Actor Sidhant Gupta has hit it out of the park with his performance as Jay Khanna in Vikramaditya Motwane’s two-part web series Jubilee on Prime Video. The thread that connects the talented young actor and his character is the fact that not only do they not give up, they also don’t know how to give up. Though a bit under the weather, Sidhant sounded ‘happy’ soaking in love from all quarters. He spoke to The Telegraph Online on the sudden adulation coming his way, becoming Jay Khanna and his journey that led to Jubilee.
The Telegraph Online: Words of appreciation have been pouring in from all quarters since Jubilee dropped. How are you taking it all in?
Sidhant Gupta: (Laughs) Ah, I just take a big breath and layer it out. It’s an overwhelming feeling. It’s weird, as I see the stars looking at me from afar. I feel life has changed and it has opened up. I am absorbing all of it.
You feel life has changed?
Sidhant Gupta: Oh yeah, majorly. There’s so much love out there. It’s limitless love flowing in. I feel nice. Let it come. (Smiles)
Was the audition for Jubilee a cakewalk? How did Jay Khanna impact you as you became very popular on TV at the start of your career but remained unknown beyond that?
Sidhant Gupta: Oh, it wasn’t a cakewalk for sure. I don’t know whether it’s difficult or easy. It’s like when you reach something and connect with it, you feel it. If there’s something for you, then it’s not for anyone else. If feelings are honest, there’s no stopping you. It’s meant for me for sure. I was pretty far away from the character of Jay Khanna when I auditioned for it. But I got instantly drawn towards him. His eyes and ears are open. He’s very close to feeling life. He isn’t on autopilot. That’s his most interesting aspect. He’s very present with his emotions and with his surroundings.
As far as my journey is concerned, it’s been a struggle because I was doing TV and I quit it because I wasn’t satisfied. There was no end to it. I thought if I am not happy, then why am I doing this work? I took a sabbatical. It gets painful because you do work that’s not speaking to you, but you still go to work because you have to run your house. People come to the city, struggle, start to hope, spend their entire lives, and carry a lot of pain, fear and self-doubt. The best part of Jubilee is that I could share it all and, in the process, healed my years of struggle. That was beautiful!
How did you get the courage to renounce the name, fame and money that come with television shows?
Sidhant Gupta: It took a lot! When I was leaving TV, they offered more money but there was something in me that moved away because this is not why I am doing this and after a point, life can be monotonous.
Do you feel this success and recognition came at the right time when your craft is in a better place?
Sidhant Gupta: There’s no end to improvement. At the end of the day, you need to know what you are doing. When the lockdown happened, it was actually when I spent some time with myself. The best part is that there’s nobody to blame. Basically, when you are in the city, you wait for the right opportunity and work, and you have a lot of people to blame that this industry is like this and like that and there’s nepotism and blah blah blah. But it’s like consoling yourself sitting at home. If I have chosen this work, I should know why I am doing it. That’s what led to finding an intention that at the end of the day, it’s about you but it’s never about you. That’s when I held on to life and things started to come to me.
Did your character Jay Khanna’s infectious zeal make you a more determined actor?
Sidhant Gupta: You know the only thread that connects us is that we don’t give up and we don’t know how to give up. It’s life! You don’t give up on life. He keeps sharing more with life and keeps finding more. That’s Jay Khanna’s journey and that’s also my journey. When I was ready, Jubilee came into my life and I could bring in some life.
What went into the research as you can’t shape a strong character like Jay Khanna overnight?
Sidhant Gupta: I was preparing till the last day of the shoot. It’s never-ending when you play a character like this, and you surrender. It’s a beautiful script, to begin with. It’s the most incredible character that I have ever read and when something like this comes to you, you just give every second of the day. Playing Jay Khanna is the most interesting thing that has happened in my life, so I looked forward to breathing in Jay Khanna. We shot for a year and a half, so I held him close and couldn’t let him go and when it got over, it left on its own. He gave me so much more in return than I gave him.
How did you get Jay Khanna’s body language right?
Sidhant Gupta: I honestly don’t know! No matter how and what you do, these things get prepared on their own. That’s when it feels real. When something happens on its own, you feel it’s real. I did my research on all actors, not only on screen but how they were off screen. My process is to let it happen on its own.
Tell us about your favourite scene and your most challenging scene from Jubilee.
Sidhant Gupta: My favourite is in Episode 4 when I dance with the kids. My director Vikramaditya Motwane had a lot of faith in me. There was no choreographer, so I was asked to do it on my own. I had fun with the kids. He allowed me to do it. The moment stayed with me. When it comes to challenges, there’s one scene in the rain in Episode 8. It’s a beautiful scene. Mumbai is generally hot but that day when we shot around 3am-4am, it was foggy, and it was strangely Shimla kind of cold. We were shivering and weren’t able to breathe and say our lines. It was a true test as an actor.
Your co-star Wamiqa Gabbi (Nilofer Qureshi in Jubilee) and your chemistry is crackling on and off the screen. What’s cooking?
Sidhant Gupta: (Laughs loudly) Wamiqa and I are very good friends. Our journeys are similar. She is from Chandigarh, and I am from Jammu. We are in the big city trying to have a voice as actors. It’s fun with her. It’s a great equation. The friendship helped in Jubilee. We were there for each other as Sidhant and Wamiqa as well as Jay Khanna and Nilofer Qureshi.
Do your good looks come in the way of being considered as an actor with a lot of potential?
Sidhant Gupta: This work isn’t about good looks. When you do a scene, your face and body change. It’s not about the looks anymore. There’s a weird perception that people who look good can’t act but there are people who can look beyond, like Vikramaditya Motwane or Casting Bay (agency) or a few others. There are also people who believe it. I did Operation Romeo with Neeraj Pandey. Once the film got over, an assistant director told me that he had thought of me as some good-looking guy and wondered why I was cast in an honest film like this! I wonder why people think that if someone is good-looking, he won’t be able to act. Why can’t people be a little neutral? I will keep breaking myths.
Sidhant Gupta plays actor-director Jay Khanna in Prime Video’s Jubilee Prime Video
An actor struggles to keep things real. How do you do it?
Sidhant Gupta: My family and friends bring out the purest emotions and have an emotional impact on my life. How can I create emotions if I am not in touch with it and have felt it? Travel is also very important as I like my alone time a lot. I break free to keep finding more and create more space within me. People don’t pause and miss out on a lot of moments, so I go away and come back in peace. That is how you feel and create more. This is my way of living. Empathy and compassion are two traits one needs as an actor. One needs to feel the feeling.
Where are we seeing you next?
Sidhant Gupta: There are a lot of things coming, thankfully. I am taking it slow. I will be a part of something that speaks to me.