Firsts are special. The first love, the first cheque, the first win, the first big break, all hold a special place in our hearts and, in many ways, become the defining point of our lives. And no one exemplifies this better than Lakshya, whose journey to Bollywood is what dreams are made of. From being a Roadies contestant, to making a television debut with the youth-centric drama series, Warrior High and giving critically-acclaimed performance as the lead in India’s most expensive TV show, Porus, Lakshya has come a long way.
And now, he is the new “Dharma Boy”, who we all have our eyes on. His Bollywood debut in Karan Johar and Guneet Monga’s action thriller, Kill, which was showcased at the Toronto Film Festival recently has received an overwhelming response, so much so that he is touted as B-Town’s next action hero. That’s a first he has earned and he attributes it to hard work, and hard work only.
In an exclusive conversation with Cosmopolitan India, (also one of his many firsts) Lakshya talks about his journey as an actor, life lessons he has learned along the way, and more.
Cosmopolitan India (CI): How was the experience of watching your debut film, Kill, being showcased at the Toronto Film Festival?
Lakshya (L): Honestly, after we shot the film last year, I saw it for the first time at the Toronto Film Festival screening. I was sitting bang in the middle of an audience of 1,700 people, and their unfiltered, most honest reactions were a massive validation for me as an actor, an artist, and for everybody who was a part of that film. I don’t have words to describe the experience as I had never been at the receiving end of anything like this ever before.
CI: You are being touted as the next action hero of Bollywood. How do you feel about that?
L: I'm excited to do more of what I love: work. These titles will come and go. Also, if I start looking at roles with the intention to be ‘the next something’, I will only add a lot of pressure on myself, and I don’t work well under pressure. I’ve been working for the past eight years because I believe in this work, I love this work.
CI: What is your core memory from the shoot?
L: You know how you sometimes feel that your body is exhausted and you just can’t do it? We were shooting for 30 hours consecutively and we hadn’t slept well. I don’t easily get tired physically, but that day I was both mentally and physically exhausted. It was one of those days when I didn’t have it in me to do anything and wanted to push the schedule by a day. But somehow I motivated myself by saying that I was doing something I love. Cut to, I was able to pull off the stunt with utmost sincerity. Being able to pull that off on that particular day is something I truly remember. My last day on the shoot, too, was equally memorable. My director announced a schedule wrap for me and every person present there started clapping for me and the applause went on for like a good seven to eight minutes. It was very special.
CI: Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
L: No, acting came to me along the way. I never wanted to act because I didn't know I had it in me to be an actor. Considering where I come from (a neighbourhood in Delhi), travelling to Mumbai, and acting, let alone be a part of a Dharma film, was a faraway dream. It was a too-good-to-be-true kind a of thing for me. I came to Mumbai in 2015, when I was 18 and got an MTV show. I'm 27 now and have been working for nine years. I had never thought my life would shape up like this, but here I am.
CI: How was the transition from television to Bollywood?
L: As an actor, irrespective of the medium, your job is to act and deliver. The only thing different is my approach towards work. When I started off, I didn't know anything about this industry, its people or how it works or even how it is to be on a set. In hindsight, the six years I spent in television was a huge learning curve. It gave me the opportunity to work on myself, my aptitude, and my skills. It prepared me to play the protagonist in a film.
CI: Do you have someone who met you along the way, taught you the works, and mentored you?
L: After my last TV show, Porus, in 2018, I took a sabbatical as I wanted to try my hand at films. A few weeks had passed by and then I met Shanoo Sharma. She groomed me and brought out something in me, that I didn’t know existed. She told me I needed to unlearn a lot of things to learn new things. She said, “I know you will be a big thing one day. Just give the process more time and it will happen for you.” And eventually, it all panned out. She played an important role in where I am right now.
I really got lucky in this aspect as everybody who I met, from directors to co-actors, believed a lot in me, since the first day. I learned a lot from Kushal Zaveri, the director of Warrior High and my other director, Lalit. I also learned a lot from people who didn’t do their job well (I took notes of what not to do) as I am a very observant and try to learn from people around me. So, I have learned something from everyone who I met in these six years and am still learning.
CI: Since you do not belong to the industry, did you feel you will have to put in more work?
L: No, not at all. It didn't make any difference to me because though it is my first movie, I have experience in acting. It's not like that it was the first project of my life. You have to believe in yourself a lot to be here because unless you don’t, nobody will. Ultimately it boils down to what work you are putting in. If you work hard, it does not matter if you are a star kid or an outsider. It’s not that as an outsider I will get extra sympathy. On the other hand, a star kid may have slightly easier access to the big names, but they have to live up to the expectations of the audience and that’s quite difficult, too. Your work should speak for you as nothing else may last.
CI: You said that you went through a rigorous audition process? What did that entail?
L: For Porus, I had gained a lot of muscle mass and I was 90 kgs. Shanoo (Sharma), as part of the whole process, felt I had to lose more weight as there’s a screen approach and age. I had to come down to 80 kgs to look my age, but it was all worth it.
CI: How would you describe yourself in three words?
L: I'm extremely passionate, introvert-ish, and in transition.
CI: What’s the one piece of advice you will carry with you?
L: When Kill was screened for the first time in Toronto, and we were all on stage, including Karan (Johar) sir, I was feeling a little nervous. When we were stepping down from the stage, I asked sir if he thought I came across as passive or under-confident. That’s when he said, “You be yourself. However you feel that particular day, you stay true to it. Don’t try to be anything other than that.” Till date I abide by it and him saying that means a lot to me because I really look up to him. His belief in me is a massive validation and is bigger than any paycheck I will ever receive in my life.
CI: What is the one principal you will always abide by?
L: Be on time, always. You don't have to act cool by walking in late. It’s simple. Be respectful and be grateful for the work you get. At any given point in time, there will be people who would do anything to be in your place, so, it’s important you are aware of where you are in life.
CI: What’s your process of picking a role?
L: I follow my gut instincts. You read something, you like it and you go for it. When I heard the script for Kill the first time, my only question was, “When are we starting this? Am I a part of this?” When I meet a director, I know whether they will be true to the movie and be able to bring out the best in me and take care of me. If the director is somebody I believe in and if the material is good, I'm sold.
CI: What are you looking forward to, now?
L: I'm working on a show right now, but I can't talk more about it. I want more work and more films that bring out my talent. I want to keep working, that’s it.
CI: What is your dream role?
L: If given a chance, I would love to play Ranbir Kapoor’s character, Jordan, in Rockstar. And when I land my dream role, I think I will know, and I will wait for it.
Interview: Tanvi Parekh
Look 1: Red shirt, Qasimi; Pants, Zara; Maroon trench, Perona; Ring, Misho Designs; Necklace, Studio Love Letter; Electrical Watch (Gunmetal), Police Watches
Look 2: Fringed bomber jacket with panelled trousers, Line Outline; Ring, Misho Designs; Necklace, Studio Love Letter; Watch, Police Watches
Look 3: Denim shirt, Huemn; Watch, Police Watches
Photographer: Keegan Crasto/Public Butter at Inega Talents; Stylist: Akshay Tyagi; Editorial Coordinator: Shalini Kanojia; Hair Stylist: Arnold Dsouza; Makeup Artist: Mahima Wachher Salvi; Assistant Stylists: Sanjana Shah & Roshni Jhunjhunwala