Sikander Kher Interview Aarya

Sikandar Kher has been around for a few years.

Having assisted directors such as Yash Chopra and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he began his acting journey in 2008 making his debut in Hansal Mehta’s Woodstock Villa, which failed to make a mark.

In recent years, we’ve seen him in supporting roles in films such as The Zoya Factor, Tere Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive and the John Abraham-starrer Romeo Akbar Walter. Rather than chasing the limelight and serving as the centre of a film, his work so far has been indicative of an actor who feels content with smaller parts.

He delivers his most impressive performance yet in Disney+ Hotstar’s latest Indian series Aarya, a crime drama about a woman who’s forced to take charge of her husband’s drug empire after he’s killed. Kher plays Daulat, the steadfast, loyal family fixer who proves essential to Aarya’s reluctant rise to power.

Over the phone the actor spoke to me about why Daulat was his toughest role yet, the unique experience of working with Ram Madhvani and his struggles of finding good work over the years.

Warning, spoilers ahead:

Daulat is a very interesting character. He’s loyal, almost to a fault, to the family and Aarya. What was the toughest part about playing him and finding that character?

It was definitely the toughest character I’ve played till now because he doesn’t say much and I didn’t have the crutch of dialogue. And you have to be silent, but you can’t be blank. So how do you figure this guy out?

Of course, our directors and the workshops we did really helped. But I think between the editors and the way they filmed him, it’s clear they understood him and it was just brilliant. They kept the silences because they knew what the character was. For example, you know that he likes Aarya but it is not obvious, you can just feel it somewhere.

They helped get Daulat out on screen and that is what connected with people. Even if I was given the chance to choose any character from the entire show again, it would be Daulat every time, hands down.

There’s so much history between Daulat and Aarya and the entire family which the show doesn’t show us. What went into developing his back story?

I worked on his backstory while we were doing our workshops. We would figure out where he’s from, how long has he been working here and things like that. Those things weren’t in Penoza or our screenplay, so we had to develop that ourselves.

Daulat is obviously not equal to the family. He works for them and he is loyal to Zorawar but there’s an inequality there. He’s been with them since a young age and he probably owes something to Zorawar, who probably paid for his education.

He met Aarya when she was young and that’s when he fell in love with her. But in a situation like the one he is in, he can’t even say it. But I think it is the strongest love he has for anyone.

In the last episode when the police come to the funeral, he admits what he’s done and gives up Zorawar. Is it fair to say the only person who would be above Zorawar in his eyes is Aarya?

Yes absolutely. But it’s also about the child, Adi, and what he witnesses. Daulat is a very loyal person, and that loyalty will never move but he still has a heart. He is not a bad guy he is just doing what he has to do. But he feels for Adi and regrets the fact that Adi had to see his father get shot. It’s something that bothers him a lot. So when Daulat gets off that bike and takes off his helmet and Adi spots him and puts two and two together, that is when Daulat breaks completely.

In that moment I think Daulat realised that he did something beyond repair and thinks ‘I accept what I did and I’m not going to have my head down around Aarya, I’m going to look up because I accept my mistake and I’m going to take my punishment’. That is why he eventually gives up Zorawar.

Also Read: A Spoiler Interview With Aarya Creators Ram Madhvani And Sandeep Modi

There’s something about Ram Madhvani where he really seems to extract these fantastic performances from actors he works with. What did you learn from working with him?

Firstly, I’ve never met a human being like him. He really is like one of the most beautiful people on the planet. There must be just 2-3 people in the world like him. Even if you have a conversation with him for 10 minutes, that’s more than enough to learn something from that man. That man’s energy is just so beautiful and not just for the actors. It goes down to the light men to just everyone on set. They are all happy and looked after and respected all the time. That is the beauty of Ram.

His style of shooting is also just amazing. There is no action, there is no cut. We don’t cut at close and then go wide, it is all just one shot. The way these guys shoot just helps you stay in character and the rest is up to them how they capture you. We don’t know where the camera is or what it’s capturing. And it’s not an individual process, it’s a process of the entire team of people – the directors, the DOPs, the editors and the sound.

None of us had worked on something in this process but I always had a feeling that the performances in this show are going to be good because we were feeling it. I felt it. It was real and true, it’s what Ram calls the ‘search for truth’.

You’ve talked before about the times when the opportunities just wouldn’t come. In times like that, how does an actor keep himself going?

I just used to go to casting directors and ask for work. I started calling everyone and going everywhere with my 3-minute show-reel and show it to them and ask for work. You keep doing that and following up and once you’re in the circuit it becomes easier.

Then you just keep auditioning. Sometimes you lose, something you don’t. When you are successful or a star and you add a certain value to a project, you have the privilege of stuff coming to you more. But in the beginning, you have to get stuff for yourself.

It is a blessing that I can pursue my dream. I don’t have to pay rent. I have food on my plate and I come from a privileged place, so I can pursue what I love and that is just the luck of where I am born. 

It is a blessing that I can pursue my dream. I don’t have to pay rent. I have food on my plate and I come from a privileged place, so I can pursue what I love and that is just the luck of where I am born. 

This really was your best work to date. It may be too early to tell, but do you hope this could be a sort of turning point for you? In some sense does it feel like you’ve arrived?

I have been working in this industry for 12 to 13 years now and I’ve only done work which hasn’t fared well at all. I can safely say that I have done good work and bad work, but that is part of an actor’s life. I think with my first few films I did some decent work because there was no baggage. But then you start thinking more, and it can go off track. I did one film called Tere Bin Laden where I think I did a good job, and then I did RAW. But none of those did well. I have never had any work that has been successful.

But I am lucky to be able to pursue my dream. When someone asks if I am excited about a project, I say ‘no I am not excited. I am very anxious. I look forward to it, but the result is not in my hands.’ That is you trying to protect yourself right from the start because if you’re excited and it doesn’t do well then you’re gone and I’ve only ever been through that. But everybody has a different path in life.

This is the first thing in my life that has done well. I’ve never had this feeling before. Working with Ram Madhvani was the greatest experience and now I am going to go out and try to get more work because maybe I am fresh in people’s minds. But I will never even use words like ‘I have arrived’, that’s just not what my experiences have taught to me.

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