Sahil Khattar: ‘Now the Only Barrier to Break Is Superstardom’
The YouTuber, television host and actor shares anecdotes from his time on the sets of the recently released film ‘83,’ what he has planned for 2022 and more
From being the face of the very successful YouTube channel BeingIndian to anchoring the 2018 FIFA World Cup telecast for India as well as appearing on the big screen for films such as 200 Halla Ho and the just-released 83, Sahil Khattar has done it all.
Watch our interview with Khattar above or read excerpts below as he talks to us about where gets his drive from for all his pursuits, playing the role of Indian cricketer and winner of the 1983 World Cup Syed Kirmani, his love for playing FIFA and more.
Firstly, congratulations on 83 doing so well.
Thank you so much. It’s not just 83 I’m happy about. It’s the whole way my career has shaped up. To be honest, you know, when you see a guy like me, you will only think, “I don’t know, there are only certain kinds of roles that he can do or certain kinds of projects that he can associate himself with.” But I’m very happy that I have broken most of the barriers. Actually, there is nothing left to break. Now the only barrier to break is superstardom.
I think you were born about eight years after India won its first Cricket World Cup. When did you first become aware of this historic event in Indian cricket?
So, I’m a GK (general knowledge) freak. I was part of my school’s quizzing team and I was into everything: singing, plays, all of those things. So in school, I knew that Kapil Dev’s 175 is the second-highest score because the highest at that time was Gary Kirsten. So after that, I also knew about (Syed) Kirmani and Kapil Dev’s partnership. Syed Kirmani was such a pillar for the ninth wicket. So I knew it for a long time; it’s everybody else who wanted to know and wanted to discover this. And thank God for the will and the zeal that I have to learn, which is every day, because we are forever learners I feel. I am one of those who is forever learning and nothing else. So thanks to that I could know each and every detail about ’83, the macro details.
You mentioned Syed Kirmani. What was it like having to play the role of a real-life sportsman, and learning his mannerisms? And I think you also met him before shooting?
So what happened was that the first time I met him was on the field, while I was wearing gloves and pads as a wicketkeeper. And wicketkeeping as a skill was alien to me because we did batting and bowling as kids. I was one of those boys who was always with the team, energizing the team. But Mr. Kirmani walks in and the first thing he does when he sees me, he actually called me “Kiri bhai.” So when his first words were Kiri bhai to me, I knew 50 percent of the things were done. And then he taught me how flowy his hands were; if you’ve seen the stumpings that we’ve done in 83, you will know that the flow was very much like him. Some of the footwork was very Kiri bhai. When he played the shot, he had a very unorthodox way of batting. So if you see that four that I come in and hit in the Zimbabwe match after everybody else is getting out—that four is a very mid-on-ish flick. Normally a flick goes between midwicket, deep square leg, right? It’s very mid-on-ish, and that’s because he had a very unorthodox way of playing. So to understand all those things, I had to spend time with him. And he had some gestures which were really beautiful. The way he talks, the way he walks, everything was just so elegant, so graceful, so cool. I had to imbibe the character of a Hyderabadi nawabi cricketer. That’s what the brief in my head was. And I really hope I did some justice to it.
Are there any other anecdotes from the set that stand out for you?
The scene that has gone most viral between me and Ranveer (Singh), which is when I walk in. So when that scene happened it was funny because I came from a background of YouTubing, anchoring, all of those things. But when that shot happened, Ranveer was stunned. Kabir (Khan) was flabbergasted. In 30 seconds nobody said cut. And I’m like, “What is happening? Why isn’t anybody calling cut?” And then I turned and the camera was on me. I realized that the shot was so good, they continued it and as soon as that happened, Kabir called cut and there was a thunderous applause on the set. In a film filled with movie stars—you name them we have them—and a YouTuber, ex-anchor or whatever you want to call it, radio jockey, gets an applause for his acting, it just puts my faith back in humanity and learning.
Stepping away from just cricket. I know you’re also quite a sports buff. I remember you hosting the FIFA World Cup telecast in India in 2018. What was that experience like interacting with those ex-pros in the studio and having to anchor that tournament for us to watch here in India?
