Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Imran Khan

 “I’m not good at competing with other people”

By Ankita R Kanabar

I waited for him patiently, as he continued to get into the shoes of his character Aslam, every now and then, while he spoke to several news channels about his latest film. He stood there, with no sign of fatigue, or boredom, as he continued to field all the questions, even few awkwardly funny questions, with a smile; clad in a crisp white shirt, and blue pants. I realised then, as to why girls seem upset about him being married. Just as I finally began my interview with him, as we travelled to his film’s screening in his car, I told him, he was kind of intimidating. He shockingly responded, “I beg your pardon?” Obviously, nobody must have told him that earlier, but what I meant was, it’s his intellectual side which is slightly intimidating. Enroute, we get chatting, we speak about films and films. And then, we speak about other things that come along with films. Here we have, Imran Khan, in a freewheeling chat!

 How has the journey on ‘Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara’ been? 
It’s been very fulfilling specifically as a professional because see on a personal level, sometimes you enjoy working on a film, sometimes you don’t, but, it’s not as common to really enjoy the work, to do something that excites you, which makes you feel like you want to do more, and you want to do better.

This year you had a film like ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’, and now ‘OUATIMD’. Has it been a conscious decision to move away from what you’ve done?
More than me wanting to do something, funny enough is it’s because of other people, because nobody offered me anything like this before. I’ve spent my career so far basically working with first time directors. Of all the films that I’ve done, majority of them are with guys who’re making their first film, they were smaller, simpler stories, more personal and urban stories, so that’s what I was offered, that’s what I chose, and that’s what I did. I think a part of it is, Vishal offering me ‘Matru...’ opened up avenues for me, people started offering me films that I wasn’t offered before. So, it’s less about my taste or my intension, it’s more about what I have been offered.

But what’s your taste and what are your intentions?
I never intended to do anything. I never intended to be an actor. I wanted to become a director. I went to film school, I trained as a writer, I trained as a director, as a cinematographer, never did a day of acting. I literally stumbled into it. I went to meet Abbas Tyrewala as an AD, that’s what I was doing at that time, I was looking for work as an assistant director, and then he said you should act in my film.

So when was it that you finally thought you wanted to be an actor?
When I agreed to do ‘Jaane Tu…’ I was quite thinking of it as a one-off. I thought I’ll just do one film, and then get back to doing what I actually want to do. Somewhere in the middle of it, I started to enjoy it, I started to get other offers, and then it became about a challenge, about let’s see what I can do. I’ve always been a kind of person who, likes to challenge himself. I want to see how well I can push my capabilities. I never played any of the normal sports in school, never played cricket, or football, I used to play pool, I would skate, I would scuba-dive and all. So, basically I played solo -sports. I just get caught up in my own game, and I’m not good at competing with other people. For me, it’s like, this is what I’m capable of, so how can I do more? This is how fast I can run, how can I run faster? So, it became about that for me.

How easy or difficult it is for you to escape a character and move to the next? Do they sometimes overlap?
Sometimes traits of one character do tend to leak a little bit into another character, it has happened. I can speak for myself, that the way that you create a character, it’s like little elements, you put on pieces of armour, clothing, whatever constitutes a character. There are all these pieces that you put on. You finish a film and you take them off, but you never quite discard them. So, you’re always roaming around with a backpack which has pieces of these characters in them. If at any point, you need any of those pieces you can put them back on, but sometimes, you forget to remove some piece of that character, and then you realise that and rectify it. This is the best way I can describe it to you. But, ultimately all your characters are floating around somewhere with you.

Does it take time for you to get into the skin of a character?
I’m not spontaneous. I need to plan, I need to rehearse, I need to know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it. I’m not a spontaneous person in my life, nothing at all. So, for me it is vital to have everything before-hand. I will read the script a dozen of times, I will find the things that I can use, but from action to cut, weirdly I’m spontaneous. There are many actors who time their breaths, and their pauses. It’s not at all important to be spontaneous, it’s important to appear spontaneous. There’s a Japanese saying for this, “You do a 100 rehearsals and a 100 takes, but what the audience will see is that one take, and that’s the important one.” So, for me to get to that point where I can do something spontaneous, I have to prepare. If you’re working with a good actor, it gets easier. So much of my performance is dependent on my co-star. I feed of what they’re doing.

