a great thing. Keep doing what you are doing and it will happen.’ My mom was unsure of whether pursuing on this path was a mistake. She would ask my dad, ‘Should we make him do something else?’ Being a mother, you couldn’t blame her for thinking that.

Conversations like this did get me down and I would try to avoid them. I would wake up and leave home on some pretext or the other and return late at night, after my parents were asleep so I didn’t have to have those conversations. This was my way of dealing with the situation. I dealt with it perfectly and now they are happy.

It is a tough place to be in…

Yes, but it is a great place to be. I have a story to tell.  I am glad it has not been an easy ride as I have learnt a lot on my way. I have so much more that I can say but that’s for another day.

Last time, we talked after Namaste England. You said girls had been sending you messages, asking you to marry them.

(Laughs) Yes, that’s right.

How do you think those girls are going to react now that you are playing a bad boy?

I have been getting messages saying ‘we can’t see you as a bad boy’, and ‘it’s not you.’ I say, wait for the film to release and then decide. Obviously, I am good at heart but when it comes to performing, I believe I have this evil streak e. I am sure they will believe it.

Would you call SOTY2 a turning point in your career?

From this standpoint, yes. The one thing I have missed in my career to date is eyeballs. SOTY2 will give me that. If people have spoken well about me, it is because they have watched me and now it is for the others to watch me and let me know what they feel. It’s a big film, I get the eyeballs and I get what I need. What happens after that, whether they like me or not, is a different story. 

Lastly, what are your upcoming projects?

There is one film that I have done with Priyadarshan sir, which will go on Netflix. We don’t have a release date yet. But it’s fantastic. It is something I have never done before. I will not reveal anything about it because then I would be giving something away about my character and the film. Apart from that, I have just been reading scripts. There have been a few interesting things that are coming my way but I can’t speak about them because I haven’t signed them yet.

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