Monday, February 2, 2015

The ‘Khamoshiyan’ trio!

Breaking the silence…

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the January 31, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

The cast of ‘Khamoshiyan’ – Ali Fazal, Sapna Pabbi and Gurmeet Choudhary – is a crazy bunch. Minutes before the interview starts they’re playing musical chairs in Vishesh Films’ office. The camaraderie just comes through as they crack silly jokes, laugh, and appreciate each other. They’re uninhibited, honest and completely passionate about their craft, as is apparent from the way they get talking about the film. As opposed to the complex character she essays in the film, Sapna Pabbi is child-like, and while she along with Fazal keeps the fun element up, Gurmeet balances it out, as he looks like the more ‘serious’ one of the lot. Only looks, I guess or probably he’s still in the mode of his character. So, here’s the trio waxing eloquent on ‘Khamoshiyan’, their preparations and the challenges.

With the promotional spree, and seeing how the film has shaped up, what was your thought process?
Sapna Pabbi:
I believe, I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I was actually pretty confident, because everyone around me is a pro at what they do.
Gurmeet Choudhary: For me everything has been so new, including promotions. Television was completely different. Too much energy is needed when you’re promoting the film so much. But I’m also feeling very good because rather than just sitting, it is better that you work non-stop. Most importantly, it’s a good film with a good banner. So, I’m very happy.
Ali Fazal: I still remember the call I got from Karan Darra, our director. I remember I was shooting for ‘Bobby Jasoos’, some patch work was left. I was in my van when I got the call and I was so excited about this one-liner he gave me. So, I made him narrate almost the whole thing on the phone. Obviously, the script went through a lot of positive and progressive changes over time. It was a fabulous story even in its original script, not something taken from different places. And that’s the opinion I still stand by.

Sapna and Gurmeet, this being your first film, what did you think of your characters which are so layered?
Because the film is so soulful and deep, my character has got lots of layers. For a new actress, I’ve got a lot to do in ‘Khamoshiyan’, which is great. There’s obviously that erotica element in it, but it’s very tasteful and nice, but there’s also a lot more to the film than just that. There’s a story even behind the erotica. There’s a lot of mind and a lot of soul to her, that’s how a modern woman is, I think. Before the shoot, I was really concerned about the erotic part, because it’s just me and two of them. I was nervous because it’s something very private but I think both these guys were great.
I think I took the longest time to say yes to the film. Of course, everything was good, right from the banner to the script. Even when Karan made me hear the script, I thought he is good enough to direct the film, he is very young, just starting out, and since I’m also starting out, I thought we can do something good together. But, I’m little mad. When I got this character, I thought it would take some time to understand how to do it and whether or not I can do it. Also, I wanted to make it different from the characters I’ve done so far on television. So, I thought it would be very challenging which is why I took a while to say yes. But, it’s really nice when you get to do something like this in the initial phase of your career.

You guys had workshops for the film too, how did that help?
I’m still finding my way to go about a character, but workshops mainly helped us bond. More than anything, the three of us got close, and hopefully for the next project, I wouldn’t do it any other way. It’s nice to create that kind of relationship first and then go out there and shoot. I was probably learning more as I went along, as my character is also changing throughout the film. I learnt as and when the changes took place. I had Karan and Vikram (Bhatt) sir to guide me or give me little tips. Especially Vikram sir, he’s been doing this for the longest time, so even he can spot someone and know what works better for them. I tried and tested everyone’s methods to see what comes better out of all that. And because workshops helped us bond, it made me less nervous for the intimate scenes.
Ali: Yes, that’s an integral part of the film, and if your co-star is not even a bit comfortable, you would also have problems in getting it right. Which is why, workshops helped. Because we bonded, we knew each other’s inhibitions, fears and that sort of, gave it a lot more sanity.

And how did you interpret your character?
My character also goes through a lot of turmoil, ups and downs. My problem is, I pick my director’s brain, my writer’s brain and I form something out of it, putting myself into that situation. Otherwise, you’re lying if you’re not bringing yourself into whatever you’re playing. He has a particular walk. He’s ambidextrous, which wasn’t there in the script. He’s come to write a story and he writes a girl’s destiny. I’ve taken this line from the fourth floor actually, we’re on the second floor. Those are Bhatt Saab’s words (laughs). In a layman’s language, I can say that I’ve never gone this massy. So, that was a fun, challenging jump. Also, it was important for me to even know Gurmeet’s and Sapna’s characters thoroughly because they are a big influence on my character. So, I’m thankful to them. Because they played their characters so well, it was easier for me to get into that zone.

