Excerpts from the interview:
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) comes with a lot of baggage, especially since Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai turned out to be a blockbuster. How did you deal with that pressure?
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a very humane film and it will offer a detailed and accurate observation of life. This is a trademark of Zoya's [Akhtar, director] films and this helps the audiences to easily identify and connect with the characters and situations on screen in her films. She presents a more realistic interpretation of cinema and each of her films is different to anything else she has done. And, yes, there is a lot of expectations to live up to, given the precedent set by Dil Chahta Hai, but I am confident that the viewers will find my film appealing for its own merits.
What attracted you to the role in ZNMD and how is it different from the seize-the-day-spouting Ethan in Guzaarish?
Ethan in Guzaarish was far more intense, complex and multi-layered when compared to Arjun from Zindagi Na Milegi ... Not many can relate to Ethan, while Arjun is far more accessible and relatable. That's the biggest difference. And I loved Zoya, her script and her story-telling skills.
It's not a road-trip movie, say ZNMD makers. What's your take on it?
ZNMD goes far beyond just a road trip. In this movie, the road trip is rather a metaphor about a journey of self-discovery for each of the characters and the different ways and forces that bring them to re-evaluate their lives. My character, Arjun, is a financial trader based at a large, London firm. He lost his father at a young age and subsequently saw a very tough life. As a result, he is extremely driven and determined to succeed and get ahead in life. The trip provides a wake-up call to him on so many levels — you'll have to see the movie to discover how it all unfolds.
You are being paired with Katrina Kaif for the first time. How was the experience of working with her?
Katrina is a great artist and a wonderful human being. I guess it was a case of the right script presenting itself and she was certainly perfect for the role. We had a great time working together. Apart from being an accomplished, committed actor she is a very sweet person. She was a joy to spend time with and we all hung out together once we'd wrapped up for the day.
What was the challenging bit about your role in ZNMD and in your own words, why should we watch ZNMD?
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a completely fresh offering in terms of Indian cinema. It's beautiful, humorous and very realistic in terms of the storyline in which three male friends embark on the ultimate bachelor road trip across Barcelona. If you want an inspiring feel-good film that ends up as a journey about self-discovery, then this film is for you. The locations are fantastic and I think everyone will be able to connect with the characters, which is always important.
You shot extensively in Spain. Was that messy tomato festival as fun to shoot as it looked on screen?
Spain is a great country and it was lovely filming there. The shooting of Tomatina festival was filled with pranks, laughter and provided plenty of distractions. At times, it felt as we were not working on a shoot but building on the electric atmosphere around us. This scene was the highlight of ZNMD shoot.
Tell us about the most memorable part about shooting with the boys.
Farhan [Akhtar] is a great friend of mine and we have a very special bond that goes a long way back. Abhay is a great guy too and one of the funniest individuals I have had the pleasure of working with. We had a blast throughout the whole film, but I think that Tomatina festival has to be the highlight for me as it was an experience I had never previously experienced and was tremendous fun. Adventure sports was another highlight. I have parachuted on occasions before, but this film allowed me to explore other adrenaline sports that really let my childish side come out. I loved pushing boundaries and it was fun to share the experience with Farhan and Abhay too.
Is it easier to whip up chemistry with a bunch of guy-friends or with a woman on screen?
Ultimately, chemistry is easily achieved with either of the two genders. Remember, we are friends and colleagues at the end of the day and we all bring a sense of professionalism to our roles. Katrina and the guys are all fantastic actors and when you bring that mentality to your work, the chemistry will always be electric.
Your previous release Guzaarish was critic-friendly, but box-office unfriendly. Do you hope for the reverse to happen for ZNMD?
I certainly hope ZNMD appeals to audiences as well as critics. It's impossible to compare these two roles. Fundamentally, it is audience approval I seek, as these are the people who pay their hard-earned money to see our movies. You feel you have let audiences and fans down when they have not taken well to a particular film.
You have been billed as the original superhero of Bollywood. When will we see you next in the Krrish series and do you take that tag seriously?
We are currently in the pre-production stages of Krrish 3. Krrish was certainly a milestone in Indian cinema as it got its first superhero and I'm extremely proud of that.
You have survived for more than a decade in showbiz, how has your journey been?
It has been brilliant, I have learnt so many things, met so many people and had the honour of playing some fantastic and challenging roles. I thank my fans every day for their love and support which has enabled me to get so far along in this industry.