Theatre has been his life for 16 years but Vansh Bhardwaj says he couldn't have asked for a better entry into films than Deepa Mehta's Videsh, which he calls his "dream debut".
"This is my first film and I'm so fortunate that I got to share screen space with Preity Zinta and work with one of the best directors in the movie business. This is truly a dream debut," said Vansh.
The 27-year-old, however, stressed that it was theatre that helped him land the role. He says he just can't forget the day when he met Mehta, who has directed acclaimed films like Fire, Water and 1947 - Earth.
"I was performing a play in Delhi and Deepa Mehta had come to see that play. After it got over, she came backstage and told me, 'You were awesome. I will work with you one day'," said Vansh, who was in the capital to promote the film.
"A lot of people say things but seldom they put so much money at stake and cast a newcomer in an important role, unless the person is some producer's son. But she did remember me. Two years after I did the play, I got a call from her offering me the role of Rocky in 'Videsh'. I was stunned. I told her please don't ask me, just order me," he added.
The film, which revolves around the life of a young woman (Preity) from the rural hinterland of Punjab, who migrates to Canada post-marriage and becomes a victim of domestic abuse, is set to hit screens March 27. While it will be released as Videsh in India, it opened to international audiences as Heaven On Earth.
Vansh is all praise for the director. "Deepa is someone who lets her actors free and gives them ample space to move around. It's very important for an actor to give his share in his performance. It's important for him to add the experiences he has had in his lifetime to his performance. Deepa lets her actors do that," he said.
The young actor, who was born in Chandigarh and took to theatre at age 11, is unperturbed by Preity hogging the limelight for Videsh.
"I have an important role in the film, but Preity is such a big star, the attention given to her is obvious. She has done a brilliant role in the film. I'm happy with the appreciation I have got and most importantly that I got to do this film," Vansh told IANS.
So how was it working with a star like her?
"Preity helped me throughout the shooting. I was at ease and very comfortable working with her. She never made me feel that I was working with such a big celebrity.
"Also, I'm thankful to her because in a scene where I had to slap her, she made me feel so much at ease. I was quite tense before the shot but she made me feel better," said Vansh, who admits he is nervous before the movie's release in India.
"I am nervous now when the film is releasing in my country because what I am in the film, my friends, my family, have not seen me like that. So I'm eager to know what they feel about my performance," the newcomer said.