IT WAS IN 2008 that Prateik Babbar made his debut with Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na. Although, he had limited screen time, he managed to leave a positive impression on everyone as a moody, sarcastic, jealous and yet adorable Amit, younger brother of Aditi (played by Genelia D’Souza), who has a white mouse as a pet. Over the years, Prateik worked in several interesting films, including Mulk, Umrika, My Friend Pinto, Chhichhore and critically-acclaimed Dhobi Ghat. He also made his debut in a lead role in Ekk Deewana Tha opposite Amy Jackson. However, nothing brought him praises the way his role as Jay Wadia in the web series Four More Shots Please! did. As he forays into the world of audio with a narration of Durjoy Dutta’s novel The Last Girl to Fall in Love for Audible, we catch up with the actor. Excerpts:
Q: Congratulations on the audiobook. Share with us your experience of lending your voice to an audiobook.
This was the first time that I have narrated an audiobook, and it was a very enriching experience. I haven’t felt so in tune with my craft or with myself as an artiste before this. For about four weeks, I was in the studio all by myself. Of course, I was speaking to the team at Audible but I really felt like I was the captain of the ship. It was a huge responsibility but it drove me, even more, to perform better. I would shut out everything while I was performing, and the experience was engaging and immersive. It made me connect with the artiste in me, the performer in me.
Q: What does narrating a book demand from an artiste? And, are you a fan of romantic novels?
A clear head is very important. You obviously have to understand the content and make sure that you are enunciating and pronouncing correctly so that the audience can understand what you are saying. I haven’t read many books but I like fiction, love stories and bits of everything. Actually, the story and the characters should resonate with me whether the book belongs to crime, love, supernatural or any other genre.
Q: You started with Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, which got you appreciation and so did many of your films but you were a revelation in Four More Shots Please! Was it the role, script or have you evolved as an actor over the years?
I think a little bit of everything. It was an absolute evolution, as an actor as well as a human being. The character was lovely! Jay is charming, lovable and a very good friend and boyfriend. Besides, the show is very contemporary and everybody loves it. I think I got lucky with this show and this character. It has been one hell of a roller coaster ride and we are looking forward to more seasons.
Q: Your filmography is very interesting — Dhobi Ghat, Dum Maaro Dum, Aarakshan, My Friend Pinto, Umrika, Baaghi 2 and Mulk — what is it that attracts you to a film?
Of course, the character and the story. But, I also look for a wow factor — something that’s impactful, that cannot go amiss. I have tried my level best to choose characters that are extremely impactful in a story.
Q: Which role of yours do you hold very dearly?
Jay is obviously important but Dhobi Ghat is extremely close to me, it has been an extremely special journey for me. There is another one coming up, Cobalt Blue. It is a remake of a novel (by Sachin Kundalkar). The story is very enriching and I had an extremely heartfelt experience working on that project. I was in love with my character and everybody on the set. It was a very love-filled atmosphere. It is a Netflix original film, and I hope it releases this year.
Also read | Prateik Babbar shares emotional tribute for his 'mama queen' Smita Patil
Q: About four years ago, you spoke about drug addiction, a battle that began at the age of 13. How important was it for you to talk about it?
It was extremely important for me to talk about it. It was very much a part of my life while growing up… and what really killed me from the inside was the fact that people had no idea of that part of my life. They knew me as someone who acts and that’s it. I felt people, who love and appreciate me, deserve to know the truth about what had and has been going on in my life. Yes, it was a huge load off my chest and no matter what the consequences were or will be even; my fans, followers and admirers deserved to know about all of that, and that’s why I spoke about it.
Q: Artistes are emotionally vulnerable. And for somebody who has dealt with a lot of pent-up emotions, how challenging has the last year been?
It has been such a question mark for everybody across the world and not just me. There were a few months where absolutely nothing was going on, I utilised those months to meet and bond with my family and friends, apart from the usual routine of eating healthy and making sure I was looking after my mental and physical health. Thankfully, we had started shooting towards the end of September. It wasn’t full-fledged but I finished a few projects. It started with a Netflix film in October and then I worked with Akshay Kumar for Bachchan Pandey, immediately after that I shot for a film with Madhur Bandharkar (India Lockdown) and then I shot for a show directed by Kunal Kohli for Lionsgate Play. So, I have actually been working from September to March, and then lockdown 2.0 happened. But, I have to admit that work keeps me sane and brings the balance that I require in my life to remain positive, productive and proactive. The more work I have the more positive and happy I feel.
Q: Your parents - Smita Patil and Raj Babbar - were massive stars. Do you feel pressure to live up to the legacy?
Absolutely, it is a huge responsibility and a lot of pressure. They were absolute legends and overachievers in their own right so there is pressure. But knowing that my parents were such amazing and inspiring artist, I also feel a sense of extreme pride, and their achievements make me work harder. And, yes, there is that much more to prove but I have always taken it in my stride. I use my parents’ achievement as fuel for my own career. Them being who they were makes it that much more difficult and that much more easy (at the same time).
Q: You recently made your Tamil debut with Darbaar. Are we going to see you doing more work in Kollywood and perhaps branch out into other languages?
Absolutely. I loved working on this film. It was a wonderful experience working with Rajnikanth. What an aura, what energy… he is an institution. The crew was so loving and caring, I felt very well looked after. So, I would absolutely love to work in the South Indian film industry but the right project has to come by.
The Last Girl to Fall in Love is available on Audible now.