INTERVIEW| 'I am a hopeless romantic': Aashim Gulati on playing brooding lover Salim in Zee5’s Taj: Divided by Blood
He also tells us about his effortless fashion sense, fitness goals and more about the period-drama.
Period dramas are one the most watched genres in India given the country’s centuries of dynasty rule. They’re loved for being a montage of drama, nail-biting action, conspiratorial plots, dreamy romance and more packed all in moving narratives brought alive in shows and movies. Recall hits like Jodha Akbar, Mughal-E-Azam, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat and joining them is the new Zee5 drama series Taj: Divided By Blood enacted by an ensemble cast of Dharmendra, Naseeruddin Shah, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aashim Gulati, Zarina Wahab and more. We speak to Aashim from the series who plays the role of Salim aka Jehangir, the fourth Mughal ruler infamous for more things than being a celebrated prince. However, he’s remembered the most as a brooding lover of Anarkali with whom he had an affair that ensued a tragic end to one of the greatest love stories of that time. Aashim’s acting journey began right at school when he pursued theatre and won accolades as best actor. He has previously featured in shows like mystery series Hostages, drama show Dil Sambhal Ja Zara and Gulmohar Grand. The actor talks to us about his love for underwater adventures, whacky fashion sense, and why fitness is more than physical looks.
You play Salim in the series who is a lover of arts and romance. Did you relate to his character traits?None!(laughs) Factually, Salim had around 24 wives and I have none (chuckles). But I do love music and poetry. I listen to old Hindi songs, write and listen to poetry. I relate with him for who he becomes when he’s with Anarkali — a hopeless romantic, which I am. During my research, I got to know about many unfamiliar facts about Salim. While history portrays him as an alcoholic or a womaniser, many didn’t know that he was also a just ruler. He built this Chain of Justice at Agra Fort to solve the grievances of people. He wanted to help people and stand by what’s right and that’s what makes him special in the show. He didn’t want the throne. He wanted all the brothers to be together and live as one family.
Speaking of historical characters, how challenging is it to play them given they’re already written about in a certain way?
I don’t think playing historical actors limits me as a performer. But it was tough in other ways where I have to prepare for so much in less time. From learning horse-riding to sword-fighting and more, it required me to be physically, mentally and emotionally sound. I was constantly vigilant about not losing the essence of Salim in my head.
Is there any learning from the acting field that you apply in personal life?
Acting has taught me to be in the moment and be aware of my surroundings. Today, we have a habit of talking to somebody and constantly looking at our phones and being distracted. When you are talking to somebody, you have to be mentally present with them. My field has taught me to be honest with myself. If you’re not convincing as an actor, you will not be received well. People like to watch honest performances. If you’re lying, you get caught! Likewise in life, you have to be true to who you are. That will let you sleep well at night.
What is your fitness mantra?
Over the years, I have tried everything in terms of diet and realised that what our grandparents used to tell us about simple ghar ka khana (homemade food) is the best, is indeed true. I ensure my food plate has all colours and I am taking a balanced meal. I don’t over-eat and make sure my meals have a 2-3 hour gap. Fitness is not just about lifting weights. Movement in general is essential. There are days when I don’t feel like working out; those days I go for a run, walk, skipping or do yoga. My idea of fitness is not just to look aesthetic but also keep my sleeping patterns, eating habits and breathing patterns in check.
You do move a lot as we constantly see you posting about travelling places. Are you an adventure enthusiast?
Yes, I love the oceans and going underwater. I do scuba diving and have done an advanced diving course, so very soon I’m going to plunge in some more dives! Being underwater is surreal and that’s where you understand the value of breathing and life because every breath holds so much meaning. While seeking adventures, I am also a culture enthusiast. I have started pursing Indian classical music because I always wanted to sing.
How’d you describe your fashion sense?
Honestly, I think anything which is simple is fashionable which may sound contradictory. My style completely depends on how I’m feeling a certain day. Some days it could be just a plain black t-shirt or black jeans paired with black boots. On other days, it could be a floral shirt with some wild crazy pants finished with messed up hair. I keep experimenting with myself by dressing in these crazy outfits at times which are not 'normal’ casual wear.
What are your future projects?
You’d see me next in Amazon Prime series Jee Karda where I am playing a Punjabi popstar. Another is Netflix web series Chuna where I play a goon from UP and Voot’s American series Jane the Virgin, apart from some other projects.
Taj: Divided By Blood is streaming on Zee5.