Type to search

Artists Featured Artist Features Home Flashbox Interviews Movies & TV News & Updates

COVER STORY: “I’ll Never Be Ashamed To Talk About My Hustle,” says Siddhant Chaturvedi

The Internet and hip-hop paved the way for the actor’s breakout. Now he’s making massive moves to change the game.

Jessica Xalxo Feb 27, 2022

Our February 2022 cover features the inimitable actor Siddhant Chaturvedi. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Cameron typographic printed shirt, Invincible denim printed shirt from the Marvel Disney collection and WARDELL from the GYMINDIGO Denim Collection (Chinox super skinny fit mid-waist Jeans) by Pepe Jeans London.

Share this:

“I know my audience. Because I come from them.” 

A sweltering summer afternoon witnesses the footfall of numerous customers at the local kirana. Spurred by colorful wall murals that promise refreshing respite from the blistering heat, a league of young cricketers boisterously file into the grocery store. Among them is a young boy who requests the vendor for ek (one) chilled bottle of Coke. “Main fridge mein thanda rakhta hoon, toh uska do rupiya extra dena padega. Nahin toh garam le jao (I keep the Coke cold in the fridge so I’ll charge you two more rupees for it, otherwise you can opt for the lukewarm bottle.)” The boy is stupefied by the shopkeeper’s logic, but what he instantly gleans from his words is the unmistakable scruple of asal (real) hustle.

The varied walks of life enabled Siddhant Chaturvedi to both reflect and act on screen. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Hank casual denim shirt, Jest signature fashion denim jacket, NORISS from the POWERFLEX DENIM Collection (Vapour slim fit mid-waist jeans) by Pepe Jeans London.

From a tender age, Siddhant Chaturvedi has been “shopping for life.” Now a breakout superstar (who most recently stunned with his layered performance as businessman Zain Oberoi in Gehraiyaan), part of him yearns for anonymity, missing the pilgrimage he used to go on when his mother dispatched him to run errands. Everything was holy about this undertaking; it was during these amblings that the actor found and honed his calling, his craft. “My mom used to send me… aata piswa ke le aao, sabji khareed ke le aao (to run errands)… Ghar se leke wahan dukaan tak ka jo safar hota hai (During the journey from the home to the shop)… you see a lot of people, a lot of characters, a lot of emotions.” A sanitation worker cleans the pathway, a cluster of children play hopscotch, a man runs into a lost friend, and a person returns home after a rejection at an audition. Around and about, vagabonds too occupy niches to their heart’s abandon in Mumbai city. “These are the walks of life. It’s what gets you to bring the real and the raw to the screen where you’re not acting, you’re reflecting,” says the observant Chaturvedi. His words are reminiscent of a prescient adage he dropped in a 2019 interview with film critic Rajeev Masand: “Tu actor pehle ban ja, hero public banayegi (Become an actor first. The audience will then make you a hero.)”

“I’m not pressurized right now”

The actor’s latest release has been the polarizing Gehraiyaan that’s seemingly divided audiences and critics alike into lovers and haters. What’s constant though is that everyone has something to say about the Shakun Batra film – there’s no feigning indifference, it seems – that leaves much for audiences to chew on after the credits roll. What did Chaturvedi take away from the domestic noir? He, like his character Zain Oberoi, boils it down to choices. But the actor goes a step further and mulls over the consequences, turning introspective and philosophical. “It talks about childhood trauma. It talks about anxiety, infidelity, the rise of ambition in the urban youth – particularly how love has taken a backseat and ambition is front and center. It also talks about how people have realized they deserve better. There’s so much exposure to things on social media and there’s always this perpetual perception that there is a better life out there. It could mean that one can do better or can grow better with somebody else. Sacrifice has taken a backseat and individualism and consumerism are kind of growing,” he reflects. 

Going into Gehraiyaan, Chaturvedi reveals that he didn’t, at first, relate to its world and characters, partly because he confesses he had yet to gain the needed maturity to understand the film’s portrayal of human relationships. He now sees things differently, his judgment having faded away after the making of the movie. “In Veer-Zaara, Shah Rukh Khan spends his whole life in jail. Now, we see people who are gray, who are selfish. We see what their real motive is, what reality is. It’s not always la-la land, it’s not always like a fairy tale. It’s real. So, I think we got close to that and tried to at least reflect that on screen,” he says. Chaturvedi adds, “The film’s legacy is that it’s just going to get more relevant with time.”

Siddhant Chaturvedi thinks that cinema is no longer black and white; it’s gray. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Yen placement printed T-shirt and VECTOR from the SHIRUKU DENIM Collection (Cash straight fit mid-waist jeans) by Pepe Jeans London.

