With just his second film, Aayush Sharma is already switching genres, and giving the audience a new baddie to hate. The actor is hungry for different roles, and has a solid plan to be able to simply ‘do everything’. 

After introducing himself as the happy-go-lucky Garba teacher in Loveyatri, Aayush Sharma made sure he is giving something new to the audience with his next role. He decided to shed the ‘good boy’ image, and contest against none other than his brother-in-law and megastar, Salman Khan, in Antim: The Final Truth. The new gangster in town had a new look too. Sharma was no longer the lanky self that the audience had seen before. They were about to be impressed by Aayush Sharma 2.0, who was much more shredded and stronger. A baddie on screen but a goofy person in real life, Sharma also managed to learn how to balance his work life and personal life like a boss. A look at his Instagram feed, and you will know that he loves to party, but he loves to spend time with his family even more. This is just the beginning, and Sharma is now all primed to do everything he can, moving forward. 

Just a few days before the release of Antim, we happened to sit down for a chat with Sharma. Sitting in the comfort of his home, he was happy that he gets to do the interviews online now. It had been quite a few years since we had seen Sharma on the screen, so the actor felt more prepared to answer journalists, to take in the constructive criticism that came his way, and to observe the reaction of the audience to his new avatar. He, however, started off the interview by telling me, “I am on a loop of the same questions, trying to make every interview sound different”, so I made sure he is not bored with my questions too. Here is how our conversation went.

Antim is your second film after Loveyatri. Do you feel more prepared for feedback, constructive criticism, and the appreciation that will come your way?

The first time it happens to you, you are a little unprepared for it. When you put your first work out there, you are a little jittery, a little nervous. There is a certain way you see the criticism that comes your way. You might not agree with a lot of it. But eventually, you start to realise that criticism doesn’t simply mean that you have to take it negatively. This time around, I am much more ready and prepared. Now, I am looking forward to what the criticism will be because it will eventually help me become a better actor. I am more excited as well. This time around, my role is more acting-oriented, a more performance-driven character so I think now the meat as an actor is more. I am looking forward to the feedback.

Making a remake/adaptation is a tricky business, especially when it comes to a film as hit as Mulshi Pattern. Do you feel the pressure to live up to the expectations that the Marathi film has built?

No, actually. When you are making an adaptation of a particular film, you already know that there is a certain kind of loyal audience that has enjoyed the film. So when you get into making a remake of a film in Bollywood, you want to add layers of new things into it so that the film becomes a fresh journey for the audience that has already seen the film. What my director always told me was, ‘The heart and the soul of the original should always be maintained’, but it should always be pitched in a new way so that the audience, who has already enjoyed the first one, gets to see the old references but also enjoys the new take to it. However, when you are doing a remake of a regional film, there are some very strong cultural references that are going to be involved in the film, but when you move it out to Bollywood, you are not catering to one region. Your film is seen by everyone in India and internationally, so you have to take out those cultural references, and make it more global. 

How has entering Bollywood changed the need to stay fit? Have you become more conscious about how you look now?

Fitness has been a very interesting thing for me because I have always been a very lanky person. I was always called a thin guy to an extent where people used to ask me if I eat food at all. So I have always been into fitness because I wanted to look a certain way. But it also depends from character to character. In Loveyatri, I never felt the need to look huge or be muscular because, at the end of it, I was playing the role of a Garba dancer. In Antim, the need was there. I would not have justified playing Rahuliya had I been looking like my lanky character in Loveyatri. The audience would not have been convinced. 

Answering your second question, I don’t think that in today’s time it is important to only have six-pack abs to be in Bollywood. People have grown out of it. Actors have realised that they will get accepted for the scripts they choose, for the roles they do and the kind of performances they deliver. I, personally, like staying fit. But it is not a necessity in any way. If you are confident in your skill, then it translates on screen. 

You also went under a tremendous transformation for Antim. What was your prep for the film like?

