From a baby model for Farex to playing the tough cop, the incredible journey of actor Aftab Shivdasani
You have watched actor Aftab Shivdasani transform into various avatars since his childhood days, and drooled over his looks during his chocolate boy phase, now watch him play a tough cop in his latest movie. The actor speaks to YS Weekender about his foray down South in Kannada films
Remember the Farex baby food model?
Well, he grew up to be a cute child actor before transforming into the incredible movie star that he is. He began as a chocolate-boy hero in his movie debut as an adult, but soon got an award-winning role as a villain, did a number of roles in successful comedy films in ensemble cast franchises, and now, gets to play tough cop in his latest venture. That’s a large ambit of roles for any actor. No wonder, Aftab Shivdasani is proud of his career graph, but admits that as an actor he’s still in search of that one role and film to showcase his talents.
Aftab is making a surprise debut down South with the Kannada film Kotigobba 3, with his friend from the celebrity cricketing league – Sandalwood superstar Kichcha Sudeep. In Bengaluru for the shoot of the sequel of the famous Kotigobba franchise, Aftab talks of how he landed the role.
“I got a call from someone casting for the film in Mumbai. Sudeep is a dear friend and I have been wanting to work on something with him for a long time. I called him and he said it was a fantastic character. I am playing a cop who is based overseas…a plainclothesman. It’s exciting getting to work with Sudeep in a space that I’m not really used to.”
Working in a new city with new technicians and actors from Sandalwood, and being the only guy from Bollywood on the team has opened up a world of new opportunities, he says.
“It expands an actor’s mind and perspective and raises your game. Otherwise you don’t get to interact with people from other industries or even know of them,” he points out. He admits, though, that learning Kannada was a challenge, but he handled it the smart way. “I have mimed the dialogues and it worked for me. You’ll see it when you watch the film. I tried learning the language but I was rubbish at it!” he laughs.
He’s just emerged from another cop role -- in the Hindi film Setters – where he plays a cop fighting the system of examination rigging and the thick mafia around it. The role has definitely helped him step up to this one. “It’s been a good learning curve for me. But the role in Setters was a very different one as it was about an earthy, well-read cop based in Varanasi, while in Kotigobba 3, I play an international cop.”
Laughter is the best medicine
Aftab had a dream debut in 1999 with Ram Gopal Varma’s Mast opposite Urmila Matondkar where he played a film-star-obsessed student who relentlessly pursues the heroine. While he’s had a variety of films coming his way, “intense films” are what he enjoys doing most.
“I was 21 when I won the award for Kasoor,” he says as he talks about the 2001 thriller where he starred opposite Lisa Ray and played the role of a seductive and manipulative murderer.
“Unfortunately, then came everything else! But the comedies worked. I love laughing and making the audience laugh,” he says. The comedy phase started in 2004 with Masti and its two sequels – Grand Masti and Great Grand Masti, and other adult comedies over the years like Golmaal, Shaadi Se Pehle and Kya Kool Hai Hum 3.
Why does he think comedies are such a hit with the audience?
“You know, I asked someone who came up to me and said he liked my film why he liked adult comedies. And he said ‘You are having fun acting, I have fun watching. You can leave your brain behind and watch such films, especially due to the stressed out lives we lead nowadays, and the depressing stuff on the news all the time’.
According to him, people love comedies – whether they are adult, slapstick or situational. “A film like Golmaal does well. So does a film like Badhai Ho. The audience just wants to have fun and switch off from the real world,” he says. Aftab goes on to say that the jokes in these films have no malice or disrespect and should be seen as pure entertainment.
Lights, camera, action
The young actor loves watching action movies and hopes to act in them too. “The Raid 1 and 2, Indonesian films are my favourites. There is so much talent out there. The martial arts in these films is insane; it’s brutal. I also love the Fast & Furious series. I always enjoy watching stylised action. It inspires me.”
Web or multiplex?
The web streaming space is also something that interests him, says Aftab.
“This is a space where you can really do anything and there are so many concepts around now. Unfortunately, not much has worked out for me. Developing content for web streaming platforms is also an exciting opportunity,” says Aftab, who earlier produced, co-wrote and acted in the film “Aao Wish Karein” in 2009.
Aftab however does not agree with the stream of thought that web streaming platforms will drown out the multiplexes. “You still have mainstream films making hundreds of crores in theatres. Of course, we are being spoilt for choice on the web streaming platforms – you can watch unlimited films for 500 bucks a month, which is the price of one ticket at a multiplex! But what web streaming cannot and does not give you is the complete cinematic experience – the atmosphere, watching the film with others, and of course eating popcorn! People who want that will always go to the theatres,” he says.
He personally enjoys both – watching movies on the web and in the theatres.
There is no secret to staying fit – train hard; eat right
“What you put into your mouth really makes a big difference,” says Aftab, who looks in fab form right now and tells us how he stays fit. “You train hard and eat right. People who are not conscious of what they eat don’t often realise that there are repercussions to what you eat. This is especially true for people who have 9-to-9 hectic jobs, where daily workouts may not be possible. At least be conscious of what you eat; there is no rocket science to it.”
Child artistes who become adult actors
Aftab did several noteworthy roles as a kid in popular films like Mr. India, Chaalbaz, Awwal Number and others, the most famous being the child version of Amitabh Bachchan in Shahenshah.
Our conversation inevitably turns towards the discussion of how child actors in Bollywood somehow don’t make big successes as actors when they grow up.
“I’ve always been asked this question and my answer is always the same,” he sighs and laughs, adding, “I’ve done 55 films, and counting, in 19 years. I don’t know what kind of success you want from me! If I do well, I’m branded as an exception to the rule. Success is always a relative question. I just want to keep working.”