From I Am Kalam to Hichki, Harsh Mayar has definitely come a long way. The youngster has won hearts all along, not just with his exceptional acting skills, but also with his down-to-earth attitude and frankness.
The rising star in Bollywood galaxy chats up with Big Wire senior editor Sreya Basu on his new-found success in Hichki, being a ‘joker’, female attention and love.
Now that Hichki has been declared a hit at the Box Office, what are your instant reactions?
No actor wants their film to fail at the box office, so obviously I’m happy. But I’m equally surprised because this is not a typical Bollywood film.
The concept is unique and the film talks about various important issues. There’s no romance or typical songs and naach gaana. So I was clueless about how the film will be received by the audience.
But now that it has worked well and won hearts, I’m really happy. This was a pleasant birthday gift for me.
How was it playing Aatish in the film?
Challenging at first. Initially, there were some “hichkiz” (hiccups) along the way, but it got better later on. I call myself a joker in real life as I keep entertaining people around me all the time but Aatish was an intense character who rarely smiled.
So I had to learn to be silent during my workshops. And I got myself into the habit of talking very little in real life. But despite all the differences I have a side to me that is a lot like Aatish.
People don’t know this but I’m very emotional at heart and extremely intense when I’m low or angry. I take things to heart, good or bad. The best part about my character was that my school life was almost the same as Aatish’s.
I wasn’t the good guy at school and I never studied. In fact I hardly attended any classes and thought of myself as the ”Bhai”. So I could relate to the character on this point. There’s a lot of people who helped me bring Aatish to life.
Prashant Singh sir who gave us workshops, Siddharth sir, the director of the film, Ankur sir who’s the writer of the film, and my dearest friend Jayesh Kardak who plays Pankaj in the film. Aatish wouldn’t have been what it is without these people.
How was the equation between Rani Mukherji and the youngsters, including you, off-screen?
Rani ma’am is a child at heart. She has a good sense of humor. And she’s a very enthusiastic actor. The equation was positive.
Can you recall any interesting incident from the sets while shooting for Hichki?
There were many. But one incident that I’ll never forget was being caught by the police while I was on my way to the sets. I had not travelled much by local train before this.
So on one random day, I was running very late and I got into the handicapped compartment By mistake. When I was about to reach I saw people jumping off the running train.
I couldn’t understand what was happening until a policeman held me and took me to a corner along with a few more people. The worst part was that I wasn’t carrying any money and they even confiscated my phone.
Now, all I had in my mind was that I have to reach the sets any how. I created a scene there because they were not ready to leave me in any case. I started crying and howling and I pretended like I’m fainting.
The policeman got concerned and offered me water and consoled me. I told him I was a poor kid who worked as a spot. Had I said I was an actor they wouldn’t have left me. But the policemen was so adamant, he took me to the police station and said they were going to file a case against me.
That took the life out of me. Finally, after lots of drama, people from YRF (Yash Raj Films) came to my rescue and when I reached the sets, everyone was in splits.
From I am Kalam to Hichki, you have come a long way. How do you feel?
For coming a long way, I have waited a long time. The journey has been bumpy after I Am Kalam. The film got me recognition and it was really special since it was the first film of my life that I saw in the theatre.
But as I was growing up, my looks changed and people didn’t recognize me anymore. I had to start from scratch to re-establish myself. I did 5 films after that which went unnoticed.
Some of them are still under production. I doubt if they will ever release. Hichki was a blessing for me. I wasn’t expecting the appreciation I am getting for it.
I am Kalam got you overnight success, not to forget international awards and the National Award. Has stardom affected you?
I was a kid at that time and I rarely understood what stardom was. When I got the National Award I barely understood its importance. I just felt happy that people were showing me so much love and were appreciating my performance.
Even today people come to me and tell me how much they loved I Am Kalam. These things bring a smile on my face. Stardom should never ever be taken seriously. It’s an illusion.
I work for my own satisfaction And just I want people to be happy after seeing my work. That makes my day Knowing that I have left an impact on people.
You have always chosen films that are “different”. Is that a conscious decision?
Not really. When I got I Am Kalam, I really had no choice. I had already given more than 200 Auditions before that and I had started feeling very hopeless. I Am Kalam came has a huge surprise for me.
Had never thought it would do wonders. But yes, I personally want to do films that give a social message and i am lucky that films like these come my way. It’s also true that I have rejected a few films before Hichki because I didn’t like the subject. I feel lucky that a character like Aatish was written for me.
If offered a lead role, will you do the film if that needs you dance around the trees?
This is a good question. I personally want to portray ordinary people in my films and want to keep it as real as possible.
I don’t want to dance around the trees because actors in Bollywood have been doing that for a very long time now. I am really inspired by films like Mukkebaaz, Sadma, etc.
These films had a love story too but it’s amazing how beautifully they portrayed it on screen. I want to do these kinds of films. Real and honest. Nothing over the top.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I can’t predict my future since I’m no psychic. But I would like to see myself doing some substantial films and portraying common people on screen.
What are your future projects?
You’ll come to know.
Who is your idol when it comes to films?
I believe you can learn a lot from every person. Every now and then I meet people who have something about them that’s unique. So I keep observing. A lot of actors have some amazing qualities. I love Jim Carrey, Heath Legder, SRK (Shah Rukh Khan).
And Recently I loved Vineet Kumar Singh in Mukkebaaz. But my role model has to be my father. I look up to him because he’s a real-life hero for me.
Name a recent film that impressed you a lot?
Mukkebaaz and Bareily ki barfi.
Tell us something about your childhood.
I can write a book on it. But I’ll cut it short by saying I was a kid who loved theatre and hated studies. While others were busy playing, I was busy doing theatre.
Initially, I used to mimic people at home, sing and dance. That’s when my maternal uncle felt I could do well as an actor, so he helped me join a theatre. Today whatever I am it’s all because of him.
Apart from films, what do you enjoy doing at leisure?
I sing when I’m all alone. And I also dance, rap and watch films when I have nothing to do.
You surely enjoy a lot of female attention. How do you react to them?
Enjoying female attention was the last thing on my mind. Never dreamt of it considering the kind of looks I have. I’m no chocolate boy and I’m not fair and handsome either.
I don’t think I’m the kind of guy girls fall for. (Hahaha). While doing Hichki, I was wishing that I get noticed, let alone so much appreciation. But After Hichki released I was taken aback by the kind of messages I received from people, especially females.
Do you have a girlfriend?
Yes, and the most interesting part is that she replies to my female fans on social media since I remain a little caught up. I still can’t digest the kind of response I’ve been getting from females and we both laugh about it together.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.