Prateik Babbar on playing terrorist in Mulk, rising above drug addiction, and being offered Housefull 4

Prateik Babbar on playing terrorist in Mulk, rising above drug addiction, and being offered Housefull 4

The basketball hoop that finds itself nailed on a wall and the stack of books in one corner of Prateik Babbar’s living room say a lot about the young actor. They also hint that he has successfully overcome the trauma of drug addiction and bad selection of films that almost destroyed his career. He considers his new film Mulk as a new beginning.

“Yes, absolutely. It can be called a new beginning because I am getting into a kind of resurrection of things. The film also made me felt that now I am back in the groove. Mine is an intense character in this issue based film and in the company of stalwarts like Rishi Kapoor and Rajat Kapoor, it was a big deal for me,” says Prateik. He plays the role of a brainwashed terrorist in the film. He informs that getting into the psychie of a terrorist guy was a challenge for him. He studied news pieces on David Coleman Headley and watched a documentary titled Among The Believers which dabbles with extremism and jihadi movement.

Prateik agrees that in the company of seasoned actors, he surely was intimidated and nervous during the entire shoot. He mentions that all the actors from Mulk were such perfectionists that they did not give him even an iota of chance to under-perform. “I was literally up and awake every moment. What these people bring to the table and with their homework, you are left flabbergasted. When I started shooting the film, I decided that it had to be my absolute A-game and Anubhav helped me in prepping for my role. I would run up to him after the shot and ask, 'Sir, aap khush toh ho naa' (you are happy, right?), but he would say 'Mast hai' (it is great). The shooting of Mulk was also an emotional journey for the young actor as he celebrated the birthday of his mother, late Smita Patil, with the crew of the film. He got to know more about her mother after veterans Rishi Kapoor and Neena Gupta shared memories of time spent with her mom.

Prateik was one of the few fortunate from the current crop of actors who had a dream start in the film industry. After debuting in an Aamir Khan Productions film and garnering rave reviews for his performances in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa and Dhobi Ghat, his career and life went downhill. The carelessness had its roots in his drug addiction habit which he claims he picked up from Christian boys in the vicinity of his Bandra residence. “I was hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong time. I started hanging around with older kids in my neighborhood. At that time, I had got rebellious with things like why am I living with my grandparents? Where is my father? What happened to my mother? These questions kept popping in my head. I would fight with my grandparents and then leave home. All these things made me drift me towards drugs which sucked me in and then later things got spiraled from there.”

For someone who harboured thoughts of becoming a cricketer, all his dreams came crashing down. Prateik kept getting in and out of rehab centers, struggling with a very confused and angry state of mind. “I learnt my lessons the hard way. My grandmother was very concerned and stressed about me after I had become a lethal drug addict. She was on her deathbed and I did not care. All I cared about was substances. And when she passed away, I became even more crazier and it went on till I overdosed one day. When I came back home from the hospital, I realised that I have been given another chance and then my perspective towards life changed.” Prateik adds that now he just wants to fulfill the dreams his grandparents had for him.

‘Desperation’ is the the apt term that describes Prateik’s reentry into Bollywood. The actor started with commercials, most of which were done for free, including the one where he featured along with MS Dhoni. Later, the success of Baaghi 2 somewhat redeemed his career.

Quiz him about his parents’ best performance in films and he says that Chakra and Insaaf Ka Tarazu remain his perennial favourite. It also appears that Prateik has taken a leaf from his father’s career that apart from being a hero, villainy too could be a great option. He informs that Sajid Khan wanted him to play the lead villain for Housefull 4 and even had six meetings with him but his young face went against him. “We both spoke about my dad and he informed that doing negative roles simply does not matter. He also told me to look at my father’s career who is now recognised as a versatile actor, as he has done everything. He cautioned me of not making the mistake of looking for only hero roles.”

The actor recently got engaged and when the love question is thrown at him, he blushes.  “We knew each other for the past eight years and were part of the same circle. I had the hots for her but then she went to London to study film making and when she came back, we reconnected. I reached out to her through Facebook asking her to hang out and then it became a daily routine. And before we knew, she once told me that listen buddy, I am in no mood for relationships, I replied saying I too am in no mood either, and then the next thing was we got engaged.” The marriage is slated for next year.

Stability remains the new keyword for the actor, be it his personal life or career. The determination to exceed is apparent. He will be watched, certainly.