With the omnipresence of Gehraiyaan eclipsing social media timelines – do the “Doobey” memes need to stop already? – it’s a safe bet for Chaturvedi to count the endeavor as a success. In terms of film reviews, he’s had two hits (2019’s Gully Boy, 2022’s Gehraiyaan) and one major miss (2021’s Bunty Aur Babli 2): it’s no mean feat for a performer with no industry pedigree to pull off. Now, the actor is gunning to showcase his potential to the maximum number of people in the least amount of time – as part of his “panchvarshiya yojana” (five-year plan). “I’m focusing on the commercials now to have creative commerce later, to have more choices,” he says. Concurrently, Chaturvedi refuses to compromise with good work. “I’m not pressurized right now. I’m free-flowing. And once I reach my goal is when I will sit and try to make my Lagaan and Dangal, or try to come up with something beyond,” he says.

As a kid, Siddhant Chaturvedi worshiped Hindi Cinema’s greats. Every Friday, Chaturvedi and his Chartered Accountant father would swing by the Hub Multiplex in Goregaon, catching both flops and blockbusters. Not soon after he had watched his very first film at the age of five (Sohail Khan’s 1998 production Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya), did the Ballia-born actor hang the proverbial poster on the wall for Govinda, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan – bonafide silver screen legends. Beyond the theater hall, Chaturvedi’s father introduced him to the cinema of his childhood. From the classics featuring Amitabh Bachchan to the epics of Dilip Kumar, somewhere between Shakti (1982) and Lagaan (2001), Chaturvedi discovered his vision for life. “If I have done a film, I want people to watch it after 20 years and get goosebumps. I’m not talking about stardom. I’m talking about the art being superior to the artist,” he says.

Also See  Review: Peter Jackson's ‘The Beatles: Get Back’ on Disney+ Hotstar
“I’m focusing on the commercials now to have creative commerce later, to have more choices,” says Siddhant Chaturvedi. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Jean red sweatshirt by Pepe Jeans London.

Fast forward two decades and one finds that the Nineties kid did realize his sight with Gully Boy. His fierce performance as the protagonist Murad’s (Ranveer Singh) mentor MC Sher impressed audiences and critics. The film, loosely based on the stories of Mumbai rappers Divine and Naezy, brought India’s thriving hip-hop landscape into the mainstream, catapulting Chaturvedi as a talent to keep an eye on. The actor could barely manage to find dates for the projects he was offered in the aftermath. But the phone didn’t always ring with positive fortune for Chaturvedi. The journey of his overnight success took nearly a decade.

“It is very difficult to break into the industry”

The year was 2014. 12 months ago, Chaturvedi had completed his graduation from an SVKM Institute in Vile Parle, won The Times of India’s Fresh Face collegiate pageant and would soon drop out of the rat race to become a Chartered Accountant. He had begun auditioning at the end of his teenage years for ads, films, web series – whatever would come his way. He wasn’t ready for what the underbelly of the entertainment industry would pose. Years of struggle would see him attend fake demos, get duped by portfolio agents and even literally run away from the infamous and insidious casting couch. “They were scary, scary things,” Chaturvedi recalls. Those events led him to develop whale skin.

“If you can’t win the game, then change the game,” says Siddhant Chaturvedi. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Cameron typographic printed shirt, Invincible denim printed shirt from the Marvel Disney collection and WARDELL from the GYMINDIGO Denim Collection (Chinox super skinny fit mid-waist Jeans) by Pepe Jeans London.

At the age of 20, he experienced his most defining victory and failure. He was nearly finalized for a role in the remake of the cult 2007 Telugu film Happy Days alongside actors Disha Patani, Sharvari Wagh (whom he would co-star with in Bunty Aur Babli 2) and Ayush Mehra. Over six months, Chaturvedi had slipped into the skin of the character, straightening his curly locks and living with the realities of the role. When the day of the final call arrived, he broke down – the project had been scrapped. “At that age, it was a big deal for me. It was like a breakup, to be honest. I had already imagined buying my parents a new house and everything. Now, there was nobody. I was alone at home and I didn’t have anyone because sabko bol diya tha ki main hero ban raha hoon, toh unko toh bol nahi sakte ki nahi hua. Sharam aati hai. Samajh nahi aa raha tha ki main kya karoon (I had told everyone that I’m becoming a hero soon, so I couldn’t call them and tell them what had just happened. I felt ashamed. What was I to do now?)”. 

