Thursday, April 25, 2013

Konkona Sen Sharma

“I’ve never been bothered about tags, definitions and images”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the April 20, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

To be an actress of Hindi cinema, and essay roles that go beyond the regular song-dance-looking glamorous fare, and yet survive here for so long, is no small feat. But here we have Konkona Sen Sharma doing so, with utmost panache. She’s done a variety of roles in her career, but each one completely distinguished from the other, and roles that are so very strong and meaty. While apparently, these days box office numbers are the most important when it comes to judging a film, that’s not something she has bothered about, and yet received immense love from the audience, and carved a different niche for herself. Her next film, ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ shall see her in a new side, yet again. Amidst maddening promotional activities of the film, I get few minutes of peaceful conversation with the lady. Donning a simple, classy cotton saree, and looking as graceful as ever, she also displays a childlike glee as we speak about films, characters, motherhood, and about Konkona herself:

‘Ek Thi Daayan’ is your first supernatural thriller; that must be exciting?
Yes, I’m very excited. I saw it last night, I’m very happy. Because I’m doing a film, after a long break, after I had a baby. I think it’s nice and scary. I’m happy. I like horror films and thrillers, but I get scared very easily, so it’s not like I watch a lot of scary movies.

But you seem like this really strong woman…
I am very strong! I’m very strong morally, emotionally. I’m not a coward and all. But sometimes you know, paranormal stories and all if I think too much about it, I get freaked out (Laughs).

And after a long break, what made you do ‘Ek Thi Daayan’?
It’s a great character! You see, I’ve always done these characters that are very good, very earnest, very sweet, straight-forward, with not many shades of grey. But with this film, all the three women characters have grey shades, since we want to keep the suspense of who the ‘daayan’ is. So my character is quite grey too. And it is something I haven’t really done, so that’s what really excited me!

Lately, we’re seeing that the line between arthouse cinema and commercial cinema is fading away. But you’ve always been a part of niche films even when such films weren’t received that well…
Now a days, everyone is doing everything, which is great but that doesn’t bother me very much. It’s true that may be earlier, in the 70’s and 80’s, there was a very definite movement, and definite genres of films – traditional, mainstream, and alternative. Now the line has blurred. But I’ve always done films that I wanted to do because I’ve never been bothered about tags, definitions and images. Image and all is something outside of me, outside my control. It’s what other people think of me. It doesn’t matter. I want to do the kind of films that I find interesting. Then whatever image is made, it is made.

So, you’ve always been very sure about the kind of films you want to do, even before you were a part of films?
I don’t plan things or think about things. I don’t even know what I’m doing on the next weekend. I don’t really plan my life like that. I didn’t really set out to be an actor, that’s something which just happened to me, and I’m very grateful that it turned out the way it did. I don’t think you can take these things into account. It’s very hard to say because things never work out according to plans; you keep changing your mind. So, I just thought, let me do things which seem true to me, the choices that seem true to me. Those are the kinds of films I have done, and I like to do a wide variety of films. I don’t only want to do one kind of thing.

Despite doing the kind of films you have, is there still any genre that you think you haven’t explored and wish to? 
I haven’t done a biopic. I’d love to do a biopic. Because, when a film is based on a real person, there’s so much to it, there’s so much you can do. It’s not usually a flat characterisation, which makes it so interesting.

So when you read a script, what do you usually seek for? Or are you a method actor who goes thinking about how you would prepare for the role?
I’m not a method actor. Method acting is something very specific, and I don’t really follow a specific route. But when I read a script, I read it as a story to see how it touches me, or does it affect me at all. If it’s supposed to make me laugh or cry, and is it successful in doing what it sets out to do. If it touches me or touches the chord somewhere then it’s really nice and then those are the kinds of scripts that I like to do. And I like characters which have some movement, some evolution, some transition, some change, and some flaws. So, those are the characters which are interesting. There’s no solid criteria but these are some of the things. Then, you also look for a good rapport with the director, whether it’s a good producer. These are the kind of things I look for.

