'I wanted to become a superstar'
'I have been tagged the next superstar for a long time, but I have not reached that stage.' 'Those films happened because I chose them.' 'Nobody put a gun to my head and asked me to sign them.' "When I am not shooting, I grow a beard. I feel too lazy to shave," Ranbir Kapoorexplains his unshaven look as he settles down to discuss Jagga Jasoos with the media. He speaks softly throughout, and makes sure to answer every question systematically. Directed by Anurag Basu, Jagga Jasoos also stars Katrina Kaif. Ranbir discusses his failures, his father's controversial tweets and why Jagga Jasoos's release got delayed.
Jagga Jasoos has taken over three years to be made. Was it tiring?
Even if it had finished in three months, it would have been tiring. Because it took three- and-a-half years, it was mentally tiring because of the patience it required. I had worked with Anurag Basu on Barfi!, so I was prepared for his working style. Barfi! took two years, so this is his usual time. But he does a lot of work for you; he prepares his actors with the camera, music etc. I have had a good creative collaboration, so I was very excited to work with him again. He works very hard, and is very passionate and inspiring on set. He is always doing something new and challenging you. He doesn't like rehearsals, so everything is improvised. The situation is always out of the ordinary and you always surprise yourself as an actor. But yes, it did test our patience, we did get frustrated, lost hope and tried to shelve the film. We lost interest at some point, but I think what kept us going was Dada's persistence.
Anurag Basu doesn't give actors a script.
Yes. Actors are insecure, they need to know kya ho raha hai, main kya kar raha hoon, mera graph kya hai... but Dada doesn't work like that. Saurabh Shukla and I had worked with him before, so we were prepared for this. I think it was harder for Katrina because she was new to it. It was not a challenging, intense, role. It's a happy film, a positive film, so as a character, you don't have to work that hard. Dada understands the Indian audience, the musical formats, performances and so many things that I blindly trust him.
The Indian audience is not used to musicals. Were you sceptical?
No. Actually, there was excitement that this is a true blue musical and adventure. It encompasses the Disney prototype of movies like Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, Jungle Book... they are musicals, emotional, entertaining, they have family values... This film is like a live action cartoon. Dada made the film to appeal to children and a universal audience. Of course, the risk factor is high because nobody has done that before. But it's also exciting to break new ground. We may fall flat on our faces, we don't know, but it is exciting for me as a producer and an actor to be a part of this film.
Was stammering in Jagaa Jasoos difficult?
I have done that before in Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani. Now when I see that, I cringe because it wasn't good. Dada makes it easier with his characterisation. I had to do lot of work for it. I worked with acting coaches to get the stammer right. Because the film took so long, the character became second nature. I could do it better.
Have you ever done jasoosi (detective work)?
As a child, when my parents would fight, my ears would be at the door to know kya ho raha hai. When you grow older, you do jasoosi on your girlfriends. More than an actor, I am a film fan. I am most interested in what is happening in the industry -- like what is Rajkumar Hirani making, what is Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan doing... I am interested in trade news.
When do you plan to direct?
Before I became an actor, I went to film school because I wanted to be a director. Then, I became an actor and found some success in it. Every year, I say that I will direct a film in two years... I can't direct until I have a story to tell. I am not a writer, that's another shortcoming of mine. I don't want to direct for the heck of it.
How did you parents react to your first production?
My father was completely against this process. He would take my case every time. He would say, 'You are producing a film, you are not responsible. Why is it taking so long? Other people's money is involved. It's your own reputation and your money...' I am an actor and that is my skill set. I don't have the skill set of a producer to control things. That's a job I don't do well. I am not the type to tell a director to finish a film in 50 days. I understand filmmaking is hard and has a certain pace. Eventually, when the audience sees the film, it doesn't matter how many days you took as long as the film is good. Having said that, I think Jagga Jasoos was made in a fairly responsible way. But it was a hard genre for Dada. (Composer) Pritam also had a hard time because he had to understand the genre and give music which should be engaging and simple for the audience to understand. At the same time, it should take the story forward.
How involved is Rishi Kapoor in your career?
Not at all. He takes care of the financial side of my career because I don't understand that. But creatively, he has never involved himself. He pulls me up because I do a lot of risky films. He wants me to do more Hindi masala films because that is the school of thought he has come from. But if I follow that, I will fall flat on my face. I have my own perspective on life, my own point of view, my own preconceived notions about certain things. I follow my instinct. Whenever I have tried to go by formula, like say Besharam, I have fallen flat on my face. It's not something that comes naturally to me. I take riskier parts which are not heroic, but the deeds are heroic. Those are the roles I connect with. I like playing the underdog; I don't like playing larger-than-life heroes. My mother is a healthier creative partner; I give her every script I get. She has interesting things to say about them, not that she influenced me to take them up. My father is over critical, so I don't think he can operate or plan my career.