What were the preparations that you went through Gurmeet? Did your learning from television help?
Workshops for me was a first of its kind experience, because on television you don’t really have time to prepare for your characters. I remember when I was playing Ram, I had long hair and a particular kind of body. And after that was over, within 15 days I got another show so obviously I couldn’t have the same look. Just within 15 days, I had to transform completely. On the other hand, for this film, I had a lot of time. What I learnt through workshops is that the bonding you develop with your co-actors really helps. But the real workshops happened at my place. I decided the look and started working out accordingly, and Karan helped me in that. There’s another element in the film I cannot tell you about, so I started practicing at home for that as well, and got a photoshoot done. I then came to Mukesh (Bhatt) ji and Karan, and asked them which look or body language to go for. I think television has certainly helped me get into the zone of a character. Nowadays, you get to do everything on TV, be it action or romance, or comedy. I was taking television as my learning ground for films. Otherwise if you’re a rank newcomer and you have to suddenly lip sync or say some dialogues, it can get difficult. For me, because I’d already done all of it for my shows, it wasn’t much of a problem.
Ali: We’re like the opposite ends of a spectrum.

Oh why do you say that? How different is your approach?
I believe one has to switch on and switch off to remain sane. When you’re so deep into a character, especially when it’s complex, it can drive you nuts. Which is why, sometimes I consider myself a thief, I really steal people’s lives, I pick things from here and there. I picked up this hunger to learn, from Aamir at the time of ‘3 Idiots’. Or like Naseer Saab says, ‘Don’t ever highlight your dialogues.’ We have the habit of highlighting our own dialogues in a script, I do, I highlight all my other character’s lines. The problem in our industry is, we don’t have that kind of script-work. So, jitna you would like to know ki kitna effort gaya hai, utna we can’t tell you because the script almost last minute it gets ready. There are places where there is a script work, but we don’t go too much into it (unless you do it individually like Gurmeet) and that shows. What his character was at the script level and what it is now is just amazing. I mean what he has finally made the character, is wow! I think playing off each other spontaneously is what really makes the difference. Like me and Vidya (Balan) in ‘Bobby Jasoos’. Even though everyone criticised our pair, if you see how we’ve played it, if you’ve seen the film, our chemistry is very unique. The way she speaks to me in the film or the equation we shared makes a big difference.

You mean it’s more about working as a team for the film, than selfishly just looking at your character?
Ali: Yes, always! You can’t be selfish in the business. Once they call cut, that’s when you can be selfish. We all want our own juices, coffees and vanities (Everyone laughs).

Was it a bit challenging emotionally to get the drill of characters in a film like this? What were the other challenges?
Emotionally, yes it was difficult. I remember, when we started shooting, I couldn’t stop crying for the whole day. They had to put me in a corner and would only call me when the shot was ready. For the initial few days, it was like, I wanted someone to take me home, and put me to sleep. It all came from the heart, so it took a lot out of me. But, it also helped break a lot of ice. I figured where this trigger of Meera (her character) was, if I really wanted to use this again, I knew what to do.  
Ali: Yes, I remember how she cried. For me, the most difficult part was to play this drunkard. In one of the scenes, there’s a switch where he’s laughing, and crying while he’s drunk so there was a lot of play of emotions. I was really scared for that one. I don’t know about other actors, but playing drunk is the hardest thing ever, at least for me, because I’d never done that. There’s a caricature which you don’t want to get into. In fact, when you’re drunk you’re most stiff. You’re thinking sharper because you’re trying your best to sort of not lose control. Now that I think of it, I feel I might be totally wrong in my film actually.
Gurmeet: On set, there weren’t many difficulties for me because I’d prepared a lot. But, there was pressure if I’d be able to come up to that level. What’s difficult is to maintain the consistency of the character. Sometimes it can be draining because you’re not able to come out of that zone, body language and emotions even after pack-up. A lot of times, I would get the same things in my sleep. It just stays with you.
Ali: Yes, you know as actors we tend to over-intellectualise a shot sometimes and it gets too serious, which is why you need people like Vikram Bhatt or Mahesh Bhatt cracking the silliest joke on planet on the set. It’s actually very smart of them to bring the actor back to normal, because sometimes, that’s just what you need. So, what I take back from this film is a sense of family while you’re working.

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