Monday, June 29, 2015

Amit Sadh

“I’m very fearless, and I’m not saying it arrogantly”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the June 27, 2015 issue of Super Cinema) 

Enter Amit Sadh’s house, and his dogs greet you first. Not a good thing for people scared of dogs though. Later of course, Sadh graciously welcomes you with a warm smile. He’s recently shifted to a new apartment in Khar, so is still in the process of settling in. Donning a white t-shirt and blue jeans, he’s in his usual exuberant mode, jumping around the house, getting all animated when you ask him something. On the other hand his infectious positivity and a deeply philosophical side is not something you can miss either. Clearly, a conversation with him has to be about films and acting, but you can always expect more, because well, it’s Amit Sadh! Read on…

Does your character in ‘Guddu Rangeela’ have this crazy streak which is closer to the real you?
In fact I’m more crazy in the film. I’ve tried making it more like me, so Guddu is a more internal character than external. But the credit goes to Subhash Kapoor, because he knew how to control my energy. I get too energetic and this character could have been fake and loud but sir toned it down. That helped a lot, and infact I took a lot from Subhash sir. I didn’t know anything about that world, but there’s a very good saying that ‘bad actors copy, good actors steal’. I am a big thief. In ‘Yaara’ I took a lot from Tigmanshu sir. I would purposely give a wrong take, he would scold me and then I’d ask him to show how to do it. Being an actor doesn’t mean I know everything. It means I don’t know anything but I can still do everything. I have to make you believe I can.

Be it displaying Omi’s evolution in ‘Kai Po Che’, or looking older than what you are for ‘Yaara’, you’ve never been bothered about always looking good on-screen as long as you’re in the skin of your character….
This thought has never prevailed or entered in my consciousness, to look good and not look good. It’s always a fragmentation of people’s minds. To become somebody else, you always have to let go off who you are. Somehow I like that process so far in each character I’ve played. I celebrate imperfection. It’s the imperfection that makes people unique. For me that is magical and I try bringing that to my characters. I try making my characters so whole, so real, that there’s never an evaluation if he’s good or bad, because you stop looking at me, you start feeling me and my character and that’s what matters.

Is that why you don’t like looking into the mirror while shooting?
Yes, as a rule, I don’t allow a mirror on my set. For me, acting is more organic, and about being in the moment, so I try to stay away from myself. I think as actors we tend to be full of ourselves, which we need not be. When you have the understanding of being gentle, when you have the compassion for people and an interest in their lives, only then you’ll have a memory or record of what people are. When you’re full of yourself, you won’t see anything else. I like meeting people, knowing about their life, their pain, exchanging energies with them, so I can know more and have a big ocean of memories which I can utilise in movies.
It’s been two years since ‘Kai Po Che’ released...while many would think, a big gap after a film like that would work against you, you’ve been pretty careful with choosing projects...
That’s because I need challenge, I need something to make me feel uncomfortable. When you’re comfortable, it gets easy and there’s no magic. It’s not that I want to do less movies. I just wanted to wait for characters that challenge me. But now I have five movies releasing in the next twelve months, I was away because I was shooting for these films. Many people told me after ‘Kai Po Che’ that ‘you’ve acted very well, but there’s no perception about you.’ I thought a lot about what that meant and realised that it’s good. I read in a book that actors shouldn’t have a perception. When people perceive something about you, you’re limiting yourself. If I don’t limit myself, I can do anything. Now that I’ve understood it, I will try and make sure that people have no perception of me. The moment they form an image, I’ll break that with every film.

