Saturday, April 2, 2016

Arjun Kapoor

“Stars can fade, actors can grow into being better”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the April 2, 2016 issue of Super Cinema)

Just when we were done with the interview and I stood up, I told him it was lovely speaking to him, as always. He responded to that with a sarcastic laugh. When I asked why, he said, “Because people usually think I am moody and angry, but I’m not. My face is like that.” This seems true, because, as opposed to the whole laid-back, arrogant, grumpy image, I actually find Arjun Kapoor deeply philosophical and intense with child-like vulnerability. He’s also funny at the same time. That reflects in this conversation with the actor. At his casual best, he sips on coffee to cure his bad headache, and rests on the couch while we speak about his latest release, what’s his biggest fear and lots more!

R. Balki’s films have a certain tone and sensibility…how did you adapt to that for ‘Ki and Ka’?

When you read the material, you understand the tone and zone of a film. Then when you’ve seen his work and know his kind of showcasing of material, so you understand that even a loud scene won’t be shot in a loud manner, or a dramatic scene will also be under-played. And then there’s a certain intelligence that you acquire by meeting and interacting with various directors, so you add your own improvisations. For instance, in that Dharmendra scene, that little dance was just added by me impromptu. So sometimes those things add a new dimension to the narrative that you’re seeing. As an actor, you still need to be instinctive and impulsive when you’re there in front of the camera but you need to keep in mind a border that doesn’t cross the style or tone of the film. For instance, I couldn’t get the ‘Gunday’ tone in this film. So, you just have to know your range and curb your enthusiasm a little bit for Balki.

Is it the experience on different films that help you in being more instinctive or confident about adding your own improvisations to a character or scene?

I guess. The only film I didn’t do it for was ‘Ishaqzaade’ because we were really thorough with the material and it wasn’t my strength at that point. I had never been to a small town, or lived that life. You can only improvise something that you’re confident about, I wasn’t confident at that point, so I was like, let me at least do what’s written first. After that I got fairly comfortable because you do different kind of roles. For instance, ‘Gunday’ allowed me to improvise a lot and be spontaneous, ‘2 States’, allowed that, and ‘Finding Fanny’ definitely allowed me to do that.

I’ve told you earlier about how even your tough characters have that bit of vulnerability. In that sense, did ‘Ki And Ka’ require more of it?

Yes, he is a child, or let’s just say he’s a man child but he’s very good at running the house. Vulnerability is something which naturally comes out in certain situations, in front of the camera if it’s there within you. It can never be hidden. You might be straight-faced but your eyes give away that you’re vulnerable to something. It’s one of the rare emotions that you cannot hide. I’ve never consciously tried to show it but I guess it comes through the sincerity with which I work with towards my roles. But this role needed a bit more of that but it’s not the typical vulnerability! He’s proud of what he is and he doesn’t care about what the world thinks about him. That’s where the writing comes in. It’s usually the writing which adds these dimensions to a character.

Do you keep your audience’s taste in mind while picking up or playing certain roles?

You cannot keep a huge audience in mind all the time, because their taste pattern changes all the time, they’re evolving. They’re pretty open to interesting things. It’s an unspoken code of conduct between you and your audience – that if you give us something new, we’ll come and watch your film. Having said that, every film is like your marriage with the director and material. I have to live that life for a few months minimum when I’m shooting. So I have to love it first. Making it audience friendly is secondary.

And even the target audience for every film differs…

Yes, but even those lines are blurring now. Multiplexes give you the same range of money as single-screens. The audience will find a way for a good film always.

Does being appreciated give you the belief to further take risks, or experiment? For instance, do more films like ‘Finding Fanny’ because it was well-received? 

In fact, ‘Finding Fanny’ is my most appreciated performance, strangely, in an ensemble which had far more superior actors. Not that I was praised more than them, but to stand and hold my own in a film like that was a big thing. Yes, that gives you validation and gumption that you should keep experimenting. It’s also about how you see it. A lot of people might feel ‘Ki And Ka’ was also an experiment but I just see it as a romantic comedy. I think the romance and chemistry in it was more important for me to bring in than bother about the role reversal angle.

