First: Please don’t call me a star. I think the term is used too loosely these days. I can call myself a star only when I have a couple of bonafide hits under my belt. I am, at best, a potential star. Just to be ‘appreciated’ in a couple of movies does not make me a star.
As for ‘superstar’, that word is even more abused. I think we have only five superstars today — the three Khans, Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan. (If you're wondering — Mr Amitabh Bachchan, with whom I've had the honour of working as an assistant director on Black, is in his own league, beyond all such labels).
The reason I bring this up is because many such labels — star, superstar, superhit, blockbuster — are part of the media circus that surrounds an actor today. Handling the media has become a key part of an actor's job description and that's one of the biggest changes in the way the industry functions today.The totally crazy over-exposure of today is one of the reasons an actor’s longevity as a hero has dropped drastically. The shelf-life of the average hero is around 10 years now; that of an actress, even less, about four to five years.
Everyone's also starting out much younger. (Though I have to point out that my grandfather Raj Kapoor produced, directed and acted in Aag when he was just 24). The average age on the sets of Wake Up Sid, a movie I’ve just completed, was around 20. The director himself, Ayaan Mukherjee, is 25. But just because they’re young doesn’t mean these new entrants are unprepared. They have a deep interest in cinema, they’ve done their homework and they come fully equipped to become directors by the time they’re 22. Some manage to do exactly that.
Here, I’d like to add another label I’m very uncomfortable with: ‘struggler’. It sounds almost as outdated as ‘handicapped’ to me, and it’s misleading too. For instance, people may not think of me as a ‘struggler’ because I come from an affluent background. But that does not mean I haven’t put in my share of hard work. I’ve done a film course in New York, I slogged as an assistant director to Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Black. I did my homework; I prepared as hard as anyone else.
I think the word we should use is ‘aspiring’. Aspiring actor, director, technician, whatever. That's what we all are when we set out.
All aspirants bring a great energy to their work. I love their passion, the way they love every word of their scripts.
But I simply don’t get it when I hear some young filmmakers say, “I’m going to change the system with my movie! I’m going to revolutionise the way movies are made.”
I don’t think they can, or should. I believe there’s nothing like a radical change. We can have new ways of writing stories, fresh ways of doing screenplays. But we cannot change the fundamentals.
One of which is that you have to make movies from the heart. It can’t be for the love of money, but for a purpose; you have to have something to say. Put simply, all you should do is set out to make a good film.
It doesn’t always work that way, of course. I know I will do some really crappy movies along the way. That’s inevitable and I won’t deny it when it happens. Because for me, the result is not the destination, the journey is. All I want to do is enjoy the process of film-making, enjoy the journey.