Your new web series Asur casts you as a haunted forensic officer investigating a serial-killing, how was that experience?
I accepted Asur because it gave me a chance to do something different. And I got a chance to work with like-minded people. I can’t spend 8-9 hours on the sets working with people who don’t think like me. During Asur I had the company of actors like Arshad Warsi and Sharib Hashmi.
Asur I feel gives you some fine scenes to chew on?
Yes, the writing was so sharp that it would have been my loss to not be part of Asur. I feel an actor cannot make sense of a scene unless the writing and his co-stars are in place.
You have a huge fan following. Why don’t you tap that power to your advantage?
The fans are an abstract reality for me. I can’t see them. What matters is the work I do and that’s what connects me to the fans. They know me by the names of the characters they’ve seen me play. They love the characters.
Maybe your fans want to see you play a less dark character than you normally play, someone who has a lot of fun with filmy action singing and dancing?
I can’t be doing what I don’t believe in. For example, I won’t be comfortable doing the over-the-top loud melodrama that’s required on television. I did a serial at the beginning of my career where I was boisterous and loud. But I’d rather play a character that says less than more. Our cinema is strangely scared of silence.
Why did you quit television although the serial Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon brought you rare kind stardom normally denied to television actors?
It was exciting to begin with. But then with time, it became stagnant. I had to move on. Now I’ll be back in the web series Halahal which I accepted mainly because it is produced by (writer) Zeishan Qadri. I play a very grey cop who is investigating the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh.
The Vyapam scam?!! Do you play the honest cop determined to bust the scam?
As I said, it is a very grey shade of khaki, almost black. I can’t tell you more right now. It is again a psychologically complex character. I am destined to play troubled people who have difficulty loving with normal definitions of good and bad.
You recently became a father?
Nothing compares with the joy of being at home with my wife and baby. Watching my daughter Sifat growing is the best experience. I’d rather be at home than do the work I don’t believe in. And these days because of the virus scare I am at home only.
But you were never a social animal?
Not at all. In fact, I am most reluctant to socialize and get into conversations with people for the fear of being misunderstood. I guess I am the most atypical Punjabi from Delhi you will ever come across.
Would you like to do a Punjabi film?
Why not? The language is not the main criterion for my acceptance or rejection of an offer.
So which language would you want your daughter to learn first?
Hindi I guess, At some point I’d like her to learn Punjabi also, though I don’t speak it as fluently as my four grandparents used to.
Are you considering any more films or series?
Not at the moment. There has to be a reason for what I do. I can’t just do a series or a film because I have to work. Even the two feature films Tu Hai Mera Sunday and 22 Yards that I did recently were done for the right reasons. I believed in the script.
What happened to your feature film Satra Ko Shaadi Ho co-starring Sapna Pabbi?
It was shot in 2014. I don’t know what’s happened to it. You will have to ask the producer John Abraham.