Physically, it was all about a lot of eating. It was the most frustrating part of this transformation. I had to eat after every two hours which included eating 24 boiled eggs, 400 gms of chicken which was distributed in six meals. Even when I was visiting my friends, I had to carry my tiffin. I had to train twice a day. I used to endure the pain while exercising because of the weights in the day, and then endure more pain when the sports therapist would come in and release my muscle pain. You needed that to avoid injury. The whole journey was about pain. But for Rahuliya, the mental transformation was more important. I wanted to have a cinematic physicality because of the fact that there is Salman Khan in the film. But it was more important to be convincing as a gangster. The brief that I got was that when my character smiles in the film, it should look eerie. But it also should make people cry. That was quite a difficult process. I had to work on my real-life behaviour. I really like to joke around in real life, but in the film, I am just scary. 

Being an actor, you have always been in the limelight. How do you deal with something that disturbs your peace?

Don’t look at it. Being on social media is like opening your household to all, and everybody who passes it gets a clear view of what your house looks like. But in the end, it is your personal space. So there is going to be constructive criticism and also a lot of noise. You need to be able to bifurcate between the two. You need to learn to accept your mistake and try and work on it, and nobody will ever offend you. When someone tells me I need to work harder, I don’t take it as an offence because I also know that. But when it gets personal, then I get affected. I find it very funny that people come and tell us, ‘I don’t want to see you’, and I am like, “then why did you come to my page!” 

The work-life balance is very important, and you have to do it while also taking out time for your kids. What is your mantra for managing it all so well?

I am not much of a party person. I like to party at my own house, and spend time with my close friends. I enjoy the company of my wife and kids. Films come, films go, but the people who are going to be constant are your family. I think that’s where I find my peace and my comfort. Somewhere, down the line, you have to behave a certain way as an actor, but at home, I can do whatever the hell I want to do. More than that, I really like spending time with my kids. My babies are growing up, and I don’t want to miss these moments. When I started shooting for Loveyatri, Ahil hadn’t spoken a word. When I came back, he had already said his first words. So I don’t want to miss any of that. 

It goes without saying that working with Salman Khan is an experience in itself, but you also get to see the other side of him back at home. What is the one major difference between Salman at work and Salman at home?

At home, it is not much about work. It is more about having fun. It is more of a very brotherly bond. But when you are on set, he is a thorough professional. You know that you are here on a film set and we are here to deliver a film and that time, we are not having fun. Everybody is just busy. There are so many people around him all the time that he is always working. If I had to choose, I would always choose to meet him personally and spend time with him where we chit chat. On the sets, it was so professional that it almost felt like I was working with a senior superstar and not the Salman Khan I know personally. I was very intimidated by him. When we had a scene together, I knew that it was a very important scene for my career because it was going to be viewed by many people. It was important for me to focus on those scenes. 

With all of us sitting back at home, OTT platforms became our life saviours. What shows or films did you watch during these days that you liked a lot?

I am a huge fan of Ted Lasso. I was watching a lot of regional content. I saw a film called Malik, which was amazing. I saw a Telugu film called V. I also watched a lot of Korean films. I have had enough of TV shows, I now want to watch movies. 

You’re also switching genres with just your second film. Is that an effort to not get stereotyped or you are just looking at new opportunities, come what way?

I don’t like to be in a box. I am a student of acting and it’s okay to make mistakes. I am okay to learn. I want to work with as many directors that are out there. I want to work across different genres. I want to experiment regardless of if it works or not. In the end, it is a great achievement as an actor when somebody comes and tells you that this guy is trying to do whatever the hell he wants to do. That opens up the barometer to a very large extent. So yes, I want to do everything.

What are your new year resolutions for 2022?

I don’t keep resolutions. Every time I try to, I don’t follow them. January 2they are out of the window. I just like to enjoy, have a party on 31st and go to sleep. Trust me, the next morning, it is all the same. 

Quick 5 with Aayush Sharma:

One car you would like to have in your garage?

A Lamborghini. 

One watch brand that you really like?

Audemars Piguet.

One director and actor you want to work with?

Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. That would be fun. I would love to work with Rajkumar Hirani. 

Describe Arpita in three words.

Loving. Caring. My Spine.

Who are your fitness inspirations?

Salman Khan and Michael B Jordan.