Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nikhil Advani

“I feel I’m in the best position today because I’m spoilt for choice”

By Ankita R Kanabar

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

An animated film like ‘Delhi Safari’, followed by a thriller like ‘D-Day’! When I asked Nikhil Advani if this was a conscious decision to put his versatility to display, he laughs. I met him a few days prior to the film’s release, and he continued to discuss the creative aspects of the film with his team, and how they could still make the film better. I realised how consumed he is by cinema. Probably, that’s on his mind 24/7; when I tell him that, he laughs and says that his wife obviously isn’t very happy about it. So, here’s the filmmaker who’s also very funny in his own way. Post a classic like ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, he did face a lot of criticism for ‘Chandni Chowk To China’ and ‘Salaam-e-Ishq’, but that never really bogged down the director. He continued to make films he wanted to, and has always been positive. With ‘D-Day’, he aimed at doing something different, yet again. In a freewheeling conversation, Nikhil Advani talks about this film, Hindi cinema in general, reveals that he hates criticism and a more... 

 Delhi Safari’ and ‘D-Day’…is that a conscious decision to keep exploring different genres?
I don’t think it’s a conscious decision, but I think it’s the time when I don’t want to make films that have only song and dance. Even if I’m making a romantic film, which I’m doing soon, the script that has made me jump on it, is a very different one. I guess it’s more subconscious, because all my peers are trying very different things, and that has probably given me the courage to also do different things, whether it’s Sujoy or Tigmanshu or Anurag Kashyap or Karan for that matter, look what he did in ‘Bombay Talkies’. I feel the time is now very correct and right. I don’t think we’re experimenting though. I want to first expel this notion that we’re experimenting in Hindi cinema now, we’re just telling interesting stories and every time we’ve told something interesting and made it entertaining, people have come and watched it, whether it is ‘Sholay’, or any other film. ‘Sholay’ didn’t do well initially, and then it went on to do so well. I think what was considered to be niche, that niche has become so much bigger now.

‘D-Day’ has been getting some great response from the industry insiders ever since the promo was unveiled…
I have this wonderful voice of Mr Rishi Kapoor calling me every day and telling me that, ‘Ten more people called me, and people have expectations from the film. Now the only thing left for you, is to fail.’ I remember when I went to narrate him the script of ‘Patiala House’, he was like ‘you narrate so well, when I saw the trailer of ‘Chandni Chowk to China’, I thought the film would be so nice, I told everyone the film would be nice, and then you made me look like a fool. Don’t do that again.’ So, it’s a big task to match up to that expectation! That’s why even between interviews we’re sitting and discussing things. It’s daunting. There have been tough days, great days, bad days, good days on this film, just like any other film, but what’s special about ‘D-Day’ is that at the end of the day, every Indian will be proud to see it. If you’re an Indian, and at some point, you’ve empathised, sympathised, or experienced any kind of injustice, then you’ll really like the film.

You seem to be creatively active and talking about films, almost 24/7!
Obviously, my wife isn’t very happy about it (Laughs). But on a serious note, yes I think it’s all very consuming. Especially, if you’re producing and directing a film at the same time, and especially, if you’re trying to produce films for other directors. But that’s also something which is a huge rush, and it’s also something which at the end of the day, I think, is the reason why I decided to part ways with Dharma and start my own production company.

When you’re a director and a producer, don’t you have a little battle in your head all the time, while you juggle between these two roles?
You need to choose your battles wisely, as they say. You have to decide in your head, do I really need this or no. Should I really fight for this or no? The director is always fighting with the producer, the left brain is always fighting with the right brain. The reason why I produce is that rather than explaining it to someone else, I’ll explain better to my own self. As a producer my aim is that we don’t go over-budget. Especially, in a film like ‘D-Day’, the scare is the budget, so you don’t go over-budget, you stick to your schedule, and you don’t create too many changes in the schedule. As a director, my aim is that whatever I’m supposed to achieve on paper, I achieve beyond that.

You’ve cast such a unique bunch of actors for ‘D-Day’. So how is your casting process like, generally?
I wanted to take actors for ‘D-Day’ who wouldn’t turn around and tell me that I won’t do this because my image doesn’t allow me. I wanted actors who would read the script and understand the script for what it was saying, understand the characters, and the way I wanted to make this film. So, every actor in this film, whether new, or an experienced star, has completely given himself to the film and has actually taken the script ten times ahead.

There may be times when you think you’re taking a risk with a film, and then when it pays off, how does it feel? For instance, ‘Delhi Safari’ winning a national award…
One feels happy, of course! Every film has a philosophy that what is it that you’re trying to achieve with that film. Are you trying to reach the 100 crore mark, or you want 100 crore Indians to say what a lovely film it was? With ‘Delhi Safari’, I wanted to put across that if animals could talk what would they say, and could I say it interestingly enough. National award was just an icing on the cake. Rewards for ‘Delhi Safari’ came in just when people gave it a standing ovation in the theatres. For ‘D-Day’ our reward would be when people understand what we’re trying to say and understand that it’s a bold film and somewhere they appreciate that, everything else is a bonus.

