Siddhant Chaturvedi Is Showing What Living Your Dream Looks Like
Stealing the spotlight as MC Sher was just the start of his success story. With an impressive line-up of projects and newer narratives, Siddhant Chaturvedi is showing the world what living your dream looks like
Kehte hain agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho, toh poori kainaat usse tumse milaane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai.” These lines performed by Shah Rukh Khan, written by Mayur Puri for Farah Khan’s directorial Om Shanti Om, summarise Siddhant Chaturvedi’s smashing debut. A chartered accountant in the making, Chaturvedi believed in himself when he set out to become an actor. The boy-next-door with no film connections went through the rigorous audition process to reach his current status. The actor received appreciation for his act as Prashant Kanaujia in Excel Entertainment Amazon Prime Video’s Inside Edge (2017). Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy (2019) showcased the volcano of his talent as MC Sher and ‘andar ka lava phatt ke bahar aaya’. The film’s success slingshot him into a different stratosphere of fame, love, and appreciation.
While streaming services are a hub for introducing new talent these days, Chaturvedi was always keen to act in films. Although he did debut with a YouTube show, Life Sahi Hai, produced by Luv Ranjan (Pyaar ka Punchnama 1 and 2, and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety fame), and the show was a success, when it was renewed for a second season, Chaturvedi turned down the offer when asked to be a part of it. The word on the street is that Chaturvedi told Ranjan that he would like to do a film with him instead. He is sure of what he wants, and this level-headedness is rare to find in a debutant. He’s on his way upwards — with Bunty Aur Babli 2, Karan Johar and Shakun Batra’s untitled film with Deepika Padukone and Ananya Panday, Phone Bhoot with Katrina Kaif and Ishaan Khatter, and Yudhra with Malvika Mohanan. Over to this ever promising talent.
It has been two years since the release of Gully Boy. Does all the fame and recognition still feel like a dream?
Initially, it did feel like a dream. At the moment, it is more about what’s next in the big scheme of things. My dreams and ambitions have definitely grown leaps and bounds. I have so much more to achieve, whilst maintaining everything that I have achieved until now. The dream state lasted for about six to seven months, and it was surreal. I was meeting directors, actors, and actresses I had always wanted to work with. Superstars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Aamir Khan praised my performance and complimented me. Had I stayed in my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have evolved, dreamt bigger, and began working toward its realization.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you are trying to break out of MC Sher’s image. Why?
As an actor, it’ll be challenging to make people believe that I can portray characters other than MC Sher. I was fortunate to play such a powerful character, and I’m incredibly proud of it. I’m going to reminisce about MC Sher for many years. It has been two years, and it’s still fresh in the audience’s memory. There has been a massive gap between my two film releases because of the pandemic. Bunty Aur Babli 2 was supposed to release last year. I’m confident that the audience will appreciate my performance, and realise that I can play a variety of characters. I want to be acknowledged by all sections of the audience for all my films. I’ve deliberately chosen films and characters that are different from my previous films.
Do you think post Gully Boy, there are a lot of expectations from you? Do you feel the pressure?
Yes, I do. In fact, I work best under pressure. I’ve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove myself, and I cannot waste it. People said it won’t happen for me since I don’t have any film connections. I was trying to achieve the impossible. This kind of pressure is my driving force and motivation. I know of equally talented actors that auditioned alongside and are continuing to work in theater, awaiting their turn. I was fortunate to have this chance very early in my life. How I am going to surprise the audience is always in my subconscious. I have worked very hard in the last five years, and have picked challenging roles in different genres, like comedy and action. Actual pressure will start to build when my films do well. It has been pretty smooth sailing until now.
One day you were in YRF Studios to meet Aditya Chopra. The next day, you were to shoot with Saif and Rani. Post that, you were to act alongside Deepika and Katrina. Eventually, you would be sipping coffee with Karan Johar on his show? Have you come to terms with any of this?
Before entering the office, I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I was meeting Aditya Chopra. The moment I entered his office, Siddhant Chaturvedi the fanboy took a backseat, and Siddhant Chaturvedi, the actor, took over the reins. When I left the office, it hit me — ‘Was I in the same room as Aditya Chopra? Was I doing a script read with Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerji? It was a similar overwhelming experience with Padukone and Kaif. I reached home and told my parents about it. I have watched them on the big screen, and admired their work. Now, we are sitting together, discussing work, and sharing screen space. During Christmas, Katrina sent over a cake. My parents were in so much awe, Woh cake fridge mein hi rakkha raha, ek din tak cake kaata hi nahin. (laughs).