So what is it that scares you before taking up anything? Or is that a wrong question to ask at a point when you’re doing ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi?

(laughs) I was actually scared to do ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ but I am not scared of doing any film. I just react to the material and go for it when I like it and if I’m excited to work with a director. Also because films are like a home territory! Yes, you’re nervous before starting a film or when it releases; you have butterflies in the stomach and all that – but those are small fears which every actor goes through. The success or failure is not something which scares me. But the fear is that I hope people still want to come and see me in the theatre. If they stop showing up in theatre to see my film then I’ll be scared. My bigger fear is that I don’t want to suddenly become extinct in three years just because people have lost faith in me as an actor. And that’s why I push myself to do stranger characters because at least, they’re constantly guessing my range. I don’t want them to feel I’m saturated. That’s why I did ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ because I don’t want to seem like a boring Arjun Kapoor. I wanted people to see the exciting Arjun Kapoor. A lot of people feel that I’m laid-back, sadooo and I’m constantly angry on people, but I’m not like that.  It’s just that my eyes are droopy, intense and I don’t smile all the time so people feel I’m angry. But most times I’m just thinking something and I keep to myself.

But now the perception is changing I think…

I think post ‘Gunday’s’ promotions, it started changing because that was the first film in which I was allowed to have fun. Then there was ‘2 States’, we hosted IIFA, the roast also happened. And now with ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ people have realised that I can have a lot of fun and I’m very filmy – that element had not really come out before that. But sometimes it’s better to not think or know so much. If you get to know everything about myself then you become too intelligent. Sometimes it’s good to be naïve and not know everything. Everyone tells me that ‘if you smile you look nice’ but if I smile all the time then I’ll look like a disaster (laughs).

Is that why you’ve not allowed the whole star thing to get into your head? Or is there a certain sense of pride owing to the popularity that you enjoy?

Being grounded has been the case with me in general, because I this profession is very fickle. The ‘Ishaqzaade’ Friday changed everything for me and I believe even the reverse can happen on one Friday. It’s easy for the audience to get fed up of you, but somewhere I feel, if you’re a good actor, they won’t get fed up. My constant hunger is to keep getting better as an actor. Eventually, in the longer run, you’re known for your performances, obviously your hit films also, but they will remember how you played your characters. People remember ‘Ishaqzaade’ because it was such a unique performance for a newcomer. ‘2 States’ they remember because it was so different from what I’d done. So the audience appreciates good acting and that’s what I want to work for. And I’ve got enough people to hit me if I get arrogant or go in the wrong direction. We’re all replaceable so you cannot take all this very seriously.

Which means you want to be known more as an actor?

Obviously, because I know a good actor will always have value. A good actor is more valuable than a star who is temporary. A good actor can become a star, a star may not necessarily be a good actor. Stars can fade, actors can grow into being better (smiles).

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sidharth Malhotra

“I still don’t think I’ve made a space for myself”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the March 19, 2016 issue of Super Cinema) 

From assisting Karan Johar to being one of the most popular actors among the youth, Sidharth Malhotra has indeed come a long way. Though, he is in no mood to enjoy that comfort or take things lightly. After two intense portrayals, just as he’s back in a jovial mode with ‘Kapoor & Sons’, we catch up with the dishy actor for a tête-à-tête. He’s slightly under the weather as evident from his voice and eyes, so here’s a quick chat with him over lunch, where he talks about his latest release and learning thus far...

Hasee Toh Phasee’, ‘Ek Villain’, ‘Brothers’ and now ‘Kapoor & Sons’ – there’s been a striking variety!
(Smiles) yes! But we can only choose what we get so in that sense, it has been conscious. What excites me about every film I’m doing is being able to attempt something new. After ‘Kapoor & Sons’ also, there is ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ with Katrina Kaif which is a concept love story. I’m doing a pure love story after a while, so it will be a good change. I play a professor who is stuck in some zone and is very hyper. And then again, there is an action film which has Jacqueline and me. I’ll be training in martial arts for it. So, it is an effort to try something new, although it doesn’t really go by the norms. I think it is not considered very cool to do that so early in your career. For instance, the whole look change – gaining muscles, having a beard and cutting my hair – for ‘Brothers’ was drastic. It was a lot to invest that kind of time in one film and not have a release for a year.

