The 20-something girls are screaming for you after Dhoom 2.
I've noticed. The response has been pretty aggressive. The roars and shrieks and the handshakes are all a compliment to my work. I don't let them inflate my ego.
A new phase has begun in your career with Krrish and Dhoom 2..
You think so? I've never had such a response before. I'm getting all kinds of feedback from every quarter. I believe Dhoom 2 is even bigger than Krrish. All of us are ecstatic.
Uday and I've been together since Standard II in school. We feel we're back in school and won a competition together. Abhishek, Uday and I are constantly calling each other for feedback. Thank God our childhood friendship never got lost in adult ambitions.
You've the whole nation by their vitals.
Ha! That's funny. I take that as an impetus and motivation to go to another level as an actor. I don't let it tamper with my sense of self. I won't think about things that hamper my growth.
I'd rather not think of myself as invincible. I'd rather think about the next challenge which is Jodha-Akbar. Anything beyond that would be detrimental to my dreams as an actor. An actor's downfall begins when he begins to take adulation too seriously.
Ashutosh Gowariker describes Dhoom 2 as a show-reel for your abilities. Flattering?
He is being generous to an actor he loves so much. But I don't think movies work as show-reels. Even if Dhoom 2 is a fantasy caper, there's a thought, plot and emotion behind it, though it might not be immediately apparent. A show-reel for my abilities? No way!
What about all those exotic sports and stunts?
Agreed, they're an attraction. But I think what worked for my character is that I played a cool guy for the first time. I did play one in the second-half of Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai.
But that's it. Otherwise I was relegated to playing goody-two-shoes. You know, the consummate do-gooder with a sweet smile on his face.
I still think your best performance to date is in Arjun Sablok's Na Tum Jano Na Hum.
You keep saying that. I need to look at that film again.
How does it feel to finally reach the top rung?
Great! But it's futile to do mental gymnastics about my box-office position. These are numbers meant to only inflate your ego. I'm enjoying it, yes. It's very important for me to understand that people are only trying to make me happy by calling me Rock Star and No 1, or whatever.
But there's a growing feeling that you are No 1.
I'd rather not waste my time thinking about this. I've done good work and Dhoom 2 worked. What made it work was that all of us in the film were on the same side. All of us - Abhishek, Ash, Uday, Bipasha and I — were trying to make the same film. That's why we had such a happy ending.
Would you say your superstardom was somewhat stymied by the spate of setbacks after Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai?
No. I think what happened with my career was forthe best. I got to see the high and the low very early in my career. It gave me a clear and balanced perspective on how to go about my career. I also learnt not to take labels like superstar seriously. It's very easy to start believing in the persona that's created for you in the media. Once that happens, you are finished.
Did the exuberant welcome and then the snide comments about being your dad's resident hero after Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai caution you at all?
No, it completely freed me from people's expectations. I started doing things that came from my heart. I chose the path that came naturally to me. Doing my best for all my roles is my only option.
If, during the low phase, I had tried to live up the labels that were given to me after my debut I'd have never done a Koi… Mil Gaya, where I played a mentally-challenged character. I'd have been too conscious of cultivating an image to try something so non-sexy and unheroic.
For all practical purposes, it was a wrong career move. Being an actor is all about exploring all the personalities that come your way.
It's about trying to be people who you are not?
Not really. I think every character I played, in Dhoom 2 or Yaadein or Na Tum Jano Na Hum, had a bit of me. If I don't connect with the character through my performances, I'd end up hamming. Some unexplored, maybe unknown, side of your personality goes into every character. I've a bit of Rohit and Aryan in me. And yet they're new people to me.
I believe women find you sexy after Dhoom 2
After the nerd and the innocent Koi …Mil Gaya and Krrish it's very re-assuring to know I'm capable of jumping from one end of the image-spectrum to another. As an actor, it's very satisfying.