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‘I’ve honed the ‘never give up’ attitude’

Even as accolades pour in for his performance in Kabir Khan’s Chandu Champion, he confesses that he made a career bet with himself over the film.

“It pushed me out of my comfort zone. Apart from the physical transformation needed, this was a genre and a role I had never done before. It was back to the basics and a process I had to commit two years of my life to, despite being a person who would do two to three films a year. This film required my entire focus, having to learn boxing, swimming, wrestling and the entire exercise of filming. It was like trying my hand at everything new in one film. It was an overwhelming experience and I was conscientious so as not to make any mistakes whatsoever,” he says.

13 and going strong

The actor, who has completed 13 years in Bollywood, has been candid that gaining entry and a firm footing in Bollywood was nothing less than a Herculean task, especially for an outsider’ like him.

“The day I start thinking I am a champion, it will be pack-up time for me. My goals for today will be very different from the targets I set up for myself next year. I can’t afford to get complacent and need to challenge myself as well as be excited about what I do. There is no finish line here,” the actor asserts.

On being an ‘outsider’

As the winds of change help turn the tide in Bollywood, the audience becomes way more discerning not only about the content they want to view but also about the talent they want to see. As several new names light up the marquee, the majority being ‘outsiders’ without any connection, does he feel validated?

“Absolutely. I remember when I began, whatever decisions good or bad, the successes and failures, were mine and mine alone. I had no one to hold my hand or even advise me on how to navigate the course of my career. Today when I meet actors, many of them outsiders with no network in the industry, I tell them not to give in to self-doubt, but just persevere. There were times when I was brutally rejected, but I cultivated the mindset that it was their loss, not mine. There is a thin line between overconfidence and being real, balance is key,” says Kartik. He adds, “I have faced criticism, but constructive comments and common sense worked for me. I keep telling these new actors to keep it real, and not to try emulating or imitating anyone, because that worked for me as well.”

On paid reviews & fudged ratings

Filmmaker Kabir chose Kartik’s hometown Gwalior to launch Chandu Champion’s trailer, claiming that crowds in Mumbai were paid to attend such shows. Recently, netizens also called out paid reviews and fudged ratings given by film critics. Kartik, who had revealed that he had been at the mercy of a few biased reviewers, feels in these days of manufactured limelight, word of mouth is the best publicity.

“Nowadays the scale of promotions is vast, and yes, the audience is bound to get confused. I feel now they are going by their instincts, and word of mouth is gathering momentum. I feel personal communication from the public at large is the biggest validation,” says the star. Though the grapevine is abuzz with reports that he is all set to reprise Salman Khan’s popular Prem in Suraj Barjatiya’s next venture, the actor declines to comment. His next is Bhool Bhulaiyan 3 with Tripti Dimri and Vidya Balan, which he promises will be as exciting as, if not more enthralling than, the previous editions. “The film will give the audience what they are expecting as well as something way beyond their expectations this Diwali,” he asserts, adding, “I have enjoyed working on it.”

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