Travelling around New Zealand with Sidharth Malhotra
Travelling around New Zealand with Sidharth Malhotra

On the New Zealand trail with actor Sidharth Malhotra, through Middle-earth, thin air and beyond

Sidharth Malhotra is wearing a pair of elven ears like he owns it. The actor doesn’t need to put on a tough-guy face today, nor will he be essaying the role of Bollywood’s quintessential chocolate boy. Gazing into the depths of a vanity mirror, he looks like he’s secretly plotting his next Halloween costume. We could all well be on Middle-earth — if it weren’t for the dozens of creepy masks of bald men staring vacantly out of glass displays. Instead, we are at the Weta Workshop in Wellington’s Miramar suburb, home to New Zealand’s film production. A maze of rooms crammed with swords and skulls, body armour and barbaric creatures, the workshop is the birthplace of every detailed prop and prosthetic body part featured in Lord of the Rings, Avataar and other such films of enormous importance.


Sophia Bue Pedersen, Weta’s SFX makeup artist, meticulously moulds and dusts the tips of Malhotra’s elf ears, while she fixes his braided wig and distressed leather vambraces in place. Although all he really wanted was to be Aragorn for a day, the actor is being braced to step into the elven shoes of a black-haired version of the lithe Legolas, one of nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring. “I’m ready for a battle to save Middle-earth,” proclaims Malhotra, feeling every bit an elf as J.R.R Tolkien would have wanted him to. Malhotra’s sword wielding skills aren’t too bad, either.


As soon as you set foot in windy Wellington, you’ll inevitably hear talk of Wellywood, much to the chagrin of Wellingtonians. But you’ll know better than to ask for directions to the non-existent Hollywood Hills-style ‘Wellywood’ sign. New Zealand itself has served as a picturesque location for more films that can be counted on both hands. But Malhotra isn’t here for one of his big-banner movies. As Tourism New Zealand’s new ambassador for India, he has an endless list of ‘tasks’ to be accomplished. He will be meeting New Zealand’s Prime Minister in Wellington this afternoon. There’s also a scuba diving expedition at Poor Knights Island, a match with legendary Kiwi cricketers on a glacier in Queenstown and the prosthetics workshop that we are now privy to. That’s a fun itinerary for Malhotra, but there’s enough trans-country travel at unearthly hours to remind him that he’s on an official trip. We haven’t even set foot in the idyllic village of Hobbiton or the lush valleys around Glenorchy, both scenic locations for Jackson’s films. But a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Middle-earth’s inhabitants makes for a fitting start in the capital city.



That evening, Malhotra arrives at a screening of his film Brothers at The Roxy, an art deco cinema dating back to the 1920s, recently restored by one of Peter Jackson’s studios. Young women, mostly Indian, scream like they’re at an Ed Sheeran concert. I later hear that one of his fans found it hard to sleep that night. “It’s always good to meet people outside India,” says the actor, standing at a little over six feet tall. “It helps you realise that Bollywood has such a wide reach.” Having spent some time observing him, I begin to understand why his fans display unnatural levels of limerence. No doubt he’s blessed with good looks and charm in equal measure. He has even been enthusiastic enough to explore his versatility as an actor, unlike some of his contemporaries. But most of all, it’s that unmistakably down-to-earth aura, which makes you believe that you know every tiny detail about his life.



I do get a few more minutes with Malhotra, a day after what he describes as one of the most emotional moments of his life. But first, the actor, his entourage and I hop on to a Cessna at the NZone Skydive centre in Queenstown, the country’s adventure capital. The collective energy in the plane is rife with nervousness as the plane gains height above the turquoise waters of Lake Wakatipu, and inches close to the snow-capped peaks of the Remarkables mountain range. Someone from the actor’s team is trying hard to keep his cool. I don’t blame him: you’ve got to have some real guts to sign the dotted line before you can jump into thin air from a height of 15,000 feet. Leading the pack, the actor and his tandem master are seated at the edge of the plane ready to make the jump. Heck, Malhotra’s the reason why we’re all about to do something as crazy as this in the very first place.


In retrospect, that was just my fear talking. “It’s only human that you’ll feel scared,” Malhotra concurs, when we meet the next day. Still peaking with adrenaline, the actor, now wearing a killer pair of customised Nike Roshe One Flyknit Premium kicks, says, “It took me all of five seconds to realise what was happening. My body and mind went through the incomprehensible. But I had the most surreal experience once I took that plunge.”



Actors can put up a face when they want to. That’s where the money lies. But they are human, too. They can be vulnerable or on the edge, much like the rest of us. When I jumped out of the plane, I was reduced to nothing but a floating mass of vulnerability, fighting against and then succumbing to the forces of nature. Malhotra knows this feeling all too well. One of his biggest life-changing decisions, long before he got his break in Student of the Year, came out of a similar moment of susceptibility. At the time, the Delhi-born Malhotra was a model and a Bollywood outsider. When he left his South Delhi home for Mumbai, for a film that would eventually get shelved, he followed his instincts to gain experience as an assistant director. Today, four box-office hits down the line, the young actor still feels the pressure to perform. He wants to work on his patience levels and be the guy who’s anything but monotonous. That he’s going to have plenty more testing times ahead is a given, but for now Malhotra has, inarguably, put two very big predicaments behind him.


contact us :
Follow US :
©2024 Creativeland Publishing Pvt. Ltd. All Rights Reserved