How it happened
I was a software programmer in Mumbai, when I took part in Mr. India contest, and won it. I represented India at the Mr. World Contest in Istanbul, Turkey, and finished in the top five. I also won a two-month modelling contract, and did a lot of commercials. Acting was always a passion, and so, acting seemed the next logical step. Director Radha Mohan and cinematographer Preetha came to Mumbai to choose a person to play a young sardar opposite Trisha in Abhiyum Naanum. I found the role challenging. The next day I dressed as a sardar boy and introduced myself to Radha Mohan as Malkit Singh. Only after I told him that he realised it was me! I won’t forget the smile on his face — it was the widest I’d ever seen. I knew I had bagged the role.
How it felt
It was a fantastic experience working with a director of Radha Mohan’s calibre and actors such as Prakash Raj, Trisha, Aishwarya and Kumaravel. My aim was to observe and learn. I also learnt Punjabi and mannerisms from my Punjabi friends. My performance was well received. When I saw myself on the screen, I felt the joy within me. My role in the next film Unnai Pol Oruvan was a complete contrast to my previous one. Arif Khan was the quintessential angry young cop, doing things the unconventional way and getting results. It was a dream role, as I shared screen space with two legends of cinema.
How life changed
Life has completely changed after the success of Unnai Pol Oruvan. Everyone — from college girls to auto drivers — seem to recognise me now. They also appreciate my performance, and that, I think, is the greatest earning for any artiste, as it fuels our passion to perform better. I’ve been getting offers in Tamil and Telugu. My next Tamil film is Muriyadi under the prestigious Kavithalaya banner, and directed by Selva. I play the hero, a young dynamic lawyer who fights against injustice done to the poor. Life has changed, but my emphasis is always on learning, and I strive to stay grounded. Wherever I go, I’m greeted with a warm smile; this is something I’ll cherish forever.