2014 was the year that Freddy Daruwala starred in his debut film, Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty. Toplined by superstar Akshay Kumar, the movie opened to a great response with Daruwala winning raves for his performance as a sleeper cell leader. After Holiday, tall and supremely handsome Freddy is set to play a pivotal part in another big-ticket Bollywood film Race 3, the third instalment of the highly successful movie series, Race. In an interview with Eastern Eye correspondent, Mohnish Singh, the young actor talks elaborately about his new movie, what are his parameters when it comes to choosing scripts and why he has no qualms about playing grey characters in movies! Excerpts…

How is Race 3 similar to its prequels Race and Race 2?

This is a completely different film and has a different star cast. The only people who have been retained are Anil Kapoor along with producer Ramesh Taurani. Plus, Anil Kapoor is playing a different character this time. So, it’s an absolutely different film with a different storyline and has nothing to do with the previous two films.

When we talk about the Race series, action is one feature that does come to our mind. How is action in this film different from previous instalments?

Action is basically a scene that you perform with a lot of fight. Like some films have the same storyline but different scenes, differently directed similarly action is also like that. It has been directed differently, it has been performed with different actors and hence it looks different onscreen. That’s how action is different in this film also. Previous films have not used expensive cars and a lot of guns and stuff like that so much but in this, we have used them.

You have played characters in grey shades before, how will this one be different?

When we as actors work on a character like this, it’s not just a villain for us. On a very superficial level, when asked what he is playing, the answer is, ‘Oh, he is playing a villain’. But when you work as an actor, you have to find out the origin of that character. It’s about the thought process of that character that is making the character look like that. This character is different not in terms of material but in the thought process as well.

Do you think this character would further typecast you, considering the fact that you have already played such grey characters before?

On a very honest level, even if it happens, what is wrong with that? What’s wrong to play a villain? I am an actor, I am here to work. I am not worried about it, it’s just that bigger films have taken me as villains and I am lucky enough to make that niche. Go on ask about the 10,000 models or actors who are waiting to be in my shoes in Bombay who would love to jump into this. I have worked hard to create this niche and I can be a hero if the opportunity arises. The idea is to keep rolling. You never know what comes when? It’s my strength and if I don’t work with my strength, where would I go?

What do you think Salman Khan would bring to this franchise?

He’s got everything, what has he not got? When he comes, he brings other tangents to the film. Tangents like a lot of commercial viability, exposure, a lot of content and his expertise and overview of filmmaking, film viewing and film showcasing. I am sure you would agree to the fact that this Race, before the release, is much more famous than the previous two.

People wished that Saif Ali Khan should have been there in the franchise. What do you think about that?

Anybody can wish anything; some may have wished that this sequel would never have been made. I am just surprised you were talking about Twitter and all these places where people have mentioned it. People say anything. These days, the freedom of speech on digital media has led everybody to speak everything. I mean, if you write up the interviews, you all will have ten comments telling you that you should have done this or that. It’s the freedom of speech that people express their wishes. You see 10% of people mention that we miss Saif Ali Khan, without him the Race is incomplete but 90% of people have accepted this and looking forward to it.

How did you bag this film?

Mukesh Chhabra, the casting director, called me and said, ‘There is this character. Would you like to play?’ It’s a big film, so you are constantly thinking, what needs to be done? What will I have to play? Then he suggested why don’t I go and meet Ramesh Sir? So, when I went and met him, he explained the character and the whole scenario of the film and the magnitude of the film that’s going to be. It was a win-win situation for me.

How was it working with Salman Khan?

Amazing. He will make sure that everybody around him is looked after, people are taken care of and they are in a safe environment. When I say in a safe environment, I don’t mean that you are protected but your interest is protected, your self-esteem is protected, your self-respect is protected and the zest of you and your performance is also, at the same time, protected. He makes sure that whatever take you give could get the best out of you.

Did you ever face any hurdles because of your name?

Yes, I changed my name in the very first film to Farhad. It was a conscious decision. I thought that Freddy Daruwala could not be well received by the audience, so I changed to Farhad. But then I realized that whoever had daru (liquor), they never die of hunger, (laughs). So, I decided to use my last name as well. I had done a lot of modelling as Freddy Daruwala, people knew me as Freddy and there was a lot of brand value that came with that name. So, I was in two minds whether I would or would not use that in films. That’s the reason I changed to Farhad. Unluckily, my character in Holiday did not have a name, and who or what Farhad is, nobody knows. So, I eventually went back to Freddy Daruwala.

What is your thought process when you are approached by a filmmaker for a role?

From the most honest level, I always have three factors in my mind when I accept a film. I want to know about the content, I want to know what my position in the film would be and I want to know the parameters of the film. We work for two things- fame and money. Everybody works for the money though, in this profession, fame is an important factor; this business is built on fame. Predominantly, in the beginning of the career, I think one should only work for making a career. There are two types of work, one that makes career and one that makes money. At the beginning of your work, you want to choose to make your career so that your name becomes prominent and famous then you come to a stage where you ask for more money. So, for that particular fame everything is required. How will you be presented in the film? What is the content? What does your character do? What will you be doing? What will you be seen doing? Every time I am venturing into a film, I make sure I know what I am getting into.

Are you still doing South movies?

Yeah, I did a Telugu film that released this February, and there is also a lot of digital content we do in the current scenario. I am telling everyone and I am telling you guys also that my effort is how do I become a household name? How do I reach up to your standard is my challenge as an actor? Eventually, it’s going to come to a level where people are going to only prefer watching the internet content. So, how as an actor I am going to take advantage of this digital revolution that has been happening?

Do you think the theatrical experience has started fading away in the age of digital media?

Never, theatres have been going on for centuries. Just because digital media is evolving, it doesn’t mean cinema halls are going to shut down or TV shows are going to shut down. Digital does not give you an experience; it gives you a comfort level. Cinema halls give you an experience. Similarly, when you go to watch a play, it’s a 3-dimensional experience that is going live in front of you. There are people actually crying, falling. There is room for errors. I have done theatres and that’s why I am telling you that it’s on another personal level. When you see a play in a theatre, it gives you goosebumps. Theatre is the purest form of art, there is no room for retakes. When you perform, you have to be there. It’s an experience.

Bollywood villains have changed a lot over the years. Now we don’t see villains like Mogambo and Gabbar anymore. What do you think has contributed to this change?

The reason you don’t see those characters is because the content has changed, the scenario has changed and the story showcasing has changed. The content today is about nowness. It’s not how it should be in your imagination. You won’t have villains like Mogambo or Gabbar because those types of people don’t exist. Now villains don’t come riding horses or they don’t shoot with long rifles. So it’s the nowness rather anything else.

Race 3 is scheduled for its theatrical bow on 15th June, 2018.