In 2020, you returned to India after spending two years in London to start a new chapter here. How has it been so far?
It is going really well this time around. I feel rejuvenated and energised to take up new challenges. I must say 2022 is looking quite promising. It began with the release of my web show, for which I got immense love and appreciation. With that, I do look forward to taking up more Hindi projects. I have a few South projects, including Salaar with Prabhas, Chiru 154 with Chiranjeevi and NBK 107 with Balakrishna. I am also glad about the kind of reception South Indian films are getting today.
While you have an exciting line-up of projects down South, what’s happening on the Bollywood front? In one of your recent interviews, you had said that Hindi filmmakers feel that you belong more to the south film industry.
Recently, there have been several discussions with Hindi filmmakers. As I said, my recent web show has coaxed me to do more Hindi projects. See, I started my journey as an actor with the Hindi film Luck (2009),
And since then, I have only tried to balance my career by doing films in multiple languages. After Behen Hogi Teri in 2017, I took that break. After returning to India (in 2020), I picked up a few South projects that released consecutively. When it comes to me, people are looking only at the surface. I am glad that I was approached for the web show. I want to work across languages and mediums, but I will pick stories that entice me. I understand that Mumbai feels like the center of the universe to so many people, but it isn’t the center of some people’s universe. I feel nobody should feel apologetic about where they choose to spend most of their time working. I have been in that race where people say that as an actor, you must do one Hindi film a year. I moved to Mumbai ever since my parents split. I have been living here for many years. I speak in Hindi with my mother. So, when I consider Mumbai my home and the city considers me its own, then how can someone from the Hindi film industry say things like, “Oh, but you are a South Indian.”
Today, when you look back, how important was the two-year-long sabbatical from showbiz?
It was necessary because I wanted to realign myself. I felt like I was doing things that weren’t making me happy, personally and professionally. At that time, a lot of people thought that it was an insane step that I was taking, but it was important to step off the treadmill back then. There was a time when I stopped enjoying movies and music. I needed some quiet time to reinvent myself as an artist.
How did you reinvent yourself during the course?
I took off on a path where I aimed to cleanse my mind, body and spirit. I wanted to start from scratch. So, I moved to London. I focused a lot on music. I started writing my own music again and collaborated with music producers. I started performing live and enjoyed doing gigs at my favorite venues. There used to be some Indians there, and they would sweetly ask me why I wasn’t performing my film songs. But I was on the route of making and presenting my original creations. I wanted to test my music, and if it wasn’t good, I knew that I would get an honest response from the audience. Now, I am in talks with people, and something interesting is coming up soon with respect to my music projects.
It was also the phase where you underwent therapy. Was it a result of your battle with anxiety for 10 years, which you have spoken about in the past? Would things have been different if you had sought help earlier on?
Yes, because anxiety definitely hampered my journey. Initially, when I was diagnosed with anxiety, I thought I should deal with it on my own. After so many years of struggle, it was in London that I turned to therapy and found answers to discussions I wasn’t even willing to have with myself. I recommend therapy to those who are also facing anxiety. After all, your parents, siblings or friends are not certified professionals to help you deal with your stress. Professional guidance can be of great help. It took me 10 years to find my own way through anxiety. The two things that always get misconstrued as noise or violence — heavy metal music and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) — are the only things that gave me balance during those difficult times.
Just like you began your new professional journey in 2020, you embarked on a relationship with visual artist Santanu Hazarika in the same year. How did the two of you hit it off?
Santanu and I had some common friends. Our friendship blossomed because of our mutual appreciation for the love of art, music and cinema. People like him are rare. He is very kind and talented. He is a visual artist… an illustrator, and I find his art really inspiring. I have met many people who don’t prioritise kindness and good behaviour, especially in our business. I have dated actors before, and it was terrible. For some actors, it may work. But when it comes to me, I consider myself a creative musician first. I am a bit of an oddball. I love my heavy metal and my dark graphic novels. I have never met anyone in the business who liked the same thing as me. The actor I dated just didn’t get me. It was only after I dated outside the film community was when I started discovering like-minded people.
What are your thoughts about marriage? Any plans to tie the knot soon?
The thought of marriage makes me nervous at this point. It is something that I wouldn’t jump at right away.
Does marriage make you nervous because you come from a family where your parents (Kamal Haasan and Sarika) separated while you were growing up?
I think my parents had the most beautiful intentions for their marriage. When it worked, it was a fantastic marriage and that’s what I chose to take away from it. Things may or may not work out. I always like to look at what was the good side of it. My parents went through a lot, and they stuck it out. Just because their marriage didn’t work, it doesn’t mean that I would write off the idea of marriage. When it worked, they were a brilliant couple, and that’s what I chose to look at.