You’re quite fearless, aren’t you?
I’m very fearless, and I’m not saying it arrogantly. In fact, I’d say that more humbly. I’m very child-like, and children are fearless I think. Someone told me a while ago, that ‘Amit you’re too excited in life, you should tone it down.” I called that person the next day and told them, never tell me to curb my excitement or exuberance, because I can’t work with someone who tells me that. There’s just one thing in my life – exuberance or excitement, and if you take that away from me, or any person, he won’t be happy. I have too much excitement for everything and I can’t change that. I’m not going to act like an actor, I’m going to be an actor who’ll do his job and go. I’m a simple guy. I’m not this cool guy. I’m messed up, my life has been messed up, but I’ve had the guts to wake up and smile every day, to thrive for the best. I’m not going to pretend I’m something in life, I’m not going to pretend that girls go crazy for me, because that’s not my aim in life. My motive in life is to be happy.
Would it be right to say that you’re a misfit here in a way and still proud of that?
I did try fitting in, not just in films, but for various things in life. All my examples go back to life. There were phases when I had doubts about fitting in but then I realised that eventually, there’s no norm, there’s no right or wrong. I’d rather be me. In that, if I fail, that’s my fault, so I became ignorant and thick-skinned. Over time, I have evolved a lot through books, travelling, people, climbing, trekking. I realised that we live once so I am going to be who I am. It’s my energy that matters, so I’m going to cultivate that. I read this amazing book called ‘Being You, Changing The World’, by Dr. Dain Heer. I met him last year and he was a great influence. So, a lot of things happen in life, people evolve. That’s the same thing about movies. I’m just keeping it pure. I just become a character, so in that sense, I’m fitting in the most right? Acting is a make-believe medium, and actors that I emulate, they comprehend and help me find an articulation for what I want. When you see it from an outer circumference, it may seem like I maybe a misfit, but otherwise if you see it deep down, it’s simple.
You mean, you’ve always been yourself…
Yes, and I’ve not tried explaining myself to anyone. People who’ve seen my evolution, craziness, eccentricity, will understand me. But otherwise, I don’t want people to understand me, that’s not my need anyway. I want them to find me through my movies. In that process, they might see my ideology, which also may seem like a contradiction. What I’m thinking today, will be totally opposite to what I think tomorrow, and I like that about life, about cinema, acting. There’s a lot of contradiction, which again people oppose, I embrace. That’s the truth of life. I embrace everything that holds truth. 
So, cinema has had a great influence on the person that you are? Or rather, has it made you a better person?
I was always a great person, who’s done a million mistakes in his life and will continue doing so. There should be no judgment about who is a good person and who's not. It's all about comfort and convenience. We call the other person not a good person when he doesn’t believe in your ideology or principle. But yes, for me, cinema is a psychiatrist, who I don’t pay. I don’t go to her, she comes to me, she heals me, rectifies me, enlightens me. It also makes me a little less judgemental about people, but that comes from compassion and gentleness. We all have our life, our problems, our insecurities, so when you're gentle to someone, you're healing them. And when you heal someone, you're healed.

You've travelled some rough edges, are you healed now? And when you look back today, do you think you're successful?
When I think about the life I have come from, I think I'm a superstar. I'm not a film-star yet, and that I can’t be, people will make me, that's not in my hand. But superstar I already am. At sixteen, I used to clean someone’s house, I am uneducated, I have no degree. I was a security guard at Benetton Delhi, the South Extension one. At 17, I was a helper at Jordash, which now it’s Indigo Blue. I’ve stayed in a chawl, at Munirka village and today I am here. That’s why I’m a star. Not because I’m doing films today, but I’m proud of the way I did it. I’m proud I woke up every morning and worked. A lot of people have their hand in this, but I’m a star in my head. And for me, every person who crawls and stands strong, is a star. If you have a story, I will call you a star, live to tell a story. Get inspired and inspire. That’s my philosophy. This is what makes me secure. A secure person is someone who is ready to receive and give anything. I’m already saying that without people, I’m nothing. Everyone in the frame I’m sharing with, or people saying good and bad about me are the people who make me relevant. So, yes, I’m healed, I have no grudge, I can only be grateful.
But while you are grateful for where you are, is there still a lot of greed for good work? Or is greed a wrong word I’m using here?
I’d say I have this pure, undying greed. I’m absolutely fine with it. Having greed for anything is not bad. There’s a lot of greed for different things but I have simplified life. Right now, there’s greed for work. Maybe after three years, there may be some other greed as well. I want to also climb Mount Everest. I crave for appreciation, just like kids do. Probably because I never got that in my childhood, people called me a loser. Which is why, right now, I’m close to people who pamper me. Thankfully, I’ve also worked with people like Subhash sir or Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor) or Tishu sir (Tigmanshu Dhulia) who treat me like that.
You’re now a lot more confident than you were before ‘Kai Po Che’. What else has changed? Are you just as sensitive?
I’m more confident. You have a lot of fears, you’re scared, but when you start getting fixed, you become this fearless child. I’ve learned this great philosophy in life that when in doubt, love more. What has changed is, now I have an emotional balance. I’m very sensitive and emotional still; ten years back I was mocked about it and now I’m earning a living out of it. I’m not ashamed of being a sensitive man, but now, there’s an emotional balance. I have a little bit of more maturity but I’m still crazy, young and stupid and I’m okay to being that (smiles).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ranveer Singh