Seemingly, you haven’t really been deterred by the commercial viability of a film while doing it…  
I have done all kinds of films, but for me personally, it’s not important to do only what is popular, because what is popular is not necessarily what is good, or what is quality. Popular doesn’t ensure quality. Though sometimes, things which are good that also become popular, is the happiest combination. But, to do something only because it’s popular is not a good enough reason. So, you have to find other reasons, more artistic, more creative reasons, that satisfy you somewhere, and then you hope it becomes popular as well. And you know, even if it doesn’t, that’s okay, because there are things to be done. I’ve done a Bengali film, which speaks about the problems of villagers and the minor community, Maoists and the Government, and I think that’s very important. Those issues are important to me and 70% of the country. So, films like these may not be as popular as, may be ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer’ or something, but that’s okay.

When you do roles that are complex, and tough, don’t they drain you emotionally?
No, I don’t think it really drains me. You make a film for so long, by the end of it, you completely forget about it. Filmmaking is such fragmented process! It’s truly a post-mortem kind of a process because there are 100 people on the set and there’s so much to do. One day you’re shooting one minute of the beginning of the film, next day you’re doing one minute of the end of the film, and the whole day you hardly shoot for few minutes but you end up spending time in make-up, rehearsals and all that, the actual filming is so little. It’s a very unconscious thing with me. Even when I watch a film, if I like the film, or the main character, I start thinking like that person or becoming like that person for a few days. So, even if I’m reading a script which is really nice or even shooting a film, so from inside, unconsciously only I start behaving like that person. But once you’re done with the shooting and the dubbing, for a film that you’ve been doing for so long, you’re like finally it’s over now. It’s out of your system, at least for me.

Which means you’re one of those actors who can get detached from their characters easily?
I’m a very detached person. I do feel, detachment of everything is a very under-rated virtue and I like to be detached. I admire that. It provides objectivity and perspective. But I am emotional about people I’m close to. It’s not like I’m not an emotional person. Just that I try not to be sentimental. I’m moved easily, I’m touched easily by things, like when somebody does some gesture, words not so often, but by a book or something. So, I’m touched, but I like to be detached also. I do think it’s a great quality. And it’s something I work towards. It’s not like I’m just detached. I’ve worked towards it. May be I’m inherently like that, but I’ve also worked towards it.

It may be difficult to choose, but which one of your characters or films is really close to your heart?
Right now, it’s my mom’s film, ‘Goynar Baksho’ which has just released. It was a difficult role for me, because it was very different for me. It was a scared kind of a character. She was scared, quiet, meek, shy, accepting-of-patriarchy kind of a girl, which I totally wasn’t. But I also kind of try to understand her point of view. That character stayed with me, I really like her very much, unlike other characters I’ve played. And right now I’m super excited about it, since it’s releasing on the 26th, here in Mumbai.

Language has been no bar for you, literally, while choosing films…
Because language is not a bar actually, it’s just communication. Often, it’s non-verbal and it’s just about communication, in whatever language. If I’m able to communicate to the audience, it doesn’t matter. In our daily lives, we’re all multi-lingual. We speak in Hindi, Marathi, English, or I speak Bengali. It’s going to be like that in future you know, where the language of a film wouldn’t really matter.

So, you’re enjoying every little moment of this beautiful thing called ‘motherhood’?
Motherhood is awesome. It’s been amazing. You know the thing is, definitely my plate is full now. Sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to balance everything but I do try manage. I’ve recently started working and I do try to spend time with him. I don’t work as much as I used to work before. But I’m waiting to do some interesting roles since I really enjoy working. And I think it’s important, especially for my son, to see an example of a strong woman who’s working, so that he can also appreciate and respect that when he grows older. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vidyut Jammwal

“Everything has its own beauty. The idea of sexy has to change; it’s not about being fat or thin”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the April 13, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

While all of us are passionate and devoted towards something in life, Vidyut Jammwal’s dedication towards action is at a different level all together. It leaves you amazed. When I tell him that action must be his first love, he quips, “Not my first love. Action is my only love.” Now that says it all. But, there’s also so much more to this man! He’s warm, philosophical, and intimidating. No, it’s not just his chiseled body, or the ‘action guy’ image that intimidates you, it’s his intense eyes that do the job. Post his baddie act in ‘Force’, he is back with some never-seen-before ‘dhishoom dhishoom’ in ‘Commando’. On a bright Sunday afternoon, over a cup of coffee, Vidyut seemed completely at ease, with no sign of nervousness, as he spoke about ‘Commando’ and so many other things. Also, you could try and get a glimpse of what lies beneath this tough man. Here we go!