'He allows me to fly a little, but I don't allow him to fly too much'
Kabir Khan collaborates with Salman Khan for the third time after Ek The Tiger and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, both huge blockbusters. Kabir promises that Tubelight, their latest film, is far more complicated and will see Salman in his toughest role so far. Set against the backdrop of the 1962 India-China war, the film also stars Sohail Khan, Chinese actress Zhu Zhu and the adorable Matin Rey Tangu. Kabir Khan tells Rajul Hegde what to expect from the film.
Has he changed in any way?
I see an evolution in his approach.In Ek Tha Tiger, he was brazen. In Bajrangi Bhaijaan, I saw him getting involved with the character. Bajrangi came easily to him because we were tapping into his inherent charm. He is a very charming person when he wants to be. Tubelight is far more complicated. It is one of his toughest roles till date. He plays a man child, so he can never look normal or over-the-top.
Was it difficult to convince Salman to play such a vulnerable character?
I think the journey started when he decided to take up Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which was an antithesis of what he had been doing since the past eight, nine years. And it was successful. Ek Tha Tiger was one of our most successful action films. We could have easily done another film in the same genre; it would have been a safe bet. But he suggested that we try something different. With the commercial success that Bajrangi Bhaijaan achieved, we realised that the audience is open to different cinema. I often say that it is the industry that actually limits itself by saying 'Yeh audience ko nahi chahiye (the audience does not want it)'. But the audience wholeheartedly accepts anything that is new, refreshing and has a good story. The story is the king today. It is bigger than the stars. For Salman, it's not the character that matters, but what the character stands for; what values the character is sending out to the audience.
Even though content is king, won't a star like Salman change the dynamics of a film? Yes, it changes, as your opening becomes bigger and the expectations also increase. If Tubelight stops at 200 crore, it would have made money, but you guys won't be impressed. Our audience has proved that content is king. There have been films with superstars, which have not delivered the business they were supposed to. The stars of Baahubali were not big names in Bollywood; we didn't know them that well. We knew (director S S) Rajamouli, so if anybody is the star of that film, it's the director. Even Dangal was more about the girls. I told Salman that he was a supporting actor in Bajrangi Bhaijaan; it's Harshaali's (Malhotra) film. The audience took to these films in a huge way.
How much have you and Salman influenced each other?
Sometimes I get stuck in the rut of finding logic and context to everything. Both Salman and Aditya Chopra would tell me to 'just sometimes fly'. They would tell me to take cinematic liberties and not get disturbed by it. This has definitely helped me. Salman has helped me sometimes in maybe approaching a scene with more flair and throwing some logic outside the window -- but not making it completely illogical. Earlier, I used to argue and would not let it go. What I have contributed to Salman is the reverse of this. I have told him that 'Dude, it does matter after a period!' It's the blending of the two sensibilities that has worked well. He allows me to fly a little, but I don't allow him to fly too much.
What preparation did Salman undergo to play a man-child in Tubelight?
Preparation is not something Salman will admit to because I think it's not 'cool' to do that. This is the first time I saw him prepare for a role. This is the first time I saw him struggling to get a hold of this character. He would call me in the middle of the night saying 'Arre, koi reference de (Give me a reference for the character)' and I would say, 'Main kahan se reference doon? Reference hi nahi hai (What reference can I give you when there is no reference?)' He would ask for a reference from Hollywood, and I would still say, 'nahi hai (it ain't there).' There was one person who he knew who was probably close to this character, so he met him. He would keep asking about the character, that was his preparation. Just sitting and thinking about the character much more than I have ever seen him do. Even today, he usually goes by instinct.
Why did you choose to adapt Little Boy?
There's something about the story that I really like. After Ek Tha Tiger, I was offered the remake rights of a lot of Hollywood blockbusters. I was so excited, as I thought my next 10 years were taken care of! For two months, I went through the scripts and could not pick up even one film. I suddenly realised that none of them fit into the Indian context properly. Some of them were subsequently made by other filmmakers and they didn't work. I feel it's very difficult to take a story from other culture and have it seamlessly fitted into your culture and context. One day, out of the blue, one of my assistants told me to watch a film on the teachings of the Bible. I watched it and found that apart from the Bible aspect, there was something about the story that I really liked. I could see this film set in my context even better than the original. So, we called up the filmmakers and told them that we wanted to adapt their work, not remake it. They were happy to sell us the rights.
