• I did a play called Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai, which was about my disasters, my failures and my setbacks. Every time I performed it, I discovered it liberated me from the feeling of failure. When I used to read autobiographies, I used to find a lot of courage. I used to think that if these people have gone through so much, then so can we.
  • We were very poor, but we were very gathered. Whatever I am today is because of my childhood. Fourteen people used to live in a small room, so every time we bumped into each other, we used to think we were hugging one another. Children need to be hugged. Their questions need to be answered. My father was the most ardent fan of mine in whatever I did till the last day. My parents didn’t have the time to plan my life. But, whatever I did, they supported me. My father was my best friend. To have a father as a friend is the most amazing thing. He was a physically affectionate and innocent man. All those formalities of a small town play an important role in your life.
  • If I look at it with self-pity, every period was a tough period. I don’t believe in that. When I first came to Mumbai for work, those three years were the toughest, because I was humiliated at a number of levels. I was an educated actor, and I didn’t have money or a place to stay. I stuck around because I didn’t have an alternative. In fact, an alternative always takes you back five steps.
  • The best thing I did was to steal Rs 100 from my mother’s temple and go for an audition to be an actor in Panjab University. The best decision I took was to pack my luggage and go to Mahesh Bhatt’s house after he threw me out of Saaransh and signed on Sanjeev Kumar. I told him, ‘You’re the biggest fraud on earth. You’re making a film about truth but you’re not truthful about your decision.’ Sometimes you have to say the things that you feel and not worry about the consequences. We always play it safe. I don’t believe in that. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out.
  • I would tell my 20-year-old self to live the life you’ve lived. I have not allowed this city to change me as a person. If you lose your main fabric as a person, then whatever you achieve is not important. I’m an eternal optimist. I’ll give an example as a quote — even a clock that has stopped running is correct twice a day.
  • I don’t plan a life. For me, it’s important to live life rather than plan it. I believe in god, of course. I believe in a superpower. I pray every day. I’m not fanatically religious, but I pray because I need to gather myself. Basically, it’s a bargain that’s happening, but that silence puts me together. I think people who are atheists remember god the most by avoiding it.
  • Twelve years ago, I wanted to be a business tycoon. Mr Bachchan had started ABCL, and I thought I should also have a company in my name. I almost went bankrupt, because I have no business acumen. Today, if I’m running a school, it’s because I know how to run an acting school. I know my job. With success, you lose your perspective on life. You become arrogant. You think, ‘Now I’ll become a tycoon. I’ll have a studio called AKSL studio.’ Maybe I was ahead of my time. We had eight TV serials on air, but I was borrowing money. That’s so silly. I have no regrets, though. If you take it in the right spirit, they give you the best lessons.
  • Every time I talk to a new celebrity on my show, Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai [on Colors], I learn something. I’m reaffirmed that you have to keep trying. That’s what makes people special. I learn humility from them. I learn from their humiliation sometimes. Priyanka [Chopra] tells me on the show that she thought she was an ugly girl. Something must have made her go on and become Miss World. She says she was a victim of racism when she was studying in the US. Today, she’s the lead actress on Quantico, an American TV series. Sonu Nigam’s father took him on a scooter to Anu Malik’s place and every recording studio. Seventy per cent of the conversation was about his father, who was sitting in the audience. I later said, ‘Let me call your father onstage.’ Sonu was so protective towards him. I learnt compassion from that. Every emotion there is, I’ve learnt something about it. At the end of every episode I feel like I’ve become a richer person.
  • I take part in so many debates because it’s essential to speak up. It’s a part of being in a free country. I’m an actor; I don’t need to be noticed. But, it’s important to talk to give you a sense of being alive. Everybody wants to be careful nowadays. If there’s an accident that’s taken place, you don’t want to help out. So, you’re becoming more and more inhuman towards people and society. I don’t want to be like that. Now, cinema is a part of my life, it’s not my life. At the end of it, it’s not the profession, it’s the person who has to triumph.