Has any actor or director acknowledged you before you could introduce yourself?
Yes. It has happened with Aamir Sir. After watching Gully Boy, he messaged and called me over for a meeting. We spent the entire day. He appreciated my work, and we had lunch together. At that point, Laal Singh Chaddha’s script narration was on. He asked for my inputs, and it was incredibly sweet of him. I was like, ‘Main kya bolun? Dharti phat jaaye our main usmein samaa jaun’. Another such incident happened at Zoya Akhtar’s Christmas party. Out of nowhere, someone held my hand. I turned to look, and it was Shah Rukh Khan. I behaved like a coy girl in front him. He was so charming and humble. I shared how he has been my inspiration since my school days. I watched his interviews and followed his philosophy. He wished me all the best for the future.
How did you manage to headline four films with three of the biggest production houses in the business?
I think I willed it to happen. Though, I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. After Gully Boy’s release, I met Aditya Chopra Sir, Karan Johar Sir, Ritesh Sidhwani Sir, and we just connected. My priority was always the script and the character. I took a moment to introspect if I was doing the right thing. There was a lot of curiosity about what I would do after Gully Boy. I really believe in each script that I have signed. I felt I needed to build an audience for the kind of films I want to do. I have a creative and commercial instinct because of my CA background. I choose my films, weighing in on all those instincts. It couldn’t be better than these production houses. After nine months, Bunty Aur Babli 2 was announced.
George Clooney is known for ‘One for you and one for me’ film practice. It means he’ll sign one commercially viable film for the film-maker, and then one for his creative satisfaction. Do you follow a similar approach?
I think I’m too young for the ‘One for you and one for me’ kind of film practice. It’s easier to follow this approach when the actor has been around in the business for a while. At the moment, the film has to excite me and work for the audience as well. I would be able to achieve that only if I believed in the character and the script. I watch films in the theatre as an audience, so I know the kind of movie I would enjoy.
How is the competition with your contemporaries such as Ishaan Khatter, Varun Dhawan, and Tiger Shroff?
There’s no competition as such. Even if there is any, it is very healthy. There is space for everyone, and we all can co-exist. I think every actor has a unique personality and a distinct flavour. We look forward to each other’s work, whether it is Shroff, Vicky Kaushal, or Varun Dhawan. All of us can grow together in the industry instead of being jealous and pulling each other down. Khatter and I have helped each other during the making of Phone Bhoot. I believe that art is always more significant than the artiste.
With stardom comes a lot of fanfare. How do you keep yourself grounded?
I’m not a star yet. I’m a simple boy who loves performing, and it is this simplicity that has brought me here. My family keeps me grounded. They will tell me precisely what is wrong, with their unfiltered comments. I get my reality check every morning with a cup of tea. I’m in touch with most of my friends. In fact, my old friends still make fun of me. I’m not perfect, and I don’t take myself too seriously. If someone praises me a lot and makes me feel like the cat’s whiskers, I stay away from them.
What was the lockdown like, for you?
I was mostly at home. I only stepped out for groceries. I am very cautious because I stay with my family. There were instances when people did recognise me, and I have no clue how. I was sporting a cap, had my mask on, and I appear much leaner now.
You are a self-confessed filmy person. What is the most filmy thing you’ve done during the lockdown?
(laughs) Yes, I’m a very filmy person. We were watching a lot of films and other streaming content. I was like bahot ho gaya dekhna, now let’s shoot something. We worked on a homemade music video titled Dhoop. I tried my hand at singing and directing the video, while my dad shot it. I’m glad that it was very well received. I wanted to show ki hum bhi film banaate hain.
So does that mean you are interested in direction?
Right now, I’m thrilled to be working as per my director’s vision. The following 10-15-year plan is to improve my craft of acting. I love poetry and writing love stories, but being a director is still way far into the future.
Would you like to pursue writing or playback for your character in your films?
When I begin working on a film, I maintain a character diary. Sometimes I write character lines that I end up using in the movie, and sometimes, I just improvise during the scene. For Bunty Aur Babli 2, I incorporated something that I wrote. I don’t know if they have retained it in the film. We will know once the film is released. I want to work in a musical as a singer-songwriter, something like Rock On and A Star is Born. If an opportunity comes along, I will take up singing. I play the guitar, and doing a musical will be a dream come true.
Photographer: Kunal Gupta
Art Director: Tanvi Shah
Fashion Editor: Neelangana Vasudeva
Make-Up By Poonam Surve
Hair By Gautam Arora
Fashion Assistant: Foram Kubadia