Nobody Can Typecast Me: Siddhant Chaturvedi On His New Found Stardom
We can’t remember the last time a nondescript chap from nowhere made a debut that shook the country and made the industry sit up and take notice. Siddhant Chaturvedi went from being “that guy in Inside Edge” to one of the most memorable supporting acts in a Hindi feature film in recent times with Gully Boy (some whisper that he overshadowed Ranveer Singh too). In his first ever magazine cover, we introduce you to the young chap who is hungrier than ever, raring to kick off a career, and refuses to play by anybody else’s rules. Ambitious and with all the trappings of becoming the next big thing in Bollywood, we present Siddhant Chaturvedi.
Sometime during the start of this year, my editor dropped a text — as he sometimes does in a bid to see how resourceful I am and to keep me on my toes — asking me to get Siddhant Chaturvedi’s contact. This was my cue to google who Siddhant Chaturvedi was. I recognised him as the dude I’d seen in the few episodes of Inside Edge that I’d watched.
Why did my editor want his contact? I had no idea. I got on Twitter and messaged Chaturvedi. I do not remember the exact number of followers he had then, but it was definitely nowhere close to the 763K followers he has now. Neither was he a verified account.
Maroon velour bomber jacket, black cotton round neck minion t-shirt and black skinny fit denims by Numero Uno; On the wrist: BBBlack from the Swatch Big Bold Collection; Sneakers: Mexico 66 by Onitsuka Tiger
“Hey Siddhant, Mayukh here from Man’s World Magazine. Could I get your contact number to discuss a feature?” I wrote.
Two days later, the future MC Sher replied and gave me his number — not his manager’s or PR person’s — his personal contact number. I sent him a message on WhatsApp requesting an interview.
“Thank you! Looking forward to it,” he wrote. About a week or so later, I was sitting next to Chaturvedi at the Excel Entertainment office in Khar. He was wearing a sort of beige jacket that did wonders for his shoulders. He was also taller than I expected.
He’s excited, raring-to-go and almost cocky. What charmed me is that his cockiness wasn’t of the typical flavour we’ve come to expect from young actors, but one that was sure in its abilities and skills. He was, after all, only 24 years old. Gully Boy hadn’t released yet and I could never have fathomed the crazy fan following this man sitting in front of me would amass in a matter of days.
I think I’m their man, I’m from them, I come from them. It’s not like I dropped into this setup or parachutedinto this setup. I have literally made my way from the crowd
Chaturvedi went from being a relative nobody to a star overnight. Buzzfeed India crushed on him for a month. Meme pages began comparing him to Vicky Kaushal. Men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes began rushing to his Instagram account and dropping heart emojis on his photos. It was absolute madness. I shared a boomerang of him dancing on my Instagram and my DMs were deluged by messages asking what he was like in person.
What was he up to? I had asked him then.
“Nothing actually, I’m jobless, I’m berozgaar. There’s nothing as of now in my hands. There are a few scripts I’m reading but nothing excites me as of now, so I’m waiting for the film to release,” he told me on the 8th of February, less than a week to Gully Boy’s release. This, in itself, was all set to change, but also spoke volumes about who Chaturvedi is as a person. He’s not yet jaded by the film industry and neither is he hung up on PR niceties — as of now, he’s unabashedly candid.
Starring in Gully Boy and taking the limelight from under some very high noses is an accomplishment, indeed, but he considers his biggest achievement to be clearing CA IPCC exams in the first attempt. That gave him some time (“a year or two”) to focus on his heart’s desire — acting.
Cotton linen ocre checks and earthy toned corduroy by Numero Uno; On the wrist: BBBubbles from the Swatch Big Bold Collection
“It used to be very hectic. From 6am to 12pm, I’d have my classes and after that I’d go to college and attend a few lectures. From 4pm to 9pm, I’d do theatre, and then I used to go home and revise whatever was taught that day and do my lines. So, that was my life. I would sleep for about six hours. It’s not easy because I come from a middle-class family and my dad’s a chartered account and education is given a lot of importance in my family. I was doing my graduation, CA and theatre simultaneously,” he had told me then.
So powerful was his desire to follow his passion that he saw his CA exams as a hurdle that he had to cross. And he did, with flying colours. He participated in the Bombay Times Fresh Face competition and won that too. As I speak to him now, four months post Gully Boy’s release, the thought of him chilling in public is unimaginable. He’d probably get mobbed by fans for selfies and such. I recall seeing him at a supermarket about a day or two before the release of the Zoya Akhtar movie. Imagine seeing him there now.
