“I do not talk about my childhood and my family,” is the only condition Kai Po Che star Amit Sadh puts forward as I settle down on the low, comfortable couch in his living room. The room, on the fourth floor of a Bandra high-rise, has a long window that faces the cobbled street flanked by trees. In one corner of the room stand two sports cycles, behind which looms a golden portrait of the Budha. After calling out for some green tea, Amit smiles as he makes himself comfortable by tucking his leg under him. He looks every bit the boy-next-door, in his plain black tee, grey pyjamas and flipflops. And, once he starts talking, there are no starry airs, just a sensible conversation.
“I think my life itself is the biggest lesson for me,” says Amit, who started his acting career on the small screen with shows like Kyun Hotai Hai Pyaar, Big Boss and Nach Baliye. “There was a time in my life when I sat at home with absolutely no work. I used to go for auditions and get rejected. It was a tough phase.” But struggle has been a part of this 30-year-old’s life for as long as he can remember. Most of his childhood was spent at Le Martiniere, a boarding school in Lucknow. After which came his angry teenager phase when he did his share of “crazy things”. On one such day, he took his 500cc bullet and rode off to Mumbai with just Rs 300 in his pocket.
“Life has changed tremendously after coming here,” he says. “I have struggled a lot to reach where I am today. But I believe all of it is of no use if you are not grounded.” And, one thing that he believes has helped him stay “real” is his passion for travel and adventure. He started rock climbing from the age of six. He went to Kumaon in Uttarakhand, a spot which still remains to be one of his favourite haunts. “When I used to get rejected at auditions, I used to go back to the hills,” he says. “Travel was the best way to keep me grounded and to keep my frustration at bay. It was a way to channelize my energy.” Rejection is hard to handle and it can make you bitter and cynical. “Fortunately, it didn’t happen to me,” he says. “I just became more humble, more grounded and more real.”
Travel teaches you so much, says Amit, who is into skydiving and paragliding, too, apart from being a professional climber. “I have learnt so much about life through climbing,” he says. “Actually, it is not just physical, it is highly philosophical. When you are climbing and you reach a peak, you realise that you can’t stay there for long. You will have to come down in a few minutes. After the hours-long gruelling climb, the fact that you have to come down remains unchanged. Isn’t that what life is about? You work hard, be successful, but you can’t be there forever. If you go up, you have to come down.”
And, this learning comes from more than twenty years of climbing and a few years of teaching others to climb. “I am lucky to have been exposed to the hills when I was really young,” he says. “My favourite destinations for rock climbing are Kumaon and Gharwal, both in Uttarakhand. I also like the Padam valley, which is at the Siachen glacier base camp. It takes about 40 days to go there.” By the age of 16, he had already biked across the Kumaon to Pune stretch at least seven times. Surviving on bare necessities and in horrid climates gives him a high, he says. “I still have to cover the Arunachal Pradesh belt,” he rues. “I am also thinking of doing the really difficult climb of the Annapoorna ranges in Nepal soon.” He is also looking forward to getting his skydiving and paragliding certificates, after which, he says, “I can fly”.
One thing he picked up from his boarding school days is physical discipline. “Boarding schools train you to handle physical challenges well,” he says. “This has instilled a sort of obsession in me to be physically active always.” Amit finds the sedentary lifestyle of today’s youngsters very disturbing. “They are so attached to their mobile phones, BlackBerrys, iPads and other gadgets that none of them have any physical energy,” he says. “You can’t sit on a couch and watch TV the whole day. It is sad that people don’t even find the time to talk to each other now.” He is not the kind who can converse through text messages or Whatsapp pings. “I don’t want to waste my time on these trivial things,” he says. “If someone misses me, instead of sending a message, they should take the effort to get out and come meet me.” Anyone, be it friends or family, who wants to enter his bedroom will have to be ready to leave all their gadgets in the living room itself. No books, too. Only people and his huge English Mastiff, Liam, are allowed inside his private space.