Your journey so far has seen quite a few ups and downs…how do you look at it?
I tend not to take success or failure seriously. It really is a part of life, and so much of it is out of your hands, so it’s just about accepting it and moving forward. You need to learn from your mistakes. Particularly as an actor, I don’t think there’s much in my hands. The film is made by someone else, it’s promoted by another guy, released by a third guy. All that I have in my hands, is the work between action and cut, that I can control, that part I take seriously, that I look at, analyse where have I gone wrong, and I try and turn my weaknesses into strengths. When a film doesn’t do well, it makes you upset but you have to be able to distinguish and say that it’s not entirely my failure; if people haven’t liked my work, that’s my failure. This is the way I look at it.

 So, how do you react to failures?
I have a very philosophical outlook on these things. Good times come and go, bad times come and go, and it’s all transitional. So, you have to kind of pull what happiness, joy and satisfaction you can, out of it, whatever that may be. We get caught up, we have blinders and look at a very small picture. Then you look up and say, I’m a guy who was never supposed to be an actor, suddenly I’m here working with people I respect and like, I have a life of plenty of happiness with family, my wife, my friends. I’m a person who’s got more than I ever hoped for, and more than most people will ever get in their life, so how can I complain?

What is it that you look for when you’re offered a script?
For me, it’s really as simple as whether I would want to watch the film myself. Obviously, when you read something you’re having a vision of it in your head. I ask myself, would I watch this film? In our business, you never know what’s going to work. Obviously, nobody sets out to make a flop. Everyone wants to make blockbuster films, but why do we fall short sometimes, is because you can’t really predict what the audience would be interested in. All you can go by is, your taste and your heart.

When did stardom sink in for you? And do you believe that stardom has its own price to pay?
It’s an ongoing process, if I’m completely honest. There are still moments where I feel maybe I’ll go somewhere and I won’t get recognised. So, it’s still ongoing. The issue that concerns me is that somewhere with celebrity culture, you tend to lose human rights. For instance, if a man tried to get a picture up a girl’s skirt, to try and get a picture of her underwear, he’d be beaten on the street and sent to jail, unless, that girl happened to be an actress. Then the public apparently has a right to know about her underwear. So, the same newspaper who’ll show how this dirty molester was caught trying to grope a girl on the front page, will post a photograph of a heroine’s underwear when she was sitting at an event, and they managed to get a shot of her skirt. So, now because she’s an actress, is it that she’s no longer a woman, and we should no longer respect her and protect her the way we protect anyone else? That part I don’t understand.

While you’re a part of the industry, you still kind of stay aloof from certain things, don’t you?
I don’t want people to know everything about me. I don’t feel that they need to. The more people know about me, it becomes a hindrance, the more baggage they’re carrying into a theatre about me, the more it’s affecting their judgement of my work. I speak in public for two reasons : one is that I have to, to promote my films, and secondly, sometimes there are some things that I feel very strongly about, and I’m in a position to influence certain decisions, debates, so I feel I would want to lend my voice to certain discussions. Apart from that, I never speak on what I consider to be trivial matters. There are always talks about who went on a holiday and what they did. There are always photographs of certain actors exiting restaurants? So, how does the media know that an actor is visiting a restaurant? Do they stand outside a restaurant, hoping some actor will turn up? No, they’re told to go there right? Somehow, nobody turns up outside the restaurants I go to.

Would it be right to say that you’re reserved?
Yes, very much. I’m very reserved. I’m not easy to get to make friends with or to like or get along with, it takes work. It takes work to get to know me, to like me, and to breakthrough all of that, and frankly I’m quite happy about that.

Do we see you direct someday?
Of course I’d like to direct a film someday. That’s why I got into the business, that’s what I’ve trained for. For now, I’m genuinely enjoying acting. I never thought I’d do it, but I find myself at a place where I’m really enjoying what I’m doing. I’m having new experiences, the kind of things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. All of these things go towards your growth as a person and as a creative person. I’m getting to work with so many directors and you get to learn something from each one of them, so I always think about what I can imbibe from them.

