Jay Khanna healed all my "pain" and "struggle", says Sidhant Gupta, the breakout star of "Jubilee", recalling his days of trying and not quite making it in the film industry -- an arc that somewhat also mirrors the journey of his reel life character.
Having dipped his toe into modelling and television industry before, Jammu-born Gupta, who made his debut with little-known film "Tutiya Dil" back in 2012, said just a few years ago "nothing was going" his way.
"I wasn't happy. I didn't want to do television. I wanted to do films and was not getting what I needed. Did cameos in some films that didn't work and I was in the middle of nowhere. That was the worst phase of my life," Gupta told PTI in an interview.
"I feel this character sort of healed my struggles, my pain... I could share all of that through Jay Khanna's journey," he added.
Director Vikramaditya Motwane's offer to play Jay Khanna, a refugee-turned-aspiring filmmaker, in "Jubilee", came as a breath of fresh air, Gupta said. "Jubilee", a 10-episode series on the early days of Hindi cinema, premiered on Prime Video in April.
"I feel it is the most incredibly written character that I have ever read. I was literally in disbelief. I was like how has it come to me because I don't think anyone can say no to something like this," he recalled.
Gupta has been praised for his portrayal of Jay Khanna, initially a happy-go-lucky theatre artist who hardens after the Partition but is driven enough to carve a space for himself in the industry.
Fans, critics and filmmakers have called him a new star on the horizon. Even celebrated director-producer Karan Johar called Gupta's performance as the "pièce de résistance" of the show.
Gupta said he gave "everything" he had to portray the character in "Jubilee".
"'Jubilee' has my heart... The most amazing feeling is to just understand that everything takes a back seat when there is one thing which is from the heart," he said.
Since the series is a period drama drawn from the lives of yesteryear icons, one can spot shades of legendary actors Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor in Gupta's portrayal.
The 34-year-old actor, however, said he did not model his performance on any specific actor from the bygone era.
"I would watch off-screen footage of these legendary actors to find that one essence which made them special from others. That was my work, and that is what I did to create an original character from that era. But I didn't chase any actor specifically."
He rather relied on old Hindi songs to flesh out details of Jay Khanna's personality.
Gupta's go-to songs for this exercise were: "Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi" from "Chori Chori" (1956), "Ina Mina Dika" from "Aasha" (1957) and "Hum The Woh Thi" from "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi" (1958).
"You play these songs and you want to just dance. I used to do that before the takes in my vanity (van), just to get some prep for Jay Khanna," he revealed.
With "surreal acceptance" from the audience and industry, Gupta said "it is not about what people are saying, (but) how they are saying it".
His favourite compliment of the lot: "Jay Khanna brought the magic back".
"Few days ago I met a lady, she just came up to me and she just held me as if she knew me for donkey years. She said, 'It is my prediction that you would go a long way'," he recalled.
While the who's who of the entertainment world have taken note of his performance, asked about his parents reaction to the success, Gupta said his parents "don't know how to express" themselves.
"My father sent me a voice note that just had two words, and my mother just goes on and on. I was like, 'Just don't say for the sake of saying it, you'll ruin it'. It is fine," he said.