Little Boy wasn't a hit. Was that an area of concern?
Just because a film is a blockbuster in Hollywood doesn't make it perfect for Indian audiences. We are two different cultures. If you force something to fit into your culture, it will never work. What attracted me was the story point of the film. Shah Rukh Khan has a cameo.
What was the camaraderie like between Salman and him on the sets?
These days, they are close friends. There was a lot of warmth and affection. I have known Shah Rukh for a long time. He was only person I knew when I landed in Bombay. I didn't know anybody in the industry except him because we studied in the same college. He was my senior and I have studied from his notes. I knew Gauri too. We have danced together in a stage production. When we asked him to come on board, he instantly agreed. That day, the entire crew became an audience because both of them are powerhouses. To see them together after 20 years will be a treat. Whether you like the film or not, you will love the scene featuring them. Tell us about your leading lady, Zhu Zhu. She is a very strong and integral part of Tubelight. I would like the audience to discover her in the film. I don't want to demystify her before the film. I don't want to demystify Matin Re Tangu either. He's such a bundle of joy. Matin has got a great response. I expected that. He is unbelievable. There are some people who enter a room and own it in five minutes. He is one of them. That's why we introduced him at an event. Imagine that Salman Khan was on stage, but you were only watching Matin. Tubelight is set during the 1962 War. Yet, you say the film is very contemporary and fits into what is happening today in the country. I don't think I would have been attracted to the story if it was limited to 1962. The reason I was drawn to it was that it is based in 1962, but it's so relevant today. The war is a backdrop in the film. Tubelight is dedicated to the families of the soldiers. It is the battle they fight when their loved ones go to war. Within five minutes you will forget that this film is set in 1962 and see how relevant it is today.
'There's no escaping karma'
"The kids left this morning for a month, yaar," Vivek Oberoi tells Riteish Deshmukh, sounding very disappointed. Riteish asks Vivek for suggestions of Web series that he can watch. The Bank Chor co-stars catch up in between giving interviews to promote their film. Maintaining a smile throughout the 50-minute interview, Vivek says, "I don't know how to do an interview; I do conversations. I believe I am having a conversation with peers. You are my contemporaries, just on the other side."
This is the first time you are playing a cop. Was it difficult to see yourself as a cop?
No, yaar, I have done almost 40 films and played so many roles. Whether it is a bhai called Chandu (Company) or the simple, educated lover boy in Saathiya or Kesu Firangi in Omkara or Arjun in Yuva or Kaal in Krrish 3, whatever the character is, no matter how big or small the film is, I try to get into the character. It doesn't matter if a Bank Chor has the capacity to do 100 crores or 20 crores. If I am doing it, I will be as committed as I would be in a mega-budget movie.
Company was not an ideal debut in Bollywood.
When I started my career, everybody asked, 'How can you do a film like Company? What is wrong with you? You dance so well, why aren't you dancing in the film? Chehre kala kar diya hai, pagal ho gaya hai kya? (You have darkened your face, have you gone mad?)'When I came back from New York after doing a master's in films, my father (actor Suresh Oberoi) being the typical dad, said, 'I have worked really hard to create a platform. Now, my son should get a platform.' He decided to put his life's income in producing a film for me. Abbas-Mustan were really sought after at that time. They had just delivered a blockbuster, Soldier. They started writing a script for me. My dad said, 'Mere beta aisa action karega, aisa dance karega (My son will do action, dance)...' The film had everything you could imagine. But I could not sleep. After almost three-four months of going through the scripting and attending meetings, I went to my dad and said, 'I can't do it.' I told him I was confident about acting, but could not have him invest in it. If something went wrong and he lost his life's earnings, I wouldn't be able to live with that. He told me he went through struggle so that I wouldn't have to go through it. I told him that I wanted to struggle. I spent a year and four months dropping my last name. I introduced myself as Vivek Anand instead of Vivek Anand Oberoi and struggled in every possible office. My file had my portfolio, certificates and awards, but everywhere I went, people said, 'Tum hero nahi ban sakte (You can't be a hero).' That's why I keep telling people that the one thing you get in India is a lot of free advice. I went through a process of personal rejection. You start doubting yourself. But it also made my resolve strong. Then one day I heard of a film called Company being made. I was a big fan of Ramuji (Ram Gopal Varma), and I landed up at his office. I showed him my file. He went through it and said, 'I don't see you in this role. You are too polished.' I requested him for another meeting after 15 days. The first thing I did was go to a slum and hire a kholi (room). I spent two weeks there and recorded everything. I spent time with the people there to know their lingo and everything. There was a photographer, who was also struggling. I promised him that if I got through, my first big shoot would be with him. But first, he had to shoot something for me for free because I didn't have the money. He came and shot a day in the life on Chandu Nagre -- how he eats, sleeps, walks...