You were appreciated with your debut film itself…since then has it been a struggle to keep performing better?
That’s inherent to any creative person. You always want more, you always want to do better, and move forward. And that desire, it never goes away, ideally. For some people, it goes away and it shows with their work. The reality of our business is that it’s always going to be self-driven and self-motivated, because, people are always willing to embrace and celebrate mediocrity. Because someone is famous, we’ll say very good and well done, even when someone is not doing good work. So, unless you choose to grow, you choose to move forward, you won’t grow.

Do you take criticism seriously?
I treat any kind criticism in the same way. Just because one person’s opinion can be printed on paper, doesn’t mean that opinion is more valuable than any other person’s opinion. We tend to forget that part. Whatever any critic has to say, or whatever a fan has to say, I weigh that opinion equally. You say I’m good, I’ll say okay, you say I’m bad, I’ll say okay, and then I take the average. I see what is of value and move forward from there.

Lastly, what next do we have from you post ‘OUATIMD’?
As of now, there’s just Punit Malhotra’s ‘Gori Tere Pyaar Mein’. A few other projects are being worked out, but nothing concrete for now. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The young brigade on a roll!

Small-budget, young films have left the audience charmed in the first half of 2013

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This feature was published in the July 6, 2013 issue of Super Cinema) 

If you thought that 2012 was a fun year at the movies, with small-budget, niche films coming to the forefront and taking all the accolades, along with a number of other films making it to the 100-crore mark then, hold that thought. Because, 2013 has sprung up quite a few surprises as well. And of course, none of us are complaining! Some quintessential entertainers have managed to do well, yet again, and then there were some mega-budget films that didn’t manage to hit the jackpot. Yes, indeed the box office is soaring high, but what’s really nice is how some small films, with a relatively fresh cast, and novel concepts have managed to woo the audience and command attention. This is just another testament to the fact that Hindi cinema is changing and we’re becoming more concept-driven than star-driven. And, what’s even more amusing is that because of this whole change in the scenario, even the stars who were extremely happy in their trademark style, and genre, are now willing to experiment, and be a part of various subjects. For instance, we saw how Akshay Kumar moved away from the larger-than-life action and comedy, to do something as unique as a ‘Special 26’. But, here’s the thing. While the audience loves to see their favourite stars in their patent form, and the big stars are happy in their own comfort zone, we have the younger lot, who is being a part of the change. The younger lot, on the other hand, with their energy, dynamism and freshness, is willing to experiment, try something new, or probably just do what’s being done, differently. Which is why, filmmakers are also willing to work with newer talents. The reason for this could also be the fact that in India, the majority of the movie-goers comprise of the youth. The younger lot is like a wave of fresh air, amidst the staple Hindi cinema fare, which we equally enjoy, by the way! So, hey, while the Bachchans, the Khans, the Devgn, and Khiladi Kumar still continue to reign, the youth is slowly making its presence felt on the 70mm and charming us by displaying some great prowess.

This year as well, just like last year, a number of moderately-budgeted films have shown immense potential and excelled at the box office. While ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ has proven to be the biggest blockbuster of the year so far; as far as the cost-profit ratio is concerned, the biggest hit has been ‘Aashiqui 2’. Producer Mahesh Bhatt thinks it’s the soul of the film which created that kind of impact. He opines, “It is certainly nice that a film made under a budget of 9 crores, goes on to make around 80 crores, nationally. All of us had deep conviction in Shagufta Rafique’s story. The director, Mohit Suri gave a new soul to the film. I think what worked for ‘Aashiqui 2’ was that after a long time came a film that made people cry. In today’s day and age, we hardly see heroines on-screen who are like ‘Seeta’, or who’re so traditional. And it was a welcome change to see this kind of love, and these kind of characters which is why it became a hit. Also, the music added to its popularity. Lately, given to the public pressure, we see only happy endings in films, but if you see epic love stories like ‘Mughal-e-azam’, they didn’t have a happy ending. We’re now moving into a global culture, the consumer is getting more evolved, yet somewhere the audience likes the traditional values in our films.” Apart from ‘Aashiqui 2’, the Boman Irani-Arshad Warsi starrer ‘Jolly LLB’ has also proven to be a dark horse. The film did exceptionally well at the box office, with some great reviews by the critics.