“I have no confidence in my own facial features”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the June 6, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

Modesty takes a whole new meaning when you say you're not good-looking at a time when half of the country's women (or even more) are swooning over you. So, what is it that has worked for Ranveer Singh? Is it his natural charm, or the choice of characters that made an impact? Perhaps, it could also be his impulsive nature or crazy streak that makes him stand-out. But while he is all of that, he’s also someone whose dedication surprises you. You know he’s living and breathing a character when you actually see a different side to him every time you meet him. A side that’s similar to the character he is currently essaying. While he’s been busy promoting his latest release ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, what occupies his mind is the mammoth ‘Bajirao Mastani’. The bald-moustache look adds to the feel. But what remains the same about him, is his energy at any given instance. Being as candid as always, Singh talks about ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his injury…

Among all your characters, the one in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ must be the closest to the real you?
Every character has a bit of me in it, because otherwise it wouldn’t look real. But yes, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, is actually the first time where I’ll be seen as an urban contemporary character in a bonafide way. After Zoya (Akhtar) shot the film and saw the rushes, her first reaction was ‘you’re so urban! I didn’t know that.’ She said that since people have not seen me doing something so urban on-screen before, it looks like a new me. Farhan (Akhtar) saw it and even he felt, this was a really different turn for me as an actor. He was very impressed to see the versatility. For me, getting into the character was just a matter of time, because this is perhaps closest to how I speak. 

And then you moved to a character as drastically different as Peshwa Bajirao…
That was a journey in itself! The good part is, I think I’m blessed to have a wide personality disorder maybe, so I can play these different characters. I really enjoyed ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, because it’s a different school of performance. Farhan introduced the casual, candid, young, conversational syntax in ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, we saw that in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ is also filled with that. Because of which, sometimes, at the end of the day, you feel, ‘what did I even do today? Just sat on the sofa and spoke?’ It felt like a holiday film, and of course even the family in the film was on a holiday. I enjoyed my share of that, but by the end of it, I was craving for some Bhansali (laughs). It’s been beautiful working with Zoya, but what you’re supposed to do on Zoya’s set is exactly what you’re not supposed to do on Bhansali’s set and vice versa. It’s completely north-pole and south-pole. It’s so amazing that both these films are coming in the same year. I needed to scream, shout, bash my head against the walls, lose my voice, sweat and bleed after ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’. I was ready for it, but when it came along, it actually proved to be quite difficult. Becoming Bajirao was quite a process. I’d locked myself up in a hotel room for about three weeks and I’d only see my accent coach and physical trailer. Working on my Marathi, the physical structure, living with the material was difficult but I completely enjoyed it. I was off the radar, with no phone or internet. Not all films require that kind of preparation but this one needed it because it’s humungous. It was difficult to create a character so distinct also because Mr Bhansali was more hands-off me than ever before. It’s his biggest film, biggest character and he had complete faith that I’d do something and present it to him. He didn’t even do one reading with me. It’s quite a big thing for me to have a guy like that have faith in my ability.