And the thing is, we may never have seen him in the film. According to Chaturvedi, he was attending a friend’s wedding in Kolkata when he was invited for a party to celebrate Inside Edge’s success. Ritesh Sidhwani had texted him and asked him to not miss the party. “You better come”, he had said. “You’ve got to go,” Chaturvedi’s father told him when he showed him the text. The 26-year-old rushed to Mumbai, attended the party and danced his heart out.
“I was like a peacock,” he tells me. He could see Zoya Akhtar noticing him and he rushed towards her and pulled her to the dance floor. Who is this guy? Akhtar must have thought. However, something in his manner and the cadence in his personality made the director take notice of him. He was asked to come and audition for Gully Boy and the rest as they say, is history.
I interviewed you before Gully Boy and now I am interviewing you after the film’s phenomenal success. How has your life changed?
Before Gully Boy it was more of, people were like “who’s this guy”? Those were the questions, you know, that okay, there is some important part that he has played in the film. But now, things have changed work wise. Now, there are films which are being offered — lead roles also — which was my dream anyway. So yeah, it’s a good space to be in. There are lots of choices now. Gully Boy was one of the things that just clicked. But now there are things which I want to do, roles that I want to play and I am getting those roles.
I am going to flaunt my Hindi, I am going to flaunt my anger and I am going to flaunt that I am a boy from nowhere and I’ve made it.
So, what are these roles that you want to play?
So, I want to do action, yaar. I am very much inclined towards action because I am trained in that. I know that age also plays a factor in that because you can get injured. I won’t be as quick at the age of 35 or 40. Right now I am the right age. I am young and I am trained and I am all set to kick and fly, do some kickass stunts and shoots and all of that. So yeah, that’s happening. That’s the second film which I’ll be doing. I won’t reveal anything else. Before that film, there is another one which is also fun. Again, can’t speak much about it but it’s a role that I never thought I would get.
So, one’s an action film and one’s a romcom?
Action, for sure. I won’t reveal the genre of the first one. It’s fun. It’s going to be grand and the announcement is going to be huge.
Did you expect MC Sher to get this sort of a response?
No, in fact, my dad expected it. He told me that ‘you are going to get a lot of work. There is nobody in your age slot so why are you worried? You have done your job’. But the film released, ek hafta chala gaya. I was getting a lot of appreciation but no scripts, because people were still like, easing into it. But then after the interviews started, the word was going around town and people started talking about it. I was not expecting it. I was very low because I was not part of the promotion, I didn’t get to go to Berlin, so, I was very upset. But Farhan and Ritesh sir knew what was going to happen. They wanted that question to be asked that ‘who is that one person?’ So that was their strategy, but that time, as a 25-year-old, I was panicking. But yeah, it all worked in my favour. So, that’s what happened.
Taped denim trucker jacket, floral printed indigo shirt and distressed denim by Numero Uno; On the wrist: BBBlanco from the Swatch Big Bold Collection; Sneakers: Mexico 66 by Onitsuka Tiger
Also, on Instagram, I’ve noticed that you have a good connect with your fans because you reply to a lot of comments which I haven’t seen with other celebrities.
Because I think I’m their man, I’m from them, I come from them. It’s not like I dropped into this setup or parachuted into this setup. I have literally made my way from the crowd to here, I’m them. So, I feel that connect because I know what they say and how to reply to them and it’s fun because that’s what I am. I don’t want to run away and be like ‘no listen, I’m a celeb’. You can sit and talk to me about anything. I am not brought up in Juhu or Bandra. I have travelled India and I have lived in the suburbs, so I know. As an actor it’s very important to live life and know people.
Let’s talk about your journey. Last time we spoke, you didn’t want your parents to think that acting was just a hobby.
Well, my parents are very happy right now. They were very happy back then too because I have always been a good son. Now they taunt me, ‘Arrey you won’t pick up your t-shirt now, we’ll have to do it because you are a star’ and all that. But my life at home is very normal. We have a two-hour session every morning with tea. My brother is in school. Today, in fact, I was asking him whom are you crushing on or who is crushing on you, and he got annoyed and said that ‘nobody is crushing on me, my friends are crushing on you.’ So, he is already annoyed.
I don’t know if you’re being modest but you’ve worked very hard.
It comes very naturally. I am not lying. I don’t feel like I’ve worked hard, it just comes from within. Even when I was studying, I would feel like this is something I don’t want to do, I don’t want to study right now, it’s too frustrating. But then I would feel like I have to reach there, I have to complete my studies and I have to go into acting. So, I have to complete this. This is like a hurdle that I have to jump and I have to work harder. So that was work. But other than that, the other things I used to do in the free time that I used to get, that was my escape. The dancing, martial arts, theatre or reading my lines and writing, all of that comes naturally to me.