‘Commando’ must be a special film for you, the whole experience on this film must be good…
It’s been incredible. And I’m not just saying it because it’s an interview. For me, when people ask what’s your dream role and what is it that you wanted to do, this is what I wanted to do. There’s no pressure, before the release. Not even an inch of it. And that’s the best part because what I had to do, I’ve done, now I’m doing everything that my producer wants me to do, in terms of promoting the film.

You’ve been training for martial arts ever since you were three years old…so did the film still require any preparations from your end?
I didn’t really have to prepare for the movie. But the way you fight on the streets, for real, is different from what we have to do in cinema because the action has to look larger-than-life, so the most difficult thing was to make it look real. For that we trained extensively for like four months, because I may be a superb fighter, but there were other fighters who had to be trained to get the kicks and the punches. The regular fighters from the union had to be trained because, if I hit the man, I’m actually hitting a man, if I kick the man, I’m actually kicking him. For them to be well-trained to take the kicks and punches, we had to train them for about four months. And that is what makes the film special. I feel more like a person who’s representing India in martial arts than somebody who’s just promoting a movie. That makes me feel proud.

Talking about action in Hindi cinema, the current trend is the ‘larger-than-life’ action that seems absolutely unreal but you think ‘Commando’ might change that trend?
There’s always a time in life where change has to come. Change is the most natural process. And I’m so glad that I’m a part of that change, because, people are really bored seeing that kind of action. I’m one of those people, who doesn’t like the over-the-top action. I don’t like seeing people being punched on-screen and then 50 people flying or cars flying, because I haven’t seen cars flying in real. I’m so glad that I can be somebody who’s representing the youth who doesn’t want to see it. I was just coming and met a man downstairs who came and told me, ‘Sir I’m so happy to see what you do. And how do you do it?’ So, for me it’s an achievement that I can reach out to the common man. People on the streets can recognise the fact that what you’re doing is unreal. For me, if I’m getting the change in a very small part also, then I’m very glad I’m the part of the change.

Most actors aim for being a part of different genres for the fear of being typecast. You’re completely the opposite.
I have a very simple motive. I want to be typecast. But, I want to be typecast as the ‘Action guy of India’. Whether it is a negative role, whether it’s action-romance, action-drama, action-comedy, or whatever, till the time I’m being typecast with action, it doesn’t bother. I realise, action is what I want to do, and that is what I’m born to do. So, when I was being cast for ‘Force’, I wasn’t thinking it’s a negative role, I was just thinking that when I do that kind of action, the whole country will sit back and watch. It didn’t matter to me if I was doing a negative role or playing the 10th lead. I was just happy doing action and that got me everything that I wanted. When I meet youngsters and when I meet people who are already here, they have learnt dancing because they wanted to be a part of films, they’ve learnt action because that’s what sells in movies. I’m in the industry because I do martial arts, it’s not like I joined films and then learnt martial arts. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I’m an actor today, because I’ve been called to do what I do, and I love doing what I do. Nothing bothers me, because anything about action is good for me.  

Do opinions from people deter you?
Encouragement of any form is superb, and criticism of any form has to be taken too. In my case, I’m taking both of them in my stride, but I’m still doing what I love doing. That is, thinking the way I think, behaving the way I think. You know people go to temples and say, ‘If this happens, I will do this and that’, when ‘Force’ happened, I had already achieved my dream of doing action, so I told God that if action is going to be the USP of the movie and if it works for me, I promise you, I’ll work for every human being on the street, I won’t shy away from going out and meeting people, or clicking pictures for them, or doing every small thing for them. And if ‘Commando’ does well, I’m saying this, and you’re the first person I’m saying this to, that every person who wants to learn martial arts, I’ll make sure he learns, I’ll make sure that anybody who wants to meet me in any form, I’ll go and meet them. If I can be of any help to any human, I will be there. So, if it just works, I’m going to help humanity and me. And Kalaripayattu, if it works, then I’m representing India, I’m representing an art which is dead for the longest time on planet earth.