When I met Ramuji again, I dressed like the character -- rugged, messy with rough hair, a dirty shirt, a ganji with holes, chappals and smoking a beedi. The first reaction I got was from the watchman was, 'Kya chaiye? (What do you want?)' In my mind, I felt victory; I had convinced the first guy. I said a prayer, went in, dragged a chair in front of Ramuji, sat down like I owned the room, put the beedi in my mouth and puffed. I stared at him and put my legs on top of his table. He was wondering what was going on. I said, 'Abe thobda kya dekhta hai, photo dekh, photo (What are you staring at my face? See my photo).' Then I took the bunch of photographs and threw them on the desk. He looked at the pictures, then at me and then back at the pictures. He told me it was the best audition he had ever seen.
You were considered the Next Big Thing after Saathiya... But it didn't work out. Any regrets?
I don't know. It depends. Do I believe I am nothing? Do I believe that I have a body of work? Am I successful or not? Have I lasted in the industry for 15 years? Do I still have work? Am I in that position where every month I can say no to a couple of movie offers? You have to define what success means to you. Is being successful someone who has made a lot of money? Or somebody who loves doing what they do? Or someone who lives a balanced life and is happy with that? I truly believe that I wake up every morning feeling successful, happy, grateful and thankful for the life I have. Fifteen years, and I am still around and being offered films. The day I write an autobiography, it's going to be an interesting one.
Do you think it makes a bigger impact when stars talk about social issues?
It depends on how the media portrays it. Fifteen years ago, I left films, money and the comfort of my home to live on a beach which had diseases and corpses after the tsunami. People said I was crazy. The first thing the Indian film media said was that I was doing it for the publicity. Sometimes, our media doesn't think if their story will break a family. 'This guy is having an affair with this actress', but how will the child feel? I believe in karma. There's no escaping that. The New York Times did an article on me. They sent a reporter, investigated, stayed with me for three days, saw the operation and saw that we had pulled out almost 1,800 families.
'You should know what the mood of the country is'
Riteish Deshmukh is back to doing what he does best: Comedy. His latest film Bank Chor sees him play a 'religious chor', and he is quite excited about it. Riteish teams up with buddy Vivek Oberoi to bring on the laughs; they have done it before in the Masti movie series. "Bank Chor is a very small film," Riteish says. "It is a concept film, so we needed something to stay afloat in terms of the bigger films that are coming." Like Salman Khan's Tubelight, which will be released around Eid. There's also a "Baahubali 2 hangover," Riteish feels.
"So how do we stand out?" he asks.
The answer was in the promos, in the form of fun posters and even funnier 'celebrity interviews.'
Have you stolen anything in real life?
I was a sketch pen chor. I used to steal sketch pens when I was in Standard 6. There was one guy whose father had come from London and got him these amazing Staedtler sketch pens. I couldn't afford it and my father (the late Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh) had never been to London then. I loved those sketch pens so much that before the last lecture was over, I unpacked his bag and packed my own. When I went home, my father asked me about it. I told him that this guy came back from London and gifted us sketch pens, as it was his birthday. I never took the sketch pens back to school and never invited him home!
What was the experience like working with Yash Raj Films for the first time?
I got a call from Adi (Aditya Chopra), saying he was doing a film, and would I like to hear it. I said, sure! I was waiting for an opportunity to work with Yash Raj Films. There was a film earlier, but it hadn't worked out. This was almost five years ago. Then (director) Bumpy entered the room to narrate the script. He had these dreadlocks, and I thought, 'Mar gaye yaar!' I liked the narration. I thought it was funny and had thrills; it was like a comic thriller. It is a genre that we rarely do. It was quirky, fun and at time, stupid, because the character is stupid.
What is your favourite genre?
I enjoy films; it isn't about genres. As an actor, I go to the sets to be that part and live it. In Bank Chor, I tried to see if I could bring out the vulnerability in the guy, Champak Chilponkar, a common man. He has his own issues -- loans to be repaid, and no way to do it -- and that's why he robs a bank. People take drastic steps because of pressure. They either harm others or themselves. You have tasted more success in comedy, as compared to other genres. I am glad Ek Villain did fairly well because I was doing a negative role for the first time. Lai Bhaari, a Marathi film, worked. Yes, Banjo didn't work. When something doesn't work, you go back to the drawing board to figure out how best to approach a subject. Genres don't fail, films do. Humshakals was a disaster in comedy. In the same genre, Grand Mast worked while Great Grand Masti did not. Yes, audiences sometimes get used to watching you in one genre.There are actors who keep reinventing themselves.I take great inspiration from Akshay Kumar. He started with action, then did a series of comedies, then he did action-comedies, then relevant dramas.
