Since this was a war movie, what was the pressure as an actor?
Firstly when you act for a war film, you are playing a real character and this tends to be pressuring and when you play the role of soldier it is because the family of the soldier will be watching the movie, and when they watch the movie they expect a lot and I just pray that I give my best and be loyal towards my role, and I was very lucky to work with J. P. Dutta, from whom I got great chance to learn.
He has worked with great actors for LOC and this is my 3rd year in Bollywood and now that I've received this role, it has a certain pressure and I've also had army background. I've been born and brought up at an army hospital and I studied from army school, my father was a soldier.
I've always seen him in army dress and I know how things work there I know what are the manners to talk, but when J. P. Dutta sir gave me my characters file the way he has written letters to his mother, girlfriend you instantly tend to get goosebumps the same second. JP sir is known for his war films, the way he connects emotions and because of this, he might be one of the best war film directors in Bollywood. I'm very happy and lucky for a chance to work with him.
You come from an army background, have you ever thought of joining the army?
My father always wanted me to join the army, and he was also a trainer there. He knew I never used to study and I always used to fight. Since I had good physique he always thought I might get into the army but my real interest was being an actor. He forced me to attempt the first entrance test for the army and I passed that.
When it next came to medical and written test, I thought I could never be an actor, so while I was 17 I ran away from home and my dad did not talk to me for 2-3 years. As my whole family served the country he didn't even ask me if I did well? How was I doing? What am I working for? But, later when I played the role of Ram in Ramayan 2009 my father was a bit impressed and he dropped his anger.
He said, "TV pe tu teer aur Dhanush chala raha hay aur filmo may toffe chala raha hay" now I don't have to look back and today I have a very emotional connection with my dad and he is where happy.
What was your 'Father's' comment after watching the Paltan trailer?
He could totally connect with the trailer, as the 1967 war was something that each and every soldier knew but then no common man knew about it.
They never knew as many soldiers sacrificed their lives for our motherland but we won the war and thanks to the soldiers that even today Sikkim is still a part of India.
So all of us must think what the families of all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country as the media did not cover the story and was kept confidential by the officials. And since my father was an army man he said through this movie people can actually know about this war, he also believes children should also be taught about this war through textbooks.
As the film also screens emotional drama, which did you experience more; emotional trauma or action sequence?
Emotional trauma, as we used real guns and ammunition, other than 4-5 actor and every other guy was a soldier, in fact, even the cars and trucks which arrived were also from the army. Since I played the character I always felt bad because our Indian soldiers who sacrifice themselves could never connect with the outside world as the area is covered with mountains. And you start feeling this, when I reached the climax I had gone through emotional trauma.
I approached JP sir crying, I told him I cannot do this, it's very emotional for me because I cannot imagine what my character must have felt. He said Gurmeet ive never casted anyone, casting has already been done from above, and this has a certain strength to it, they themselves decide which actor would be playing which role, I think it was an emotional journey which film should I choose and it's different.
JP sir acted as you fatherly figure what was your experience with him?
I've been a 'Pankha' of JP sir he's a god for me, because when border was released my father was posted to Srinagar, I still remember when dad used to get out of camp firing started, so the 3 years of my life sitting in Bhojpur I've prayed that for my father to return in evening. And at that time border was being played and it was an open theater, all the families all the soldiers would attend the screening, it was an amazing experience, this is the kind of situation I've come from.
If you ask a soldier why he chose to be an army man, 90%of the soldiers have been enrolled after watching the 'Border' 1998. This is the kind of impact that Bollywood has had on the people. It is very embarrassing after Border we had hardly any war movies which released in the past 10 years.
I've watched border number of times and my favorite dialogue is when the Pakistani soldier in tank says 'Iinehe Jawab do'.
How was your experience using real ammunition?
No I wasn't scared, 'Meri Fatti Padi thi' all the actors were preparing for the scenes and you are using real bullets it was a very scary moment, you pray no one gets shot, you have a very great responsibility, I was scared and hoped cameraman doesn't get shot it was tough.