Another film which managed to find a connect with the audience was ‘Kai Po Che’. Starring newcomers, the film dealt with several things at one go, and yet managed to be engrossing and heart-warming. Of course, all the credit goes to director Abhishek Kapoor, but the three young actors of the film totally shined through, and definitely, the film proved to be a new, sweet beginning for them. In fact, newbie Sushant Singh Rajput already bagged quite a few other films before ‘Kai Po Che’ even released. “You know, people might have thought earlier that ‘Kai Po Che’ is not a typical launch because it’s not a single hero film. But I feel extremely fortunate to have ‘Kai Po Che’ has my debut, since it was a character-driven film. Cinema is changing as we know, and the variety of films we’ve had last year, prove that. ‘Kai Po Che’ again was yet another film that was different,” says Sushant. 

Actor Amit Sadh, who played Omi in the film admits that this film has been life-changing for him. Amit expresses, “I would say that after this film, I feel like a new born. It has been a life-changing experience for me, especially working with people like these. I used to say, this film has no actual stars, everyone in the film apart from actors, are stars. We had a national-award winning producer, director, sound-recordist! I’m still amazed at my luck to get a character like this so early in my career. I still don’t know how I did it! I’m still soaking it all in.”

What we also saw this year, was India’s first dance film in 3D. Directed by Remo, ‘ABCD’ did manage to allure the dance enthusiasts and many others. Later, Vidyut Jammwal starrer ‘Commando’, redefined the action genre, and was a complete departure from the larger-than-life action films that are a trend in Hindi cinema, in recent times. Vidyut who was considered more as a baddie, post his stint in ‘Force’, established himself as the solo lead, and the new action hero, with ‘Commando’. Time and again, it’s being proven that it’s all about re-inventing oneself, and a veteran director like David Dhawan just did that this year with ‘Chashme Buddoor’. He moved away from his style of comedy, cast relatively new actors, and the film went on to do great.

South actress Taapsee Pannu, who made her Hindi film debut with ‘Chashme Buddoor’, completely credits the veteran director for how the film turned out to be. She says, “Probably, three years from now, Hindi cinema was not as open to newcomers as it is right now. But today, it’s different. During ‘Chashme Buddoor’, it was so surprising that a director like David Dhawan, who is such a veteran, could re-invent himself and work with a newcomer like me and youngsters like the other actors in the film. He recreated the feel of the youth. He’s actually the youngest by heart. It’s his youth that has reflected in the movie.” And the man himself, David Dhawan is extremely overwhelmed by the response to the film.
His voice is brimming with happiness, while he says, “The fact that ‘Chashme Buddoor’ did well despite having newcomers is a big thing for me. It’s my unsaid answer to a lot of people. I feel really great that people appreciated the film. Times have changed, and now smaller films can also do very well. ‘Chashme Buddoor’, ‘Jolly LLB’, ‘Aashiqui 2’ and many more are examples of that!”

Y Films’ ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’ is another film to have made a good mark, despite the film being made at a very small budget, and not going overboard with the promotional activities. Obviously, it opened newer avenues for actor Saqib Saleem. “I cannot really figure out how much should the box office collection of a film be. So, I didn’t expect this kind of response to ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’, but obviously, I’m not complaining. I’m very happy that people suddenly want to work with me, and I’m being offered a variety of parts in different films. You know, I have that certain kind of look, though I’m 25, I look 22-23 on-screen so I thought I would get the similar kind of young roles only, but now people are giving me some serious roles which I’ve always wanted to do, so this is an interesting phase. But when it comes to ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’, I have to give credit to one person and that’s my director Ashima Chibber because it was her first film and she had to be convinced that I was her character,” explains Saqib.

And then, who would have thought that we’d see a film which will be touted as India’s first zombie film. We aren’t a zombie crazy country, yet ‘Go Goa Gone’ with its unique concept, and elements of horror and comedy combined, was successful in entertaining the audience. While it did have Saif Ali Khan donning the hat of a producer, and in an extended cameo, the film majorly worked only because of its content.
The recently released ‘Fukrey’ was a complete entertainer as well, and people still are raving about the film. ‘Raanjhanaa’ also has proven to be extremely appealing to the audience, and Dhanush who’s made his debut with this one, has bowled over everyone with his performance. But, while the first half of 2013 was dominated by the young brigade and smaller films, the next half of the year shall be filled with big releases and mega stars. There’s ‘Chennai Express’, ‘Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai Dobara’, ‘Krissh 3’, ‘Boss’ and ‘Dhoom 3’ to name a few.