Did his faith in you stem from ‘…Ram-leela’?
Yes, it came from there. I think ‘…Ramleela’ was the predecessor, it was the warm up before this main task. We had to come together in ‘…Ram-leela’, to be able to do ‘Bajirao-Mastani’, because we worked in great synergy. I’m also very adaptive to his style. What I can give to Mr Bhansali, I’m pretty sure, he can’t get that from any other actor. I’m fully receptive to his style of functioning and his process, which is why I perhaps, he has that amount of faith in me. He recognises the fact that I pour every ounce of myself into what I’m doing. I would never compare myself with Robert De Niro, but he did have an extra special collaboration with Scorcese, Bhansali sir and I, are also like one of those director-actor combo which bring out the best in each other. He trusts me, so after ‘…Ramleela’, I felt that I had a little chance, but this is a massive film, so I couldn’t be that sure. God knows my commercial standing today doesn’t justify that kind of budget, but with Mr. Bhansali, Deepika and me coming together again, it’ll have some kind of draw. Every time he wanted to make a film, he always wanted to make ‘Bajirao Mastani’, but he ended up making something or the other. Finally he’s making this and you can see that he’s all over the material. He’s always had this film in his mind and heart and you can see that. He’s in blistering form. I’m really happy with how it’s shaping up. And if we just see it home in this thick, rich form then we’ll be able to create something special.

You’ve always been a method actor, and I can say that because even how your character walks in ‘Gunday’ is different from a ‘Kill Dil’. But you’ve mentioned earlier that being over-prepared also isn’t good. Have you changed that part now?
I’m glad you noticed that. Yes, I’ve adapted myself to a new style because there’s a criticism my directors had with me. Earlier they felt that I would be so nervous that in order to get over my nervousness, I would over-prepare. When you come on set over-prepared, you can’t break what you’ve decided and do something else. I heard them out but it only took my experience in ‘…Ram-leela’ with Mr Bhansali to actually break that. He validates you with so much confidence that you something with full conviction. He’s helped me a lot with breaking that limitation of mine. I’ve become more spontaneous. Now before a film starts, I prepare, imagine writing it all down on a piece of paper, and throwing the paper away just before you shoot. Then whatever comes to you naturally, in that moment, was always meant to stay, the rest doesn’t matter. You may not have to employ everything just because you did it as homework.

I remember you telling me how you talked at Anushka Sharma, and didn’t talk to her, during ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ with she pointing that out. This time around when you worked with her, did that change as well?
Oh that has completely changed. I can’t do it any other way. I feel disoriented now because I still work with actors who just talk at you, they don’t talk to you. You sense that their gaze is stopping. They’re looking at you, but not talking to you. But the only way it works is that you have to trust your co-actor, and connect to them. ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ was also written in a way that, to make Farah-Kabir work, they had to be connected. Anushka and I have evolved as actors and I’m sure that for her it was like acting with a completely different person this time around.

Your injury during ‘Lootera’ was one of your toughest phases but you came out of it strong. Now when you got injured again, how did you deal with it emotionally?
I was really bummed out. ‘Bajirao Mastani’ is the most physically demanding role of my career, so breaking my shoulder during that film was not cool at all. I fell off a horse and didn’t expect to be told that I would have to go through a surgery. It felt like glass shattering around me. I remember getting into the car and crying after the doctor told me that. I was quite depressed for a number of days, but it happened and I had no choice but to fight. So, I tried seeing the brighter side of it. I got to watch a lot of movies sitting at home. Secondly, all the angst and frustration that I went through because of my injury, shall now be channeled into the film and Bajirao’s life which is great. In a way it was a blessing in disguise because I’ve lost all my muscle mass, and thankfully at a point in a film where I’d have to lose it in any case. Because I was at home, I also got to grow my own moustache for the film, which I love. I actually love the beard, moustache and long hair look. If I didn’t have to keep changing my look for characters, I’d probably keep that look because it covers up my flaws. I have no confidence in my own facial features.

Now you’re just being modest...
No. That’s what Aditya Chopra keeps telling me. The first thing he told me which he still says, is that, ‘you’re not good looking, so you have to act well.’ I can only hope my acting makes up for those flaws (smiles).