A director’s job involves so many things. What is it that you like the most?
I like the fact that I can meet people who are equally consumed by cinema, and then we can just chat. You observe people, and those are the things that stay in your head. But, the confidence to say ‘okay’ is the most challenging part, because basically then, you’re just saying you’ve got what you wanted. I firmly believe that there’s nothing more vivid than imagination. I can take it to a point and leave it, and I can take it to a point and show you everything. So, I think the ability to say that, ‘Okay, I’ve got everything that I wanted from a particular shot’ is the most challenging bit. The interesting thing with ‘D-Day’ is that I never did that. Being an AD for so long, you’re so much in the process of being prepared and doing your homework, but for this film, on the second day itself I realised that this is not the way to go about it. I shouldn’t go on the set with any pre-conceived notions. I would tell the cameramen, actors, and everyone what the scene was, and they did what they were supposed to, and we got our moments.

From ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, to
‘D-Day’, how has it been?
I’ve maintained that I’m a divine child. I’ve been at the right place at the right time even when I took certain decisions, that not just to the rest of the world, but to me also felt like what the hell have I done? I’ve managed to sail through always. And whether it’s because of God or some supernatural being, I feel I’m in the best position today because I’m spoilt for choice. I can be a producer, a director, just a writer, or whatever, so I’m just spoilt for choice and I’m enjoying myself.

You’ve also faced criticism at few instances. Does criticism really bother you?

I hate criticism, but you have no choice but to deal with it. I have a very strong wife who told me something after ‘Salam-e-Ishq’ didn’t do as good as I thought it would or others thought it would. She told me, you got two and a half stars which is 50%, she said ‘50% of the world hates Martin Scorsese, you’re not Martin Scorsese, 50% of the world hates Jesus Christ, you’re not Jesus Christ, so do better next time.’ There will be lots of people who watch ‘D-Day’, and who will say that this is untrue and rubbish, but those would be the same people who loved ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, so that’s what the fact is, I can’t please everyone.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


“It’s always tough to be in the industry”

By Ankita R Kanabar

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

It’s hard to believe that someone who makes full-on ‘masala’, larger-than-life films, is a person who more often than not, likes to remain in his own world. He’s shy, reticent, which is why, to get him talking and share his thoughts is a big task in itself. He keeps flashing a smile every now and then though. But, Prabhudeva is Prabhudeva for a reason. He dances like a dream, and then he excels at making movies. The man has to be something right? And now, the dancer-cum-actor-cum-director is ready with his next. This time though, he’s introducing a newcomer, as oppose to working with a big star. ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ shall see debutant Girish Kumar opposite Shruti Haasan. At a plush suburban hotel, I catch up with the director, as he speaks about his upcoming film and more.

So, what’s his basic aim while he’s making a film? Does he think about the box office numbers? “No, I never really think about box office numbers. The only thought I have in my head is that I have to make a good film. That’s it. Usually, my agenda while making any film is that it should be an entertaining film. I should make my producer and actor happy. We must be first satisfied with it, then it’s all in God’s hand and the audience’s hand, but at least we must like what we’ve created. That’s what is important,” says Prabhudeva. While both his Hindi films have turned out to be huge blockbusters, there’s still no pride seen in his voice or body language. But ask him if the success of his previous films builds any pressure while making his next, and he says, “No I never think like that. I always think about every film as my first film. After so many years of experience, I can’t go like that. For me, every film is my first film.”

Interestingly, ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ is the remake of his directorial debut down south, called ‘Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana’. Hence, I wondered if shooting for ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ made him nostalgic and brought back old memories. “Before we started shooting, the old memories came but then while we were actually filming, it didn’t happen, because the village where we shot the film was so beautiful, we created so many new memories there, that I couldn’t think of old memories. It was even better than Switzerland. It was a very nice experience. We went smooth, and the shoot went as per the plan. Normally when you finish the shoot, everyone just wants to go home, but this village was so vibrant and positive that nobody felt like going home. Even now, everyone misses that place,” expresses the director. So, was it a difference experience directing a newcomer? “Of course, the difference is there, because here the person is so new. When someone is a superstar, obviously they would know so much more. So, definitely, there’s a huge difference, but the entire process of making the film remains the same.”

What’s endearing about Prabhudeva is that he isn’t taking anything he’s got for granted. He’s been through ups and downs, but now despite the success, he isn’t laid back. Shares the director, “Up and downs are normal, and they’re there for all of us since we’re humans. I always thought it was tough for me. In fact, I think now also it’s tough for me. It’s always tough to be in the industry.” And while it is so tough to be here, what is it about being the director that attracts him the most? “Everything about a director’s job is challenging. First of all, to manage 200-300 people is a big thing. As they say, the director is the captain of the ship, and that is so true! Because, every decision is his, and all the responsibility he has to take. It’s a huge challenge. But it’s the curiosity and excitement which keeps me going. When we do a scene and it happens well, more than being happy about it, I’m always curious and excited about what we’re going to shoot next.”

