Prateik Babbar has kept a low profile all of last year. Ekk Deewana Tha’s dismal run at the box office followed by the end of his very public relationship with the film’s leading lady Amy Jackson took a toll on the 26-year-old actor. So, where was he hiding for the last 12 months? “I went to Mars, Jupiter and on my way back to Earth, I took a little de-tour via Pluto,” he says with a laugh. “On a serious note, I wasn’t really hiding. I was working and spending time with my friends and family; and, with myself. It is very easy to lose yourself here in this industry. This can get a little crazy when fame and money comes fast and easy. You can forget who you are. I needed to find me,” he says with a shrug.
While Prateik was off finding himself, there have been enough rumours swirling about him. Alcohol and drug rehab have been mentioned as reasons for his disappearance. “Really,” he cocks his eyebrow. “The craziest thing I have heard about myself in recent times is I have become gay after my break up,” he says with a laugh, adding, “I didn’t know it was so easy to change your sexual orientation. Worry not, I am and will always be straight as an arrow.”
Now that Prateik has cleared that up, it’s time to talk about his latest film Issaq. Directed by debutant Manish Tiwary, Issaq is set in Benaras and is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. “It’s a film I have waited a long time to do. Tiwary told me about the film when I was 22. In 2009, he took me to Benaras and we did a test shoot during Ramlila. He wanted to see if I would work for the role. It took him so long to make the film because he had to find the right kind of producer and I was busy with other films,” says Prateik.
The actor had his work cut out for Issaq. Not only did he have to get physically prepared for the film, he had to get into the psyche of a small town character. “It was really tough for me to get under the skin of the character. I spent three months learning diction and body language,” says Prateik. Tiwary also wanted him to spend time with newbie Amyra Dastur, the film’s Juliet to get their chemistry down pat. “By the time we started shooting, our characters were so in sync we didn’t have to think. It was totally worth all the time we spend in workshops,” he says.
To get in shape for the role, Prateik roped in trainer Rahul Mishra, who he calls a ‘one-man army’. “It was very intense. I used to work out at least two and half hours every single day for almost a year. Manish wanted me to have the muscles and the six pack along with being really agile. So, we did parkour. I gave up salt, sugar and all my favourite foods,” says Prateik.
Since he made a comparatively unconventional debut in 2008 with Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na, all eyes have been on Prateik. After all, he is Smita Patil and Raj Babbar’s son. While the pressure might have got to most, Prateik is thankful that he is blessed with proverbial rhino’s skin. “Increasingly, I get the feeling that I perform better under pressure. So, I am glad that people expect big things from me. It gives me the push that I need. Also, I understand that this is that kind of business. We live our lives in the public glare. I appreciate the criticism if it comes from a good place. If you are just trying to run me down then I am just going to ignore you. I have lived my whole life under the spotlight. My life is transparent. Like it or lump it. This is who I am,” says the 26-year-old actor.
When Prateik says ‘my mistakes are my own’, he clearly means it. The tattoo he got last year proclaiming his love for Amy Jackson is one of those mistakes. And, he has a plan for the tattoo. “I am going to keep it but I will get it redesigned and make it more spiritual,” signs off Prateik.