When you get into the character, wear the camouflage, the army uniform, and handle real guns, bullets, and everything was real and you have a great responsibility, I don't think any filmmaker can achieve that. Its raw, you know its a J. P. Dutta film is releasing.
Until you worked for television and you are being loved by everyone, you are being respected by everyone, and now that you have started with Bollywood, how do you feel now that you have a huge fan base, and how do you take that?
Its almost been 10 years that I did Ramayan, and if you ask any journalist how I am even today, you won't find any difference, I haven't changed since then. It is very important to be who you are and what you are.
Generally, when you are blessed with Limelight, it becomes very difficult to handle that, maybe I was prepared for that since my childhood, and I got respect for it and since then I've been working very hard. So my fans praise me for my work and my nature, it will be the same throughout my life. So all the fan base I had from television I've roped them to Bollywood.
Now that the famous actors and directors are busy, it is very difficult for them to cast so that is where I come in directors want an actor who also has a good fan following if that didn't happen I wouldn't have done a film. Television is like a god to me! And I would never forget the 2 people who gave me a chance in Ramayan, Ramanand Sagar who saw me as Ram and second one was Mukesh Bhatt who gave me a break in films.
Will you appear on television?
Obviously, Why not? I would always love to come back to television, but the problem is the schedule for movies are set and it becomes very difficult to do daily soaps or web-series. We should not forget television has a huge audience.
I want to balance that, I want to make sure that I keep the quality, still today I am called for television awards even today, I perform there and I want to make sure I have a balanced audience and this is the reason why I would like to appear on television.
I focus on doing action and dance movies as I feel they are my trump cards which can be useful for me. I still haven't got a chance to explore these genres. I feel I'm best at that and no one in the industry has got a chance to watch that.
Which movies can we expect next?
I've already been signed by JP sir for the next 4 films. It is a very genuine thing when you've worked with a director and he has already signed you for another movie and you get that confidence working with the same director. It's been going well since the launch of Paltan trailer now, even more, are approaching and that is a very good thing. After the promotions ill start working for it.
What is the character that you'll be playing in these films?
Its something different, since the films will be directed by JP sir, it will be a huge film, the huge characters huge story they are bound to be larger than life. So one of the films will be shot outside India so it will be something different.
Can we see you doing a comedy role any time soon?
I believe, I can nail the comedy part as in our group I feel I'm the funniest guy, and it will be very interesting for the audience to watch.
What were the funniest moments behind the camera on the sets of Paltan?
Since there was no girl on the set, no one got a chance to get busy with her. All the boys were busy amongst themselves and no network, so every guy used to only look at each other, and it was a good thing we all were straight, so that was no tension. And since Arjun Rampal was on the set, its bound to get funnier he would always take it on a next level.
The only remaining thing was to break door and windows other than that we went through heck lot of madness. Since there was no network, it was very difficult to connect with people, since I'm a family person I missed my family and friends. My best friend Debina so she is my friend and I'm her girlfriend, so I really missed that.
Was there any incident that you faced while shooting for the film at Ladakh due to climatic conditions?
Due to some reason I had to take medical attention as I was running for more than 3-4 kilometers I was doing completely fine, but all of a sudden while walking I felt I was choking and couldn't feel my breath, so it was very bad.
Thanks to our Indian Army ambulance I was assisted with medical attention. I didn't know what happened but the whole team was scared. I was attended with oxygen cylinders for the whole night. And the next day we started shooting.
What was the preparation that was done by your side for your character since it was a real character?
I got the file 3 days and JP sir altogether has a totally different style of preparation and he gave me the file and told me this is the character that you will be doing, on the sets he used to tell me your character talks in Haryanvi also and various other languages, so luckily one of my friend who is from Haryana I had heard him talking in Haryanvi so I learned it from him as it was a huge challenge for me plus JP sir supported me saying how the character is how it is to be played since I had no connections with Haryana it was very difficult.
Through maintaining that dialogue was very difficult and people tend to get side-tracked with Hindi so it was very challenging. Since the plot is based on a story from, 60's people at that would have a physique like Dharmendra so I had to get off from 8 packs and kept Dharam Paji's photo in front of me and prepared myself.