Are you happy about it eventually?
I’m happy in terms of experiencing it. I tried something new. The film wasn’t accepted in terms of our expectations from it, but that was also a learning experience. You might have a good opening on a Friday because of the actors or the whole team but Monday is when the film will speak for itself. That was important for me to realise and experience because before that, I was riding on extreme success with ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’ and ‘Ek Villain’. While the former benefited all of us, the latter was a great box-office success. So, ‘Brothers’ taught me a lot. Such experiences help you mature.

What was the most exciting about ‘Kapoor & Sons’? How did you adapt to Shakun Batra’s sensibility?
I was excited about the fact that I’d get to play a lighter character after two brooding characters back-to-back. I was looking forward to play the goofier, lighter one in the family. The difference in the look is also coming from that. And Shakun cannot allow us to do something very dramatic or typical Hindi film type because of his sensibility. He likes to break norms as much as possible. He likes to make it more real and organic. So, it was refreshing to be on a set like that. It’s a great positive that Shakun has. His talent comes from giving the emotion which the script needs and the freedom to the actor to perform the way he wants to. 

Most actors tap into their own personality while moulding themselves for a character. Is it the same with you?
Yes, I believe! We all tap into our own personalities, eventually to give out any performance because you prefer to do it with conviction. In that sense, I think this character has been the closest to however I am in my real life. I’m the youngest in my family. I’m used to this household and have a similar upper middle-class upbringing, so it was easier to bring that out from my own personality. But sometimes when you do something you’ve not experienced, that’s when the director and actors have to be in sync with each other. For example, a film like ‘Brothers’ or even ‘Ek Villain’. I’m not used to being that aggressive. That’s when you need that push and padding from your director and co-stars. 
A while ago, you’d mentioned that making a space for yourself here is the biggest struggle for you. Do you think you’ve managed to do that?
I still don’t think I’ve made a space for myself, in the sense that I still don’t feel comfortable. But I like that feeling because then, I’m not taking things for granted. I’m not thinking that this film is easy for me or I’m perhaps not taking any kind of work for granted. Again, I learnt that from ‘Brothers’. Post ‘Ek Villain’, I would have taken things for granted because the film just happened out of the box and it killed it at the box-office. The sheer interest which people showed in going and watching the film was overwhelming. But then ‘Brothers’ has leveled it up for me. And that was a training for life because every Friday will be different. You cannot have a sure shot goal which you want to chase. Today, I’m in a boat where I know that even if a Friday is good, it is temporary, and if it is bad then that’s also temporary. One Friday you’re happy because a film is successful, and another Friday that success troubles you because people start comparing. So it’s funny how success is measured in the industry.

You’ve also opened up with time…
I used to guard myself earlier because it I thought it didn’t matter. But now, I have pushed myself to open up because I understood how important it is to show various aspects of your personality. My initial instinct was to keep it to myself, because I thought that this is work and my personal life shouldn’t be of concern. But it does in a way. I realised that people like to see the various shades in an actor. So, it is important to open up and show that I’m all of this but also much more!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fawad Khan

“I would like to be a global actor – that is my ultimate aim!”

By Ankita R. Kanabar 
(With inputs from Amul Mohan)
(From the March 12, 2016 issue of Super Cinema)

It won’t be wrong to say that there’s this phenomenon called ‘Fawad Khan’ – owing to his popularity and heartthrob status among women across all age groups. While some would wonder why such a hype around him, it would actually take a viewing of one of his performances, or rather a conversation with the man, to understand it. He walks into this plush Juhu hotel in his usual, blazer-and-beard dapper avatar with a pair of sunglasses. While some heads turn for a glance, many come up and request for a selfie to which he obliges with a smile. Soon we have him seated across the couch in his room, as we speak about ‘Kapoor & Sons’, while the actor also shares an in-depth perspective about the craft and his innings in Hindi cinema so far. Now over to this Khan!