In these sensitive times, has the creative process been restrictive in any way?
We are creative enough to find other ways. As a creative person, I don't want to get into something that will hurt somebody. Suppose I put out a poster and some actor doesn't like it, I will be the first person to say sorry. You should know what the mood of the country is and be responsible towards it.
What values did you learn from your father that you would like to pass on to your sons?
There are many virtues. We love our parents so much that there are many things we like about them and would want to pass on. Patience: Always wait. Don't be in a hurry; you will make a decision that you may later regret. Anger management: Although I rarely get angry, whenever people do, you tend to make that one phone call and say, 'How dare you?' But one must wait and revisit that emotion after 10 minutes. If you still feel strongly, then make that call. Chances are, that 90 percent of times, you will not. Smile: Always have a smile on your face. It not only calms you but also the other person.
What is the update on your film on Shivaji Maharaj?
We have locked the screenplay. We are now deciding on the VFX and what the war sequences and costumes will be like. I am not approaching Chhatrapati Shivaji with Baahubali in mind. Baahubali was fictitious and had the freedom to do many things. Here, I have to look at a lot of things. We want to make this with respect and sensitivity -- a film in which people see the glory of the man and his work and why he was worshipped not only in Maharashtra and India, but the world over.
Will Salman Khan be part of this film?
Yes, we are working on that part too.
How have you managed to make sure the pressure of showbiz doesn't affect your relationship with Genelia and your sons?
Showbiz has nothing to do with relationships. Your relationships are intact because of you and they fall apart because of you. Just because we see the film industry under a magnifying glass, we think this way. But if you look inside a regular office, you may find a relationship happening there, but no one writes about it.
How has your relationship with Genelia evolved?
It's been great. Geneila and I have grown together. When we started dating, she was 18 and I was 23. We got married after 10 years. Five years into our marriage, we have two kids. It is growing every day and the maturity levels are changing. The dynamics keep changing. We still like surprising each other. Genelia wanted to make our son's first birthday special, so she asked me to bake a cake. That way, our son will remember his first birthday. It was my first time baking a cake and it was great. That's the beauty of a relationship. You reinvent and seek happiness within.
Who is naughtier among your sons, Riaan and Rahyl?
Both are amazing! One is crawling and the other is walking. One is pushing and sometimes one wants the other one, and then doesn't! My elder one thinks the younger one is a toy. Whenever he wakes up, he feels the other should also be up. He feels he owns him
'Songs have no shelf life today'
'People like poetry but we don't serve that.' 'There are so many retro radio stations now and people listen to them. Why? It's because the music is good; people like the poetry in the lyrics and the way it is sung. ''Why does that not happen with today's songs? Because we don't offer it that way.' 'I am a part of the industry too, and I think it is our fault. We say 'people don't want to listen' but that's not the case. If we offer good songs, they will listen.' Singer Kavita Seth tells us what kind of songs she loves to sing -- and then even sings them!
Kavita Seth, who has sung songs like Iktara, Tum Hi Ho Bandhu and Prem Mein Tohre, is one of the warmest hosts in the industry. As we reach her beautifully done up home in Goregaon, a western suburb of Mumbai, she offers us lunch. It's 1:45 pm, and Kavita had just finished hers. We had had our lunch too, so we turn down her offer politely. But she insists. There's kadhi-chawal on the menu and she promises that it's very good. Before we can refuse again, we're served a big bowl. And she was right -- it was delicious! "Tum miss kar lete ye," she says, and we could not agree more.
The hospitality does not get over there. After the meal, Kavita offers us a glass of fresh watermelon juice.
"It's very hot," she reasons. Point noted, and juice accepted. Kavita sits on a neat sofa, decorated with ethnic cushions of Krishna designed on them. On one side of the room is a showcase full of her trophies. Kavita tells Jahnavi Patel/ Rediff.com all about herself and her career and even sings some of her hits on video, taken by Hitesh Harisinghani/ Rediff.com.
You have done very few projects in Bollywood. Why is that?
There is no specific reason. My first priority is that the kalaam (the pen) and poetry should be good. It may be a small or big budget film, a new music director... I don't think about all that. Only the good things remain with us. If we sing just about anything, the song will come and go and people won't even know. I give my 100 percent to a song, so it should stay and reach people. I don't sing just for the sake of singing, I sing for my satisfaction.