Now, this is what is interesting! We have big films, with big stars being awaited and welcomed with open arms, and then even the newer lot is getting a good reception from the audience. Now, if this is where we’re going with Hindi cinema, it’s truly awesome! The audience certainly has a buffet of options being offered to them, and a huge variety of films to choose from. This variety in films, is most definitely, adding a lot of spice to our otherwise monotonous life. At least, for a big Hindi cinema fanatic like me, this is a treat! The year so far must have been creatively satisfying for a lot of people. Evidently, we’ve had a lot of fun at the movies, and hopefully it will continue to remain so even in the second half of the year!  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eventually, it all comes down to
the box-office ticket!

Smaller the film, smaller the price of a ticket? Or is it the opposite?

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This feature has been published in the August 3, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, once said, “Filmmaking is a game you should play with all your cards, and all your dice and whatever else you’ve got.” Now, that’s true, isn’t it? Behind everything that looks glamorous and larger-than-life on the 70mm, is the hard work, planning and plotting! So, while making a film is a herculean task in itself, still, the most important part of the entire process remains, making the final product reach the audience! Because, beyond a shadow of doubt, the ‘aam junta’ is the ultimate king! Which is why, today, promoting a film is also as important as making it. Yet, what remains a question is how can a film reach out to the widest possible audience? But before that, here’s a bigger question, who’s the target audience?
Depending on that, the producers, along with the distributors and exhibitors have a number of things to work on, for instance, the number of screens where the film will be shown, and most importantly, how the tickets for a particular film should be priced.
Because, at the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing – the moolah! What matters is that the film should produce money at the box office, thus, making everyone involved in the process happy. Which is why, pricing a ticket for a film, plays such a huge role, especially, when it comes to small-budget films, with no huge stars, which don’t see a very wide release.

In recent times, just as we see a gradual change in Hindi cinema, there are so many smaller films which have turned out to be huge hits, because of their content, backed by a good strategy. Having said that, let’s also talk about extremely niche films like ‘Ship Of Theseus’, in recent times. The film boasts of some great content, and has also generated a rave response from the industry insiders which led to an extremely positive word of mouth on social networking sites like Twitter. But, since the film was originally meant for a very niche, elite audience, in its opening weekend, the ticket prices were high. Some people think it was absolutely justified considering it was meant for that kind of an audience, and some feel that a small film like this should be priced slightly less so it can reach a larger audience. While the little debate continues, the film has definitely benefitted through positive word of mouth, and the ticket prices also went down eventually in the later days. In the meantime, another film making news is ‘The Lunchbox’, starring Irrfan Khan, Nawaazuddin, and Nimrat Kaur, that has now been picked up by Karan Johar for a release in India. So, then, what is the kind of strategy that producers, along with distributors and exhibitors should adopt for films like these? How does one make it reach to a wide audience, and yet, not lose too much money? We spoke to a few people on this subject, and how the ticket prices play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of a film. Take a look!

Ramesh Taurani, producer
"I think the ticket price should be decided according to the budget of a film. We’ve been explaining this to multiplex owners, and exhibitors, but that’s not really happening. When you make a small film, you want a lot of people to come and watch it, and if the price is high, the audience won’t really watch the film. We had a film called ‘Toh baat Pakki’, it was a small film, and a good film, but it didn’t do well, probably because the ticket price was slightly high. Obviously, the audience wouldn’t pay the same amount for ‘Toh Baat Pakki’ as they would be willing to pay for ‘Race’ or ‘Race 2’. So, I think there should be some difference in the ticket prices, depending upon the size of the film."

 Shyam Shroff, Shringar Films
"Price of Rs 400/- or Rs. 500/- for a ticket, that amount is a high figure even in case of commercial movies. In my humble opinion, it should be restricted to only prime shows. As far as smaller films, like ‘Ship of Theseus’ or ‘The Lunch Box’ are concerned, the idea is very simple. Such movies should just be treated as new born babies. One needs to nurture them with mother’s milk, bottled milk, semi solid food and solid food, step wise."