It would be interesting to actually know what were the milestones of Prabhudeva’s career. But ask him that and he turns shy, “I don’t know. I cannot really say or I don’t sit and analyse that this was the highlight of my career. When I came into the industry, may be that was the highlight. I was bad at my studies, so I had no other option than to come to films.” Now that’s hard to believe! So, was he naughty as a child? “No I was very calm and simple as a child. Not naughty at all, but suddenly I got bad at studies, I don’t know how.”

But, Prabhudeva is someone who’s primararily known as a dancer than a filmmaker. In fact, tags like, ‘India’s answer to Michael Jackson’, and the likes have been bestowed on him. So, despite hearing all this for so many years now, how does he still react to all of it? “In the initial days, there was a lot of excitement. But being here for so many years I’ve seen everything and I’m used to everything that comes along. Having said that, I definitely respect that kindness and love I get from people. I totally love it,” smiles the legendary dancer. Which explains why dancing is also closest to his heart. “Dancing is what gives me the most creative satisfaction. Dancing is closest to my heart. Honestly, I don’t really know anything. I don’t know hip-hop or salsa or anything. I just know Bollywood dancing. I’ll do whatever comes my way.” And obviously, all his films have the quintessential Prabhudeva style, and ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ is no different. “Yes there is lots of dancing in the film. And Girish has worked very hard. Before the shoot began, he was training for around six months,” says the ‘Rowdy Rathore’ director.

Post ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’, up next from the director will be ‘Rambo Rajkumar’ starring Shahid Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha. Prabhudeva though remains tight-lipped about that project. “The shooting of the film will complete soon,” is all he says. Indeed now, Prabhudeva lets his work do all the talking

Friday, July 19, 2013

Irrfan Khan

“I criticise myself a lot, which is why I don’t see my films”

By Ankita R Kanabar

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

There’s something extremely intimidating about Irrfan Khan. And no, that just doesn’t limit to the 70mm, it translates off-screen too. I meet the actor for an interview while he promotes his forthcoming film ‘D-Day’. This unconventional Hindi cinema hero, is now considered as one of the finest actors we have, through a number of diverse roles, and some quality cinema. While you may assume that he’s serious, deep and all of that, he confesses he’s a simple man, who’s shy, and who likes light moments. He might have had to wait for long to get his due as an actor, but here’s someone who’s so confident about his craft, and does things on his own terms. He surprises us with every new film and role, and hopefully, he’ll do the same with ‘D-day’. In an engrossing chat, Irrfan talks about his approach towards his work, what draws him towards a film and about himself:

You’ve been doing such wonderful films, yet you’re called more of an actor than a star. Is that a conscious effort from your end?
There has been no conscious effort or decision that I want to be called an actor or star. I just always wanted to be the person who could tell stories and engage people with stories. That’s been my concern, and that’s what I enjoy. It’s just the media’s laziness to associate tags with people. I’m free of tags. I’ve never bothered about tags, I tried demolishing all the tags that were associated with me, and I’ll keep demolishing them.

You’ve been around for quite some time, and have done such diverse roles. Do you still have to prepare before every film?
Many a times I don’t prepare at all, I just go by my instincts. I rely on the director, try to listen to him, and understand what he has in his mind. Sometimes, preparation becomes a hindrance when you’re acting. I’ve over-prepared myself, and I never enjoyed that.  Now I don’t. Preparation is not always good for you.

What was the driving factor for signing a film like ‘D-Day’?
The earnestness of Nikhil Advani and Ritesh Shah’s writing – that’s what attracted me towards the film. The way they’ve written the script, I thought this is the first time in Indian cinema that I got a glimpse of a detailed point of view of RAW agents. When you have a profession in Hindi cinema, when the story is dealing with some kind of profession, you never get the idea, you never experience the reality of those characters. They’re basically, just used to tell the story. So, in this film, the subject was very extensively dealt. This is the first time you’ll see how the intelligence department people work and what are the challenges that they face. This film will be able to tell a lot. There’s also excellent drama in the film, which for me was very interesting.

So generally also, is it the detailing that draws you towards doing a film?
Not always the detailing. Sometimes, some stories don’t require detailing. I think the element which is important for me in a script is that it should be engaging. You want to engage the audience, you want to explore yourself as an actor, you want to explore new grounds, but you don’t want to bore people, you want to entertain them. How entertaining is the role and the story, that’s very important.

Does it happen that your character remains with you even after a film is over?
It happens many a times. I cannot name one or two characters but there are many characters that stay with you, for a long time, even after the shoot is done and the film is finished. They’re always a part of you. Like in recent times, there was ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, it became a part of me. Many a times it happens, and many a times it doesn’t happen. Sometimes, you just want to forget the character, don’t want to remember it at all.

