Kartik Aaryan’s journey from being the ‘monologue king’ of Bollywood to becoming Arjun Pathak in Netflix’s Dhamaka is filled with pit stops of experiments laced with sheer hard work. His passion for his work & his genuine love for his fans make him one of the most ‘real’ stars of Bollywood. As he continues making ‘dhamakedar’ ripples in his career, here’s getting a private peek into who Kartik is when the cameras go off.
One often wonders what a celebrity looks like in real life. You form a story, an image in your head, you think about the polished nuances of their aura and wonder if you’ll see them in that avatar with your eyes.
As I prepare for my conversation with Kartik Aaryan, I suddenly see the video camera turning on. Kartik is here, smiling through the lens, waving, mindlessly ruffling his hair, probably checking himself out, and this casual warmth sets the tone of our fun chat.
While most of us are familiar with his incredible story, the outsider who made his way up the ladder, the guy from Gwalior who carved his own unorthodox route to success, there’s obviously so much more to the man who made it big in life at his own accord, allowed his hard work to talk louder so that later he could dance to the tunes of his own success.
For someone who is always deciding what to conquer next, it’s natural to think ‘does he fall? Is he scared of anything? How does he pick himself?' Because clearly, he doesn’t let his vulnerability show up. So, I figured we could maybe just share a ‘human’ moment and find out how he has been carving his own destiny.
We begin by obviously talking about his latest movie Dhamaka which has Kartik playing a TV news anchor. The Netflix film is getting rave reviews and his performance has left his fans highly impressed. Since it is unlike any role he’s taken up before, he tells me what prompted him to go for it. “it is the character of Arjun Pathak and his shades of grey. I was very intrigued by his state of mind; the whole vibe resonated with me.”
Talking about how he prepared for the role, he elaborates on the draining process. “I had to do these lines, which were like 15-20 pages, in a single take. I also had to improvise since there were really long takes. I had to think like Arjun, and behave like him. I met a lot of reporters & RJs to get into the character, everything, from my look to my dialogues, was a long meticulous affair.” He is extremely happy and satisfied with the end result because it has all been worth it.
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Moving on to the personal space, we discuss how his past affects his present and if anything about his childhood continues to help him today. With an extremely simple and surprising answer, he tells me that his hold on the Hindi language and the clarity of thought he exercises while thinking and talking in Hindi has helped him through his journey in Bollywood, and continues to help him today.
In my mind, I am recalling his famous monologues and suddenly, this makes a lot of sense. One needs a certain command of speech to be that effortless.
We then talk about his perception of stardom and I ask him if it has ever hit his head. “No”, he quips immediately. “ I enjoy doing normal stuff in all those starry moments as well. It’s never really hit my head. For me, it’s a profession. I try to excel in my field, do my job well and that’s exactly how I perceive it.”
You want to believe when he tells you this, because he is not a superstar who believes in sneaking around the city incognito and seeking refuge from the attention that comes his way. He is a guy who openly embraces that love and will probably ask you for another generous serving of adoration.
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When you mention stardom, how can you not talk about the omnipresent requirement of a star to stay grounded? I ask him simply what keeps him real and he says, “ It’s my mom! She’s the one who accentuates all my mistakes, and I am actually always scared of her reactions because she will reprimand me, I know that.”
“I am sure you have your own recipes of success, and after travelling this far, how differently do you look at life now, philosophically?” I ask.
He muses on that thought for a second before saying, “I am in a happy space. It’s been a journey of ups and downs, but I am glad I have seen failures and success at their own time. You know my life is not a flight that suddenly took off, my graph is like a mountain. I want to sustain it for as long as I can so when I look back, I have no regrets. Ever since things have started rolling for me, I am in a very happy space, all that struggle was totally worth it. It makes me proud and humbled at the same time.”
At this point, I realise that Kartik is a blazing embodiment of beautiful clichés put together in symmetry.
Sure, most of us by now nurse a bit of disdain for clichés, but behind that veil of a superstar is a guy who makes you believe in the gorgeous power of clichés, the need to stick to simple things in life because they work magically, if one stays true to their roots.
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His life is truly about his craft, the love of his fans and his guarded circle of his family and friends. There are no tall tales of secret stories or crazy adventures, and that is what makes him so real, and relatable. As an actor and as a young man working hard on himself- he is a star but asks for no pedestals.
“Tell me, when the cameras go off, and you are back to real life, how do you protect your sanity?” His answer is, yet again, simple and real.
“My family is there to protect it for me. I enjoy all these small things that come my way. It’s all about my family and friends who are not from the industry who keep it real for me. They don’t even talk about my profession. I think the ‘realism’ in my life comes from the mix of people I have in my life,” he says.
For someone who is so real, staying guarded can be tough, I imagine. So, I ask him, “You are always vulnerable as a celebrity when you’re in the public eye. Do you have trust issues? How do you decide to instil faith in anything and anyone?"
To which Kartik replies as a matter of fact, “Main bohot jaldi trust kar leta hoon. When it comes to trusting people, I trust their intent. I just put my faith and pray I don’t find a misleading person. I am in a good space with people around me, so even if I do end up trusting a wrong person, they will eventually fade away for me”.
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We then shift the topic to privacy and I ask him if he feels that privacy is a luxury for him. “Yes, but it’s a part of my life so I will not complain about it. I am happy about it and even this khayal reminds me that this is what I wanted. I enjoy these moments and I want to live it all,” he tells me.
So, for someone who radiates this level of positivity and takes each day as a new story to tell, I obviously wanted to know what keeps him up on a bad day. “I usually watch something funny to neutralise my mood and distract myself. But yes, some days I am unable to do so and it takes time for me to get back.”
To hold your own fort without an army of humans protecting your public image or gifting you tips on survival, one would imagine if actors have to be a control freak at times, which is exactly what I ask him, thinking that his answer would be affirmative, but what follows, is yet again, a pleasant surprise.
“No, no, I am usually the one who is being controlled. My team, my family, especially my mom and sister, they keep controlling me. In a good way though,” he laughs loudly, further adding that, “I don’t perceive it as control, I take it as care.” That alone tells you a lot about how he looks at the lens of his own life and magnifies all the things in the most positive way possible.
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We end our chat on a rather deep note. I ask him when the inevitable day comes when the DMs stop pouring in, the flowers stop coming, what will he hold on to from this journey? “The love of my fans. They have really been compassionate, they do a lot for me and that is something I will always remember. So when the DMs stop or things slow down with time, I will always remember these moments, those hugs, those eye contacts, they will stay on with me”, he says.
It is fair to presume that Kartik clearly has a special superpower of keeping things real and being so relatable to his fans. His effortless affability to connect with anyone, from his director to maybe a stranger walking up to him is ubiquitous to his personality and he proudly uses that power, charming everyone, one human at a time.
The Dhamaka star is living up to the title of his latest movie and is aware that his success is not just dependent on his talent, but also on knowing how to mould himself into a power structure of his own.