You recorded a few songs during the lockdown. Tell us about your passion for singing …
Sing and I go back a long way. I have always had a deep passion for singing, and I do it very seriously; if someone talks too loudly while I’m singing at a casual karaoke party, he or she may get an annoyed look from me (laughs). I remember being spotted at school by my music teacher. I still remember there were about 15-20 boys singing in a group and he was walking around us. He stopped next to me, asked everyone to stop singing, leaned over and asked me to sing from the start. I remember his expression very well – it was like he was amazed. Well, from this experience, I realized that I am probably a decent singer.
Are you planning to pursue singing professionally?
I have always wanted to be part of musical theater. I watched ‘My Fair Lady’, directed by Aamir Raza Husain, when I was 14. I loved it so much – it was my turn to be amazed – the urge to be on stage to sing for everyone came naturally. Ten years later, I was part of a major theater production, “The Fifty Day War”, directed by Aamir Raza Husain. It wasn’t a musical, but it was the play that brought me to Mumbai. So yeah, as part of singing on stage as an actor-singer for musical theater, that’s something I would really love to do. And singing differently, if it worked, that would certainly interest me. I actually had to record a song for a movie directed by Jairaj Nair. I was supposed to record my birthday, but it’s being postponed due to this unfortunate coronavirus crisis. I recently teamed up with music director Navin Jawda and lyricist Madhuri Mishra from the film for an original titled ‘Jeete Hum’. It is a tribute to all the frontline warriors fighting this pandemic, a tribute to humanity. It is a dedication to the human spirit, to hope, to faith, to belief and to appreciation. It was my fourth video.
You also play Scrabble at the tournament level. How it all began ?
Yes, I am very active in the world tournament scene. It was my mom who got me hooked on Scrabble. However, playing the game casually at home is very different from how the game is actually played. One thing is common – whether playing at home or at a tournament – it’s super fun. I started playing in tournaments three years ago and have done really well. I am ranked 33 in India. It’s a game that involves studying words in a logical way. Besides knowing the words, there are aspects like strategy, vision (understanding the board and all the possibilities), time management, and tracking tiles and scores – all of this happens in parallel, so you need to to be vigilant. Chess is another board game that has a large audience and attracts a large audience. I don’t know much about chess, but from what I know about Scrabble, I think it’s probably more complicated than chess. The fact that your strategy has to change with every game because every game is different – the tiles you get, the words you spot, etc. – decide what form the game takes. This uncertainty makes the game more complex and fun.
You chose to give up your job as an architect years ago and become an actor. Are you happy with your decision?
Absoutely! I am very happy and satisfied and have no reason to complain. I really appreciate all the love I have received from my audience over the years. Either way, I don’t believe in ifs and buts. You can’t look back and say, “If I had done this or that, maybe things would have been better”. You have to respect every decision you make at every stage of your life. In this context, life is like a game of Scrabble. In the middle of a game, you can choose between two or three moves. After much thought and calculation, the move that looks the best is done. In due course, we know if this was really the case – depending on the tiles that come, what the opponent is playing and what form the game takes. Once the game is over and analyzed, we can realize that the blow played was not the best. It would be pointless to think about it, to feel sad or to complain. Back then, you made a decision that you thought was the best and you should stick to it and just smile.
What has kept you busy in recent months?
My singing videos really keep me busy. I do all the recordings on my phone – the audio as well as the video. My wife, Amrita, is my cinematographer. I posted my fifth very recently. It’s the cover of “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran. Other than that, I have a three to four day online scrabble tournament every week. We play seven to eight games a day. It’s a well-organized tournament, we play in front of the camera to encourage fair play. I also do a bit of household chores. I took full responsibility for the breakfast and morning meals which I make with blaring music. I decided to dust off one day and it took four hours. I did a great job, I think – the house looked clean for over a week!
What is the way forward for the entertainment industry, given the current COVID-19 crisis?
It will take time to get used to the “new normal”. I don’t know how things are going to be controlled now. There will be more rules and guidelines, but everyone will have to make an individual effort to comply with them. All one can hope and pray for is that this is just a phase and hopefully everything will return to normal soon. My thoughts are with all those who have suffered so much during this pandemic. It is essential that we are safe and careful. My best wishes are with everyone.