So, you’re happy with what you’ve got so far?
I’ve got more that I thought I would. When I was doing ‘Force’ and the character of Vishnu which was so negative, I’d never thought I would get the best debut awards. Life has treated me much better than what I thought it would. For me being here and doing action, and people saying that he’s the next action hero, I didn’t ask for this. I don’t know what positive and negative is. I don’t look at life like that. I just go through every emotion and enjoy it. It’s like, when you sow a seed, water the plant and wait for it to finally grow and bear fruits. For me, I’m eating my fruits right now. When I’ll finish those fruits, I’ll start sowing new seeds. That’s what I’m doing right now, relishing each moment. Still, the best phase for me is when I’m sowing the seeds. That’s incredible too, because that time, you have hopes, hopes for something good to happen. Eating is a difficult phase, because you know the fruits will get over, someday. You know what I mean! (smiles).

You said it’s important to accept criticism too, so what kind of criticism have you faced so far?
I’ve been criticised by people around me saying that, I behave in a very similar manner with everybody. I should keep some distinction. They tell me, ‘ you’re supposed to behave like a star and all!’ That’s the only criticism I get and that’s from people immediately around me. If that’s criticism, then I haven’t accepted that as yet, because, I think, for me, stardom sunk in when I was three years old. I felt like a star since then, so there’s nothing new happening with me. I haven’t changed at all.

You were happy doing martial arts, so when did you think that you wanted to be a part of films?
I had different ambitions like a lot of people, I wanted to be an army officer, and a squash player, a gymnast and a swimmer, I was not born saying, ‘I want to be an actor or I want to be a hero’, but apart from all those ambitions, I was sure that I wanted to do action. So, the ambitions kept changing but what I was doing didn’t change. At one point of time I realised that the best way to inspire people, the best medium that I could figure out was cinema. I’ve been inspired by a lot of people, like Jackie Chan, Jet lee. I realised that they inspired me through cinema and so if I get into cinema, I would be able to inspire people. When I go for a run sometimes in the morning to Juhu beach, I see people practicing my stunts. The high that I get that time, I don’t think I get that high anywhere else. It’s nice to know that I can inspire people in some way. I want to inspire people, make their lives healthier, and even if ten people can feel it, it fulfils my idea of action.

But what’s your idea of fitness?  
People on social networking sites tell me that they think of me as one of the fittest guys in the country, I want to explain them that fitness is not about being fat or thin. I know so many thin people who are dying of anorexia or have heart diseases and all that, on the other hand, I know fat people who’re fitter. They can walk longer, have a better digestive system, and can do things better. The idea of sexy has to change. It’s only about fitness. Everything has its own beauty. We can’t be looking at things just in a particular way, we can’t be thinking that this is how things must be. You know this whole thing, this whole perception of beauty is messed up. I know so many women, who are heavier, yet so radiating. And the base is, fitness is the most important thing.

It takes a lot to have your kind of determination towards something, isn’t it?
No, I don’t think it takes a lot. You don’t need anything. You just need to be doing what you love doing. And when you read in the philosophical books or when people say that you should do what you love doing, I’m living that whole experience. I believe that if you do what you really love doing, everybody else will love you. I’m still just doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

People who wouldn’t know you would associate your tough on-screen persona with you, for real. So, tell us, what lies behind this tough, action guy?
I’m still figuring that out. I personally feel that I’m just a happy man, because I’ve fulfilled everything that I wanted to so far. So, I’m happy and content and at peace. Actually, I’ve always been at peace. But at the moment, there’s just too much excitement that I have for everything, because I’m getting to meet and interact with so many people than I used to. I’m just enjoying that. Earlier, my life revolved around waking up in the morning, training, coming back home, eating like a body builder, and go to train again. I had very little interaction with people. At the moment, physically, I’m at my peak, and mentally also I am. I’m enjoying things around me. I’m not really like what people may perceive me to be. Like, if I’m going somewhere, people expect me to be this guy, who flaunts his body by wearing tight t-shirts and behaving like that. But here I am, wearing a pink shirt, sitting and chatting with you. I have to tell you this, you’ll never see me wearing tight t-shirts. I believe, power can’t be displayed; it has to be from within, it should be felt. And every human being is sensitive enough to feel it. You don’t have to show off.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


“The idea is to be real, be true to yourself, and not live in a bubble”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the April 13, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

