SMD: You have been blessing our Instagram feeds with these beautiful visuals from the hills. What are you up to?
HR: I think it's rooted into my childhood to be outdoors, thanks to the way my father brought us up. We never used to go out, there was no place to go out and we never had that lifestyle to eat outside in a restaurant; going to anything fancy was out of the question. So, he used to take us out, this [the hills] used to be our outing, this used to be our amusement park, our cinema – everything was out in the jungle. So, whatever we have learnt and whatever we have experienced, most of it has been related to the outdoors. Since the word family comes from the word 'Familia', which means familiar, I think I feel the most comfortable when I am in the outdoors. I think it's always rooted to your childhood, whatever you've spent most time around that makes you very comfortable. So, I think this is my family.
SMD: I often wonder, isn't there that dagger of out of sight, out of mind – like what if Harsh is up in the hills and he misses some casting call or some filmy party? Is that a dagger for you?
HR: To be honest, I think this also comes from my childhood. I was always the invisible kid in the house, and I was rewarded to be invisible. So I was never the center of attention and I am not very comfortable with it if I feel even a little that people are looking at me.
In front of the camera, the director takes it out of me. Somehow they are managing, I don't know how, but I swear I am here because of the very few directors. I am not here because of any casting calls – no casting director likes me or likes to cast me or wants to cast me. They all must be thinking that I am a little cuckoo in my head, but I am not here because of the Bollywood parties. It's just these few handful of directors and a few makers who think otherwise and who think I can bring something to the table, otherwise I don't know what would happen.
SMD: I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that you are managed by one of the most foremost talent management agencies, Dharma Cornerstone Agency, but I am sure they mean business. Are you like the complete oddball? Aren't they cutting you to size?
HR: I think I am the black sheep in their roster, but when I say the makers, when I count them on one hand, I definitely think of Mr. Karan Johar and Rajeev Masand sir as those people who somehow manage to look through my little work, and somehow have this kind of faith in me. They gave me the honor to be on their roster. Karan sir knows me since the last 3–4 years, so he knows that; he calls me 'the mountain boy', so I think he knew what he was in for. I hope I make them proud of my choices, and with the work that I do in films.
SMD: At the face of it, of course your physicality and the tall, dark, handsome vibe that you have going for you, is a very big part of who you are. Do you feel that ever comes in the way of a director seeing you for a part? Does that become a bigger aspect?
HR: I always believe, be it a stand up comic or a storyteller near a camp fire, or a cartoonist, or anyone who is expressing and telling a story, they always use a medium. Like Vinil [Mathew] sir uses humor as a tool to convey his stories. He is so well versed with it that he can convey any story through humor. Similarly, for Bejoy [Nambiar] sir, I feel he is amazing with style and music, so that's his tool and that takes things forward for him. He can portray romance, or action, or rage, or anything through that tool; so I think all actors get a tool too. Now it depends on whether you only want to showcase the tool or you want to use it as a vehicle to reach and cover many other facets and emotions. I never think I am stuck with physicality, it's just my vehicle which takes me to a set, and over there, they use it to convey certain dynamics of life and a gamut of emotions through that. I am ok with that and as far it's just a tool and not the only thing being captioned.
SMD: So, if a role needed you to not look so hot all the time, you'd be ok with it?
HR: I don't really look so hot all the time, you're just being kind. It's always the director's alter ego. All his characters are some part of his alter ego, so I think the director sees you in a certain light, and unke dimaag mein woh character kaisa dikhtaa hai, is how they [make you look]. For example, in Sanam Teri Kasam, they designed all those tattoos. Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru were my directors and they designed my tattoos, which I could never imagine. They gave me black earrings and all the tattoos — which I retained — and the tanned body color. They really wanted me to lose weight. That was their vision of Inder. It is always them, and I think I am more than happy to be used by these directors to tell stories and if it's visually nice, because it's a visual medium.
SMD: You intrigue me because I have an actor sitting in the hills, playing with hay while chatting, and I wish there were more actors who were perhaps learning carpentry in their free time, saving a neighborhood bird, which I have seen you do on your Instagram, or cracking eggs on the highway. You really cut from a different cloth. Do you feel like this could take you away from what people expect from a Bollywood actor or is that a price you're very happy paying because it's so evident that it gives you so much happiness?
HR: Even if I am very successful and I go by the book, and do whatever the book asks me to do, if it makes me feel very happy I would still go and do that, but if it doesn't, then I cannot. Going by the book has never been my idea of being anywhere – even in my family, I was the black sheep, and on Dharma's roster too, I think I am the black sheep. In any film crew, I think I am the one who's never following the norm. I am just doing this because I think it's a big responsibility that we all have towards our mental health and physical health. Everything else can go for a toss.
I don't care about anyone doing well or not, but if you're happy, you have my respect. If you're smiling more than you're sad, you have my respect, and if you're doing what makes your blood rush, I think you have my love and respect. So yes, I am just doing that. There is no rule and I can absolutely fail; it's a gamble, but I am just being honest to my being, my mental and physical health, that's it.