When is TVF Aspirants Episode 5 coming out?
As soon as we hit 10 million.
You have created magic. How do you feel with the success of the show?
I feel great with the kind of love SK Sir is getting. There’s a different emotion attached to each character but SK Sir has different shades. Sometimes he is funny, sometimes he is miserable, and sometimes confident while he is teaching- people are able to relate to it. Someone has written a great quote, ‘Everyone wants a friend like SK, but no one wants to be SK’, which I think defines it yaar. Many PCS and CA aspirants have been writing me long messages saying how much my 8-minute monologue has changed their life and they feel motivated to give one more attempt. So I feel great. We created the character of SK with much love and now when the character is getting so much appreciation, it makes me happy.
It’s a very big thing for an actor when the audience can relate to a character played by him. Everyone can relate to SK Sir’s character right now. So, when you were shooting for the web series, did you expect that this character would become so iconic?
Whenever we start working on a project, there is a conviction that we are making something good and that is why we work on that particular project. I had confidence in TVF’s story-telling that they would definitely create something good. Even when we were shooting, we had a positive feeling that we are creating something good but I didn’t know that this would become iconic and people would start loving it. I knew that my 8-minute monologue would create a lasting impact on people because it has been written beautifully.
I was recently talking to director Aditya Kripalani, he said that a character is the child of three people- director, writer and actor. Director and writer shape the structure of the character but an actor brings it to life. So, I think my kid is getting much love (laughs), which is a great thing. But I didn’t expect that it would become iconic and would make it to the list of World’s top 50 shows on IMDB.
Our Indian society is obsessed with government jobs.
That’s why I played a smart game. The girl I married has a government job. So when my parents ask me, I push my wife ahead. At least one of us has a government job.
Have you prepared for any government exams?
Never yaar. I want to join NDA (National Defense Academy) because when you grow up in an Army background, the only thing you see is Army. So, I wanted to join Army. But my first form for NDA got rejected. So, I was never able to do that. And when I wasn’t able to join the army, my self confidence hit the ground.
But then, you get over things. I accepted that rejection and then radio happened. So, I said to myself, ‘This is nice. I am enjoying it. I am getting paid to talk, what else I can ask for?’
The scene in TVF Aspirants where SK Sir gets an anxiety attack, it is a very impactful scene. Many people could relate to that scene. So what was your thought process and preparation while shooting that scene?
Every person who can relate to SK Sir’s character has at least one favorite scene of him. Many students like the 8-minute monologue, many like the ‘Loser’ scene more because they feel they are losers, but when it comes to the anxiety scene, I think anxiety is something we haven’t accepted and acknowledged that it exists. Especially, if you see in our families and tell the parents, they would be like ‘It’s nothing. Drink water. You overthink a lot. You should worry less.’ So, we are given these reasons to battle anxiety, or sometimes it is discarded saying that no such thing as anxiety exists. So, we knew this, that people aren’t much aware of anxiety, let alone the idea of accepting it, especially when we have so many students and aspirants battling anxiety on a daily basis. SK’s story was same.
So, while we were rehearsing, we discussed that what would SK do, because I never had an anxiety attack. So I had no idea. I first thought that what would I do, and then I thought about SK’s situation. Because when I understood how one feels during an anxiety attack, only then I would be able to tweak it for SK.
When I started talking to people, I came to know that there are so many variations of anxiety. Some people have breathing issues, some start making weird noises, some start crying, some stop talking and some start yelling- so, anxiety works in different ways on different people.
So, when we though about SK, we established a fact that his family has not accepted that he would be battling with anxiety. And SK has a lot of pressure. He doesn’t have lots of money to buy fancy clothes, have a good lifestyle. Amid all this, he has the pressure of clearing UPSC and changing his life. He has never earned a penny in his life. He only studies, he has no girlfriend, owns a basic phone, and only one pair of shoes that he wears everywhere. He leads a very normal life. And when such a simple man has so much pressure on himself, what would happen? He will be shattered. So, we thought that he would faint when he would get an anxiety attack because he is not the kind who would yell. In the entire series, SK has yelled only once when Guri said, ‘Tu kutta hai (You are a dog). So, that’s when SK yelled. He was like, ‘I have allowed you to be in my personal space, but not as much that you would crush my self-confidence.’
And that’s why we decided that he would faint during the anxiety scene. And even when he regained consciousness, he was still shivering and struggling to breathe.
While shooting that scene, I was already struggling with a personal crisis. My father was battling with cancer at that time. So, it was very difficult for me to seperate both things and perform. But it came out well.
In fact, while I was signing this series, I was told that it would begin with my monologue that would establish the whole crux of the show. So, I was very afraid because Shivankit Singh and Naveen Kasturia are fabulous actors and are popular amongst the TVF audience, but I am a new face. So, if my performance was even a little compromised, people would have been pissed and might have left the episode in between. But Arunabh and Apoorv Singh had that trust.
Your character has grey hair and a beer belly. How was it like to play an elder guy?
The story is in two timelines, so we wanted to make it clear that SK looks different in both timelines. The younger SK is very comfortable in his body. He is thin and expresses himself easily when it comes to physical body movements. If you notice, his physical movements have slowed down as he grows up.
I have a college student type of vibe in real life. Even my physique is like that of a student. So, creating the look of younger SK wasn’t difficult. I just had to change my clothes.
But the elder SK wears a muffler. We see many teachers and professors wearing a muffler in a particular way. They wear a jacket to maintain a sincerety.
SK has a lot to worry about in his life, so his hair has turned grey in comparison to other characters.
Also, the younger SK is vulnerable, he has an anxiety attack. But the elder SK is not that vulnerable. He has accepted his failures. He has accepted that he couldn’t crack UPSC and he is now enjoying his job as a teacher. Even when Guri calls him ‘Loser’, he doesn’t react.
It feels good when people appreciate your dialogues, but when the audience can catch your nuances and silence, it’s a different feel altogether. I am humbled by how the audience has accepted the show and my character. This is an amazing feeling.
Any message for your Aspirant fans?
I just want to say one thing. Thank you so much for giving so much love to such a simple character. I feel amazing to get your messages, be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp.
I just want to make one request. It’s a time of struggle. You and I can’t make oxygen cylinders or hospitals or ventilators. This is the job of governments. They will do it in their own sweet time. We know how our politicians work. But what can we do? Those who have recovered from Covid can donate plasma because it can save someone’s life. So please donate plasma. And that’s the one thing we can do. We have our whole life to earn money. But this is the time to earn blessings. So, let’s do that.
On behalf of all your fans, I want to say a big thank you for having this conversation. It was such a heartful conversation.