Sikandar Kher: I am not ashamed to ask for work

Despite back-to-back failures, the Players actor hasn’t given up on his dreams to be a successful part of tinselville. In a candid conversation Sikandar Kher says he won’t quit till he makes it big in B-town

Sikandar Kher belongs to a family (Kirron and Anupam Kher) hailed for acting excellence. Yet, the four-films-old actor is still to crack the success formula in Bollywood. Perhaps that’s why he is moving to the big bad world of masala entertainment after starting out with newbie filmmakers (Summer 2007, Woodstock Villa).

After Ashutosh Gowariker’s patriotic bio-pic Khele Hum Jee Jaan Say, he will be seen in Abbas-Mustan’s slick thriller, Players. Ask Sikandar if he is conscious of the banner or production house he chooses to work with and the 30-something actor says, “Yes, it does count. Obviously it makes a difference, because they are the ones who are going to pump in the money, and publicity is very important for the film and the way it comes across. This way I know that my ass is covered. Otherwise you put in all the hard work and if nobody is gonna watch it, what’s the use?” It’s obvious he’s talking from experience; his first film (Summer 2007) got positive reviews but not enough people watched it since it wasn’t well publicised.

However, it wasn’t just the commercial nature of the script or the bigwigs attached to Players that made him accept the part of a Pakistani character, Bilal. “I have always wanted to work with Abbas bhai and Mastan bhai. I have met them many times in the past. So when they called me, I just jumped with joy,” says Sikandar . “Baazigar is an all-time Abbas Mastan favourite, but every film of theirs – Khiladi, Aitraaz – is so interesting and keeps you engrossed. Players is true to the duo’s style of cinema.”

And that meant a lot of action – driving fast cars, jumping between trains and operating a crane. “We drove Mini Coopers on the runway in Wellington airport. They shut down the airport for us! Then I got a chance to operate a crane on a train,” smiles the actor. Off screen too, it was a rewarding experience. “I have worked with Abhishek earlier, but it was very weird with Sonam. I have known her since we were kids because our fathers are really close friends. We used to hang out at each other’s house for dinners and have conversations, and now suddenly we are working together. It’s weird, but in a nice way. But I also met people I didn’t know – Bipasha Basu and Omi Vaidya. Now we hang out a lot together and they are among my closest friends today.”

The young Kher doesn’t want to restrict himself to the fun and frolic kind of cinema, “It isn’t always about a commercial or non-commercial subject, honestly,” insists Sikander and quickly adds, “I am always going to be drawn to very intense stuff. It’s so much more fun to play a layered character. It is a selfish thing, because I can do so much more. So maybe I will do intense roles with happy endings.”

Sadly, Sikandar’s ride so far in B-town hasn’t been smooth sailing; all his films (Summer 2007, Woodstock Villa and Khele Hum Jee Jaan Sey) fared badly at the box-office. “It’s tough, yaar. You do go through depression. You question yourself whether you are good enough. Fortunately, a lot of people have said that they liked my work, so that keeps me going. That doesn’t make you feel like you are useless,” he smiles.

Luckily, unlike so many other strugglers, he doesn’t have to bother about making ends meet at home. But “My failure has got a lot more comfort, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting it as bad as the other person who doesn’t have it. A lot of people say it must have been much easier for me, but then how has it been easier for me? I am still at it. I am still struggling and I am going to be at it. Most importantly, you want the audience to love you. So you are always in search of that character, the film, the role, wherever it’s possible.”

What if it means going up to a filmmaker and asking for work? Pat comes the reply, “I am ready to approach anybody and everybody constantly for work. My father has done it all his life and he is the one who told me that there is nothing to be ashamed of doing it. Why should I sit at home and wait for work to be thrown at me? I am not in a position where directors are lining up outside my house. I have no problem in spreading my arms and saying that I want work.”