Class Apart! – Vidyut Jammwal

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A handsome hunk marked his entry into Cinema, playing one of the antagonists in the 2011 Jr. NTR movie Sakthi! The chiselled hunk starred in three other releases the same year, 1 more in Telugu and two in Hindi! This star then set his sights on Tamil Cinema and got a chance to act alongside Thala Ajith himself! A man who choreographs his own stunts, doesn’t use a body double for even the most dangerous action sequences, doesn’t use a rope even for jumping from heights, a martial arts exponent trained in the ancient art form of Kalaripayattu and someone who has travelled to various countries to learn their native martial arts – Vidyut Jammwal is currently one of India’s favourite action stars who is also one of the ladies’ favourite! He has acted alongside some of the top stars and is currently one such top star himself! His interest in martial arts is well known and his endeavours to bring more awareness about it across the country shows his passion. Vidyut is also philanthropic and helps out many people in his own way. Check out some excerpts from a free-wheeling conversation that we had with this sweet star!

Being scared is important but that fear keeps you safe. Only if you’re scared will you know you have death by your side and be very careful!

Your father was an Army officer. How do you feel playing an Army officer on screen?

It is a wonderful feeling and I am proud to represent the Indian Army on screen, in the film industry. I think I am the only leading man in India, who is from an Army background. Every time I meet somebody from the Armed Forces and they appreciate me for representing them well on screen, I feel very proud and it is definitely a great feeling! I feel quite a few people have joined the Army after seeing my Commando movies and I consider it to be one of my few achievements!

Can you tell us a little about your most recent movie Khuda Haafiz and your character Sameer?

Khuda Haafiz is a real life story which happened in 2008. During the recession, a newlywed husband and wife who had been married for just three months, try for jobs abroad and both leave. The wife arrives a couple of days before the husband but there has been no news of her since the time she left. The story revolves around what the husband Sameer does to get his wife back! This was very exciting as usually I get approached for biopics of athletes but this was a real-life story of a common man.

How was the experience of working in a period setting in Yaara?

It was extremely wonderful. We have heard so much about the 70’s – the Rock ‘n Roll, Drugs, Cinema, Sex and so much more! Having heard about all of this and actually portraying all of it during shooting was amazing. It was like living in the 70s with the big shirts having big collars and bell-bottoms. Yaara was a story about friendship and I feel irrespective of which era it has been set in, the friendship would remain the same! Most of us would have friends with some specific qualities. There might be somebody very quiet, somebody who gets very excited about stuff, someone who likes girls or somebody who likes the gym. Yaara is about four friends who are different people but still love each other!

Can you share some memories of working with Suriya in Anjaan?

I should say a big thank you to the entire Anjaan team! I have great memories of working down South movies and I can fondly remember how well everybody has treated me there! The way people treat an actor at the beginning of their career, especially when that actor is not even a known face, shows the kind of person they are. I have worked with Thala Ajith, Suriya and I have utter respect for them. Suriya is a genuinely good guy and will do anything for people he loves. He will be nice to anybody on the street but when it comes to friendship and people who he loves, he will go out of the way to do whatever for them. I experienced it on the sets of Anjaan! You could see the bond we shared in Anjaan. The friendship we shared on screens was a reflection of our real brotherly bond. He was like that with me and I enjoyed working with him.

Thuppaki is one of the most widely watched movies in Tamil. Can you share your experiences of working in it?

It was a lot of fun and Vijay is an amazing dude! He is one of the fittest guys in the industry and he loves action. Vijay loves to talk about action and discusses action scenes before shooting them. He loves doing action movies and one of the greatest action-heroes of our country. I genuinely believe he enjoys action with all passion! Thuppaki will always be close to me as it was the movie that gave me everything I wanted in life. It had people from across the country and not just the South, loving me! People in the North watched it too and even now, they watch in Hindi. I remember going to Vijay’s house after Thuppaki released for a success party and the way he hugged me with love and told that he was proud of me, made me feel very nice!

You visited the Shaolin Temple in China. Have you watched Suriya’s 7 aam Arivu?

I must have watched the movie in Hindi, 2 or 3 times – 7th Sense! That is one of the very few movies on martial arts that has been made in India and I feel very proud about it. Bodhidharma is one of the biggest legends that we have had. He is a real life legend who started the Shaolin Temple. I went to the Shaolin Temple just to see what is it that we haven’t done in India. We haven’t made Kalaripayattu into what its meant to be that the Shaolin Temple and Chinese have become famous for. They are not even half as old as our Sanskrithi & culture. I always wonder why people who I meet in America proudly state that they visited the Shaolin Temple but not that they visited India and learnt Kalaripayattu! I wanted to pay my respects to Bodhidharma while at the same time also identify what they have done differently, which we have not.

Tell us the inspiration behind your YouTube show X-Rayed…

To be honest, I was very bored of journalists asking me very boring questions. Some questions like what do you eat, how do you diet and how many hours do you exercise were being asked very often! However, just because somebody else eats what I eat will not turn them to be like me. Even if he trains like me, he won’t become like me. He might become something else but not me. So, the questions like how many meals do you eat a day, were right and I have also told all this. However, I realised that what makes me the man I am is not what I eat or drink and how I train; there’s more to it! This is when I also thought that any other star who has made a name for themself in the fitness or action world, would be going through the same thing. That is why, when I spoke to Tony Jaa I didn’t ask him questions like how many hours he trains! People who watch the interview would know that there are a lot of other things that he did, which makes him who he is today. All that has to come from within. This is the one thing that was similar with all the people I interviewed on my X-Rayed show! The questions I asked on my show are what I would like if journalists asked me.

