Prejudice runs deep in Bollywood. Like television actors, YouTubers also face this bigotry. “They feel we can only make funny videos,” says Sahil Khattar, who made his web film debut with 200 Halla Ho and runs the YouTube channel, Khattarnaak. He makes his Bollywood debut in Kabir Khan’s Christmas release, 83. “Things are changing with film folk now realising that YouTubers can do all sorts of roles. I remember during the auditions for another project, the producer had reservations and told me, ‘But you are a YouTuber’.”
Khattar plays Syed Kirmani in the Ranveer Singh-starrer based on India’s cricket World Cup victory in 1983. He admits that he initially had reservations about choosing it as his Bollywood launchpad as “there were too many leading actors”. But his uncanny resemblance to the legendary wicket-keeper clinched the deal. He describes the months of cricket training under veteran Balwinder Singh Sandhu as full of “sweat blood and tears”. Khattar has played roller hockey so, “athleticism and agility came naturally to me. I spent time with Kirmani sir to observe his mannerisms. When I am put at the deep end, I can rise above”.
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On sharing screen space with Singh, who plays Kapil Dev, Khattar says, “He is a bundle of energy and so am I. When we met it was a volcano meeting a tornado. Ranveer was not just a reel captain but also a real-life mentor. He helped me get rid of my inhibitions of acting with a star.” Khattar recalls his encounter with Deepika Padukone who essays Romi, Dev’s wife. “One day unannounced, she walked in on the set. We made small talk and I called her Bhabhi, but she kept telling me to call her Deepika, and refer to Ranveer as jiju. Now that would make her my sister, there was no way I would accept that. That joke broke the ice and I got relaxed,” concludes Khattar.