In Kolkata for a film workshop, Barun Sobti speaks about popularity, his wife and not being on social networking sites.
Have you conceded to the fact that you are a 'superstar' now? I am taking everyday as it comes. Focussing on the job on hand right now is more important than thinking about the superstar status.
When did the fact hit you that you were so popular that people actually threatened to immolate themselves if you were replaced? I still don't know man! No one actually knows how popular you are or how people think of you until and unless a few of the people who like your work walk up to you and let you know that you are really good. You can see the honesty in their eyes. I don't remember the date and time when it struck me that people really like me, but I figured out that I was liked the way I always wanted to be liked. The public memory is very short. Do you think that the hype which was there when you decided to quit TV. I am not the kind of person who makes his bread and butter on how hyped I am. I am an actor and I do my job. I don't think about that much, but I can say I have had time to breathe.
Many actors have quit TV for films earlier, like Amar Upadhyay, Rajeev Khandelwal and Prachi Desai. Some have made it big and some have not. What do you think are your chances? I don't know. Whatever I say will either make me look like a pessimist for an immodest man. Let's say time will tell.
Is there any guilt on your part to have a hand in closing down of the show, Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, which gave you immense popularity? The only thing I am guilty about is about having a late breakfast! (laughs) People only want to perceive things that they want to perceive. I gave a lot of notice to my makers, eight months to be precise. I left in November, the first notice I gave was in February last year. So that shouldn't make me feel guilty. People disregard the fact that it is financial loss and work loss for me too when I left the show.
Do you think Main Aur Mr Riight is the perfect Bollywood launch pad for you? It's the only reason I signed it! I have always believed in the fact that it's your work that is going to figure out things for you. As long as you are true to your work, I think you are gonna be fine. I don't know script wise it was the best decision or not, but I know I have done the job to the best to my ability. I think I am only answerable about my job and I think I have done it the best I could. The film is slated for a July release and I hope people like it.
Tell us about 22 Yards. How did you come on-board the project? I was on my show. I had no idea when these guys decided that they want to bring me on-board the project. I got a call from the producers that they wanted to meet me about a film and I met them and as soon as the narration was over, the first thing I remember I did was shake hands with the writer. All of us hit it off so well that there was no looking back. I am playing a character called Ron, who is a Bengali. The international cricket industry is the backdrop of the story. It's a human story that's based on a cricket ground. Our director is a sports journalist and she has seen the world of cricket very closely. She is going to give insights that normal people don't have. That's going to be through Ron's character, who is a cricket agent. Delhi-based theatre actor Sukmini Lamba has just been finalized as the female lead. Salim-Sulaiman will give the background score and Aseem Bajaj is the DOP while Amitabha Bhattacharya is writing the lyrics.
Was it Main Aur Mr Riight or 22 Yards that made you quit the daily soap? None. It was my health. It is not that I had some sickness or disease but I was overworked for a very very long time. There is a labour law in the country which allows you to work 45 hours a week, but TV actors, specially the lead actors, on an average work close to 84 hours a week. I think there should be strict labour laws in the country. There are people who stay very far from the sets and spend two hours just commuting to and fro from the sets, which are on the outskirts of the city. They just end up getting less than six hours of sleep everyday. Moreover, every actor gets a break as every couple of years a show shuts down. But that didn't happen with me. After I started, I got four shows back to back and for 3.5 years, I worked 12 hours a day. I couldn't think straight. So I thought taking a break would be the best idea. We will be going on floors in the first week of May.
Are you ready to shed your inhibitions and do bold roles for the big screen? I want to do meaningful work right now.
The Bollywood actresses on your wish list? I am not Aamir Khan! I don't know about women, but I do want to work with Amitabh Bachchan.
How do you feel about Sanaya reprising Rekha's role from Khoobsurat in Chhanchhan? Sanaya is a very good actress and that she has got a show whose whole promotion is banking on her, goes to show how much the channel and the production house believe in her.
Are you going to return to TV anytime? Are reality shows on the cards? I want to do meaningful roles, the medium doesn't matter. People think TV actors have a wishlist and a check list, but we are pretty much like every other human being. Like every other human being worries about going to office everyday, in exactly the same fashion I am thinking about the current project at hand right now.
What other projects do you have in your hand? Nothing else. I am just talking to a lot of people right now.
How did you meet your wife, Pashmeen Manchanda, for the first time? The first time I saw her was in the school's corridor. I was in Class IX then. In Class XI, we have to chose our subjects. So I chose non-medical to start with and I figured out that my wife had chosen commerce. So I quit my subject and in commerce I was. And we dated 13 years before getting married in 2010.
Ready to start a family? Sometime soon, hopefully.
How is Barun as a husband? My wife is a better judge. She is a homemaker these days. She was working in a consultancy and quit last year.
People say you are over confident? Who are these people? I am such a shy guy. To each man his own. Probably because I quit on such a high, maybe that's why, but as long as I have my own reasons, I don't think I should worry.
Any fan moment would you like to share? There were many moments. Different people behave in different fashion. Some people are very upfront. I remember once this elderly lady walked up to me on the sets and said, 'Tum kaise chod sakte ho? You can't quit'. She wanted to click some pictures and then she took my case. I started defending myself and said, 'Nahi maam, tabiyat kharab rehti hai na. Mai kya karu?' I also get a lot of blank calls, where I hear some giggling and snorting after which they hang up. Also, I end up getting lots of flowers at my place.
You have an account on Twitter, though unactive. Why? No, I never came on Twitter. It must be a fake profile. Even when I was working in call centre, I was never on social networking websites because I don't reply and then people think I am rude.
You are hardly spotted at parties with your wife. Why? See when we were dating, we were away for the longest period of time because she was in Australia for five years and we would meet just once a year. One year she would fly down and the other I would go. And we weren't the kinds who could stay away, so we are making up for those lost times. As soon as I finish work, I just rush home to be with her.