Junglee is one of the most prestigious movies of your career. Tell us a little about that…

I loved the whole experience as it was a movie on elephants, which is a rarity. When we travel abroad, people talk about the elephants and camels in India. Elephants are something we worship and for me to be a part of a movie which talks about them and how to protect them, was great! It was great to meet Jackie Chan and get an award from him! Junglee was a great experience altogether! The 3-month old elephant which we shot with was 280 kgs and when I hugged him, he pushed me back hard! I learnt to be careful after that!

What goes on in your mind before you shoot for a stunt scene?

There is quite a lot that goes on in the mind but I shall tell about what actually happens! It’s like going to DisneyLand or taking a Bungee jump! Normally for a Bungee jump, you have to pay others money and they’ll tell you to jump! However, for me it’s the other way around! People pay me money and ask me to get into a running car or ask me to jump from a building. Despite being a lot of fun, it is very scary. It is impossible if somebody tells that they don’t get scared while performing action sequences! Am sure, even people like Bruce Lee, Tony Jaa and Vin Diesel would be scared. I am always thinking of how to protect myself when I do stunts or train. There is a lot of planning involved but after a while you have to leave the fear out and decide to do it!

What is your take on “Nepotism”, a word being very frequently used nowadays?

A lot of people have spoken quite a lot about it and I will just share my point. Nepotism is very good! My father was in the Indian Army and he has put in at least 10,000 people in the Army. If I have achieved something in life and you are my friend, I will definitely help you and anybody you refer. Isn’t this what we are supposed to do, as friends? If that is called nepotism, then I would say it is good! However, if my father had stopped other people getting into the Army, then that would have been bad! He did not place a roadblock for anybody. I think anybody who helps another person should never stop somebody else from benefiting. I don’t think it is cool if you stop people with creative brilliance from growing. This is what I believe in.

How much did you know Sushant Singh Rajput?

He was a part of the industry and everybody knows he was brilliant! However, praising somebody after their death doesn’t make any sense. It has become common knowledge of how good an actor and human Sushant was. I am very proud that we had someone like him in our industry and I can say that he was the James Dean of Indian Cinema. What happened to James Dean at a very young age was that he lost his life but he has been a huge legend! Like that, Sushant will be known for ever and loved forever!

What kind of Tamil movie would you want to do as a protagonist?

I am very proud to say apart from 3 Tamil movies, I’ve done two Telugu movies also. They’ve been a part of my journey and Tarak (Jr. NTR) is the first star I worked with and one of my most favourite people. I am meeting a lot of people and listening to a lot of scripts. I don’t believe in protagonists and antagonists. I started as an antagonist and people loved me. You should just enjoy what you’re doing and if people like it too, then very good! If you want to be bad, then be so bad that people should hate you! I don’t mind what kind of or how small a role I am playing, as long as it has an impact! Everything I have achieved in the Hindi film industry is thanks to my Tamil and Telugu movies!

Even children below 10 are no longer safe in our society. Do you have any techniques for them to protect themselves?

I have taught self-defence to girls and women in the past. However, you can’t train a 10-year-old child to fight against his/her own parents. We can’t and should not, too! The government has to do something for this. Telling a 6-year-old child to attack their father for abusing his mother would only make the child grow into a criminal too. This is something the government has to look into and address. Just like you asked me now, the government officials should be asked what steps they are taking. Men can’t be using their physical strength on women and vice-versa, women cannot be mentally abusing men. Men also need safety from women who lie. A government rule needs to come into place! Everybody knows about China and Shaolin Temple because the government promoted it but unfortunately, we have not done any similar thing for Kalaripayattu!

You help a lot of needy, aspiring, upcoming actors. What made you do so?

I just don’t help anybody and everybody who comes to Mumbai, wanting to act. I would love to do that too though! I would like to open a hostel to help all aspiring actors to stay while they try to find a foothold for themselves. As of now, for the needy people I know and trust, I have taken up two flats to help them out for a short while, till they find themselves an avenue. There were a few people who allowed me to stay in their house for a few days, when I came to Mumbai and they were very kind. This has made me want to give back something to deserving people.

We have excellently skilled artists, wonderful martial artists, talented athletes but they’re still not famous in the world!

People in Tamil Nadu, especially women, are crazy about you! What do you have to say to these Tamil fans?

A big “Thank you” to all those who love me! You are all part of my family – the “Jammwalians”! I would only ask everybody to be kind to people, for that is what is missing nowadays! All of you have loved me from the time I entered movies and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and I love all of you and promise to entertain you, always!

There is a famous saying “Matha Pitha Guru Deivam” and we know the fact that your mother has played all the roles in your life. Tell us about your bond with her!

I think we share a bond similar to all mothers and sons. I respect her a lot and I see divinity in her, which I guess is like any other son. Wanting to be the best son ever and endeavouring to do it everyday, is what I do. I make sure that there is not a single moment where I don’t express my love for her. I think that is what not everybody does – expressing it.

We see your social media posts about young India. How do you feel about getting so much love?

I feel very inspired when I post something on my YouTube channel and I see people from small towns and villages following them. I once got an email from a small boy in Hampi and he had actually done all the variations of push-ups in Kalaripayattu! I feel very proud to represent India and make every Indian believe that they can do anything they set their mind to!

Short & Sweet: Rapid Fire session!

Favourite South Indian dish – Idli, most of the time!
First thing to do after lockdown – A big party with all of my friends and catch up with them!
Favourite South India travel destination – Pondicherry
One thing Vidyut will never do in life – Rather, one thing I will always do is being kind!
One advice for your loved ones – Listen to your heart!
Something you miss after becoming an actor – Train travel in India!

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