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

R. Madhavan

“I think I’m an extremely selfless and at the same time, a supremely confident actor”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the May 24, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

He has never tried to fit into any mould. In the era of six-packs and eight-packs, he’s continued to take the criticism on his weight with a pinch of salt, allowing his acting to speak volumes. What has probably worked for R. Madhavan, is his effortless charm that’s remained ever since he played Maddy in ‘Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein’. Infact, when you meet him, you realise that off-screen he’s far more charming. A little break later, he’s back with a bang with Aanand L. Rai’s ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’, that’s gone to do extremely well. Looking dapper in a kurta-pyjama teamed with a Nehru jacket, he settles down and talks candidly about his latest release amidst more….

Coming back to a film and character after a gap of few years, getting the same tone or feel to the character – how challenging was that?
The reason it was challenging has three folds – one it was never meant to be a sequel, second it was a very realistic film, Manu, Tanu and everyone involved were very real people. So mounting to a sequel with the same characterisation and now deal with a double role of Kangana, and still make it real and believable, that was the challenge. Third was to start the film after four years with exactly the same characters and obviously nobody was going to give us the leeway to not be in character for the first few days. But I think Aanand L. Rai helming the entire film really helped. He’s an exceptional director.

‘Tanu Weds Manu’ was an underdog film, which went on to do great. On the other hand, the expectations from the sequel were high….what do you feel about that whole change?
One word is vindication. When I was doing ‘3 Idiots’ everyone was approaching me with films, I decided to do Aanand’s film. When I met him, I thought he had a brilliant spark and I insisted on seeing his first film ‘Strangers’, and when I saw that, I knew I had a good film-maker in my hand. I’ve mostly worked with directors whose last film has been a flop or they’re just starting out, because I felt they had the fire in them to give me what I wanted. When he told me the story, I hugged him and asked him to promise me that he’ll keep the story as pure as he’d narrated it to me. Now that was a challenge but the good thing was, Aanand and our Himanshu Sharma both were on board. During ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, we didn’t have enough money to finish the film. I remember Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) worrying about whether the film will be completed or was it a right choice for me to do the film after ‘3 Idiots’. Nobody wanted to trust the film. But before the release, when we showed the film to Raju, he loved the film, and had some suggestions, and that’s when I knew we have a winner in hand. I knew that this desi love story is what I wanted to do, at that time. So, now I feel vindicated. I now listen to my instincts even more.

Not many sequels start from where they ended…this one being an exception…
I think by far, historically speaking, and even factually, I don’t think a film like this, has ever been made even in Hollywood, where you start a film four years later, stay true to the timeline, and show those characters 4 years later. Like I said, that was the challenge. It’s easy to make sequels of ‘Krrish’, or ‘Godfather’ because they’re extra-ordinary people. But to make a film like ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, where we’re bending over backwards to be real, then you do a sequel after four years, and then give a double role to Kangana which is as unreal as it gets and convince everyone that it’s a real story was difficult.

Mentally how was it for you to leave Manu behind and then come back to it after four years?
There’s a key to it. There’s a way of making sure that you never forget what you do, as a character, and that only works only when you give a part of your soul to it. I gave a part of my childhood to ‘3 Idiots’ to become Farhan Qureshi. I had a speech with my father, I knew how victimised I felt when that was happening, so you take a slice out of your life and stick it to your character. Similarly for ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, a slice of my soul was put there. My father was like that. He spoke less, he would bear everything and bear enough till it pushed him against the wall. So whatever you see in Manu is a very integral part of my life. When you’ve already planted a seed of your soul in it, you can never forget it. The only thing is; your physical dimension will change; the soul will be intact. So, I didn’t have to worry about his mannerisms or how he spoke.

With the film having a very strong part for an actress, weren’t you apprehensive about the limelight being on Kangana Ranaut?
There was no doubt about the fact that she will walk away with the limelight. I could have put my foot down and said I’m going to be the hero of the film, please give me all the lines and dialogues, and then it might have turned out to be a different film. But I think I’m an extremely selfless and at the same time, a supremely confident actor to let that happen. Instead, I’m such a kameena, that I’m able to take out the fish with my hook the way I want to and also what’s required for the film. So, if I would have stomped around, telling Aanand I won’t do the film, then it would have been sheer insecurity.