Speaking of ‘Paan Singh Tomar’...the film went through a rough patch, but then it got such a great response. How did that feel?
This is always an enjoyable situation when you go through a rough patch, and then hit the jackpot. You like success coming your way after the hurdles. But the kind of response the film got shows that definitely, the atmosphere today is much better than it was say, three years back, and it’s only getting better and better, because we now have an audience. The audience is consolidated. Earlier, the audience was scattered. Right now, the atmosphere is great. The audience is wanting to watch all kinds of cinema, and today the audience expanding the definition of commercial cinema.

You think it took a while for you to get your due as an actor?
Yes, I’ve had to wait a lot, but I would not call it a struggle. I’ve been waiting for good work, and that has started happening ever since I did ‘Warrior’ and ‘Haasil’. After that, constantly, every now and then I kept getting interesting projects. My graph as an actor, it always went up and up. So, I don’t see which point was the turning point. It’s constantly going better and better, I can’t say that this phase was best or that phase was best. I’ve been in the process of films, I’m enjoying it and I’ve seen a constant growth, so I’m just happy.

Considering the kind of roles you’ve played so far, one would perceive you to be kind of intimidating and a man with a lot of depth. Are you like that?
These kind of views, they form and change. I’m very shy, and I’m a light-hearted man. I’m not very intense, or serious person. I enjoy laughter, light moments, and that’s what I constantly look for. I just take life as it comes. I’m shy, so I don’t really jump on to any social commitments. But if it’s a kind of gathering, I do go there, but this public scene is not my thing. I’d rather sit with my friends and have a good time than go to some party where you can’t even hear each other. I like parties that are for entertainment, refreshment, and not for networking. When the parties are for networking, I don’t enjoy them.

At this point of time, what is it that matters to you – Awards, box office collection, or getting better with each film?
No actor will say that only awards matter. And most actors will say that only box office matters. For me, it’s the balance of both. Both as in, I mean critical acclaim and box office. Critical acclaim is also important for me to know that the quality of work I’m doing is good, and then it should also bring back money to the producers. There’s a difference between genuine critical acclaim, and awards. Sometimes, awards are fake, so you don’t need those awards. If an award is genuine, yes it’s important, it makes you feel good, it’s a kind of an acknowledgment. But then an award has to come to that standard. It should become a benchmark. Only then it matters.

Do you ever see your film and criticise your own self?
I criticise myself a lot, which is why I don’t see my films. I’ve seen very few films of mine, like ‘Namesake’, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’.

And how does your family react to your work?
They always give me an honest feedback, whether they like something or no. Even my kids tell me, this is working, this is not working, this engaged us, or this is good work.

Your upcoming projects include...
There’s ‘The Lunchbox’, then ‘Kissa’ and ‘Gunday’. ‘Gunday’ has me only in an extended cameo of sort though. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ranveer Singh

“There is no end to what I hope to achieve. What I want to do is, break barriers”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the July 6, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

(First two pictures, photo credit : Rohan Shreshtha) 

It was a Friday. The afternoon was making way for the evening. I was hoping it would turn out to be a good evening as I waited for Ranveer Singh at Yash Raj Films. He didn’t see a release for quite some time, after ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’, but I don’t think that the adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’, is true in his case. Or perhaps, he hasn’t been out of sight, because he’s always in news for the films he’s working on, and his link-ups. But, I wanted to know the man behind the tags like brash, flamboyant, and casanova; which I did, eventually. He enters the room, sporting a simple jeans and a dark blue ‘ganji’. More than his chiseled body, what’s more appealing is the charm that he exudes, and that’s probably what comes naturally to him. He’s emotional, warm, affectionate, and that reflects in his behaviour. Despite the severe back injury that he’s been through, he is fitter than ever. Moving away from his so-called loud and high-energy characters, he’s now back with ‘Lootera’. In a freewheeling chat, Ranveer talks about the film, his learning experiences, his craft and several other things concerning him. He also sheds his image, to give me a sneak peek into the person that he is:

With ‘Lootera’ you’re moving away from what seems to be your forte. Is it a complete departure?
It is clutter-breaking, for sure. I was very curious to see what it all comes together as. Like you said, it’s a departure from what I’ve done also, and it’s a departure from what I’d expect myself to do also. For some reason, I have a public image which I’ve not consciously gone and built. There are these tags, put on me like boisterous, high-energy and loud. I’m not always high-energy. I can be dark and deep also. When I picked up ‘Lootera’, I thought, I have the opportunity to display a different facet of my acting ability, but I just don’t know how it would plan up. I was doing workshops, and I just wasn’t getting it. One day, two day, three day, then on the fourth day, I got frustrated and asked Vikramaditya that why did you cast me for this? I was not in that zone at all. He did everything that he could, to make me feel confident about performing that character. I’ve been quite worried whether it will be accepted, because it’s not like I have any thunderous power-packed dialogues, or dance or anything. It’s just a very felt performance. I don’t even have hand gestures. It’s a very different type of performance for me also, and generally too, you don’t see these kind of performances, or films like these being made. I hope it works. I’ve taken a big risk with ‘Lootera’, I’ve put myself out there. I’m not playing to my strengths.