Shrishti Arya, producer
"Obviously, the way to go about smaller films is different than the conventional huge films. But the ticket price depends on several factors, like the budget of the film, the star cast, the target audience. Probably, I think the way ‘Ship of Theseus’ was handled was very nice, and I wouldn’t really disagree to what they did. But you know the audience also does spend on the films that they really wish to watch. So, during festivals, or as they say, ‘event movies’, the audience does spend and watch the film. It is a wonderful time now, and smaller films will continue to do well with a good strategy involved. Even with a film like ‘The Lunchbox’, I’m sure with someone like Karan Johar backing it up, they will plan a good strategy for the film."

Akshaye Rathi, Rathi group of cinemas
"I believe the pricing of tickets for every single film should be worked out after studying the demographic details of the audience it primarily caters to, and determining the amount that would make it value for money for movie goers. For example, while a ‘Chennai Express’ or a ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara’, can comfortably sell tickets at Rs. 350 in multiplexes, a ‘John Day’ featuring Naseeruddin Shah and Randeep Hooda can attract a significant audience if the same multiplex shows it at Rs. 150, which the average audience would be comfortable paying for an interesting film without stars. While bigger films that have wide releases must open across multiple grades of cinemas, in order to allow the audience from every section of the social strata to watch the film, the small releases should look at ensuring that every screen they open at, gives them a significant return of investment. For example, a ‘Ship Of Theseus’, which is very niche (and will not suffer the effects of large scale piracy) should ideally open at the red lounge and gold class initially where it can sell tickets at Rs. 400 and above. Once the digital projection overheads reduce in the second week, it can go to the normal multiplex screens and be priced at about Rs. 200 a ticket. And then, when the projection overheads come to a bare minimum in week three, it can target getting shows at single screens at price points as low as 50-100, which will guarantee a positive return of investment. A cycle like this can ensure that people from every SEC who are interested in watching a film, can get an opportunity to watch it at a price that is affordable for them, while keeping the returns for exhibitors and distributors positive. But, these decisions ought to be taken by the entire value chain – the producer and the distributor in consultation with exhibitors."

Girish Johar, Head, Distribution and Acquisition, Sahara Motion Pictures 
"The price of the ticket must be decided with respect to the film being offered. Ticket price is a very critical issue, sometimes despite a film being good, the audience may not go to see a film because of the higher ticket rates. But, a film like ‘Ship Of Theseus’, it was marketed for the high-end niche audience who could probably afford to spend that much amount for a film, hence, one can’t really say that the ticket was priced too high. Somewhere, people associated with the film knew that probably only a certain section of the audience who prefer watching niche cinema, would watch the film, hence it was only priced that way. In general though, the pricing of a movie at the theatres depends on several factors, whether it’s a holiday, whether it’s releasing on any festival, or during some event, or how big is the film. For instance, if it’s a film like ‘The Lunchbox’, the audience may not want to pay a huge amount to watch a film, but perhaps if it’s a Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan or a Ranbir Kapoor film, people may just spend that much money. It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes, if the content is good, and it’s priced high, then the audience still may go watch the film, but if the content is only not good, then the collections will drop on Friday itself. I think the ideal way is to be safe and price a film moderately, so it can reach a maximum audience, and so it could enjoy the best of both worlds. There are various factors involved when pricing of a film is concerned, and producers, distributors and exhibitors would like to definitely cash in, on the favourable factors like a holiday or festival. "

Friday, August 2, 2013

Huma Qureshi

“As an actor, there are so many pressures on you. It is difficult, but one has to learn while one is going on”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the July 27, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Credit for first two pictures : Toto Nandy 

Picture number 3, credit : Rohan Shreshtha 

Huma Qureshi came like a breath of fresh air, which is probably why, she was instantly accepted after her debut stint, in a male-dominated film. She did re-define sexy, with her curves, and ‘adaa’. While most people called her unconventionally beautiful, some said she possessed yesteryear-heroine-like charm. And obviously, criticism also came along. But, I think it’s Huma’s simplicity that works, not just on-screen, but off-screen too. She’s non-diplomatic, speaks her heart, and no, there’s no starry air around her, not yet. She has, certainly, got acceptance from the audience and the industry, which is what also shows in the kind of offers coming her way. Interestingly though, it’s only been a year since she’s made her debut. Up next on Huma’s sleeve is ‘Dedh-Ishqiya’, but for now, it’s the recently released ‘D-Day’ that has been garnering some great response from all over. She’s clad in a black knee-length dress, with hair let loose. She curls up her feet on the couch, the pillow kept next to her is now on her lap as she gets comfortable and we begin to chat. Now this initially turns out to be more of a girl conversation, than an interview! But, here we have, Huma Qureshi, talking about ‘D-Day’, as she also opens up about several aspects of her personality:

