In 1999, during the Kargil War, 24-year-old Captain Vikram Batra, showing exceptional personal courage and going well beyond the call of duty, helped the Indian army complete the capture of Point 4875. He then successfully defended Area Flat Top and evacuated an injured soldier before he breathed his last. Twenty-two years later, on August 12, 2021, Shershaah released on Amazon Prime Video with Sidharth Malhotra reliving the martyr’s journey. The actor has been winning hearts since. Excerpts from an interview.
The success of Shershaah would have come as a great boost for you as an actor…
Absolutely. It will inspire me as an actor and a creative person to work even harder, give people stories and characters like Captain Vikram Batra they can connect with. It’s time to go onwards and upwards.
Talking about Kargil martyr Captain Vikram Batra, did the fact that you were playing a real-life hero make the role more challenging?
Definitely, since this is a true journey, there were certain norms and restrictions that one had to follow in terms of character building and story-telling. And when there are such barometers and parameters, it requires more prep, more craft, and more control as the end result is in sight. It’s not a fictitious story where you could improvise at your will.
For any actor, playing out a death scene is always formidable. What was going through your mind as you prepared to launch a last solo attack on the enemy?
Death scenes are challenging because no actor can tell you how it feels on the other side. So, everyone is pretty much doing their own versions. I had been troubling my director, Vishnu Vardhan, for months before we shot that scene with questions about the location, how he had visualised it etc. When we reached Kargil, the first thing I wanted to see was where Captain Vikram Batra had breathed his last. Then, no matter how much prep you have done, you have to give yourself up to the moment and let it consume you completely.
You weren’t just an actor in this film; you designed the project and took it through to its competition over five long years. After this, is direction and production on the cards?
Well, there’s certainly a sense of satisfaction today, given how well the film has done for everyone involved. Knowing that your instincts were not wrong does boost your confidence. Now, I plan on choosing scripts that are just as inspiring. Eventually, I want to be involved in movies in different capacities. Primarily as an actor, but production is a possibility. No plans as of now, but sometime in the future. Direction however is not my forte.
You have just completed an espionage thriller, Mission Majnu. What was the experience like?
Well, in this one, I play a RAW undercover agent for the first time who takes on different identities to ferret out information. It’s my first film with Ronnie Screwvala’s production house, RSVP, and Amar Butala. Directed by senior ad filmmaker Shantanu Bagchi, it is also Rashmika Mandanna's first Hindi film and my first with her. (Smiles) There are a lot of firsts here, along with a solid script.
You are also teaming up for the first time with Ajay Devgn for Indra Kumar’s comedy, Thank God. That must be exciting?
It’s always great to share screen space with new co-stars, particularly an actor like Ajay sir. Thank God is in a different zone from Shershaah or Mission Majnu. It’s a fresh and interesting take, a slice-of-life comedy. All along, in these last nine years, the idea has been to mix up genres. That makes it more exciting for both you and the audience.
Even though Shershaah was the journey of a boy from Palampur who goes on to become a braveheart and win posthumous glory on the battlefield, Kiara Advani and you have melted hearts, bringing Captain Vikram Batra and Dimple Cheema's unfinished love story to the screen.
Captain Vikram Batra and Dimple Cheema ma’am made me believe that true love exists. I pray that Dimple ma’am keeps the legacy of this love story alive.