During my rendezvous with him, he tells me, and I notice that his twitter bio says, “Actor, Anchor, Crooner, Donor, Poser, Composer, Blogger, Jogger, Hogger.” Well, I might want to suggest him to make an addition to it – Charmer. Because, every time he makes an appearance, seemingly, women are charmed by his wit, sense of humour, mellow voice and dimpled smile. While the obvious assumption would be that ‘Vicky Donor’ made Ayushmann Khurrana the man he is today, the fact remains that it hasn’t really been an overnight success for him. He’s seen a lot. Though, it was post ‘Vicky Donor’ that his popularity went sky high. His second film, Rohan Sippy’s ‘Nautanki Saala’ has just hit the theatres, and Ayushmann gets talking about the film, and all about his craft. Oh and can you believe that he’s an introvert? Well, he is. Read on…

How was it going to the sets of ‘Nautanki Saala’ post ‘Vicky Donor’?
It was wonderful, the whole experience! We finished shooting this film so fast. That’s because, we were so well-prepared, with the script, cinematography, and everything. The DOP was also a part of the workshop, so we were blocking the scenes while rehearsing the lines; it was like that. We were so well-prepared! So we finished the film in 34 days. It was hectic also. But it was good fun, and quite challenging.

You act, anchor, compose, sing, and then just when we thought you’ve done it all, you display your dancing prowess at award shows. You’re never going to stop surprising people, are you?
(Laughs) I don’t know. There was no agenda or no plan. There was no desperation to dance or sing or whatever. While I was hosting, I was hosting a lot of musical shows, yet I didn’t sing. Anybody who wants to sing would obviously sing while hosting a musical show. But, there was no desperation to sing or act even. For four years, I was getting roles, but they were roles like ‘hero ka dost’ and all, so I waited for the right time and it happened. Until and unless, you’re content as a performer and you’re not desperate to show your talent, I think it’s all cool. But I don’t know, ‘iske baad aur kya karunga main’. I think I just want to evolve as a performer, be it as an actor or a singer.

This year, you’ve been bagging an award at almost every award function. At this point of time, do awards mean a lot to you?
To be frank, I would say that awards matter to me right now, because right now I’m like this kid at a candy store who likes to have all the candies. I’m not like an Aamir Khan or AR Rahman or somebody who’s been there, done that. They’re legends. They’re stars. I’m not in a position right now where awards don’t matter to me. Of course they matter to me right now. These are the awards for my first film. And then, I also anchor, dance and all that, so yes I have to be a part of award shows (smiles).  

You think ‘Nautanki Saala’ is a perfect follow-up film after ‘Vicky Donor’, because obviously the audience expects more from you now…and how did you go about preparing for it?
‘Nautanki Saala’ is also in the quirky space like ‘Vicky Donor’, though ‘Vicky Donor’ was very edgy and the subject of the film was quite a taboo subject. But this is quite quirky. It’s a new-age comedy, it’s not a hardcore comedy. It is about relationships. It has its own subtlety. It’s not slapstick. I play a theatre actor in the film. I firmly believe that you have to give something to the character from your real life. For example, in ‘Vicky Donor’, I was a Punjabi, and it came across. And in this film, I have a theatre background, so it will come across in the film that I am from a theatre background, the way theatre actors carry themselves and all. You add a lot of stuff from your real life, in your reel life. Similarly, in ‘Hamara Bajaj’, I play a struggling actor. Fortunately, I’m getting roles, that I’ve seen in my real life, and that’s the best part. You’ve lived that, and it’s important to live the character.

So supposedly you get a role that you don’t really relate to, then how do you go about it?
Directors really help you out. Workshops help. And in the initial stages of your career, you should do roles that you can relate to. I’m still evolving as an actor. So if I had to do a role completely different, be a south-Indian or an astronaut or anything, I don’t know how I’ll be able to do it. But, I think it will come with age, and experience.

Every character needs some kind of detailing. What kind of nuances did you have to bring in for this character?
I play a Mumbai guy in this one, not a Delhi guy. We had workshops for 25 days, with Rohan Sippy, the script writer, and Kunaal was also there. Workshops come in really handy. You discover yourself during workshops. You get that proper ‘sur’ of the character during workshops. Before that, if you think you’ll just land on the set with the script in the hand, it’s very difficult. At least for me it’s very difficult. I’ve done theatre in Chandigarh for five years. But I had to go back and think about those days. The best part is, I’m still in touch with those theatre actors from Chandigarh. So, it was not that difficult. That was the only preparation, to be in touch with theatre actors. Like in ‘Vicky Donor’ I used to roam around on the streets of Lajpat Nagar, and make a note of the new words that they use. I was in Delhi five years back, and things change every year, there’s a new vocabulary every year. You have to be with the time.