Since lyrics are so important to you, what do you think of the lyrics of today?
It's very sad! I think people like poetry but we don't serve that. Sometimes, some things work and people think it's a trend. It remains for some days but then gets washed out. There are so many retro radio stations now and people listen to them. Why? It's because the music is good; people like the poetry in the lyrics and the way it is sung. Why does that not happen with today's songs? Because we don't offer it that way. I am a part of the industry too, and I think it is our fault. We say 'people don't want to listen' but that's not the case. If we offer good songs, they will listen. It's our duty to make good music. People will listen. There is a simple example. Before Jagjit Singhji, people would say gazals are for a niche audience. But he simplified ghazals and brought it to the masses. He used to perform in front of thousands of people. So it is our duty to simplify words and make good songs.
The song Prem Mein Tohre in Begum Jaan has two versions, one is sung by you and the other by Asha Bhosle. Were you concerned about comparisons?
When the song was made, it was not decided if Ashaiji would be singing the song too. Anu Malik composed the song in front of me, and it was so lovely. He called me again because we had got a word wrong. When I went for the correction, Ashaji was there. I heard her version then and loved it. From then, I was tensed that people would compare my song with Ashaji. She's a legend. She has sung so many songs and they are all great -- be it romantic, cabaret or a bhajan. I was scared of being compared to her. But songs have no shelf life today.
Why do you think so?
Since things have become commercialised, the soul is missing. Even while making a song, the person is thinking of the payment. If you keep your soul connected, the reach will be wider. When I sang Tum Hi Ho Bandhu in Cocktail, I did not know who the song would be picturised on or whether it will it be a club or item song. I read the lyrics and liked it. I sang it and gave it my soul and 100 percent. You can see the result. I think that's why I take so long to choose my songs.
You've composed a song Maa for Maatr. Was that a song out of your bank or is it a fresh composition?
If I like a poetry, I compose it. If I'm in the mood, I'll release it as a single. I had composed Maa just like that; I had liked the poetry. I was to complete a project of Amrita Pritamji in Lata Mangeshkarji's studio. There, her manager made me read Munawwar Rana's poetry. I loved it, and asked him to give me the rights. But he wasn't keen. I wanted to read the poem, so he WhatsApped it to me. On my way home, I made a tune. I was thinking of my mother and crying. It was very emotional, so I decided to record it. I sang the scratch and got the music made within a week. By then, I got a call from Anjum Rizvi (co-producer of Maatr). He wanted me to sing a song in the film. I asked for the situation in which the song would be played. When he told me, I mentioned the song Maa that I had made. He forwarded the song to Raveena Tandonji and within a day or two, he told me that he wanted the song. That's how it became a part of the film.
You conduct Sufi concerts. How do you tune it to the taste of today's youth?
Children love it because I have made the words easy. College-going students are crazy (about Sufi songs). People can connect with them. If I sing something with Persian words, it will bounce over your head. You need simplify things and people will connect easily.
'There is no pressure to start a family'
People loved Kahaani and now, everyone is looking forward to Kahaani 2. Is that more of an encouragement than pressure?
Yes, it is! It's wonderful that people have expectations from Kahaani 2.
Those expectations have increased after they watched the trailer.
It's a very positive and healthy thing for us. We are very excited. I feel no pressure.
If we thought we had to better Kahaani, we wouldn't have been able to make this film at all. We have approached it as a completely new film.
Comparisons will happen but that's okay.
There were wanted posters of Vidya stuck all over. Did you get some weird calls after that?
Ya, lots of those weird calls happened.
I realised that the communication cut across all strata, age groups... that was very satisfying.
It was encouraging as a starting point because it was the first communication of the film. It immediately drew people's attention to Kahaani 2. It immediately intrigued them.
Can you tell us how?
My maid thought I have been accused of something falsely!
My sister's kids' nanny got a call from her brother saying that someone who looks exactly like your didi is a fugitive on the run and she has been kidnapping children.
A doctor messaged me saying that her daughter refused to go to tuitions all alone even thought it was two buildings away because her friends told her Durga Rani Singh (Vidya's character in the film) was randomly picking up kids.
People from the media told me that there was a criminal who looked like me.
Did you play along then?
As a matter of fact, my sister did. She was dropping off my niece and nephew -- they are five-year-old twins -- to school.
They saw these posters all over... they have seen my posters before but this time, they saw a sad looking me. So they were very concerned and asked her why I was looking so sad in those pictures?
My sister said that I had kidnapped a child.
They got really upset and started telling her it isn't possible. 'It's pretend, na? She can't kidnap a child,' they were saying.
