Outsider to superstar: Kartik Aaryan on stardom, Bollywood and ‘Dhamaka’

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Breaking the glass ceiling has become a  career norm for  Kartik Aaryan. In what can be considered a creative entrepreneurial move the young star-actor has gone and signed three new films which carry him completely away from the frothy lighthearted super-success of ‘Lukka Chuppi’  and ‘Pati Patni Air Woh’.In  Hansal Mehta’s ‘Captain India'(being produced by Ronnie  Screwvala) Kartik will be playing his first real-life character. Next up, in Ekta Kapoor’s ‘Freddie’ Kartik gets grim goofy and eccentric in a role never attempted before. And then comes ‘Satyanarayan Ki Katha’ an unusual never-before love story for which producer Sajid Nadiadwala wanted none but Kartik.  Nadiadwala told me he couldn’t see anyone else in the role. But before these  3 films hit the screen in 2022-23, there is ‘Dhamaka’, Ram Madhvani’s adaptation of a Korean thriller where again the actor drops the grin in favour of the grim. What makes  Kartik tick?

This birthday brings joyful tidings for you. ‘Dhamaka’ has been well received. Were you expecting it to be so well received?

I already feel that I have celebrated my birthday in advance and thanks to the response to Dhamaka. The amount of love, warmth and praises I have received for my movie that the birthday-wali-feeling and love-filled wishes have already done its work in advance. ‘Dhamaka’ was new territory for me, a thriller genre I have never done before. Thanks to the masses, I feel like I’ve passed with flying colours. I’ve always said that I am a fan-made star and their validation and praise gives me the confidence to pick more such roles filled with surprises.

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What are your birthday plans? What are your earliest birthday memories?

This year my birthday is going to be Dhamaka-filled. I will be celebrating it not only with my family but also with my fans. I have some surprises for my birthday planned and the celebration is going to be great. Talking about my birthdays in my childhood, they were filled with joy, home-cooked delicacies and cakes. Every birthday is special when one has his family around and I’m lucky that today my family is with me.

Kartik you started with a hit ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama’. How do you see your journey so far?

It has surely been a roller coaster ride for me in the industry. But when I look back there is only one word with which   I can express my journey and that is, Gratitude! I had come from Gwalior with no connections at all, travelled in local trains, changed at railway stations,  shared a  room with 12 other people, faced rejection at auditions day in and day out. But one thing that stayed with me was hope. I was determined that hard work is the ultimate virtue that pays off. Today I have worked with some of the most talented directors and big banners and when looking back there is only one word I can say – Gratitude. And it’s not just today, but ever since I started in my first film, there has been gratitude from the bottom of my heart. Right from the directors who pick me for their beautiful roles to the audiences who give love to these reel characters… gratitude is all that I had.

You share terrific vibes with fans. Do you like reaching out to them? Doesn’t the attention get too much at times?

To be honest, I love the attention. The attention my fans give me has become my basic essentials. As an actor we all work for the masses and audiences’ love and that they accept us as their own. I am lucky that my fans have loved me and always hailed my work. Hence this attention is what I call pure love and how can one ever complain about receiving too much love. I call it ‘Fanception’. I love being amidst my fans, whether it’s after a late-night shoot or when I am returning home post-gym, the sudden burst of love I receive and their small gestures touches my heart and makes me the happiest. I truly missed them during the pandemic but thanks to social media I was constantly in touch with them.

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Today you are one of the A-listers in Bollywood. How difficult was it for you to make your presence as an outsider?

It was not easy for me to reach this stage. Today a filmmaker and a producer trust me and overall the masses hold certain expectations from my film. And if that’s how you measure one being an A-lister, then I am glad I am here. As an outsider, I had to be cautious with every film I picked and how I make every role relatable and loved by the masses. These two steps were important for me to make my presence felt and I worked really hard for it. I remember even after having two hits with ‘Punchnama’ series, I had to audition even post that. People knew me as the ‘monologue wala ladka’ and there was still a gap I had to fill to become a household name. So I gave my hundred per cent to every film but it was Sonu (Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety – 2018) that changed the game for me. But with that success, I doubled my hard work and made sure I put in 200% with every film. Today people know me by my name and that makes me feel good but as I said as the journey continues, so does the hard work. I want to be number one!

Tell me about your early days. Were you always a movie fan? Did your parents approve of your career choice?

My parents didn’t know I was coming to Mumbai with my secret intention of becoming an actor, they thought I was in the city just to become an engineer. So initially I stayed in Navi Mumbai near my college but made sure I go for any and every audition in Mumbai and travelled in local trains. Changed on railway stations and travelled long hours and balanced between these auditions and studies. When my parents came to know about me becoming an actor they were clear that the studies has to be completed. I loved the movies since childhood and it is this love for the movies as an audience that helps me to pick the right script.

Finally, as a major star do you think you have a social responsibility. How do you think you can help to improve the world around you?

As an actor, yes,  it is important to spread the right information and create awareness about certain things. Today a lot of people look up to me and hence there is an accompanying social responsibility that comes on your shoulders along with it. Last year during the early stages of the pandemic, there was a lot of confusion about the pandemic and several myths about COVID 19. Knowing my social media presence I made sure I used the digital medium to spread the right word and even erase off the myths. My show Koki Poochega was my small initiative to bring a change and improve the condition by changing mindsets.

 What are your plans for the coming year?

Dhamaka was my first attempt to bring a change but there will be more dhamakas in the coming months as I have attempted a few more different characters. It can be said that it’s Kartik 2.0. A  lot of my films are coming up. And it will be worth the wait. I have Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 which is my first ever horror-comedy and we have shot the film pre, amidst and post COVID times. There is Freddy where I have something exciting to show and I can’t reveal much but be ready for surprises. Shehzada, Captain India and my musical love story with Sameer Vidwans are some other projects in the pipeline and each one is different from the other and I can’t wait to share it with the audiences. Yes, it’s a  wonderful birthday, a wonderful life. Thank you, God.