You’ve always come across as someone who’s very confident, right from your first film…
Confident I’ve always been, even when physically I was not so attractive, I was an overweight person yet I’ve always been confident and I don’t know where it comes from. I’ve been like that ever since I was a kid. But, I guess, confidence comes from validation, and validation may be in the form of success or anything. Success is the biggest validation. So, success gives you a little bit more confidence, failure on the other hand, does the exact opposite, but I try my best to adopt the middle path. You shouldn’t get carried away with praise, or not get too bogged down with criticism and you’ll be fine, you’ll sail through.

You could have got typecast post ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, but then you do something like ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’, and now ‘Lootera’. I see what you’re doing!
(Laughs) When ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’ was conceived, I was told that I have this boy next door image going on, I’m not necessarily desirable to women, but that film was sort of designed to change that image. Acting wise, there was not much to do in ‘Ladies…’, there were like two scenes where I had to actually act. But yes, it was designed to position me as a sex symbol, and make me desirable to women, and it worked big time in that sense. I know that it’s not considered as big as ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, but it did what it had to. Every film can’t be like that. I only see the positive outcome of it. You know, the turning point came at Star Screen Awards which was the first award of the season, post ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, I was hosting it with Anushka, and I was speaking in English, and people were shocked! I had to do something different. That’s what’s exciting even for the audience, to see an actor do different things. For me, that’s what excites me as well. If I see an actor, doing the same kind of acting in every film, it doesn’t excite me. For me, the zenith and the paragon of acting is somebody like Daniel Day Lewis, he lives his character for a year, year and a half, he gets so deep into it. You know, you try and do something like that in your own way. You don’t go to those extremes but in your own way, you try that.

And ever since your debut, how has your learning curve been?
My learning curve came when I was in the university, then when I started work, I began learning a lot, about relationships, about professional dealings, inter-personal dealings, about the big bad world out there. If you ask me as an actor, then I’ve changed a lot since ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, like now I don’t know how I managed to do ‘Band Baaja..’. For me that’s wrong as an actor. I was very much within myself. I think, fortunately for us, it was a very well-written film, so the chemistry between the two characters, was there on paper. I was too within myself. I wasn’t giving myself to the actor, and Anushka would keep telling me that you don’t give yourself to your co-star. I used to not connect. So, if I’m doing my dialogues right now, I’m talking at you, I’m not talking to you. There’s a difference. I never used to look into the other person’s eyes and connect but now I fully connect. Now I’m almost the complete opposite. My directors used to keep telling me that you prepare too much, so I picked up on that note, and now I don’t prepare at all. I know my dialogues and that’s all I know. I just feel that moment. The spontaneity factor in me has gone up and how! I feel like a complete different actor than I was in ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’.

As humans, all of us have our tough phases. Tell me about your tough phases.
I’ve had a lot of lean phases for a long period of time. I think the struggle before I got my break was tough. The three and a half years, where I was trying to get something that really for all practical purposes, should not be within my reach, given the fact that I don’t hail from a family with filmy lineage so, it was for all practical purposes a far-fetched thing for me to think that I would be launched by Yash Raj Films, a banner who had never launched a solo hero before. The break that I got was actually unthinkable. So, that period of 3-3 1/2 , where things seemed bleak, and I was just trying to knock on a door, that was not opening, that was a bit tough, and then, the period that I got injured, that was a very tough period. It was a very serious injury. As a mainstream Hindi film actor, you’re required to do so many things with your body, you’ve to dance, fight, but it was very traumatic, when you’re laid up in bed and you can’t move. It would take me fifteen minutes to go to the bathroom, and I was just lying in bed with nothing to do. I was like, ‘I’ve just started my career, what have I landed myself into?’ My doctor told me there’s hope, if you’re serious about your rehab, you can get fitter than before, it’s not the end of the road. After three and a half months of doing six hours rehab a day, I came back from that injury stronger than ever before. They said ‘you’ve made 120% percent recovery’. There were no two ways about it, I had to get back on my feet. That was a tough phase and even after that. I’ve been living with no release, no installment in my body of work for 19 months, at a very nascent stage when I should be having two releases a year. Here am I with such a long a gap.

But now hopefully, good times are here for you with back-to-back films!
After a dark phase, here comes some light. It’s going to be a mad year. It’s the long break, which brings me to the line-up. So, there’s ‘Lootera’ now, ‘Ramleela’ in November, ‘Gunday’ in February 2014, and sometime in the next year, there’ll be ‘Kill Dill’. I hope now it’s only up and up for me, I’m done with the downs. It’s a very exciting line-up, and there’s so much variation in all these films. There’s ‘Ram Leela’ right after ‘Lootera’ where the energy of the character, the soul, pace of the film, the demographics, look of the character is completely different, and then there’s ‘Gunday’, it is mainstream masala, high-speed ‘herogiri’ type of a film. Shaad Ali, who’s like a brother to me, is going to start ‘Kill Dill’ somewhere by the end of this year. For me ‘Kill Dill’ is more than a film to me, it’s extra special, because Shaad is directing it, after seven and a half years, and I’ve known Shaad since I was 16 years old, and he is actually like my big brother/friend/mentor. When I dreamt of being an actor, I always dreamt that someday I’ll be in a film directed by Shaad, and then I was his assistant director for a year and a half, he gave me my first break, in the media business after I graduated.

