Few newcomers have made the kind of impact Kushal Tandon did in highly acclaimed serial Ek Hazaaron Mein Meri Behna Hai.
The talented actor then followed it up with appearances in popular reality television shows Bigg Boss and Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi.
Kushal was voted second in Eastern Eye’s renowned 50 Sexiest Asian Men in the world list for 2014 and has one of the fastest-growing fan bases in India.
Such has been the hype around the 30-year-old pin-up that issues like his relationship with Gauahar Khan and his shoulder injury also hit the headlines. The actor is now very much single, fighting fit and looking forward to making a move to the big screen.
When EE caught up with Kushal recently, he was surprisingly grounded, polite and nothing at all like the rebel that some in the media would have you believe. His steely determination comes through loud and clear, but peppers his answers with a winning smile.
How do you look back on your journey on TV?
My television journey has been great and given me so much, including the love of well-wishers who have been supporting me since day one. I got so much love and fame from my first show, the kind you would get after doing two, three or four shows. I am really grateful for that love and support because it has motivated me to work harder. I really enjoyed playing Virat in Ek Hazaaron Mein Meri Behna Hai.
What are your fondest memories of working on the show?
We had a really good team working on the serial, both onscreen and behind the scenes. There were some great story lines and the journey my character took was memorable. I will also never forget the love we all received from fans.
You have been very much in demand, but why haven’t you accepted any acting projects?
I was working four years non-stop and television can be very demanding. I did the serial for Star Plus for two years and then immediately entered Bigg Boss before jumping into Fear Factor. I got quite badly injured on that show and needed to have a shoulder operation. I had to give myself time to get better mentally and physically for the next phase of my career, which will be movies.
You must have been getting a lot of offers?
Yes, I have been getting a lot of offers from television in the past 12 months and some movies too, but nothing has excited me enough. I am looking for that one good project that will make a huge impact. I believe it’s always better to wait for the right project and when I do, I am sure the waiting would have been worthwhile for myself and more importantly, for the fans.
Do you see your future in films or on television?
As a serious actor, you need to be open to all media, so if the right project came along on television I would definitely consider it. But right now my main focus is to get a good movie project. Like I said, I was getting myself ready for movies and now I am ready to take on a really great project, whether it is in India or internationally. I am keeping my options open.
What kind of roles do you want to play?
I am open to any role and really want to work with good filmmakers. Having said that, I would love to do a grey character with a positive aura like in Badlapur or Ek Villain. These characters are challenging to play and I love a challenge.
Do you think the attention on your personal life takes away from your acting ability?
In this line of work, we are public figures and so having that attention is a part of life, and you can’t do anything about it. As long as you, your close family members and real friends know the truth, that is what matters.
So are you keeping a low media profile for that reason?
I like to keep a low profile and only really like going out when it is connected to work. So I would only go to an award function if I’m performing in it or say, when my first movie gets nominated or I get nominated for my role in it. I don’t like going out just to show my face, have my photograph taken or to make my presence felt. I believe you should let your work speak for itself.
What would you do differently from the last few years?
If you start looking back too much and think about what you would have done differently in life, then you won’t move forward. Right now, I am only looking forward and not back.
How did you feel about finishing second in the list of 50 Sexiest Asian Men?
(Smiles) It was just awesome and I was so flattered. It was a huge surprise to be voted second because I don’t see myself that way. There are so many actors who have done a lot of movies – I haven’t done even one yet, and to finish second ahead of them was a great feeling. It was all thanks to the wonderful fans who voted. I will take that, but ultimately I don’t let these things go to my head.
What was the best compliment you received after the list came out?
I received so many lovely messages from the fans. They all meant a lot to me and their support will make me work even harder.
How much does your fan base mean to you?
Their support means the world to me and I will never take it for granted. I love all my fans. They are a blessing and I will carry on working hard for them.
You say you are fighting fit. Are your injury problems behind you now?
(Smiles) Well, not only my injury problems, but every other thing is behind me now and I am looking forward with positivity. I feel much better now. I am in the best shape of my career and ready to roar.
You look great – what is your exercise regime and what fitness tips would you give?
I believe that a healthy body makes for a healthy mind. I work out three hours a day five times a week. I do a mix of weight lifting followed by cardio and kickboxing. The key is to mix it up and set yourself a goal. You also need the correct diet. So eat healthy.
A lot is written about your love life. Are you single right now?
Yes, I am very much single right now and happy. I have no place for love in my life for a long time as I was in a relationship in the public eye. Everyone knows that. My past was very beautiful and I respect that. Our love was very genuine. In fact I would say Gauahar taught me the meaning of love and made me a man by loving me. For that I am eternally grateful to her because I actually never knew what love was.
We are not together for reasons that are best known to us and every good thing comes to an end. So yes, I am single. From here on, I believe you are single until you are married.
There was a collective Kushal Tandon and Gauahar Khan fan base that seems to have been divided. Can you comment on that?
I just want to tell the fans that this is not the end and keep on supporting us individually. Thank you for so much love, but like I said, all good things comes to an end. Such is life.
To me, she was beautiful for the way she thought, beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about things she loved. She was beautiful for the ability to make other people smile even if she was sad. She wasn’t beautiful just for her looks, but is a beautiful soul deep down.
So any fans who can’t respect my ex, I disown them. Any fan who abuses my co-stars, contemporaries or an ex and thinks they can impress me are not my fans. So I would like to say to all my well-wishers, just spread love and happiness. We are on social media to be closer to you. Don’t take that away by spreading negativity.
When do you see yourself settling down?
(Laughs) Not now. I have just turned 30 so let me enjoy that and focus on work.
What qualities do you most admire in a woman?
She should be honest from within, have a lot of character and beautiful from inside. Beauty on the inside will never fade and be eternal.
What do you think is your best and worst quality?
(Laughs) My best quality, well, I can’t say too many actually! But my worst quality is that I am very emotional and trust people too soon.
What are your big passions away from work?
I love to travel. I wanna travel the whole world. I also love skydiving.
Can you cook and which is your killer dish?
Well, I can cook, but not Indian food. I stayed in America for almost a year while I was studying acting, so I had to fend for myself. I can cook a good chicken breast with some veggies and fish. All my meals taste really nice and look yum. (Laughs) I make it look good like a hotel meal.
Which leading lady would you love to romance on screen?
I would love to romance Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif and Jessica Alba on screen.
You did Fear Factor, but would you say that you are fearless?
I am not fearless. In fact, no one is fearless. Every one has something they are afraid of. I have a fear of losing the people whom I love dearly.
What inspires you?
My father is my biggest inspiration in life because he is a self-made man. Despite that, he is a very humble person and when I look at him I feel tremendously proud. He always explains things to me especially after I get burned and I always listen. I try and learn from him.
What is the strangest thing that you have read about yourself?
(Laughs) I’m sure strange things have been written about me, but I don’t read them.
Does negative press and fake stories affect you?
Not at all. Media attention, good and bad, is part and parcel of working in the acting profession. I don’t care about fake stories and don’t let them affect me.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Work hard, stay humble and be good. And the world will be yours. Also, always thank God for everything you have.
Who are your all-time acting heroes?
There are a lot of actors who have done great work all over the world in all the genres. When I see good work on screen, it motivates me to work hard and look for good projects. I don’t want to shape myself around any one actor and want to have my own unique style. I really hope to show that off in this next phase of my career.
Finally, would you like to give us a message for your fans?
I just want to say that I love you all. Keep supporting me like you always have and I will reciprocate that by working harder. There is a long way to go and I hope we can take this journey together. All of me loves all of you. You all are my strength, spread love, more power.