It’s been a while since ‘Khoobsurat’ released, yet how has the transition from that to ‘Kapoor & Sons’ been?
It’s a very different character all together, but it’s been two years to ‘Khoobsurat’, so the transition has been quite slow. But I look forward to characters like these, I’m in love with it. Even ten years from now, I would definitely love to present the DVD of ‘Kapoor & Sons’ or whatever is available that time to show people. I mean I am really proud of this film.
Evidently, you have been choosy, so what is it about this film that drew you towards it? It was a very mature, coherent screenplay. You actually do not come across scripts like these which are believable and I was actually not able to find loopholes in it. When I feel that I can sit down and read a script at once (which in this case I went through it like hot knife in butter), then I want to do the film. So, it’s the structure and sensibility of the script. It seemed original and very genuine.
Because of your creative sensibility and technical know-how, you usually have many inputs to give. In that sense, was it equally collaborative with director Shakun Batra?
I actually invested a lot of trust into Shakun because I completely believed in him as a director and that has not been the case a lot o times in my career. So, this was one of those fortunate opportunities I’ve had where I’ve been able to collaborate with someone whose wavelength matches with mine. So, it was a very collaborative effort and we got to explore various facets of the character. Even if I went overboard sometimes, he would pull me back. In terms of my inputs, it wasn’t like we had to change the scenes but it was a matter of collaboratively upgrading it, spontaneously. And he wasn’t the kind of director who would smash your head if you didn’t follow the exact script (laughs). That’s what I feel was the advantage of working in this film, that I could creatively vent out.
You started off with something like ‘Jutt And Bond’ which had a slightly loud character, as opposed to say a ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’. In that sense what do you have to say about this film? And what do you enjoy more?
I enjoy the kind of character I’m essaying in ‘Kapoor & Sons’. This is the genre I enjoy the most although I would like to do other things as well. I would like to become a Peter Sellers or an Alec Guinness. I aspire to become an actor of that league although they are far beyond. Something that we ignore a lot of times while making films, especially in our part of the world – is that it’s important to do something or try something that will make you look different. Because when you look different, you act different. It will give you the license or comfort to be a little more badtameez with the character you have. That is unfortunately not exercised as much. But having said that, this film has been an opportunity to play a very different character, which is poles apart from anything I’ve done so far. Although the sensitivity is there, there is also something which will make you feel, that it was worth trying!
The Pakistani shows you’ve been a part of are high on emotions, and somewhere also display the complex human side. Does such kind of material require a high emotional quotient as an actor?
I’m a very emotional person. So, every time I try to throw a little bit of myself to the character to add that sense of realism and every actor does that. A lot of people might hate me for saying this, but this is just my opinion that there’s no such thing as versatility. You will see an actor, and they will have certain signature moves, be it when they’re eating food, or drinking water. But hamari nazar uss cheez pe jaati nahi hai. Most times you will cry the way you cry in every character. It’s the disguise that changes you. There’s a certain kind of consistency in emotions but those are the kind of core emotions that actors put into their characters which makes them seem real. So, I invest my sensitivity and emotions in my characters, and that shows. The trick will be to basically deflect that.
Which explains why, you’d mentioned earlier that there can be ten different ways of doing the same thing…for instance, crying. So, is that consciously in your head at all times?
It’s really interesting if you think about it. A lot of times actors feel that ‘jitne zyada aansoon bahaenge, utni zyada unki acting appreciate ki jaegi.’ And maybe the audience also feels that way. So, there is a bit of dilemma there. The audience loves to see beautiful people cry or laugh. And if someone who is not as good looking according to their conventions or norms, cries, then they would appreciate the craft more than the person. So with that craft also, these stereotypes also come in. When you cry hard or laugh loudly, they think you have done a good job. They do not notice subtle nuances. I had quoted something earlier from this famous playwright, David Mamet who has written films like, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’. He wrote in his book, ‘If you don’t feel like crying or breaking down then don’t force yourself to cry because it will look like you are acting.” So, I realised that there are ten different ways of doing things. If at that point in time, I’m not feeling that way, then I can do something which is more subtle and that might work since it will look real. That’s what adds a new flavour to a character every time.

