Three years since he made his debut with LoveYatri, Aayush Sharma is gearing up for the release of his second film Antim: The Final Truth. The film, which also features his brother-in-law Salman Khan and is directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, is scheduled to release on November 26. In conversation with News18.com, Sharma talks about his initial reservations of Salman being a part of the film as it would stir up another nepotism debate, his experience of working with the superstar and explains why his career rides on the verdict of the film.
Your look in Antim is completely different from your debut film LoveYatri. How has the response been so far?
I am really excited and the feedback has been positive. When LoveYatri released, people said a lot of nice things about my work and said I am a chocolate boy hero. But I wanted to show my range and Antim allowed me to do it as I play a grey character in it. We have been working on my look for almost three years and I am glad that the hard work has paid off.
Director Mahesh Manjrekar in one of his interviews mentioned that he felt that he would have to work a lot on you but was surprised to see you so thoroughly prepared.
My character is such that I had to internalise it. A lot of people have mentioned about the physical transformation but I don’t think much about it. Making a physique is just for cinematic purposes so that it looks believable. Many times people said that I am an antagonist in the film, I always said that he isn’t a negative character. In this film, every character is grey and my character is extremely grey. People questioned my choice of playing a negative character in my second film as then filmmakers might offer me similar roles. But I didn’t get stereotyped as a loverboy with LoveYatri. I had to create chaos in my head as to how he reacts to certain situations which normally you wouldn’t. I didn’t want to show my character as a forced antagonist and that is what Mahesh sir loved about it. He is a veteran director who is a master in this genre. So at the back of my mind, I also had a bit of comfort that even if I am going to go wrong, he will show me the way.
How did you create the chaos to get into the character?
I had to lose all my inhibitions. We are generally courteous to people around us but the first thing that I had to do was start being firm with everyone. I had to develop an attitude where if you like me, it’s good and if you don’t, it’s your problem. I stopped seeking approvals from people and it was the first step towards creating the character of Rahuliya. The other thing I did was a small exercise where you intentionally break a glass, the first time you judge yourself but when you do it repeatedly there comes a point where you start enjoying the madness you are creating. And that is where my character happened. I stopped judging my actions when I was creating a madness in my head.
Salman Khan has a loyal fanbase. Are you ever worried that beating him up in the film would anger his fans or get negative reactions from them?
I wouldn’t deny that I was concerned. I was vehemently against the idea of hitting Salman bhai back on screen. It is a big seniority jump. In the beginning of the process of making this film, I was anxious about the fact that he is in the film. There are going to be multiple notions about it including the fact that we are a family, he is making this film to help me in my career and also to spark another conversation on nepotism. Initially, I was against the idea of Salman bhai being a part of Antim. I didn’t want him to do the film and I told him that. In fact, I went to all the people in the family to convince him not to do it. It was also because I was doing something completely different from LoveYatri and also the other thing was with his presence, whether I’d be able to do justice to the film and match up to his hysteria.
Also, in a Salman Khan film the antagonist is of a certain calibre. I am just a newcomer. But he was sure about doing the film. He told me, ‘Aayush you need to figure out how you do justice to your character and which is all that matters. You need to convince people why you raised your hand on me in the film.’ It was a huge challenge and I was quite apprehensive about his presence. I remember when we announced the film, there was a bit of trolling for me saying, ‘We don’t want Aayush in the film.’ When I told him, he said there are hardly 5000 tweets and if they don’t see the film, it won’t matter.
Did you tell your wife Arpita to convince Salman not to do the film?
I did it on multiple occasions. I told her to explain to bhai that it was too much of a challenge. She explained it to him but he wanted to do the film. Today, when I look back, I am really grateful he put that kind of trust in me. He is a magnum opus star and he could work with any actor and filmmaker, but he put his faith in me which is really a big boost. I remember when I did my first scene in the film, I asked him if I was doing a good job. He said, ‘Don’t take my advice… I’m an actor myself. If I tell you what to do, you will start copying me and I do not want two Salmans in the same frame. The audience wants to see Aayush Sharma vs Salman Khan’.
How was the experience shooting with Salman?
Honestly, it is overwhelming. I never expected to share the screen space with him. I didn’t expect to have a smooth ride. But he made sure that he never let go of this project and made me as fiery as he wanted. He could have taken any other actor but he put this trust in me and it was the biggest sign of his love towards me. I won’t deny that there was a lot of pressure.
How much expectations are riding on this film?
The moment I knew that Salman bhai was doing the film, I had put all the chips in so I knew either I am going to go bankrupt or will have a big victory. I have waited for three years and have to make the most of it. The film is a national spotlight for me. But I remember he told me not to think of the whole film. He said even if I manage to have one scene and people say that I’ve done well, it would be my victory. It is a make or break film for me.
You are aware that this is a Salman Khan film.
Yes. I am always aware of it and I don’t even have any reservations about it. I’ll be stupid to say that if he wasn’t in the film, I would have got a theatrical release. It wouldn’t have happened because I know that as an actor I don’t have that kind of capacity to bring the audience to theaters. In the current situation, without his presence the film would have been released on OTT. It is an advantage of working with a superstar that because of his humongous presence, people will come and watch it and if they like it, they will come and see my other films too.
Lastly, when LoveYatri had released, you had mentioned how filmmakers were wary of working with you as they thought that if anything would go wrong, then Salman Khan wouldn’t work with them. Have things changed?
There is a certain kind of reservation that is always going to remain because I am attached to a family. But I would like to take this chance to say that I am open to working with all filmmakers. Salman bhai has given me a platform and also trained me but that doesn’t mean that he will always be taking care of my career. I would like to take his advice on all the work that I do but I genuinely want to work outside. I want to explore myself as an actor as I always feel that I am a student and the more chances I get, the better I will become at my craft. I hope my work in Antim translates into getting more films.
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