Being an anchor, you must have got the hang of being spontaneous. So, you apply that while acting too?
Anchoring is like that, you have to be spontaneous; but, not when acting. Of course, certain things can be added spontaneously on the sets. But it’s always better to be prepared. You can’t rely on your instincts all the time. I think you’re spontaneous, only when you’re in a happy mood. But, if you’re prepared, then even when you’re sad, you can perform, and hence there won’t be inconsistency. If you have to be consistent as a performer, you have to prepare.

While comedy is difficult, you seem like a pro. Is it your sense of humour off-screen that translates into a good comic timing on-screen?
It does. It’s like, either you have the timing or you don’t have the timing. Comedy is difficult, but to be frank, I don’t joke around, all the time, 24/7. It’s just a mood swing. I’m an introvert otherwise. I have to come out of my shell before going on stage or being in front of the camera, but that’s about it.

Tell us your experience of working with Rohan Sippy.
He’s a very stylish filmmaker. He’s very cool. He’ll never shout, and he’s open to ideas, whether it comes from the 4th AD or anybody on the set. He’s always open to ideas. That’s the best part about him. He’s a new age director.

How was your camaraderie with Kunaal Roy Kapur on-screen and off-screen?
It was great. He’s a very good actor. Most theatre actors have the tendency to go a little loud. It’s a medium where it’s a wide frame and you have to be loud and work through your body language. But Kunaal Roy Kapur is such a subtle actor. It just seems like he’s talking to you, in a room. You can’t really know the difference between his real-life banter and on-screen acting. There’s no difference. He’s so natural. I have to be out of my shell. I can’t be in that mode all the time. I have to be in the character. But he’s such a natural performer. I play this character called Ram Parmar, off-stage, he’s Ram, he’s a giver. I guess tags like these are associated with me – giver, donor (laughs). So, yes, off stage, I’m Ram, and on stage, I’m Raavan. So, how the character of Raavan seeps into the character of Ram, that’s the story. Mandar Lele, Kunaal’s character is a goofy character. He has suicidal tendency, so I’m the one who motivates him and brings him out from that. That’s the kind of chemistry we have in the film.

I was chatting with Kunaal, and he told me you’re such a foodie! So, how is it that you’re so fit!
I have food, and it’s reflected on his body (Laughs). I run every day, I hog and I jog. Even my twitter bio says that. Also, I guess I’m blessed with good metabolism. That’s pretty cool!

How much of a ‘nautanki’ are you? Or before that, how would you define a nautanki?
That’s also a mood swing. You can’t be a ‘nautanki’ all the time. But, anybody can be a ‘nautanki’. Everybody is a ‘nautanki’ at some point of time. And since the film has a theatre background, hence it’s called ‘Nautanki Saala’, and again, it’s Ramesh Sippy’s production. It’s aptly titled.

So, after ‘Vicky Donor’ was there any plan as to the kind of roles that you want to do?
I’ve always wanted to play a theatre actor, and a struggling actor which I’m playing in ‘Nautanki Saala’ and ‘Hamara Bajaj’. I’d never thought I’d play a sperm donor though (laughs). There’s no plan. There’s no plan that I want to play a romantic hero, or action hero or whatever. But yes, there are certain roles like Aamir’s role in ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’, Shah Rukh’s role in ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’, Amitabh Bachchan’s in ‘Shakti’ , Kamal Hassan’s role in ‘Saagar’; they leave an impression on you and make you feel that you have to do these kind of characters on-screen. But again, there’s no plan as such.

You still don’t really behave like, ‘Oh! I’m a star’. Otherwise, success tends to change a person, especially when your first film itself does so well…
I still believe I’m not a newcomer. I’ve been here for many years, struggling. I’ve seen it from ground zero. From being a theatre actor to a radio presenter to a television anchor and now a film actor, it has been gradual. It was not an overnight success. I’ve been through a lot, so there’s no point where I think ‘I’m a star’ or something. The idea is to be real, be true to yourself, and not live in a bubble. That’s very important.  

Ever thought of coming up with your independent music album?
The only problem is that there’s no place for independent music in India. Music channels won’t support it, radio stations won’t support it. The only space for independent music is online, the digital space. There’s no point making it. If want to be a part of music, then I’d rather sing for my films.