Being a star brings along other things which you may not necessarily like, for instance, rumours. It may also deter you from being grounded. How do you deal with all of that?
I’ve realised and I’ve realised very recently, the company you keep is very important, which includes, the people who surround you, the people you work with, your friends, your family, the people you look up to. I keep telling them that if you see me stepping out of line, you just come and give me a whack, and tell me to get back on track, and they do that very organically. My dad does it all the time, my friends do it, I’m the butt of all their jokes, and people like Aditya Chopra, Shaad Ali, also keep me grounded. You should always surround yourself with people who’ll remind you that all this is fleeting. Coming to the negative side of it, whenever stories come out which are fabricated, or blown out of proportion, your words are spun around or portrayed in a negative light, whenever it happens, because it concerns you, and someone is consuming it, it affects you, and that’s when you have people like your co-actors, your well-wishers, your directors, who tell me that it doesn’t matter, just look at the larger picture, and all that matters is the work you do. It still affects, because it’s coming from somewhere or the other. It used to affect me a lot, now it’s progressively less. First, for days I used to be upset about it, then for a day, then for an hour, now I don’t even read. I’ve reached my limit of patience, I’m done with that. I’m worried about my films, my health, my life. I hope the tabloids will relent; they’re really mean to me.

And what lies beneath all these images?
You name something and I’m that, because even I don’t know who I am or what I am like. I’m confident, and at the same time, over-sensitive. I think it’s a cancerian trait, we’re very emotional, sensitive, we get affected. We’re die-hard romantics. We love with all our heart, we don’t know any other way, we don’t know these grey areas. I don’t understand grey. For me, it’s always black or white. I find it very difficult to wrap myself around a grey relationship. When I’m in love, it’s complete, it’s just all out. I’m like the cancerian crab, hard on the outside, and complete mush on the inside.

Despite where you are today, what is it that remains unachieved?
There is no end to what I hope to achieve. What I want to do is, break barriers. I don’t want to be restricted. I want to do a wide variety of films. If you talk about critical acclaim, I don’t want to be loved by the Indian critics, or be my film to be one of those critically acclaimed films of the year. I want my films to make it on a global map, or win an Oscar, why shouldn’t it? Why should we be bound by only what we know? Because, there’s so much more one can do. These numbers, like 200-300 crores, why are we only doing that much? Rajkumar Hirani’s films, they’re full-on entertainment packages, yet they’re saying something and not even being preachy. Those are the type of films that one hopes to be a part of. There are so many things that I wish to achieve. I want to somewhere write an original film. When I didn’t think there was any chance of me becoming an actor, that time I thought what else am I good at, and it was creative writing. Other than acting and performing, one thing I think I can do, is creative writing. I still have a lot to explore as a writer but I’m so caught up with performing right now, I’m very happy with it. Also, I get very scared of my writing, I feel very conscious. I’m not so uninhibited about my works of writing, as I’m with acting. It takes a lot to write, put your thoughts down, because that’s a part of you! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sonakshi Sinha

“I don’t want to be challenged. I’m very happy in my space”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the June 29, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

She’s on her 10th film, she is working with the biggest names in the industry, and the audience adores her! All this belies the very fact that Sonakshi Sinha is just two and a half years old in the industry. This woman is certainly on a roll! What really is commendable on her part is the confidence she exudes even as she accepts criticism coming her way. Now, let’s get to my rendezvous with her. It’s a gloomy day with the rains expressing their love for the city. I reach ‘Ramayan’ and wait for Sonakshi at the 9th floor of her beautiful, plush house. The bevy of awards she’s received from all over, for being the most promising newcomer, and the youth icon, adorn the room. Just as I take a look at those awards and settle down, she enters. Her hair all tied up, she put her geeky side to display with big glasses, and almost no make-up. We get talking, and Sonakshi shares her experience of her upcoming film ‘Lootera’. We speak about her parents, and her thoughts on love! I also discover the various aspects of her personality. Interestingly, just as I’m leaving, after the interview, thinking about the wonderful person Sonakshi is, I bump into her beautiful mother, and well, now I know that it’s just her upbringing that makes Sonakshi the person she is. So, here we have, Shotgun junior, in full-on candid mode!

The promos of ‘Lootera’ look beautiful. Was the experience of working on the film, just as beautiful and smooth?
It was far from it. Yes, it has been the most fruitful experience, but that’s because it was so difficult. I’ve learnt so much on this film. There were so many hurdles we had to cross through. Vikramaditya Motwane and I, come from a very different school of thought. He’s a very disciplined director, I’m a very spontaneous actor. Once the camera switches off, I switch off, and I can act only when the camera is on. But Vikram always sort of expects you to be in character and stay in that zone, which I don’t understand how to do. So, you know, we’ve had our little arguments, fights, we’ve pulled each other’s hair out, but we’ve made the film. When he came to me with the script, it was the most beautiful script I’ve ever heard. When he was narrating the role of Pakhi, I believed at that point of time that this role was written only for me, only I could play this role.  It was the 3rd or 4th film I signed, and at that point of time, a lot of people told me ‘don’t do this film, it’s too early in your career, we don’t know whether you’d be able to pull it off, you need to be a mature actress to play this,’ so that’s when I actually took it up as a challenge.

