Aayush Sharma on playing a grey character in Antim, working with Salman Khan: 'It's a big responsibility'

Aayush Sharma on playing a grey character in Antim, working with Salman Khan: 'It's a big responsibility'

Aayush Sharma on playing a grey character in Antim, working with Salman Khan: 'It's a big responsibility'

Aayush Sharma doesn’t seem to believe in taking the easy path. After playing an innocent Garba dancer in his acting debut Loveyatri, he says he was mostly getting chocolate boy roles but he chose to play a dreaded gangster transitioning from a romantic actor to an action hero in the upcoming action-drama Antim: The Final Truth.

In the movie, Sharma’s brother-in-law and superstar Salman Khan essays the role of an honest Sikh cop. Recalling the very first shot with Khan, Sharma says, “There was a pin drop silence on the set. Both of us were in our costumes and we were shooting a police station scene. Mahesh Sir (Manjrekar, Director) didn’t want us to rehearse as he wanted that unpredictability and some kind of awkwardness that the scene demanded. And the first time that I looked into Salman Bhai’s eyes in front of the camera, I froze. I realised he is the star I have grown up watching and now I was in the same frame as him.”

He adds, “Salman bhai knows that he has an overpowering presence in my life so he didn’t want to give any advice and wanted me to do scenes my way. When the first scene was done, I asked him if he wanted me to do it in a particular way and he said, “Don’t take advice from me because if you do so you will start imitating me and in turn, we will have two Salman Khans in the film.” Instead, he told me to talk to the director. And when it came to doing action scenes, it was far more intimidating for Sharma as one scene involves fighting Khan bare-chested. Sharma said he was scared to pack punches at the superstar. “I couldn’t do the first punch as I was uncomfortable. Salman bhai said the whole country will watch this so I better fight with conviction,” said the actor, adding, he took 20 retakes for a stunt where he had to hit Khan.

Antim

Antim is an adaptation of the Marathi hit Mulshi Pattern (2018), which explores the hard conditions faced by farmers that pushes some of them towards crime. The Hindi version is touted as a tale of two powerful men with opposite ideologies; one a cop and the other a gangster. "I watched Mulshi Pattern only once and I decided to play the role in my way. The theme and the styling of the film have been changed and for that, my performance has to be different in comparison to Om (Bhutkar, Marathi actor),” said Sharma.

Sharma had no qualms about playing a grey character and he instantly grabbed the offer in the Hindi remake. “I am choosing different roles for the sake of getting good work and not getting typecast.

And then the character’s journey excited me — from having a decent upbringing to what he became, there was a character arc. When I heard the script, I wanted to understand what the trigger point of this character was. He wants to do right but he goes into the tipping point. What irks him in what he does? Why is he taking on the cop? Why does he not let the cop be, why is he creating chaos?

Mahesh sir made me do one exercise to help me play the role; he made me break glasses again and again in repetitive order till the time I started enjoying the chaos of breaking things. This is the mind space of my character -- he likes to see chaos because he thinks he is wrong and that is why he is doing wrong to everybody else. That is why I never felt I am the antagonist of the film because my actions are justified. In my story, I am the hero. He never judges his own actions. He is a power-hungry person, he wants to be rich and dominant, he wants to achieve everything but does not understand how he would do it. He doesn’t see the consequences. I did not judge my character, I just thought he was making decisions depending on the circumstances.” he says.

For his role of Rahul Patil, whom he describes as a ruthless goon and the most unpredictable person in the room, the actor underwent a tremendous physical transformation. He spent three years transforming his physique to get into the ‘lean mean machine’ mode. Interestingly, Sharma consciously decided to go for a very different physicality as compared to Khan and he approached Tiger Shroff who is known for his sculpted body and athletic physique. “I wanted to incorporate something different and didn’t want to have the physicality that was similar to Salman Bhai. Tiger offered me his trainer who is a Maharashtrian and he had seen the original film. He told me that I need to be really strong to play the character. He wanted my hands to be tough and he decided to train me without gloves. He set up a small gym in my building basement and wanted me to be completely focused and not get distracted by even small conversations during training, not even by saying 'hello' to someone. I trained for almost three years, which included strength training and training with four competitive bodybuilders. He trained me as an athlete to get that inherent strength. That really helped me because I realised during the shoot that when you are feeling strong it is easy to transform, you feel the dominance, you feel that if I punch it will hurt and I can even lift someone,” says Sharma.

Further, the actor says that Manjrekar pushed him hard to give his best. “I am playing such an important part; I am a learning actor and I need my director to tell me what I should do. Mahesh Sir has a different way of working. He would make us shoot for long hours and wouldn’t want us to go home at night, so I would sleep in the vanity van. I would get just two hours of sleep and this went on for a few days and on the fourth day, I became very cranky, snappy, and irritating on sets, just like my character. Then I realised that Mahesh Sir is doing this so that I could get into my character and when I went to do the scene in that cranky mood, he loved it. People on the sets were also praising the shot and Mahesh sir told me this is what he wanted me to learn. He had told me that he will make my life living hell on this set and he succeeded in doing so,” laughs Sharma.

With Antim, Sharma has got the second chance and he feels the pressure and responsibility but more than anything, he hopes he doesn’t let Khan down. The stakes are also bigger for Sharma this time around, for he is sharing screen space with Khan himself. “That is a big thing. I take it as my personal responsibility and the only way I can achieve it is by putting in the hard work,” he concludes.

Seema Sinha is a Mumbai-based mainstream entertainment journalist who has been covering Bollywood and television industry for over two decades. Her forte is candid tell-all interviews, news reporting and newsbreaks, investigative journalism and more. She believes in dismissing what is gossipy, casual, frivolous and fluff.

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