“I do listen to Prabh Deep, Divine, Sidhu Moose Wala when I feel low. It lifts me up.”

— Siddhant Chaturvedi

Chaturvedi awoke the next day and shaved his short mane. In a way, he was reborn. “It is very difficult to break into the industry; it can break you mentally. I’ve been there, so I’ll never be ashamed to talk about my hustle,” he says. Chaturvedi adds, “I was a huge fan of Shah Rukh Khan, because when I was struggling, I could relate to him as he was an outsider and he made it big. He was my inspiration throughout my struggling days. I also remember following Sushant Singh Rajput, Ayushmann Khurrana and Akshay Kumar for inspiration. They too had come from nowhere and made it big.” He invokes his respect for hip-hop when talking about life before fame. “I do listen to Prabh Deep, Divine, Sidhu Moose Wala when I feel low. It lifts me up, it reminds me of where I come from, and reminds me we have the same problems,” he says, “I’m really really happy that I’m one tiny part of this huge movement [with Gully Boy].”

“I wanted to become an actor for the celluloid, for the big screen.”

— Siddhant Chaturvedi

While the Zoya Akhtar film made Chaturvedi a household name, the actor had been gradually gaining recognition for the past three years with key roles in Tarun Jain’s Life Sahi Hai (2016) and Karan Anshuman’s International Emmy-nominated series Inside Edge (2017). The road to cinema – Chaturvedi’s ultimate dream – bore both choice and compromise. Chaturvedi explains, “I wanted to become an actor for the celluloid, for the big screen. I’m a huge fan of web shows, but in India, I feel that people love cinema and the community experience. You may throw hundreds of web shows at me, but if you give me a grand film on a Friday in the theater, I would want to go, have popcorn and watch it with my friends and family.” Balancing his aspirations and options, the young actor would go to Juhu beach and train in martial arts where he would meet with fellow aspirants, finding common ground. “They were all waiting, ki nahi (that no), I will only do big roles,” he shares, “But I was like yaar (damn), how do you break that pattern? Because if you follow the same route of a hundred people, you’ll never reach there, because there are thousands before you. So what do you do? I thought if you can’t win the game, then change the game.” 

Also See  COVER STORY: 'The Internet Made Me Who I Am,' says Mithila Palkar
Siddhant Chaturvedi’s arduous early days in the entertainment industry led him to develop whale skin. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Hank casual denim shirt, Jest signature fashion denim jacket, NORISS from the POWERFLEX DENIM Collection (Vapour slim fit mid-waist jeans) by Pepe Jeans London.

Siddhant Chaturvedi was looking for a way into the industry, to see his name rolling in the credits if not headlining a poster. “There’s nobody who’s launching you; nobody’s waiting to make you a hero. I had to prove my performance,” he says. During this period, Chaturvedi even weighed the pros and cons of putting his fluid dance skills to the test by auditioning for reality shows. Work was hard to come by and he was looking to feed his hunger of performing. As he mined for opportunities, India’s Internet revolution was brewing with shows like Permanent Roommates (2014), Baked (2015), Pitchers (2015), Bang Baaja Baaraat (2015) and more paving the way for the country’s OTT appetite. “People were really enjoying and consuming them, and these actors were slowly becoming stars. I was like yaar (damn), this is something new, and I think this is the future. I wanted to be one of the first guys to step on the moon. I didn’t know if this would give me a boost to go to films, but I thought that you know what? Let’s just start with it.” 

Siddhant Chaturvedi on the cover of Rolling Stone India’s February 2022 issue. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Hank casual denim shirt, Jest signature fashion denim jacket, NORISS from the POWERFLEX DENIM Collection (Vapour slim fit mid-waist jeans) by Pepe Jeans London.

Life Sahi Hai happened and it was helmed by a team comprising cult 2011 film Pyaar Ka Punchnama’s writer-director Luv Ranjan. Herein, Chaturvedi played the corporate slave Sahil Hooda who had just moved to New Delhi to start an independent life with his roommates. From here, the actor would surf the Internet wave and land the role of rookie fast bowler Prashant Kanaujia in Amazon Originals’ first Hindi-language series Inside Edge – the project that would ultimately give him his Bollywood break. The story is now infamous but legend goes that Chaturvedi was putting his best foot forward to the tune of “Main Toh Raste Se Ja Raha Tha” (the popular 1995 song picturized on Govinda and Karisma Kapoor) when director Zoya Akhtar spotted him at the Inside Edge success party. She invited him to audition for Gully Boy and the rest is history.

“My dad doesn’t know anybody from the industry. I’ll never forget where I come from.”

