MM: Hi Anshuman! My fellow Allahbadi! Tell us your story how did you get in the movies?
AJ: Malini The Allahabadi, The story began in Allahabad when as a 4-year-old I saw Tridev in 1990. That’s my first visual memory of watching a Hindi film. My ma tells me that I told her then itself that I want to dance & fight. So basically the seed was sown. As I grew up, Cricket also became a huge love but the actor in me kept watching, observing & dreaming. Than I moved to Delhi & along with school started playing club cricket. But I shared my desire to do theatre with my sister who was in Bombay. So I started visiting Bombay, Now Mumbai, since I was 13-14, attending SummerTime Acting Workshops at Prithvi. I owe a lot to Sanjana Kapoor & Prithvi Theatre. I was cast by Ramnath Tharwal in one of his plays so then it became a cycle – every year I would visit Bombay for my vacations, do acting workshops & act in a children’s play. I observed other senior theatre actors at Prithvi in those years as a teen and realised that it’ll be a challenge. But I guess the sportsman & actor in me work in tandem-at least mentally-because I thrive on challenges & this was one of them. So I planned that I’ll continue my love affair with theatre and try to venture into films once I’m a little older since I kept hearing I look like a child. So, I set a goal that by 24 I need to crack my first film as a lead actor & work towards that till that time.
Back in Delhi, I took up science for a month and then went to my ma and told her that I’ll be an actor so why should I waste my 2 years studying something that wont help me in any way. My principal at school was a huge support along with my mother so I changed stream and took Arts. Went to Barry John as a 17 year old but he refused me admission saying that his course is for adults so I can join the next year. But I had made my mind up that I’ll move to Bombay the next year for college. He refused. I pursued. After 3 attempts he finally agreed. I did his diploma acting course as a 17 year old, the youngest ever to pass out his course. He gave me the best compliment while handing me the certificate – “I wish I was as good as you are at your age”. I got into St. Xavier’s College here, continued with theatre with some of the best directors such as Q Padamsee, Joy Fernandes & honed on my skills as an actor. Then started meeting Film Directors who told me I look too young. So I decided that I’ll work as an assistant director till I turn 23-24 & learn the various aspects of film making. So between the age of 18 to 23 I worked on about 40 odd Advertisements & 3 feature films. I made a documentary drama on the life of Taxi Drivers which went to a lot of film festivals, which Mr. Subhash Ghai saw and he was putting together a new team for a small film called Black & White. I met him & there began a long association for me. I was at Mukta for 3 years from age 20-23 and I consider Mr. Ghai as my Guide-Father. Knowingly-Unknowingly he’s taught me a lot. Then while I was rehearsing for Girish Karnad’s Bali, Atul Mongia – the Casting Director for LSD – saw me. Tested me. And…. At 24years of age I had my debut feature film. God’s been kind.
MM: What was your favorite scene in LSD?
AJ: Ironically, its the scene where I get killed. Always wanted to die in my first film – it was a dream. So from the time I read the script I was looking forward to it. And it was a difficult scene. I’m glad I had Dibakar as my first director.
MM: You just a commercial with Big B. what was he like?
AJ: Normal. Easy. He’s a gem. Infact one of the two reasons why I did that film – a) the script was phenomenal; b) Mr. Bachchan. But once I’m on set, my focus is only & only on giving the best shot. And his energy, even now, is phenomenal. As a co-actor it just pushes you more. And he knew all about LSD. I signed & gifted him a DVD of the film too. I hope & wish I can do a full fledged film with him soon. His trick to tackle still-shoots is something I’ve learnt during the KBC photoshoot.
MM: What’s your all time fav Bollywood film dialogue?
AJ: “Bade bade shehron mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain” and I was lucky to do my version of it in LSD – in the bus scene – where I say “Bade bade Shehron ki Choti choti buson mein aisa hota rehta hai!” Though I also love “Rishtey mein toh hum tumhare baap lagte hai, naam hai Shahenshah.”
MM: What are you working on now?
AJ: My second feature – a satire comedy Boys Toh Boys Hain is nearly ready. Infact am dubbing for it now. Should have an October release. I’m playing the protagonist of a Sardar and the film also has Divya Dutta, Manu Rishi, Gulshan Grover, Raj, Dhruv, etc. I’m currently also shooting for an indie international film in Hyderabad. Also, my play Dirty Talk is continuing with shows – we are on at Prithvi this month on 30th & 31st. And I’ve signed up & done a series of Ads for a Tata-Sky. Just got back from Bulgaria after shooting those
P.S – Malini’s dad was posted in Bulgaria for 3 years!
MM: Growing up who were your Bollywood idols?
AJ: I like all our leading stars. But honestly, There were phases. Naseer during the Tridev, Vishwatma, Chamtkaar phase. Shah Rukh Khan through the Baazigar to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai phase. And Kishore Kumar in Half Ticket is right up there – unmatched innocence.
MM: If you weren’t in the movies what would you be doing?
AJ: I would be trying to get into the movies. And trying really hard. Actually, thats all there is to me. And I always say this – I’m not especially gifted but I hate to lose, so I try very hard. Now & always.
MM: Tell us something you wish people had told you before getting into Bollywood…
AJ: Nothing. That’s how I feel at this juncture of life. In fact, whatever I needed to be told, I was told – God’s guided me whenever I needed to be via people. Subhash Ghai told me, “your focus & your energy is your biggest strength, don’t ever lose that.” He also told me “Run behind good work, money will follow. May not be true the other way round.”
Another leading director once told me “I’m not hero material. Not good looking, a little ugly. So will not get lead roles.” I told him I’m good and I will. So, no matter what happens tomorrow, atleast I’ve done two films as a lead actor, on my terms. Will always thank him for that push. And I wish he casts me one day for his film as a lead so that I can convince him with my work skills that I’m as good as anyone else.
MM: 5 songs most played on your iPod?
AJ: Mitwa (KANK), Animal Song (Savage Garden), Lakshya title track, Jurrasic Park theme piece, Mohabbat Bollywood Style (Love, Sex Aur Dhokha). And recently – Dil Dhadakne Do (Zindagi na milegi dobara) – Best song of the year for me.
MM: A message to your MissMalini fans?
AJ: MissMalini is blessed to have all you wonderful people on her page & you all are blessed to have the wonderful MissMalini updating you.
MM: And now for a few Twitter Questions…
AJ: And finally the 95 seconder KBS promo that’s running in theatres just for you – Check it out Malini!
Join his Facebook Fanpage here!