And for ‘Nautanki Saala’ you’ve sung two songs. How has it been?
It’s been wonderful. I think I’ve done a better job in the film, as a singer and as an actor. I think I’ve acted also better in the film.

What kind of music do you like listening to?
I like all kinds of music. From rock to Coldplay to Sufi to Ghazals, I like everything!

With acting, and singing, and anchoring…do you find time for yourself?
The problem is, I’m not used to so much working. When I was a VJ, I used to work ten days a month. I was used to be so free. And now, I’m living out of the suitcase, and I’m suddenly so busy. I don’t get to spend that much time with my family, my wife and my friends. But yes, no complains! You have to manage somehow (smiles). 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sushant Singh Rajput

“I don’t know how efficient or talented I am, but I know that I’ve worked extremely hard will continue to do so”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the February 23, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

He enjoyed the status of a ‘television heartthrob’ for quite some time. And now, he has graduated; graduated from being a Television heartthrob to a young Film star. When Sushant Singh Rajput quit his popular TV show, ‘Pavitra Rishta’ for fulfilling his other aspirations, many would have thought that he has made a huge mistake. And now, with his film ‘Kai Po Che’ releasing, and garnering accolades, nobody can say that. But Sushant is not deterred by what people think of his decisions, though, he’s completely overwhelmed by the love he’s been getting. He’s young and just one film old, but his confidence belies the very fact. Though, it’s probably a little early to comment on the fate of his debut film, industry insiders and people who’ve seen the film can’t stop raving about ‘Kai Po Che’. His voice is brimming with happiness, anxiety, and a mix of all those emotions, as I catch up with him. We get talking about ‘Kai Po che’, his journey, and upcoming projects...

The release of your debut film…what is the feeling like? Any anxiety pangs?
Lots of anxiety! And I’ve been extremely excited all through. Whatever response we’ve been getting so far has been extremely encouraging. And we’re just hoping the audience likes the film, and connects to it.

How did ‘Kai Po Che’ happen?
I got this film 4-5 months after I quit TV. I was getting offers but the kind of offers I was getting weren’t exciting at all. I quit TV because I wanted to go abroad and learn filmmaking. But then, Mukesh Chhabra, the casting director, told me about this film, and so I auditioned. That was the first audition I gave in 7years of acting. If this film didn’t happen, I would have gone ahead and done a film-making course. But what really excited me about ‘Kai Po Che’ was the beautiful script, and working with such names in the industry. Working with a director like Abhishek Kapoor and a banner like UTV for my first film, is quite overwhelming!

And how did you go about preparing for it?
We did workshops for 2-3 months. And workshops are extremely important since they help to get into the character convincingly because you’re almost living that character. You think like your character, and behave like that. Since my character Ishaan is a cricketer, I trained in cricket for 2 months. I was overweight. I lost almost 14 kilos in 6 weeks. And that was quite exhausting because then I’d be like playing cricket for 3-4 hours, then working out at the gym, doing cardio and weights for 2 hours. So, it hasn’t been easy. Plus I’m a big foodie. But to be honest, when I as a performer decide to do something I decide that only when I think that the whole journey is going to be joyous for me and I’ll thoroughly love what I’m doing. I’ll have to have immense love for the character to be able to be him. So, even though, I’ve had to work really hard, it’s all been joyous for me. The entire process has given me immense pleasure – right from the workshops to the 60 days of shoot.

Do you find any similarities between yourself and your character Ishaan?
I couldn’t relate to him at all, initially. But then, that’s what acting is all about right? To play someone despite the fact that you can’t really relate to him. Having said that, maybe I relate to Ishaan, a little on an emotional level. Ishaan is a bundle of contradictions. He’s extremely practical from the outside, he’s slightly insecure, but from the heart he’s very vulnerable. And I’ve enjoyed Ishaan’s journey, as a character. In the course of the film, it’s interesting to see him graduating from one level to another, from being this immature guy to reaching a maturity level. 

