The past month has been a daze for actor Kartik Aaryan. And his recent film, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, has a lot to do with it. In his latest and third collaboration with Luv Ranjan (he also directed the Pyaar Ka Punchnama series), Aaryan plays Sonu, a Delhi boy, who has extreme reservations about his best friend’s fiancée, Sweety. He thinks she is a gold digger and the film revolves around Sonu trying to protect his friend. Earlier with Pyaar ka Punchnama (PKP) series and now with Sonu ke… Aaryan has hit the sweet spot with the audiences in the category of unadulterated Indian bromance.
Even though the films have come under the scanner for having misogynistic overtones, their fan following cannot be ignored. As for the daze, it has much to do with post film success parties. Walking the ramp alongside Kareena Kapoor for Manish Malhotra in Singapore and before that at Amazon Fashion Week in Delhi, has just added to the stupor. Then there is a plethora of female fans, who are giving him much attention. “After PKP and now even more with Sonu Ke, I received a lot of female adulation. I don’t think a normal romantic film would have had the same effect. I loved playing Sonu. He has these shades of grey, is manipulative, but needs to be likeable as well. Sonu is as commercial as it gets,” says Aaryan.
Seven years after Aaryan made his debut in the popular Pyaar Ka Punchnama (2011) at 20, he feels he has duly arrived with his recent one. “Until I had the contract for PKP, I didn’t even talk about becoming an actor or entering the movie business with my parents,” says 27-year-old Aaryan, who stumbled upon Ranjan’s audition session while searching for some other project. The audition process itself took six months — look test, screen test and scenes after scenes. “Then one day, they sent me the lines of the monologue. They said if you can perform it the next day, you will have the part,” says Aaryan, who did exactly as asked.
PKP went on to become a runaway hit. Aaryan repeated the act in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 – which again went on to rake in the moolah. “After three weeks of its release, I had gone to see the film. An elderly couple watching it in the same hall came to me. The gentleman hugged me and said, ‘beta thank you. This is my story’. That’s the kind of relatability the film has — in a fun way,” says Aaryan.
The film may have done well, but has been criticised for being sexist. With the global entertainment industry taking up the #metoo and #timesup campaign, apart from strong assertion against the stereotyping of women in cinema, doesn’t Aaryan feel that such films are outdated and regressive in their subject matter? “I don’t think so. Most films have men playing the villain, what does it say about men at large? We don’t have a problem with that. Why do we get uncomfortable with women playing a negative character? I think we should give more credit to our audience. They are smart, they will not get swayed so early,” says Aaryan.
Born into a traditional middle class family in Gwalior as Kartik Tiwari, Aaryan was all set to follow the orthodox trajectory — engineering or medicine — but got “corrupted” by the influences of King Khan through Baazigar (1993). “Gwalior is as small as it gets. The town is gripped by the AIPMT/AIEEE fever. Those are the things we aim for. But I think I was all of 14 or 15 when I saw the phenomena of Shah Rukh Khan on big screen and was hooked,” says Aaryan.
Hindi films were an integral part of his growing up and frequent trips to the cinema halls de rigueur at home. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is a family favourite. My mother is a huge fan of the mainstream genre. She likes the whole larger than life experience which popular Hindi films provide — the song and dance routine and the melodrama,” he says.
“But while my family loved this make-believe world, which is so glamorous and a far cry from Gwalior, they would have never factored in the idea of me being part of this world. It was too risky. I could not run away to Mumbai. So I chose the other route — I applied to all the engineering colleges in Mumbai,” says Aaryan, enrolled at the DY Patil College of Engineering, Navi Mumbai and alongside his degree started to pursue the ‘struggle’ in Hindi film industry. “This was about nine years ago. At that point not many people posted about casting calls and auditions on Facebook and social media like today. But I scavenged what I could. I would take the train from Nerul to Versova — a two-and-a-half hour local train journey, carry a change of clothes and go for auditions,” adds Aaryan.
During one such audition, in the bylanes of Mumbai’s Aaram Nagar, the coach of an acting school, Kreating Charakters, spotted him and took him under his wing. “I trained with him for free, he said he saw potential in me. And while I was busy attending acting classes, my engineering classes had taken an extreme backseat. It reached a point that one day the teacher who knew that I’m putting all of myself in acting, said, ‘Tell me my name and I will pass you’,” says Aaryan, who now wants to work with two of his favourite directors — Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.