The actor, who has just signed a rom-com with UTV and will be seen in Aditya Datt’s political thriller 10 Janpath, says people in India don’t know how to travel. “They leave their houses, but not their comfort zones,” he says. “They take with them the same clothes, the same books and the same food. They listen to the same music and stay at places that make them ‘feel at home’. What is the fun in travelling like this?” To get to know a place, says Amit, you need to use public transport and mingle with the locals rather than just visiting a few famous touristy spots and coming back. Whenever he goes to a place, he makes it a point to take long walks, meet different kinds of people and eat at local eateries. “Only then will you get to know the character of the place,” he says. “I have even lived with random people while travelling. I make friends with people wherever I go. Like, this May I went to Athens. I made three good friends there, with whom I am planning another holiday now.”
The next day Amit is leaving to London, where he will be trained by one such cyclist-cum-trainer friend, Andrew, whom he met during one of his earlier trips. “He charges 70 pounds per hour for training and he is doing it free of cost for me,” he smiles. “The whole purpose of travelling is to get out of your comfort zone. Let yourselves free and try to soak in the maximum from the place you are in. Be open-minded and then you’ll realise that you are a very small part of this world.” There is no doubt that this adds a lot to his performances on screen, too.
There is a huge board in Amit’s room, where he has written down “a thousand things” to do in life. “It is a very very long bucket list,” he says. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to strike off all of it. Now, I am trying to strike out all the physical ones.” And on top of that list is his pet 3-year project. In the first year, which is 2013, he plans to do a cycling trip from Bombay to Goa. In the second year, a bullet trip from Bombay to Ladakh, and, finally the toughest in the third year, he wants to conquer the Everest. Amit, who believes in being physically ready before any trip, is currently training for his cycling trip. “I am doing Pilates and also a special workout to drain lactic acid out of my legs,” he says. “This will help me sustain myself longer while cycling.”
So, has his acting career hampered his adventurous and crazy indulgences? “Yeah, I am going a bit easy now that I have become an actor,” he smiles. “I know that with proper training, these trips are going to really easy. The Ghats may be difficult, but I am confident that I will be fit enough to do it.”Amit laughs when he recalls the look on his manager Viraj’s face when he was informed of the actor’s plans. “He was shocked,” says Amit. “He told me, ‘Don’t let your producers know. They will want their cheques returned’.” Although, he loves his work and his involvement in his films goes way beyond just showing up on the sets, he does not want to compromise on his travel. “I still want to do all this,” he says. “I want to challenge myself. It will be tough, but it will be fun.”
But this is how he stays real, he says. Amit is also in talks with a few organisations so that he can undertake his 3-year trip for a social cause. “If I can inspire a few youngsters to get out and explore the world, then there would be more meaning to what I am doing,” he says. “Of course, I don’t want to sound like Jesus Christ. I am doing it for myself, too. I enjoy travelling, it is a passion.”
Even if you are not into adventure sports, says Amit, it makes no sense to abuse your body. “In life, there is nothing for anyone who is not fit,” he says. “If you want to live a fulfilling life, you should get fit first.” He points at his body and says, “This is it. Everything— be it external or internal—depends on this. If this is not right, then nothing will be.” And, yes, for adventure sports, it goes without saying that there has to be a certain level of fitness, he says. “After a point, it is not just about physical strength,” says Amit. “It becomes a purely technical exercise.”
Once the recorder is off, Amit starts talking about his personal life over our now cold green teas. He says he doesn’t want to give away anything about his troubled childhood as he is planning to write an autobiography. He talks about his love for dogs and films, and on his plans of getting a cocker spaniel and naming it Neeson, after his favourite actor Liam Neeson. It is past 8.30 p.m. and it is time for gym. “After gym, I have a light dinner and probably watch a movie,” he says. “But I make sure to sleep by 11 p.m.” And, that is his mantra, he says. “Arrey, the key to a happy and fulfilling life nothing but a healthy body and good sleep,” he says. “Treat you body well and don’t trust anyone who tries to convince you otherwise.”