You quit TV, when your show was at the peak of its popularity. And you had not signed any film at that point of time. Did you consider that as a huge risk?
I think it’s very important to be clear in your mind about your priorities. I was doing engineering, but I didn’t complete my engineering. I left it half way, because I thought I wanted to be an actor. If money had been my priority, I’d have done my engineering, got into some good corporate company, settled abroad, and made good money. But I decided to pursue something I wanted to, despite the struggle. Having the power of convincing someone of something you’re not, is amazing, and that’s what I love about being an actor. Then I was with Shiamak Davar, I did theatre, and then television happened. I learnt too much while doing television because you’re working with the best technicians there, who have deadlines, and they do so much work in one single day. I learnt too much about cameras, and the other technical things. I was enjoying till the time I thought I was learning and growing. But then later, I felt saturated, because I wasn’t growing. And so, TV was not a priority any longer. At that point of time, I had not even got any film in hand. Even if I didn’t get ‘Kai Po Che’ or the other films that I have got, I wouldn’t have regretted quitting television. I think a lot before taking any decision, and when I decide, I never regret it. So, quitting TV was never really a problem for me. Interestingly, the filmmakers who’ve signed me have never seen me on TV. I’ve solely been selected on the basis of my auditions. So, that’s very encouraging.

Tell us about the experience of working with the entire team, on ‘Kai Po Che’
We all know that UTV makes such wonderful films. And I’ve been an admirer of Abhishek Kapoor’s films. His first film ‘Aryan’ didn’t do well commercially, but I had loved the film. So, for me the most exciting bit was to be working with a director like him. While shooting, I realised he’s so passionate about his work. His energy and passion is contagious. It’s rare that filmmakers have that kind of perfect blend that he has. He has worked on the script for 2 years, and he knows what he exactly wants from every member of his team. You know, people might think this is not a typical launch, because it’s not a single hero film and all that. But I feel extremely fortunate to have this as my debut film since it’s a character-driven film. The story, with these three characters and the camaraderie between the three of us, I think it’s a wonderful blend. The chemistry that the three of us share is very rare. There was no insecurity of any sort among Rajkumar, Amir and me. We didn’t really bother how many dialogues the other person is getting, because we realised right at the beginning that this film would only work if there is chemistry between these three characters. Plus, we gave our auditions together, then, there were workshops, so there was this camaraderie that came naturally, because we were behaving like our characters. We were always there for each other whenever we required each other. And none of us have been selfish, which was the best thing. I’ve had such a wonderful experience with my co-actors in this film that I’m wondering if I’ll ever have that kind of an experience again, for any film.

From Engineering to Theatre to Television to Films…how has the whole journey so far been?
I believe that the journey can be memorable and nice only if you enjoy the process. Had I been thinking, ‘I just want to do films. I just want to do films’, while I was doing theatre or TV, then I would have screwed it all up. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the process of doing theatre or TV, or wouldn’t have learnt anything if I was only thinking about films. So, today, if I look back, I think my journey has been extremely pleasurable.

You’ve already signed few other projects, with top-notch directors, banners, even before your debut film released. That must feel good?
These are the people I’ve always wanted to work with. Be it Abhishek Kapoor or Rajkumar Hirani or Aditya Chopra or Maneesh Sharma. So, I’m extremely excited! After I signed ‘Kai Po Che’, I was again getting offers but none of them were exciting. Then I came to know about ‘P.K’ and that time I didn’t even know that Rajkumar Hirani was directing it. It was the second film I auditioned for, and Rajkumar Hirani was right there, and he just told me, ‘Come on board!’ and that made me so happy, because something like that coming from that man is extremely overwhelming. Then came Maneesh Sharma’s film. There was another audition. And both Adi and Maneesh thought I fit the bill. I don’t know how efficient I am, or how talented I am, but I know that I’ve worked extremely hard for everything, and will continue to do so.

And working with Aamir Khan must be adding to your excitement?
Who’ll not be excited to work with someone like him? He’s one of the finest actors we have. And I’m obliged that I’m getting the opportunity to work with him, and a director like Rajkumar Hirani so early in my career. I’m sure it would be a huge learning process for me, to be directed by him.

Last words on ‘Kai Po che’?
Cinema is changing, as we know. And the variety of films we’ve had last year, prove that. ‘Kai Po Che’ is yet again, a film that is different. It has a wonderful screenplay, and I’ve had a wonderful time working on it. It’s a completely fresh take on friendship. And I feel the audience would definitely connect to it.

You wanted to learn filmmaking…so is making a film someday, on your agenda?
Filmmaking is one thing that really excites me. So much so, that even when we’re not shooting my part, I still like to be present on the sets, and observe how the director works. I keep asking questions, and just try and learn as much as I can. Maybe, someday, I would like to make a film, but not anytime soon.