— Siddhant Chaturvedi

“The web has got me here and introduced me to the audience,” says Chaturvedi, “And people can watch my work, from Life Sahi Hai, and know that bro, this boy has really hustled. It’s not like I come from a film background. My dad doesn’t know anybody from the industry. I’ll never forget where I come from.” The actor underlines the fact that he’s an outsider who had nary a link or tie to the trade; he had no understanding of its machinations or getting a foot in the door. “Even if you have the slightest connection, like if your dad is a technician in the industry, it still kind of helps, but my dad is a C.A. And I stay in Goregaon – it’s not like I stay in Bandra or Juhu or Andheri West where most of the activity happens. Goregaon mein filmi mahol hi nahi tha (Goregaon didn’t have a Bollywood environment.)”

“There’s nobody who’s launching you; nobody’s waiting to make you a hero. I had to prove my performance,” says Siddhant Chaturvedi. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Yen placement printed T-shirt and VECTOR from the SHIRUKU DENIM Collection (Cash straight fit mid-waist jeans) by Pepe Jeans London.

Chaturvedi’s parents became his backbone as they supported him through the roller coaster highs and lows that would permeate his path as an aspiring actor. “It’s a tough life, beta (son). We too have to be tough,” they would say to him. “They’re now the proudest parents,” Chaturvedi shares as he’s signed films with established production houses such as Yash Raj Films (Bunty Aur Babli 2), Dharma Productions (Gehraiyaan), Excel Entertainment (Phone Bhoot, Yudhra) and more. Contemplating on the struggle to stardom, he adds, “Life’s not easy, but you have to get back up and fight. I can take rejection, I can take a lot of things. Fate plays a huge part in everything. You don’t run the world. There are forces which do, and you just have to keep your head down and keep working.” 

Chaturvedi knows the industry now, and he’s making moves accordingly, but he still wants to hold on to some of the lessons and life of the past. “I’m glad all that happened because I’m much stronger now. I know the business. The bigger I get, it’s only getting tougher by the day; everybody’s trying to get you. So yeah, I still stay with my parents because they keep me sane. I still have the same friends and I still live in Goregaon. That’s how I want to keep it. Simple, but I’ll kill it when given a mic or a stage,” he says.

“We’re big, we’re huge”

The actor acknowledges that choices can go wrong – especially due to the pandemic that has adversely impacted industries across the globe. The massive disruption in livelihoods due to COVID-19 didn’t leave the entertainment trade unscathed either. On the positive side, it does seem to have altered consumers’ patterns to lean towards diverse platforms of visual art, whether it be cinema, television or OTT. And Chaturvedi finds an edge in this healing, rebounding landscape. “I come from the starting point of the digital influx. I want to play T20, I want to play Test, I want to play ODI – all three formats. I can go anywhere right now. I can do a film in theaters, I can come on OTT, I can do a limited series on the web. So, I think I’m going to play all three formats to my advantage,” he says, “I’m open to exploring as long as I really enjoy the script and characters, and people connect with it.”

Siddhant Chaturvedi wants the world to witness the diversity of Indian talent; he wants to dispel stereotypes. Photographed by Kunal Gupta for Rolling Stone India. Wardrobe: Jean red sweatshirt by Pepe Jeans London.

Siddhant Chaturvedi is now looking forward to surprising himself as well as the audience. He wants to tap into different genres whether it be action, comedy, drama, romance and so on. “As an actor, you need to be like water,” he says, “You need to be able to do everything. And when people know my capabilities as an actor, then I will excite them with the choices I make.” He particularly wants to inspire individuals to consciously chase their goals and dreams. “There are a lot of young people who want to do so many things, who are restricted by their circumstances because their families are pressuring them to be a doctor or an engineer. And I think there’s a lot of talent in India; we’re big, we’re huge. I want to inspire people so that they really get to do what they want to do,” he says. What’s his ultimate aim? To find acclaim on the global stage. The actor wants the world to witness the diversity of Indian talent; he wants to dispel stereotypes. Chaturvedi says, “South Korea is there and we need to go there. A lot of countries are now getting on the big stage internationally. So, I want to bring the Indian flavor to audiences out there.”

Wardrobe Courtesy: Pepe Jeans London
Creative Director: Tanvi Shah
Fashion Editor: Neelangana Vasudev
Brand Director: Tulsi Bavishi
Photographer: Kunal Gupta
Hair: Gautam Arora
Makeup: Poonam Surve

Cover Interview by: Jessica Xalxo

Share this:
Tags:

You Might also Like