With D-Day getting such a fabulous response, you must be really happy!
We set out to make a good film, but it’s humbling that people are connecting so emotionally to it. I’ve always maintained that, though this film is a thriller, and it has action, it’s a film that deals with the emotional journey of these characters. There was also so much of patriotic sentiment attached to it. It was fiction, but it wasn’t fantasy, it was more real and believable. And for me to play Zoya Rehman was a challenge, since there was a lot of action, it was something very new for me. Of course, we had all the help in the world though, we had Tom Struthers, our action director, who taught us so much!

How was the whole experience of working with such a team of actors on ‘D-Day’?
Whenever I do a new film and I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been cast in movies that have some of the best actors of our generation, so I only try and learn from them. With Rishi sir, his zest for life, the passion that he has for movies even today, despite having done so much already, is commendable. I don’t know if I’ll have such kind of passion, if I’ve done so many movies and seen the world. Irrfan, his sheer understanding of the craft is amazing, he’s always thinking about how should he make the scene better, the way he approaches the scene, there’s so much to learn from him, and with Irrfan, even when you’re doing a scene, you never know what he’s going to do next, and that’s so watchable, and as a co-actor it always keeps you on your toes because you never know what he’s going to come up with. Even he admits that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do till he actually does it. Arjun is the most fun to be with, he’s one of the most fit and good looking men we have in the country, and he’s also a national award winner. Even the new people, whether it’s Shriswara or Aakash Dahiya in the film, they’ve brought so much to the table.

After films like ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ and ‘D-Day’ what are the kind of offers coming your way?
There are many interesting offers, and surprisingly a lot of commercial offers. But I’m not really sitting back and counting the offers coming my way, or the appreciation coming my way, I’m just working and that’s what I want to do. I mean it’s just been a year now, and I’m on my 6th film which feels so amazing but I’m just enjoying the different kind of work coming my way, I’ve just begun and that’s about it.

With the kind of appreciation you’ve recieved, so soon in your career, should I assume that you’ve settled in here?
I still feel new and unsure, I still feel I don’t know enough, I still feel I’m learning. There’s so much I haven’t done yet, and I just want to keep pushing my limits as an actor, as a person. It feels nice when there’s adulation, recognition, acceptance in a lot of ways. There is that, but I’m still new. Sometimes it’s very dizzy. Though, I’ve adapted the change in life, I’m pretty adaptable to change, I have to admit. I guess that also helps in being an actor, but having said that, it’s still unnerving. The past two months I’ve taken like just four days holidays. I didn’t have time to take a bigger holiday, but sometimes I feel there’s so much information overload, that I feel the need to just disconnect. So many things I have to constantly do, or places I have to be at, or commitments I have to keep, plus you have to take care of your health and not fall sick. And as an actor, there are so many other pressures on you. It is difficult, but one has to learn while one is going on.

So, what is it that makes you want to do a film when offered to you?
When you meet some people, you see their intent, their passion, that’s the first thing you see  and you know that these are the people you want to work with, these are nice guys. I know it sounds very dumb, but it’s true, because you want to work with people who you like working with. You’re going to spend at least six months to a year of your life, working with some people so you better like them, they better be nice people to work with, otherwise it’s going to be horrible. I don’t want to work in the biggest movie if I’m going to be horrible and crying and miserable, how is it going to help me any which way. But I’ve worked with some very good people, people who’ve been very protective and caring, and I’ve only grown with them. And then of course, I prefer reading a script to a narration. I think it’s a much better objective way of breaking down things in your head.

Despite being someone who’s always in the public eye, you wear your heart on your sleeve…
I get along with most people, so I can talk to most people. But if I don’t connect to some people, I won’t talk. What will I hide, and for long will I hide? So, I might as well be honest say it myself. I would hate it if that would change about me. I would hate it if I would become too wise and too proper, too cautious. I would hate to be cautious. I think, whoever I am, or wherever I am in life today, is because of who I am, so I don’t feel the need to hide my personality or me because people are going to judge me or not like it. I’m here because people like me. I wouldn’t be here, doing all these movies if people wouldn’t like me. So, why would I try and change, because somebody has an idea that actresses should be like this, and give interviews like that; there’s no book that comes along.

