It’s been long since you did a show. Isn’t out of sight, out of mind too?
I agree it is but there’s no reason to take up unexciting work. It’s risky for an actor to keep a low profile. Bhabhi was my last soap in 2007. After that, I did two reality shows, Zara Nachke Dikha and Nach Baliye. I didn’t take on anything for a year-and-a-half after that.
So what was your source of income during this period, considering your wife, Poonam, has also been out of action for a while?
Live shows. After two dance shows, I still feel I’m a rookie. I’m just an average dancer. But somehow, with the grace of god, I sailed through.
Was money one of the deciding factors when you took up Mahayatra?
It was, but it wasn’t one of the major factors. I have to keep my kitchen fires burning. Besides the money, the idea that Star Plus came up with was the draw. Accepting this show meant taking another leap in my career. I became an actor, then a dancer and now I’m making my debut as a host.
Does this mean that actors don’t want to bargain when it comes to their fees?
That was the impression most producers had. But the problem is that we were, and are, willing to slash our fees, but only if the role is great. Otherwise, what’s the point? Every actor misses his work if he doesn’t get enough of it on hand. So I am hungry for meaty roles.
Coming back to Mahayatra, a dozen children will compete to take their parents for the chaar dhaam yatra, something most parents expect from their children. What do you think children expect from their parents?
As a father, I think all children want time with their parents. They hate it even if one of them isn’t around. Watching your child grow is a discovery of sorts. After shooting for Mahayatra, I returned home after almost two months. My son told me that he had missed me a lot. He didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t attend one of his classes with him. He’s only five but the questions he asks leaves me speechless at times. I think children want their parents to be good listeners. I decided I wouldn’t step out for a month and just be with my kids.
Yes, I have a nine-month-old daughter.
Is that the reason your wife has quit work?
Poonam has taken a sabbatical. In her 16-year career, she has made her mark as a good actress. She still gets a couple of offers every month. After our first baby, she cut down on her work. After the second one, she preferred to look after them full-time. When she wants to make a comeback, she just needs to spread the word, and she’ll be flooded with offers.
Weren’t the two of you offered Jodi No 1 on Sony?
Yes. That was a month ago but we turned it down. Poonam and I are private people and don’t want to expose our children to the media at such a tender age.
It’s commonly believed that out-of-work actors take on reality shows.
Many of us — Hiten Tejwani, Hussain Kuwajerwala, Yash Tonk and me, have never done more than two daily soaps. After that, the newbies took over. They were willing to work for as less as Rs 400 a day. When I started out, I was paid Rs 500 a day. After I became successful, I raised my fee accordingly. Ditto the others. Producers couldn’t afford actors like us. That’s when reality shows came as a blessing in disguise.