As told to Avinash Lohana (MUMBAI MIRROR; August 14, 2017)

I come from Budhana, a small town in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. My grandfather was a farmer, so was my father. I started going to the fields at the age of 10 and tilled the land till I was 22 when I left for Vadodara to pursue further studies. I started out as a chemist there, developed an interest in acting and took off to Delhi to learn it professionally at the National School of Drama (NSD). Today, I am based in Mumbai but I still have fond memories of Budhana when my day used to start as early as 4.30 am.

As soon as I woke up I would head for the fields, drawing water from the tubewell for irrigation. The water had to be systematically distributed, it couldn't be allowed to collect in one place and go waste. At my time we didn't have tractor, so we'd plough with a hoe or use bulls. At 10 am I would get ready and leave for school. Most of the work was done in the morning but I'd still go to the fields for a stroll every evening because I enjoyed being there. We grew cash and food crops, mostly rice and sugarcane. I had once sold sugarcanes and gave the money straight to my father. Sometimes I'd joke that if that transaction could only happen without a receipt, I would have kept a percentage for myself. We've always had a comfortable life but I remember farmers losing a lot of money when insects destroyed crops. I'd feel really sad because I know how many compromises they had to make following such losses. When I went to Cannes in early 2016, I had met a bunch of French filmmakers who were also farmers from Nice. They introduced me to a unique irrigation technique called centre pivot, which helps farmers save on water and electricity. I want to introduce this technique in my village over the next two to four months.

Given my busy schedule, I don't get so much time to visit my gaon often, but whenever I'm there I still wake up at 4 am and sprinkle water in the fields. My children, Shora and Yani, also love it there and are playing in the fields all day. I have a farmhouse in Karasa now where I grow fruits and vegetables through organic farming, a method practiced even in my farms in Budhana. Farming is in my blood and there are times when I really miss the fields.