A lot of people in the football world in India ask the same question: Why isn’t football as popular as cricket? But that’s how life is sometimes. Some things are not like that. But when I hosted it, I realized the number is massive because as Indians we are a massive population, as compared to cricket, it’s less. But as compared to other countries, we’ve got a great number of football fans, that was sublime. It was surreal to host the FIFA World Cup, the biggest tournament football ever had on this planet, and you’re the face for a country? How could I give it up? The fact that I was able to do it, I was able to pull it off. I was always into football and I’m a FIFA buff actually. I played FIFA in the lockdown for at least 12 hours a day. It was that bad. So I knew football like the back of my hand. Like how I know cricket, like how I know hockey, like how I know NBA, like how I know every other sport because I’m into sports, mostly because it started as a child. When I used to play roller hockey, I represented India and I won a bronze medal in the Asian Games. Since then, I’ve just never looked back when it comes to sports. So whether it’s football, whether it’s cricket, I love to anchor. I don’t know how much I’m going to anchor now. Because I don’t know where life is going. Is it acting, is anchoring, is it YouTubing? I want to do everything, that’s for sure.
Your latest video on the BeingIndian YouTube channel is of you playing FIFA. How much do you enjoy gaming?
Depends on what kind of games I’m playing. I don’t enjoy anything but FIFA. It is so bad. Every year when FIFA comes out, I’ll just buy it. All my friends criticize me so much for buying only that. I said I only play FIFA, I can’t help it. Also because when we used to play roller hockey, I used to imbibe a lot of footballing tropes into the game and that is why I got better than the other players quicker. I represented India when I was I was very young, 17 or 18. I don’t even remember. Well, who represents the senior team at 17 or 18? That is Sachin Tendulkar vibes. Nobody used to do a through ball in roller hockey. I started it in the country. I used to play a lot of football back then also on the gaming consoles and that really helped in improving my game, but FIFA is heart. They say turn all your passions into work and then you see the heights of success in the best way possible. That’s what I did here also. I was like, let’s do a format called FIFA Wars. Let’s get my friends who have clout and let’s play FIFA [laughs].
You talked about going from RJ-ing to anchoring and acting. I mean of course, being a YouTuber your face is plastered all over the internet. What is it that drives you to keep delivering all this varied content because there are so many verticals to your work and personality?
As children, we’ve all had dreams. We’ve all seen ourselves doing so many things or imagined ourselves in so many things. The funny thing is I have seen myself do everything that I wanted to see myself doing. I wanted to create content that is BeingIndian. I wanted to anchor big shows and that is the FIFA World Cup and Dance India Dance. I wanted to be in films. I did 200 Halla Ho, and I did 83. Both of them are of real-life personalities and imbibing them. What really drives me is the fact that I want to reach where I want to reach and then also not rest. Because even if you look at the biggest stars in the world, you look at The Rock, right now he is, wow! He’s also doing everything.
But coming back to the answer, I’ve always wanted to see where I wanted to go. And I always wanted some success in it. And now also, I’m just pursuing that fact, once I reach superstardom, or the game of producing, acting wherever life takes me or wherever I want to go because there’s always a detour to it. Once I reach that, then the fight will be about how to stay on top; the fight is never going to stop. Likewise, the learning is never going to stop. And if the learning doesn’t stop, the fight doesn’t stop and the success doesn’t stop. So because of all these things, I keep on doing so much varied stuff. And the drive comes from the fact that I’ve seen myself go hungry without food, walking five kilometers to save ₹11. Because when I came to Bombay, the minimum fare of rickshaws was ₹11. And now I don’t want to see that anymore. I mean, thank God, now things are better. I’ve called my parents to Bombay because they were living in Chandigarh; I can take care of them, I can take care of my family, I’m just happy that I’m able to do all that. Now the idea is how to make it grow, how to reach the top, how to be The Rock of India.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2022, what’s in store for you?
I can give you an overview that this year is going to be a lot of hustle, a lot of hard work and a lot of homework. The three Hs are going to be followed by the three Ps, which is passion, perseverance and persistence. So 2022, I know for a fact that I want to hold the narrative in my hand because I can. Now that I’m in the co-owning space of BeingIndian, I’m the authority of BeingIndian; earlier it was controlled by a company. I’m really glad about the companies that chose me as the guy to run this YouTube channel to create more content because this is where life is going. Holding the narrative I said, I told you, whether it’s non-fiction, whether it’s fiction, that is where I want to go.