But, ‘Lootera’ is different from the other films you’ve done so far. So it may have demanded more preparation from your end, isn’t it?
It looks like that, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t prepare. I don’t get into rehearsals, I can’t read too much. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t do it. I get conscious, shy, and weird while doing it. It just doesn’t feel right when the camera is not on. So, I guess I leave a lot of room for spontaneity, and that’s what acting is right? You catch spontaneous moments every now and then, and that’s the beauty of it. But, for this particular film, yes, it’s set in the 1950s, it’s very different from what I’ve been doing, definitely, but our core team, Vikram and his cameraman, costume designer, the sound guys, his team of ADs, all of them were so good at their job, so much research they’d done, that for me, it was like everything laid on a platter. I just had to slip into my saree, and become Pakhi.

You said you cannot really act when the camera is not on. So, does that make your transition from film to film, and character to character simple?
At any given time, I’m shooting 3-4 films together, which is so much fun. I love being a different person every other day, I really enjoy it, but like I said, I switch on and off with the camera. So, I don’t come back home with a character, I don’t dwell on it, or sit and think too much into it. I go on a set, I find out what I have to do, and I do it. People think it’s rocket science, but it’s really not. I like observing people, I like watching people, so when a character comes to me and the director tells me about how the character is, I probably have come across someone like that in my life, who I use as homework. But, each one of my characters has Sonakshi in them; I cannot lose that part of me. If I feel something doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel natural, I won’t do it. I won’t look natural or comfortable doing that. So, I don’t do it.

When you’re a public figure, it may not be very easy to deal with what’s being written about you, especially if you’re sensitive. How do you deal with that?
Yes, I’m sensitive, I’m emotional, but I’m also practical at the same time, which I don’t know how I balance, because they’re very different things. I don’t read too many tabloids, newspapers, so usually I miss out the bad stuff, because I’m so involved in my work, that it goes by without reaching me. Sometimes, things are written, but that’s okay. You tend to develop a thick skin, as and when you grow as a person, being in the industry. I just ignore things really well. Fortunately, for me, I can take a joke on myself, so I don’t take some things that are written about me very seriously. I laugh it off. Also, I don’t give that opportunity for people to write much, I’m a very private person anyway. I know how to balance my personal life, and work life. I know how much I need to share.

Two and a half years in the industry, back-to-back films, and endorsements. Have you settled here finally?
Yes, and very well. I thoroughly enjoy it. Although, I do crib and cry for a break every now and then, which I don’t get, but, you know for me it’s like, you reach for the moon, get the stars, something like that has happened. I enjoy it, I love doing my work. It’s commendable, yes. I’m very proud of myself, that in two and a half years, I’m working on my 10th film right now. It’s kind of unbelievable! Touchwood, I’ve been fortunate, but I also won’t disregard the fact that I’m very hardworking, very punctual, I do my work well, I enjoy my work. These are the factors that work for you, and push you ahead. I also have a good working rapport with everybody I’ve worked with so far. I think I’ve grown every single day, with every film I’ve worked on. Every new film that I start, I learn so much more. So, yes it feels like I’ve settled in.

You were considered a star right after your first film! Did you ever think it was all happening too fast for you? It must have taken a while to sink that in.
I think it did take a while for that to sink in, because I never wanted to be an actor, so, for that to happen to someone who didn’t expect it, it was just too much. But I feel truly fortunate, and blessed. I’m glad that in a film like ‘Dabangg’ which was totally a Salman Khan film, people noticed a newcomer. Till today, wherever I go, they make me repeat the dialogue, and that’s something nice. It’s something that’s going to stay with me forever. I really appreciate that, and I’m thankful I was accepted, despite being slightly different, and not the typical Hindi film heroine.  

But I think, the fact that you weren’t the typical Hindi film heroine, worked for you…
Being different is what worked for me dad, and that’s what worked for me as well, and I take great pride in that.

You speak your heart out, and also are slightly ‘muffat’ in a good way. Yet, how do you avoid sounding arrogant?
Nobody has told me that I’m arrogant, so far, which is good. For that, the credit goes to my parents. Their upbringing has been very strong; it always kept us rooted, right from the beginning. So, that really goes a long way, and has helped us keeping our head on our shoulders. And when people tell me that, people tell them that, they feel so proud. There’s a very thin line between being ‘muffat’ just for the sake of it, and being honest. Let me tell you, I’m very politically correct, I’m very diplomatic, but I’m honest as well. I will not say something just for the sake of it, to hurt anybody’s sentiments, or to make a headline, or to get noticed, which is the norm these days. I like to steer clear on that. I’m very happy in my space, I’m very content with my work and the way it’s going.

