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Anant Vidhaat: I was worried when Ali told me to play Salman’s friend in Sultan

The Sultan actor gets candid about the film that has marked his arrival in Hindi cinema. Read EXCLUSIVE interview...

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

Salman Khan’s fans are delighted by the actor’s dedicated act in Sultan. However, the actor who played his best friend, Govind is also gaining popularity gradually due to his sincere performance. Anant Vidhaat, the actor in question, is obviously over the moon. In an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com, he shares his experience of working closely with Salman and reveals few other interesting details about himself. 

How did Sultan happen?
I have previously worked with Yash Raj Films in Gunday and Mardaani. Director of Gunday, Ali Abbas Zafar, was my senior in our college theatre group. When Ali was making Sultan, he had taken my audition. It was for something else but then the character of Govind developed and gained more importance. 

Were you worried of being overshadowed by Salman Khan due to his superstar stature?
I was, initially, but not because of Salman sir. Early on when Ali told me that the character is of Salman’s friend, I was a bit worried. I wasn’t much into doing this role because characters of the hero’s friends are generally unidimensional and cardboard figures. They have no contribution towards the screenplay or the story. They are just there for few funny scenes. Hero ya toh unki topi uda deta hai, ya tapli maar deta hai. And the hero becomes big at the expense of making fun of a friend. People of my age group are generally worried of being cast in such roles. 

But when Ali told me exactly what the role is and how he perceived it, I agreed. Ali’s perception and his openness of taking inputs from me also helped. Ali was very sure that he didn’t want the character of be a cliche or caricature. He said he wanted a friend who is an important supporting cast. Hence, it became easy for me to say yes. I realised that this character also has a life of his own. You can see this in the opening scene. If you give some time to the character, it receives grounding and weight, which happened in this case. Govind was with Sultan till the end. 

How did you get that Haryanvi accent so right? 
Ali knew I have a good hang with Haryanvi. I am from Delhi and I did theatre there, where Punjabi and Haryanvi dialect is also spoken. Students from other states like Bihar, UP (Uttar Pradesh) come to study in Delhi University. That’s the advantage of a university. Plus, I was interested in picking different dialects and mimickry. Ali knew that so he said that I am fit for the role. 

Can we say this is the turning point in your career?
Don’t know if it’s a turning point as I have just started. I can say that Sultan is definitely my arrival.

Did you expect you would gain such popularity after Sultan?
No, I didn’t. Of course I had hopes. But I wasn’t expecting the audience to go gaga over my act and shower me with such love. Not just my character, they also liked the film. If they like a film, they will like all the little things in your act. It is very rare for people to like a character but not like the film. For appreciating my character of Govind this much, I am very, very thankful to the audience. 

Your personal favorite scene from the film?
My favourite scene is the one where Sultan goes to Delhi and sees his stomach in the mirror. The way he wears the shirt, comes out, defeats the wrestler and says, “Maine pehelwani chhodi hai par main ladna nahin bhoola. Zinda hoon.” This entire sequence is just amazing. I got goosebumps. 

How was the experience with Salman?
Bada hi lajawab aur bemisaal experience tha (it was a lovely and incomparable experience). I got to learn a lot from him. He made things easy for me. Ali had told me that meeting Salman on the set right before the first scene might induce nervousness because I didn’t know him personally then. So we kept visiting him for a week in Karjat. We did some readings as well. Due to this, an orientation developed. Hence, there was no uneasiness on the first day of shoot. Salman sir developed a conducive atmosphere with his generosity. Hence, things became easy and work became fun. 

Can you recall any funny or memorable moments with him on the set?
There were funny moments. When Salman sir used to arrive on the set, the atmosphere used to become lively. Sometimes, after giving a very serious scene, he instantly used to crack a joke. This is how we worked. 

It is believed that Salman arrives late on the sets. How was it during Sultan?
The direction team allots a specific time to each actor. For example, instead of calling me at 6 in the morning and taking my shot in the evening, it is better to have a planned time. So there was no such problem in my experience.

Sultan has become the fastest film to cross Rs200 crore. How much do these numbers matter to you?
Numbers don’t matter directly. But you come to know that your film is been seen by such large number of people in every nook and corner of the country as well as abroad. I heard people watching it 2 or 3 times. The more the audience, the more satisfying it is for the actor. This is reflected in the numbers.

What was your family’s reaction when you decided to venture into the field of acting?
After my 10th standard exams, I had officially announced that I will only become an actor. At that time, my father had asked some 2-3 basic fundamental questions and I guess I answered them intelligently. My father said that if I have such clarity and knowledge about pursuing this profession at this young age, then we are with you. He said this is also our dream and not just yours. So I received great support from them. And today, more than me, it is my parents’ dream to see me excel in this field. 

What was your family’s reaction after watching your acting in Sultan?
My family is very happy. They have always been supportive. My parents are elated right now.  

Do you think the rise of the internet and social media plays a role in making even supporting artists popular?
There are two sides to this. It’s not that they are getting popular only because of social media. I will only speak about myself. My character Sunny Katiyal was appreciated in Mardaani. There was social media then too. Mardaani became a hit and the entire cast was appreciated. But until and unless something doesn’t cross the line and make an impact, it doesn’t capture people’s imagination. Now, people’s imagination is captured and they have this tool to express their views. 

Are you taking precautions to not get stereotyped after Sultan?
Today, most of the filmmakers and writers are ensuring that the supporting cast is well-etched and instrumental to the story. This is not the first time that the character of a friend is appreciated this much. For example, actors like Nawaz bhai (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Irrfan sir (Irrfan Khan) have created such a favorable platform for us. There are other such actors too. So, there is not much scope for a stereotype because all characters are different. I am not saying you won’t get offered exactly similar roles though. But you have good options today. You have an option of refusing cliched roles but still keep working. 

Who are the other actors you dream to work with?
There are many such actors. I wish to work with Shah Rukh (Khan) sir and Aamir (Khan) sir. Needless to say because these are legends. Apart from them, I am very eager to work with Irrfan (Khan) sir. Although he was in Gunday, I didn’t get a chance to work alongside him much. I am his huge admirer. And I feel delighted when I see Nawaz bhai (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) perform. 

Actors generally believe there is huge satisfaction in doing theatre. Do you miss acting in plays?
Theatre is an actor’s medium and cinema is director’s. In theatre, wherever you stand becomes a stage. All you need is audience. This is a medium where you can express yourself in varied ways. Its logistics are different. So there is a lot of satisfaction. Cinema is a different medium. But personally I don’t think cinema offers less or more satisfaction. It is like choosing tea or coffee. During rains, tea offers great joy; sometimes coffee does. 

Have you been offered any film after Sultan? 
No, not yet. It’s hasn’t been long since Sultan released. I am hoping that the possibility of some interesting work crops up. So, right now I have my fingers crossed.