And you have always exuded immense security that comes across when you’ve chosen to do films like ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘3 Idiots’ or ‘Guru’. And despite an ensemble cast, you’ve shined in most performances…
I don’t consider a film as a tournament, the moment I think about what the other person is doing, I’m not looking at it as cinema. If it’s tennis match or something else, I would probably hit an ace, but there’s no point in playing a game in someone else’s court. If Jimmy (Shergill), Deepak Dobriyal or me, any of us wanted to take the scene from someone, that would have come across in the film. In other films, be it ‘3 Idiots’, ‘Rang De Basanti’, you see the camaraderie; we obviously had to be staying in the same hostel or same room which even otherwise, so that it reflected in our characters.

Do you ever look back and think about how your journey in Hindi cinema has been so far, right from ‘Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein’?
I feel blessed. I’m 45 with grey hair and I’m still doing solo-hero romantic movies. I get called Maddy by school girls (laughs). But I’m not counting my chickens before they’re hatched. I have to be very sure about the scripts that I choose. The respect from the audience is what matters. The quality of an actor because of which people go to see a film, I have to maintain that. The day I think I’m not a step ahead of the generation that comes to watch films in the theatres; I will stop being a hero.

Is that why you’ve also been choosy over the years?
Yes, but the thing is, I don’t feel jealous looking at any other films, or it’s not often that I feel I wish I was a part of a certain film. But if I wasn’t a part of ‘3 Idiots’ then I’d have been bloody jealous. There are very few films that induce that emotion in me. For example, I loved what Ranbir Kapoor did in ‘Wake Up Sid’ or I loved Zoya Akhtar’s film, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’. There are very few films that I get jealous of, which isn’t a very good thing to say. The films that I see myself being a part of are less. The reason I’m selective is because I don’t get those kinds of scripts. If I had a body like Hrithik Roshan, then I’d have done more films.

It intrigues me to know if your choice of films, reflects your personality…
As far as scripts are concerned, something has to be intelligent enough for me, or perhaps, much more intelligent for me, because only then the younger generation will also get impressed. In the constantly changing era of these young guns redefining romance, sex and everything, it’s very difficult to stay ahead of them when it comes to films. Which is why, a script that appeals to me, also dictates that it’s intelligent. So, yes, maybe that also reflects my personality because there is a constant endeavour to look younger (smiles).

Tell me something about training for your next, ‘Saala Khadoos’. Of course, your look is also so different in the film…
Yes, that role was quite a contrast because my weight has always been a topic of discussion. But I think it’s very important that women find you attractive, physically. The cuteness will fade away and you want to look like someone they want to have for breakfast (laughs). I wanted to do a film which probably brought me into that genre to see if I can do it. The training in ‘Saala Khadoos’ was extra-ordinary because despite my army training, it was great to know that you can do something like that even in your 40s. My look in the film has obviously become a talking point. And after I achieved that body, I had to let go of it in two weeks for ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’. So, physicality for a character it’s important, so if I need to do it and if a script shakes me in my soul, then I’m ready! 

Aanand L. Rai

“The film-maker in me isn’t restless”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the May 30, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

With ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ garnering appreciation from all over, Aanand L. Rai is a happy man. But there’s still a sense of calm on his face coupled with a very shy smile – depicting that probably he’s not taking the back-to-back success coming his way too seriously. And yet, he holds a gratifying feeling. While we get talking all about his latest hit, find out how the director has changed through the journey of ‘Raajhanaa’ and what he strives for through his craft…

What was the inception point for ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’?
I really wanted to discover the dynamics of a man-woman relationship after marriage, and I also knew that I didn’t want to discover it the way people have done it before. We’ve seen this happening in a negative way at instances. Even rom-coms sometimes don’t depict the connectivity of a man and woman. So, first things first, I always wanted a love story. Another thing is I always knew that marriage changes a certain equation between two people. It takes time to settle. So this story also started with the same misunderstandings, little demands, the need to change someone , but the crux of it which I wanted to hold on to, was that despite those problems, two people are still attached. Eventually the question which rose was, do you really want to change your spouse? Will getting a look-alike of your wife, with the kind of personality you always wanted your wife to have, lead to a good relationship? That’s when we thought of having Kangana’s look-alike. I always believe that there’s nothing called as a perfect relationship. The flaws make it interesting. Flawless is boring.

