I treasured the audio cassette of Dil Se for 12 years: Ehan Bhat
The 29-year-old actor, who is making his debut with the AR Rahman production 99 Songs, talks about his experience of working on the musical film
When Ehan Bhat moved from Kashmir to Mumbai, the city of dreams, little did he know what awaited him on his path to becoming an actor. The 29-year-old, who is making his acting debut with the AR Rahman-produced 99 Songs, says the journey from being an aspiring actor to finally appearing on the silver screen tested his patience and will to such an extent it will be imprinted in his memory forever.
“When you are a struggling actor in Mumbai, it’s a scuffle to pay for food, find work, and keep a roof above you. It's not easy for those without backing in the film industry,” says Ehan, who shifted base to Mumbai in 2015. However, the debutant credits these struggles with helping him bag his first film. “While auditioning for 99 Songs, I was asked to perform a scene where my character, Jay, is depressed, lonely, and cold. That’s exactly what I was going through then, and it helped.”
Recollecting the defining moment of his career, Ehan says, “Months after the audition, I received a call from casting director Mukesh Chabbra asking me to visit the office, where I was offered the lead role. All I remember is crying all the way back to home.”
His first meeting with AR Rahman was equally unforgettable. “Rahman sir has been an icon to me all my life; I treasured the audio cassette of Dil Se for 12 years. For our first meeting, I went prepared with a speech to impress him. But as I faced him, my mind went blank and I could only wait for him to speak,” says Ehan. “He, on the other hand, was expecting me to initiate the conversation. Finally, he said he was glad to have me on board the project and I formally expressed my gratitude. Our silence spoke for us. It was awkward, yet beautiful.”
To get into the skin of his role as a musician, Ehan spent a year at Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory in Chennai learning music. “Being the perfectionist he is, Rahman sir sent me to music school to do homework for the role. After spending a year surrounded by musicians, music became an intrinsic part of my life, with songs, tunes, and chords becoming a part of my everyday conversations,” says Ehan. “In addition to bringing me closer to the world of music, the learning process helped in fine-tuning my performance.”
The wait for 99 Songs to hit screens left him restless. “There were times when I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a pounding heartbeat. The lockdown was particularly excruciating,” says Ehan, who is elated now that the film is finally set for release on April 16.
What’s the one thing he learned from AR Rahman? “Kindness. I often wonder whether he knows who he is and the influence his contributions have had on people. The biggest thing I've learned from him is how important it is to be a good human.”