Finally, they told her that I can't do that.
Was shooting for Kahaani 2 as exciting as for the first one?
Exciting in different ways.
On Kahaani 2, the adrenaline rush was very high because we were shooting in hot temperatures but we were so excited about telling the story. We felt the story had to be told.
That really kept us going despite the terrible heat.
We'd land up on set in the morning and we'd feel sapped. It was 50 degrees in Chandannagar (near Kolkata).
Kahaani was a different experience. That was the first time the team came together. Sujoy and I were working in Kolkata in lovely weather. We were working hard because we had a very tight budget.
It will always remain as one of my most special experiences.
How hectic are the promotions?
They are hectic, crazy, but I enjoy it.
I enjoy the adrenaline rush, the numbness it brings because then you can't feel any nervousness or excitement for the film.
'On the day of the release, you only sleep, wake up late in the afternoon and say, 'Accha, film release ho gayi'.
How much does Vidya Balan, the celebrity, relate to an ordinary married woman's life? Is there pressure to start a family or take responsibility of the house?
No, there isn't. That's really Siddharth's and my prerogative. Our families are wonderfully supportive in that, they don't even ask us.
The media asks us more about that, honestly, and they ask me more about it.
As far as taking responsibility goes, I like my house a certain way. I like things to be organised a certain way.
Siddharth and my habits are similar but having said that, I am very particular about things. I make sure things happen the way I want them, especially because I spend so much time away from home.
You are promoting Kahaani while Siddharth is promoting Dangal. Do you even meet these days?
We hardly meet (laughs). By the time I finish my promotions and go home, invariably, he's asleep.
Then I am rushing in the mornings again.
Sometimes I have a late morning and still sleeping when he leaves.
So we hardly get time at times like this but that's okay. We know it is each other's job and have to deal with it.
Now we will meet after Kahaani 2 releases.
Which has been your toughest role till date?
Undoubtedly, The Dirty Picture because it was very far removed from who I am as a person.
I enjoyed it while doing it but it was tough -- just exposing yourself like that, physically, smoking continuously and going through those upheavals emotionally as a character.
'I am okay with kissing'
'It's an emotion at the end of the day'
Kriti Kharbanda has set very high expectations for her second release, Guest Iin London.The actress, who moved from Bengaluru to Mumbai eight months ago, says she loves the city and likes how independent she has become after coming to Mumbai.Prettily dressed in hot pants, Kriti is running late for the dubbing of her film, but quickly settles down for an interview with Rajul Hegde.
Your fashion statements are eye-catching. When it comes to fashion, who do you look up to?
It's about you being comfortable in your own skin. I really like the way Deepika Padukone dresses up. I think she really carries herself very well. I used to be a conscious person in terms of dressing and I wasn't comfortable with my body, so I wouldn't dress in a certain way. Now I am comfortable and nothing bothers me. Once you are comfortable every things starts looking good. One year ago I didn't have that kind of confidence, but now I can wear anything under the sun.
Are you comfortable in skin-baring roles?
If I am asked to wear a bikini in a film and there is a requirement, then I will do it. It depends on what level they want to show. I am okay with kissing; it's an emotion at the end of the day. I am not going to do anything that embarrasses my parents.
In your earlier interview you said you are a big drama queen. Guest Iin London is a comedy. How good is your comic timing?
I am still a drama queen (laughs). I think comedy is something I enjoy, so, it comes effortlessly. But comedy is not an easy genre.
I wanted people to believe I could do horror, the psycho girl you would be afraid of and also be this extremely lovable girl, which is a lot like me. I will tell you how I bagged the film; that will tell you why it worked. The first time when I met these people (the producer), they said she looks petite; after watching Raaz, people thought I looked a little big. They said we really like you, but Ashwini sir has to meet you because comedy is not easy, plus you need to have the hang of the language. I said 'Woh toh mein Punjabi hoon Hindi mein bolungee,' there is no tension. Ashwini sir entered the office. He looked at me and asked 'Aur beta, kya chal raha hai?' I said, 'fogg chal raha hai.'
The Fogg (deodorant advertising) campaign had become big by then. Ashwni sir just looked at me. I know he was thinking this girl is a psycho (laughs). I think he saw certain quirks, so he said 'She works for the film, let's go ahead.' And this he told me recently 'Jis din tumne woh dialogue mara na (Fogg) mein ne decide kar liya tha yehi meri film ka heroine banegi (The day you said that dialogue, I decided you would be my heroine).'
How has the transition been from horror (Raaz Reboot) to comedy?
I am a girl and we make that transition every day (laughs). Doing comedy was liberating in a way. I had just come off a horror film. To come into something which is light-hearted helped ease my nerves.