Your films have some extremely unreal situations, and yet you try to make it real in its crux. How do you bring that balance?
At the end of the day, you’re telling a fiction story and your job as a director is to make it believable. When Superman flies, we believe it, when Spiderman releases his web, we believe it. So, if a film-maker is honest while telling even an unreal story from the core of his heart, the audience will believe it.

There’s been a gap between ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ and its prequel. How different was the experience of making both the films. Not to mention, this time around, there were expectations as well…
In the span of 4-5 years, you grow as a person, you learn from life. That’s the reason why I never started the sequel immediately after the first part. I went to another story because I needed learning. Not learning as a technician, but as a person one needs to evolve, and I only see myself growing through my stories. Those four years and a film in between definitely gave me confidence as a director as well, but more than that, the person in me went through certain emotions when I made ‘Raanjhanaa’. So, when I came back to ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’, there was a different, or rather, an upgraded film-maker in me. The man who was dealing with ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ had grown during the journey of ‘Raanjhanaa’.

Talking about ‘Raanjhanaa’, it was a very emotionally draining film for its actors, who took a while to come out of that zone. As a director, what did you go through?
The best part for a director is that you only live with one story at a time. Coming out of one world and moving into another takes time. ‘Raanjhanaa’ took me to a different world, so it took time for me to move into it and it definitely took a lot of time for me to come out of it. But stories should do this to you. They should change you from inside.

In what way did you change after that?
Honestly I became strong, emotionally. I discovered that now I don’t cry easily. I think in the process of telling a story like ‘Raanjhanaa’, the way I saw death actually changed. My perspective to life got a new dimension. That man Kundan (Dhanush’s character) gave me something very strong to live with. I was always sensitive, but now I know how to hold my emotions. Otherwise, if you’d have spoken to me five years back, then one emotional thing could have brought tears to my eyes. Now I feel emotional, but people can’t see it. There’s a stronger external layer.

You’ve always made the kind of cinema you’ve wanted to make, without losing its purity –be it ‘Strangers’ or ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’…
In my worse days as well, I have always done what I wanted to do. I don’t get carried away by materialistic things around me, because it’s easier to sustain with simple needs. As a person, I’ve kept a lot of simplicity around me. That’s the reason I don’t have to make films for the sake of it. I make films because I want to tell those stories.

Is that why your films also reflect some sort of simplicity?
The first thing I do after waking up in the morning is to ask God to keep me the way I am. Any kind of work is the reflection of the maker. Whatever I do, I can’t take it away from who I am. That’s why I hold on to stories where characters have some sort of innocence or simplicity. I love the ordinariness, whether it comes through a character like Manu or Datto or Kundan. That’s what I find beautiful.

Interestingly, the actors who’ve been a part of your films have always shined out. What’s your process of getting the best out of them?
There’s a simple way of dealing with them – that is to trust them. It’s the faith, and it’s mutual. Most actors I’ve worked with have been selfless. Or when each person comes on board for a film, then as a family we are very selfless. Everyone does what they can to make the film good. Nobody thinks that it’s only the director’s job to make the film look good, even the smallest character played by any actor is equally important. Every actor owns the film, emotionally, and that actually reflects.

With three back-to-back hits and so much appreciation, are you satiated or is there a lot of restlessness to do better work?
The film-maker in me isn’t restless, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing. A lot of people say that directors are restless but I don’t believe so. I think if I’m satisfied only then I’ll be able to give more. Having said that, I do strive to make each film better than the previous one. I’ve grown with every film and I’m enjoying. You’re always a student of cinema for as long as you stay here. And when I say I want to get better with each film, I’m not saying box-office wise, but in terms of what I’m contributing to my audience. Am I able to give them more happiness? That’s the crux of it.