From a sly and conniving author in Ittefaq to playing an army officer in Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary, actor Sidharth Malhotra is trying his best to break from his chocolate boy image at a sweet and leisurely pace. Aiyaary is a big film for him as it gives him an opportunity to work with one of the finest filmmakers of Hindi cinema, Neeraj Pandey. During our chat before the release of the film, Sidharth talked as much as he could about his role, working with Neeraj Pandey and the ensemble cast, and much more.
Aiyaary is one of the most interesting titles I have ever had and it intrigues the audience to find out its relevance with regards to the film by watching it and understanding the meaning behind it. Director Neeraj Pandey gets all the credit because it is he who came up with this title which is not Hindi or Urdu but a Persian word which he read in Chandrakanta. It is very apt for the film because the characters are that of a military intelligence agents who can change their form or shape shifters is what you call them and ‘Aiyaary’ means that. The word means someone who changes form without being recognizable.
I got to know a lot about the defense of our country while doing this film. I didn’t know the difference between BSF, the army, the ministries, and the jobs that were there, the number of regiments within the army, what military intelligence does, what RAW does, and what IB does. There are a lot of agencies protecting us.
Coming back to the army and BSF, they are the ones who are literally on ground 24*7 protecting or manning the borders in creating the secured land that we are living in today. It educated me about their lifestyles and sacrifices which many of us do not know of. We only appreciate them at times of war, which I feel is not fair because even without a war there are places of conflict. Especially BSF is on guard 24*7. To understand that on special occasions like 26th January Republic Day we need to realize we are the largest Democracy in the world surrounded by countries we have had conflict with and it’s not an easy task to man such a huge border.
There is action and thrill in the tussle between Manoj Bajpayee and I, where we both are army officers and he plays my mentor who teaches me everything I know, yet we disagree on a particular subject and then he tries to stop me from executing something and I run away from him as much as I can. So the cat and mouse is amazing and within this race it’s interesting how we touch the different subjects on the armed forces and what the issue is. There is grey in it and that makes this thriller even more exciting because there’s a good message at the end of it which hasn’t been done in the past.
I enjoyed Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday and he was writing something after MS Dhoni: An Untold Story and luckily in this ensemble he wanted a young officer and that’s when he got in touch and this film came on. He gives a lot of thought to his screenplay and lines.
I am someone who has always been into fitness so getting into the various physicalities for this role wasn’t tough. The jawans are required to be of a certain weight, it is also according to the age group there. There are people who train them in that way and I had to learn about all this. Combat does require fit people, but their mindset is also commendable. There are jawans who sleep in a fiber glass igloo in areas like Kashmir which is portable but if there’s fire mishap especially in the night there’s only 60 seconds to escape, they balance comfort and danger and talk about it very casually. People like us would take 30 seconds to only get up and realize there’s a fire.
I got to know about the other cast members after signing the film and I was excited to work with them because most of them have an experience of working in theatre, television and films. It helped me concentrate on my performance more because I was getting to work with such a wonderful cast. Majority of my roles are with Manoj and it was a great experience to learn from him and understand how they treat acting. The preparation, the performance and the method was great to have seen taking place. I used to do acting workshops with Manoj Sir who used to take time out and sit with me. I learnt theatre techniques from him, Hindi poetry and Urdu diction. Workshops helped me know him better. There was a scene which we shot in London where my character finally confronts and makes his character understand of his ideology. For this scene, I had to speak a lot. That situation became daunting when such a senior actor is in front of you. I was standing in one room there was no action. These actors don’t halter, they have such experience. And you have to match your level to theirs or up it to match the tone of the scene.
I was in Jaisalmer with the Aiyaari team where we celebrated my birthday on 16th of January with the jawans who were close to 1000 in number. It was great to make them laugh and enjoy. Not many people go visit them and when we went it was a big celebration there.
Soldiers have lot of pressure on their job, being stationed at the border, their security and the fact that they always have to be prepared to face an opponent since things can happen anytime at the border. The resilience and discipline that they follow to stand for our protection and the duty that they do makes my stress look much smaller. This was my first visit at the border and where I got to understand how they are manned, the money that is being spent by the government which in insane and these are things we take for granted in big cities but you get to understand this only once you’re on ground and see it.
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