Bollywood actor and anti-nepo baby Siddhant Chaturvedi, who is in splendid form in the stirring coming-of-age film ‘Kho Gaye Hum Kahan’ (KGHK) on Netflix, claims he is infamous for rejecting scripts. He has even kept count, perhaps for bragging rights.
But the five-movie-old actor, who is fast becoming the poster boy for cool and suave, makes this tally declaration with no superciliousness. His wide grin and laidback vibe, which were on clear display during our virtual interview, undercut any potential misgivings.
“Last year, I rejected 78 scripts. It’s not because the scripts are bad or anything. It’s about what point of life I am in and what kind of work I want to do. I never want to be typecast,” said Chaturvedi in an interview over Zoom with Gulf News.
His fear of being pigeonholed and slotted seems almost unfounded. Chaturvedi, 30, may be many things - like being adventurous with his debut role in the Ranvir Singh-led rapper saga ‘Gully Boy’ (2019) in which he played the lead hero’s mentor or more recently playing the emotionally-unavailable stand-up comic and serial dater in KGHK – but being predictable with his roles doesn’t apply to this self-made talent. He wants to march to a different tune when it comes to shaping his ascending career trajectory.
“I want to change the mold when it comes to the Bollywood perception of a hero, if I would dare to … If you study Bollywood, it’s always been like that. When Mr Bachchan saab [Amitabh] came into movies, there was a different romantic kind of hero angle out there. But suddenly he brought this angry-young-man mold which changed the whole dynamics and that lasted till Mr Shah Rukh Khan came and suddenly changed the world of Bollywood heroes again,” added Chaturvedi. These two icons, who continue to endure to millions of movie-mad Indians around the world, spurred him to challenge and redefine the traditional Bollywood hero archetype.
“Much like them, I too don’t want to ever go with the trend. I would rather explore. As an actor, I have done a movies like ‘Phone Booth’, which is of a different [horror-comedy] genre, or ‘Gehrayiyaan’ [psychological thriller], or a ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’ [con caper] … I will try my hand at everything,” said Chaturvedi.
He is an actor that will gravitate towards content-driven, provocative films, even though he enjoys the occasional song-dance musicals that Bollywood is notorious for.
“Even though I love them, the typical Bollywood, song and dance, I also want to balance it with movies with interesting characters. I never choose characters which are closer to me, I will just get bored of doing it. When I did ‘Gully Boy’, I was 24 years old but I played Ranveer Singh’s mentor who was older to him. For ‘Gehraiyaan’, I was 27 years old when I played a guy who had that maturity and intensity in that part. But for ‘Kho Gaye …’ I played my age for a change, but I did not play myself. The layers to his character fascinated me,” said Chaturvedi.
In ‘Kho Gaye Hum Kahan’, directed by Arjun Varain Singh and also featuring Ananya Panday and Adarsh Gourav, Chaturvedi plays the slick stand-up comic Imaad nursing childhood trauma. He’s a committed cheater when it comes to his relationships, with one of his closest friends Neil (an on-point Gourav) even slating him as an emotionally-stunted soul during a nasty fall-out.
The tale of three close friends handling quarter-life crisis in the bustling Mumbai metropolis and navigating life, love, break-ups, and trauma forms the spine of this highly enjoyable feature. Backed by the same team as the seminal Bollywood film ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ which starred Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, and Saif Ali Khan, ‘KGHK’ is the modern-day equivalent of that iconic friendship film. In times defined by multiple dating and social media validation, this film is endearing for its focus on finding love and oneself.
This film is further elevated by its climax in which Chaturvedi’s character, Imaad, turns his childhood trauma into comedy. It’s a complex, layered scene in which Chaturvedi shines with his nuanced expressions. It’s a scene that could have easily stayed on-note or overly dramatic, but Chaturvedi seemed to have tapped into the depth of his emotions without making it melodramatic. Plus, we dare you not to reach for the tissues during that moving scene.
“My job as an actor is to make you guys feel … And if you are saying that you felt something, it’s a big success for me. So yes, I should be proud and I am proud but not only for that scene but the whole film actually. I am proud of Arjun. He’s a first time director but was Zoya’s [Akhtar, who co-wrote KGHK] AD [Assistant Director] during ‘Gully Boy’. I am proud of him and everybody who’s a part of this film.”
This film especially gained from the easy camaraderie between Chaturvedi and his two on-screen mates. The actor reminds us that Ananya and he had worked together in ‘Gehrayiyaan’, a psychological romance that saw his character cheat on Panday’s character with her bodacious cousin (Deepika Padukone).
“We had intense workshops back then as well … So we knew each other for a while now. So our bond was always there. But with Adarsh, we bonded in Goa. Arjun [Director] took us there before the filming began and let us be. We partied and chilled … We were on the beach, going for dinner together… But without telling us, Arjun kept recording everything and those visuals are there in the opening title track,” he added.
One of the biggest strengths of this film is also that easy kinship on display. Apart from that the younglings and their bonds with their parents – who often seem lost by their digital native children – have been handled with great authenticity. Chaturvedi’s dad cried after watching the film. His father was so moved that he abruptly left the screening, only to call his son and say: “I didn’t want to embarrass myself by crying in front of everybody.”
His father wasn’t the only one who was overwhelmed by ‘KKHK’. As we were doing the interview, Chaturvedi revealed that top movie mogul Karan Johar and Bollywood’s maverick filmmaker, Anurag Kashyap, had just messaged him about his performance and that his phone has been beeping off the hook with congratulatory message from his peers. The movie also skirted another big stereotype. None of the friends end up falling in love with each other or harbor any kind of unrequited attraction for one another. In Bollywood films (such as ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, ‘Yaadein’, ‘Mujhse Dosti Karoge’, or ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’), it’s a common trope for friends of different genders to eventually develop romantic feelings for each other after starting as close companions.
“I am glad that we didn’t take that route … But at some time, I was telling Arjun: ‘bro, let it happen. This is Bollywood’. But he was clear that it’s not going to happen because that’s so stereotypical … We come from Pyaar, Dosti Hai [Love is friendship] generation. We come from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai generation, so I was hoping … But I am glad it didn’t happen and perhaps that’s why actors don’t write scripts,” said Chaturvedi with a laugh.
Written by Arjun Varain Singh, Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, and Yash Sahai, this film ducked the usual bullets seen in Bollywood friendship films. It isn’t unnecessarily saccharine or soppy. And Chaturvedi, who claims he hasn’t been reading all the glowing reviews, knows he has struck home with his latest film.
“But this is still like 2 per cent of what I can do. Wait for it … You haven’t even seen the best yet … There’s so much more I want to give and so much more which I can do … But people, who are yet to discover me, is still rooting for me. I promise I will never let them down.”
Unlike nepo babies that are flooding Bollywood such as Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana or even his co-star from KKHK Panday, the daughter of Chunky Panday and reality star Bhavna Panday, Chaturvedi has made it on his own steam.
“It’s very difficult to get in and so when I got here I feel very responsible about not letting this go to waste … When I had not made it .. I saw somebody without any support from the industry still making it big like Mr Shah Rukh Khan, who has always been my idol, or like Sushant [late actor Singh Rajput] or Ayushmann [Khurranna], they really inspired me … Trust me, there’s much more to me … I don’t feel like a star or that I have arrived, my best is yet to come.”
Don’t Miss It!
‘Kho Gaye Hum Kahan’ is streaming on Netflix now.