It was a great shift of energy. It wasn't difficult because I switch on and off in seconds.
Raaz Reboot didn't do well.
A few days after the release of Raaz, I had moved on with the fact that it was not working. I got good reviews, but unfortunately the film didn't do like we had expected. I was upset and I cried. But I have become strong now. I know failure is part of my job.
A week later, I was offered Guest Iin London. I was more than excited because I was going to be part of a good film and be in the same frame as Paresh Rawal and Tanvi Azmi.
For me, it was a matter of pride. Never in their wildest dreams did my parents think their daughter would become an actress and would get a chance to act with these actors. They (her parents) flew to Mumbai while we were shooting for the film. My dad took pictures with Paresh Sir and Tanvi Ma'am. I could see the pride in his eyes. When my parents travelled business class, they were like we never thought we would ever fly. I didn't have a passport till I shot my first film. I never had the hope of going abroad. I belong to a very simple middle class family. I thought if at all I go, it would be for my honeymoon.
When I went to Switzerland (for her first film in Kannada), that was my first outdoor ever. My mom cried and said, 'I never thought I would go abroad, but you have taken me to Switzerland.' When I see the pride in my parents' eyes, it gives me the hope and power to work harder.
Hopefully someday, I will be able to get my dad's picture with Amitabh Bachchan.
What are your expectations from this film?
It's a move that I am proud of and I have given it my best. I asked one director who watched the trailer about my work. He said you have exceeded expectations. For me, that was a very big compliment. I am hoping that everybody says that.
I have a very good feeling about Guest Iin London, that it will have a good connect with the audience. It's fun, entertaining and a chilled out kind of film and I really enjoy that.
What was it like working with Paresh Rawal and Tanvi Azmi?
Amazing! My first meeting with them was bizarre. I met them for the first time for script reading. And they broke the ice like how! I walk into the room and introduce myself.
Tanvi Ma'am didn't shake hands, she came and just hugged me. It was so sweet of her. Paresh Sir said, 'I heard the director praises you a lot.' They were basically making me comfortable. During the reading, it felt like we had already become those characters. And two weeks after that, we were shooting for the film. It was the most liberating experience to not pretend to be normal. Because they are not normal people; they are very child-like, both of them love attention. Paresh Sir is a kid at heart. He is very funny in real life.
As a person, he may come across as intimidating, but isn't like that at all. He is approachable and very easy to be with.
Paresh Sir and I have a sulking competition. We are like: Who can sulk more? And we had a major role reversal on set. I am playing a Gujarati and he is playing a Punjabi. So we were kind of helping each other there. I would ask him for inputs for the slang and accent.
He has a name for me, he only calls me 'Punjaban.' He doesn't call me Kriti. I think if you call him and ask about Kriti, he may get confused. On the last day of the shoot I said it was amazing working with him.
He hugged me and said, 'You will go a long way.' Acting with Paresh Rawal improved my comic timing and you will see me doing the best possible acting of my career. They (Paresh Rawal and Tanvi Azmi) have made me a better actor, a positive and happier human being.
Tanvi Azmi is like a friend, she and I have that bond. I can talk to her about anything; I talk to her about boys. It's the most bizarre thing, but I discussed with her and she would listen. She calls me 'heroinee idhar aa'.
Your co-star Kartik has been appreciated for his comic timing in his films (Pyaar Ka Panchnama). Was there pressure to match up to him?
No. There was healthy competition. I always wanted to be a better actor. He is a very good actor. I was like I am going to compete with him. But we hit off from day one.
When I did my look test to see how Kartik and I look together -- the first thing they did was they threw us together and said become romantic and sing. They played a song from Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya. That was the look test for the film, and they started clicking pictures. Imagine the first time you are meeting your co-star, and you are hugging and singing (laughs).
The ice just broke there. It was so much fun to do that.
What equation do you have with him now?
Now we pull each other's leg, but we are very competitive. I keep teasing him and he doesn't know what to do. We are like Tom and Jerry; we can't live with, and live without each other.
Do you think working with big stars will help you get good work?
It helps you in your career. But I feel it's more important to be part of bigger scripts. The film industry has proved that time and again. The biggest example in the recent past is Vicky Donor. It became a cult film. I want to do films that have good content and a good role for me.
What about Ratna Sinha's film, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana?
I have almost finished shooting the film with Rajkumar Rao. I am very excited and looking forward to it. I love that character and everything about it. Shaadi is more of an intense love story. I can't thank my stars enough to be blessed with two good films.
Again, I am allowed to be my dramatic self in both films (laughs).