Do you still believe that magic can be created only when it’s a team effort and you’re feeding off your co-actors? How was it for this film, since it also has some veterans?
I always have felt and will feel that it’s a very easy way for one to escape the blame of a performance by saying my co-actor was not good. If you co-actor is giving then your performance also turns out good. I’m a very reaction kind of actor; most times I like to react to what someone is saying. I think owing to the natural camaraderie that Sidharth and I shared, we bonded very well on the set. That has translated. This exercise of bonding with the whole team has paid. I like to know the actors I’m working with. The more I know them, the more open I will be to perform in front of them, I won’t have any anxiety or stress. Alia is very spontaneous, she’ll easily come and do her scene. That doesn’t mean I am not spontaneous, I am spontaneous as well. But I need a little amount of introduction and comfort zone because I come from a very different place all together in an industry where I’m new. So, you have a certain amount of fear and anxiety. Secondly, there’s a bit of difference in my language. I might say, ‘alfaaz’ instead of ‘shabd’. That is something I’m working on, because there is a difference between Urdu and Hindi. I remember during ‘Khoobsurat’, I was fumbling with this dialogue which was going completely well, but I would just put one word out of instinct. So, that is a challenge. But with these people, because we had that off-set exercise and bonding, we were able to correct each other if we went wrong. That has translated into great relationship on-screen. Even with senior actors like Rishi Kapoor. Okay I am going to toot my horn and say that I think I’m an actor who can adapt well to any actor, any age. So, that has not resulted in a difficulty anywhere. In fact, I like working with senior actors more. They perform with so many emotions that you can automatically feed off that.
When you’re already enjoying a certain kind of popularity, is it difficult at several levels to start from scratch in a new industry? Sometimes even keeping your ego aside, that is if you have that kind of ego!
Yes, of course I have an ego. Every person has an ego. There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t have it and I’m not an angel or someone running for a presidential campaign. So to combat that could be difficult but I have not really been confronted with that sort of a situation. For example, during the promotions, people are in love with Sid and Alia’s chemistry. So a lot of times, questions get directed towards that. And I have no qualms about it because my policy has always been that I rather have my work speak for itself. My ego comes in when my work is not good. So far, I have been satisfied with my work, and I always have tried to give my best to that. Moreover, promotions is something I have not done earlier. I never had a PR in Pakistan and for the past two years, even after ‘Khoobsurat’, I didn’t have any PR here. So, eventually, it is your work that will speak for itself. Also, Sid and Alia are the superstars of this generation so they enjoy a certain popularity. But starting afresh can taxing sometimes because you don’t enjoy the same amount of perks.
Now you’re being modest…
No, I’ll be very honest with you that you I cannot enjoy the same amount of perks. For instance, I cannot ask for that exorbitant amount of money here that I do back home, because I am in a different industry. And that will happen wherever I go. I’ll be a new entrant in any industry if I want to try something new and it’s taxing that you have to start with the minimum wage of sort or compromise on that part. But, the thing is, my kitchen is running, my son goes to school, I have a home, my wife is happy, we get to enjoy luxuries in life and that is enough for me. This is anyway an added bonus. So, basically, I’m just trying to expand myself.
How else do you think you want to expand yourself?
I would like to be a global actor – that is my ultimate aim! Not just an actor in Indian films or Pakistani shows. That’s something I like to achieve. My influences while growing up, like I mentioned, were actors like Marlin Brando, Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness among so many others. I have been inspired by such actors and aspire to be like them. I want to achieve a status wherein – I can work anywhere in the world, hold my brand of acting and have people appreciate me. If people appreciate, it would be great, and if they don’t, then tough luck. But my aim is to go all over the world!