Gully Boy had Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, who are huge stars. What was your strategy in standing out from them?
No strategy. I was just being honest and you can see that honesty. See, I am very filmy and I am always in my character. Because, I was like, ‘I know, I will be honest to the film.’ We were making a film and even Ranveer was being honest, and I could see his honesty, which he had displayed through his character. Alia too. Everybody was making a film, and this was not like, ‘Aaj main aagey hoon. Tum peechey ho.’ The film set was like a gang. We all used to come and make a film.
Before the release, films came my way but, I was advised by Zoya to not take up anything and wait for Gully Boy. But, I was like, ‘Nahi. Theekh hai. Main kaam karta hoon na.’ So, I still continued auditioning after I shot for the film and did auditions and still used to sit in queues and nobody knew me.
Hand crafted Boro denim shirt and Boro patched vintage denim by Numero Uno; Sneakers: GSM by Onitsuka Tiger
When people play such strong characters, they tend to get typecast. How do you want to navigate that?
I think, my career has started in a very beautiful way. I got to play Prashant in Inside Edge. I played a 19-year-old boy and that’s not me, since he is from a rural setup. I have written raps, but I am not a rapper. So, the best part is, till now, whatever role I have played, they have not been my strengths. There was bowling in Inside Edge, there is rapping in Gully Boy, these are skills I don’t possess. For their debuts, actors always play to their strengths. Action waction dikhao, dance dikhao and all that. I didn’t do that. I took these risks at the start of my career.
Talking about me being typecast, there is no scope of typecasting me. What is there to typecast? When you google me and get to know my history, follow my interviews, you will know that I am a different person. People who are vision-driven have put me in that space. They saw the character of MC Sher and wanted to create that character with me. But I told them, ‘Listen. I am not 28-29. I am 25 turning 26 and I am young’. Also, I want to play young characters. I was getting scripts in which I was married and I said ‘No’. People were like ‘why?’ I was like, I am not that guy. The script maybe good enough, but at times, if the agenda differs, then I am not going to do that. I want something different. I want something which is challenging. There is no scope of typecasting me. I am not giving anybody the chance to typecast me.
Right now, you are at the cusp of a very exciting stage in your career. Everybody is waiting to see what you will do next.
Well, there is a kind of smirk inside me. I am like, ‘Yeh toh kuch bhi nahi hai. Abhi toh dekho, kya kya hone ko hai!’ If I can speak Hindi fluently I’m going to flaunt it. I am going to flaunt my Hindi, I am going to flaunt my anger and I am going to flaunt that I am a boy from nowhere and I’ve made it. More than flaunting, it’s about inspiring a generation, because there is a pool of talent out there and I want everybody to chase their dreams. Young people ask me, ‘Sir, can you give us some advice?’ I say, ‘Very simple. Always carry two things with yourself: Passion and Parivaar.’ Also, you need a mentor, and, for me, it is my dad. I always say, ‘Be passionate about what you do, otherwise, don’t do it.’
True. It is very important for you to be out there because rarely do we see somebody from outside the industry causing a stir.
See, the thing is, people have noticed me and they know that this boy is promising. That’s all I need. Other than that, whatever the challenges are, they are like fuel for me. And I have no industry connections whatsoever. It is not like, my dad is remotely related to anyone in the industry. I started from the bottom. My first pay cheque from a chocolate brand ad was of Rs 2500 and till date, my mother has kept that in the temple in our house. And, my parents have been a very important part of my journey. They used to tell me, yahaan nahi hua toh Hollywood try karenge. Hona toh hai hi.
Grey melange cotton t-shirt by Numero Uno; On the wrist: Big Bold BAPE The World from Swatch
So, after Gully Boy, you must have noticed two things: one, everybody jumped onto the rap bandwagon. Two, on the Siddhant Chaturvedi bandwagon. So, what do you think of gully rap’s future?
I think is booming. I am getting a lot of DMs from guys rapping and they say ‘bhai aap dekho na’. I kind of try to tell them that it’s good. Now, everybody has a voice and that’s what is happening, you know?
Photographed by Abheet Gidwani Art Direction by Tanvi Shah | Fashion Editor Neelangana Vasudeva Hair by Gautam Arora | Makeup by Nikita Thadani Location Courtesy: Flea Bazaar Cafe, Kamala Mills, Mumbai All Clothing By Numero Uno