I met your brother Saqib few days back, and he told me, “Huma is so pure-hearted, she takes people by face value.” Is it so?
Yes, but honestly, I think it works and I’ll tell you why. Not that I’ve not had my share of having my heart broken, and I think how can people be like this, it still happens every day. But I have so many other people, who see this in me, and protect me, and they protect me selflessly. Like when I started out also, there were so many people who’d just recommend me, or talk nice about me, and say lovely things about me because they like me. So, I’m happy to be like this. And, Saqib and I have this amazing relationship. He’s my younger brother, but he is my elder brother in a lot of ways. He does take more responsibility on himself, than the normal, to be my best friend, and my brother, and my parent, because our parents are in Delhi. It’s crazy, you tend to have so many friends in the industry, but then there are only a few people who you can actually share your personal things with, and I’m a typical girl, I need to talk, so Saqib by default has become my sister. I always ask him should I wear this, and he’ll always tell me, ‘Oh stay away from that boy’, and all that.

You’re on your sixth film now. How have things changed?
I’ve become more confident in a lot of things. I’ve also become more aware of my flaws. So, it’s kind of strange because I know what my flaws are and I’m working on them, but at the same time I’m becoming more confident with each film. There are still so many things about how technically movies are made, that I don’t know. So, I’d like to know them a little better. As an actor, I think being emotional helps. Being an emotional person helps, it helps you relate to characters, it helps you relate to people while you’re working if someone has written a part, and has written it with certain kind of emotion and intensity. On personal front, I’ve realised there are a lot of restrictions that come along. Like I went gaming with my friends, and while I’m trying to play, people are coming and asking for pictures, so I’m like I want to play. I did pose for pictures though, and I love it. I can never say no to someone when they ask for a picture, because I owe it to them, because I’m never going to meet that person again and this is the only impression of me, live in person, flesh and blood, that they’re going to have. I don’t want to disappoint them. But, it’s really tough. I thought it’s all going to be easy breezy, but it’s not.

When stardom sinks in; it may be difficult to be yourself, and not seem arrogant. How do you handle that part?
I can’t speak for other people, but sometimes you have to be slightly more practical and maintain your privacy. Some people think, just because you’re an actor, you’re in the public eye or you’re famous, they have 24/7 access into your life, and mind. I hate it when people randomly just SMS me, ‘it’s so and so day, what do you think about it?’, or the oil prices have increased, what do you think about it? Give us a quote.’ I’m an actor and I won’t know everything about everything. But sometimes it’s also nice, because they do express the fact that they like your work or appreciate your work, but sometimes it does get intrusive, you feel you want your private space. It’s weird. Also, when it’s your first film, you have all the time in the world, nobody’s bothering you, you’re just working on the film. Now I’m working on one film, and doing ten other things, may be shooting one film, and promoting the other, my mind is constantly here and there, so I may not be able to be as available as I was earlier, so people misinterpret that as arrogance. I have a lovely family and friends, they keep me grounded, they keep me very real. I don’t know how to behave like a star, or someone who’s famous. I just know how to behave like me. And I would rather behave like me, than try and pretend to be someone else.

What is it that you wish to do from here on?
I’m still finding my feet. But, it’s good that I’m working with the filmmakers I’m working with. I really think now, it’s the question of how much I keep myself ticking and motivated and passionate about what I’m doing. Every day, every new character is a challenge. So it has to be that. It can’t stagnate.

The last time we spoke, you told me you’d be the worse girlfriend to have, since you keep so busy. Do you still maintain that?
(Laughs) I’m still the worse girlfriend to have, because where’s the time? If I had a boyfriend, it’s lovely weather to go for a walk, have coffee, watch a movie but here I am, doing an interview. Obviously my work is more important right now than any boy. But see, when the right boy comes, probably I’ll make time. Then, maybe I’ll be like, ‘Baby come sit here next to me, let me finish this interview’ (Laughs).

Along with the appreciation coming your way, there’s also been some bit of criticism with regards to you being on the healthier side. How do you deal with that?
I have my bright days, and I have my dull days. But there’s so much to be thankful for. I couldn’t have asked for more. So, I’m only looking at all the positive aspects.