While you didn’t have to struggle to get your first film, do you think the struggle and challenge for you began post ‘Dabangg’, to sustain that performance?
Definitely, I mean, I’ve not been through a struggle. I know what a struggle is because I’ve heard stories from my dad and how he struggled. I’ve not even been through a tiny toe of that. But yes, first film being successful, people have a lot of expectations from you. But post ‘Dabangg’, I was busy doing the kind of films I enjoyed seeing as an audience. I wanted to be a part of these big films with action, romance, drama. I was getting the opportunity to work with the biggest stars in the country, so I took it up and I really enjoyed. Then came along a film like ‘Lootera’, that gave me the opportunity to show people that I can do this as well.

So, you are very happy in your skin, and content in your space?
I don’t want to be challenged. I’m very happy in my space. I’m doing what I want to do and I’m doing that on my own terms. What do I have to prove to anybody? Nothing. I’m free. There are a lot of people who think like they have something to prove all the time. I don’t think like that. I get very happy when the people I work with, appreciate my work. Being repeated in their films is a reward in itself, it means that you’ve done something right. I meet so many people when I go for promotions, people who interact with me on twitter are so appreciative, and that’s a direct connect. When they tell me they liked my film, or promos or songs, then that’s a job well done. That’s what gives me satisfaction, that’s what makes me happy. Not the end result like 100 crores, or the figures that the media likes to splash all over. It’s my work, how much fun I had while shooting a film, what I got to learn from it that matters, that’s what gives me satisfaction. I think I’m happy being that way. I won’t be pretentious saying, ‘Oh I need satisfaction, I’m an actor.’ I want to work in films that I enjoy working on, that I like to see as an audience, films where I want to spend money, buy a ticket, sit in the theatre and clap.

And apart from the love from people, what is it that makes Sonakshi happy?
I like going away some times. I rarely do I get a break, but when I do, I like travelling, I really like travelling.  I get to travel so much because of my work, but I don’t get to see much of a place I’d like to, as I would when I go without a film unit. Travelling makes me happy.

Today, how do your parents react to your work? Are they strict as parents, or are they like friends?
My mom is strict, my dad is lenient. He is the one who pampers us, and my mom is the one who keeps the balance. It’s not really a friendly thing, it’s a parent-child thing only. My dad is very partial to me; he thinks I can do no wrong. He loves everything that I do. He loves to watch my movies. In fact, the first movie that my dad saw in a theatre, after 15-20 years was ‘Dabangg’. He never went to a theatre for that long to watch a film, but when ‘Dabangg’ released he went. He makes it a point to go now to the theatre, to watch every film of mine that releases. He goes to Gaeity, Galaxy, my father, can you imagine? So, yes, they’re very proud and my day is made when my parents tell me they’re proud of me.

Is there anything that you don’t like about being an actor?
I like most of it. I really like the fact that you can reach out to so many people, inspire them, influence them in a certain way. I don’t like the clich├ęd bit, like invasion of privacy and all. Actually, I don’t like the extra-curricular activities that you have to do, like the events, appearances, parties. I don’t deal with it. You’ll barely see my out, for page 3 parties or anything, because I’m so busy doing my films. That’s my main concentration, that’s where my focus is. Only when I have to do it, I do it. I’ll rather let my work talk than go out look pretty smile, and get talked for it, what’s the point!  

Up next for you is ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara’, how has that experience been?
That again is a fantastic role for me. The fact that I had to romance these two different personalities in the film, create a separate kind of chemistry with Imran and Akshay, it was very challenging so I really enjoyed that. It gave me a high. Akshay, I’ve worked with him before, and it’s always a pleasure working with him. And Imran, he’s a really nice person, he’s so sweet, he always talks about his wife which is so cute. I keep telling him where have you come from? He’s a really nice boy, and I quite enjoyed working with him.

Then there’s also ‘Rambo Rajkumar’, ‘Bullet Raja’ and ‘Thupakki’ remake. Now that’s quite an interesting line-up!
I’m excited for ‘Rambo Rajkumar’ because I’m working with Shahid for the first time. Then ofcourse, there’s Prabhu sir who I thoroughly enjoy working with. I love his films, and his style of working. We have a lot of fun on the sets. Now, I’ve become half Tamil only. He just has to look at me, and I know what he wants. We have a good tuning. I’ve had a very nice experience working on ‘Bullet Raja’ as I’m working with Saif and Tigmanshu Dhulia for the first time. And the ‘Thupakki’ remake, which has been shifted to January. And it’s been speculated that the title of the film is ‘Pistol’, but that’s not the title. The film hasn’t been names yet.

And obviously, your on-screen love stories, must not be leaving any time for love and romance off-screen!
I don’t get any time. I like being romantic if given an opportunity. Everything has a time in your life, there’s a phase for everything. Right now it’s my working phase and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. When love has to come, it will come. I don’t want to push it, or keep looking for it. I’ll wait, and when it comes, I know, it will be beautiful.