ARMED WITH GUMPTION and an AK-47, Sidharth Malhotra plays Kargil War hero Captain Vikram Batra with aplomb in the recently-released film Shershaah. In real life, the actor’s artillery includes a winning smile and genuine warmth that is enough to disarm any adversary.
Our Zoom meeting feels a little like a battlefield — being watched over by invisible generals and targeted for timeliness — but Malhotra navigates it like a champ. Ever so charming, he answers my questions with care and consideration; taking his time to think his responses through despite a ticking clock. From the capture of Point 5140 in Shershaah to Sid’s experiences navigating the often treacherous terrain that defines Bollywood, we cover a gamut of subjects.
I come away convinced that there’s a lot more to this Mr. Malhotra than meets the eye. For one, he’s not your typical ‘chocolate boy’ and while he is well aware that his looks cause a flutter, he seems determined to be defined by anything but his biceps. He has been a passionate advocate for Shershaah — personally pushing this film towards fruition for five long years — because, I suspect, this is a performance that will establish him as a serious actor and not just a pretty face. Perhaps it was the same need — to prove that he is capable of more — that propelled him to set aside a successful career as a model, in exchange for the long and tiring hours of a lowpaid and largely anonymous trainee assistant director. Ample is the irony in the fact that Captain Batra’s victory slogan rings true for Sid too: Yeh dil maange more.
Unlike many of our recent cover stars, Sid was never one to perform voluntarily for gatherings when guests visited his home in New Delhi during his early years. “I just wasn’t that kid,” he laughs, “I didn’t mimic people or tell stories. I was a sporty, regular child. I must have been four years old when I did my first photoshoot, which also happened quite by chance. It was an ad for some toy that had stickers on it. We got paid around ₹150 and of course it wasn’t about the money! Somebody we knew said, ‘Iski photo kheechenge…’ and it went from there. I still have that picture somewhere.”
Sidharth’s next professional modelling assignment was for a mobile company poster. “It was my first real job and I remember it well. I think they paid me a few odd thousand; maybe ₹5,000. I didn’t know much about banking at the time — I was just about 18 years old — and so I gave the money to my mum to spend or put in the bank or whatever.”
With assignments coming in thick and fast, his modeling career had promise, but it never entirely fulfilled him. So, when an offer to act in a film landed at his doorstep, Sid moved — lock, stock, and barrel — to Mumbai. “I gave eight years of prep and time to that film, but it never materialized. The director moved on with a bigger star,” Sidharth recalls with rue.
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