Forever

It was drizzling in Bombay and Marine Drive never looked prettier than on that August noon. I reached near the Air India building where I was supposed to meet her, realising very well that I was nearly 20 minutes late.

As I approached the tall tower, I saw her, sitting under a neat porch beneath a tree, head buried in reding ‘Catch 22’, bangles in hand, covered in dark brown Mehendi, and that nose ring? That was new, but she looked so good. I paused for a bit just to capture that sight. This idiot, my idiot, might undergo a huge change from tomorrow.

I proceeded, hands already holding my ears.

“Don’t. It won’t work. Don’t even try to be cute,” Aliya said without even looking at me from her book. Damn! “Listen, there was huge traffic. And my boss? God you know him. Plus the work? God you know that too,” I tried cooking up a story.

She shut the book with a loud thud, removed her specs and finally made eye contact. “Of all the days Aryan, you had to be late today?! You know how difficult it was for me to sneak out?”

How could she manage to look this cute, I asked myself.

I quickly grabbed her hand and pulled her towards me. She stood up as her face banged my shoulders. “Ouch! You idiot!” she said and punched, slipping away a mild giggle.

I ran with her to sit on the Marine Drive, holding her hands, as my fingers kept touching those bangles, reminding me that from tonight our relationship won’t be the same again.

“How did you mange to come out?” I asked curiously, adjusting myself to the sea view while opening an umbrella to cover us. “Don’t ask!”, she threw her hands up in the air. “It was so damn tough. There was this uncle and aunty after me, I thought I won’t be able to make it. Thankfully Shruti is there covering up for me,” Aliya said, while crossing her legs and keeping the book on her lap.

“And on top of that, you know, all these rasmo-reevaaz, shaadi se pehle ye mat karo, waha mat jao, TUM se mat milo!” she said pulling my cheeks.

“Of course. And the way you are dressed, this pink salwaar kurti, mehendi, bangles, all you need is to change into your ghagra. Bhaag kay shaadi kar lete hai abhi, what do you say?”

Aliya laughed and pushed me. “Can’t even wait till tonight?”

Of course. I couldn’t. I kept looking at her smilingly as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, allowing the moist winds of Bombay to tickle her hair.

We used to come at marine drive ever since we started dating. In fact, it was here that we started bonding and interacting beyond the small talks. It was here that we both fell in love with each other in college. Nariman Point had sort of become our own place. Our happy-sad place.

“Look at these college kids, that couple over there,” Aliya said pointing to a couple who were wrapped around each other, on a rock, little far away. “They don’t even know what’s coming their way.”

The couple were engrossed in each other. The boy slowly caressed the girl as they both fixed their eyes on the vast ends of the sea.

“As of now the only thing coming their way is a wave,” I say and immediately get shouted at. “ARYAN ya!” She said. “Think about it. College romance, that babu-baby waala pyaar? When you are going through that, it looks as if its the only thing which matters. Nothing and nobody else.”

“Yes. But isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? I mean that’s how most people start, with the hope to finish that way too. You remember how we were in college?”

She shuts her eyes giggling and says “No no no no not that please.”

I knew Aliya all along during my college years but it was only towards the final semester that we actually started talking. For years before our first ‘Hi’, I’ve had a terrible love life. None of my relationships ever worked, despite my thinking that I was doing everything right.

I had gone into my own shell after my previous relationship failed. I had decided that perhaps this isn’t for me. This babu-baby wala pyaar. Then one day I was forced to go out with friends. We bunked college, and there I was, at Marine Drive. Little did I know, of all the places in Bombay, it would be here that I would find peace.

I kept on coming to this place ever since I was a kid. Yet, this was the first time I saw the most beautiful view ever. It was Aliya. Singing, dancing, lost in her own world. Her energy was contagious. After a year of living in denial of love, meeting her was as if I was held by my collar, slapped multiple times and had buckets of cold water poured on me on an icy 4AM winter morning.

It woke me up.

“You don’t want me to remind you of just how clingy girlfriend you were during college? So, stop being this pessimistic cry baby. And wake up!” I said.

Aliya turned towards me, kept her hands on mine and said, “Yaar Aryan,” she paused, “I am freaking out. Darr lag raha hai. Shaadi se pehle aisa hota hai kya?”

“Well, I didn’t feel scared during my fifth wedding so…” She makes a face shows me her tongue.

We both stare at the high rise buildings on Malabar hills, quietly taking in the beauty of the city when Aliya breaks the silence and asks for a cigerate. I give her a puzzled look with a wide grin on my face. She is serious.

I handover one, and light it for her. I knew she smoked everytime she was tensed. “Nervous about the marriage?” I ask, holding her hands softly.

Aliya doesn’t respond and blows the smoke in the air, nonchalantly. She looks at me, her eyes carefully observing my face.

“We have come so far yaar. Wow. I sometimes look back and wonder just how much we have travelled together, emotionally,” she said.

“A lot,” I say, “We have seen some crazy times!” “No, but don’t you think there should be a way to measure how far we have come in love?” She said excitedly, blowing smoke and quickly turning her body towards me. That’s exactly the thing she did everytime she had to share a stupid idea.

“Like, how you measure distance in km, why can’t we have something concrete to measure love?”

“Years,” I say quickly, “You can measure how strong your love is from the number of years you’ve spent together. That’s a testimony.”

“Naah,” she said before taking another puff from her cigerate. “That’s bullshit. I have seen people living together for decades without really loving each other and then some who last barely months but are madly in love.”

I pondered over that thought and looked around. There was an old couple on our right. The elderly man was helping his wife climb the porch, holding his hands steadily and gently.

“May be that’s how you measure it?” I said. “Help each other grow. Together.” Aliya looked at them fondly, turned her head towards me and observed me for a few seconds. She took a deep breath
and asked, “Will you hold me? Forever?”

When I had met her, I realised, she was everything I once was and now wanted to be. You see, it’s less about falling in love with a particular quality of a person and more about falling in love with something in that person which reminds you, of you. Someone you were, or someone you want to be.

Aliya’s attitude towards life helped me shape the way I started leading mine. Soon, I figured that while it was her energy and care-a-damn attitude which reminded me of myself, for Aliya it was my optimism. She grew up watching her parents fight, barely talking to each other. To her, love meant a forced union, a make believe world for rasmo-reevaaz.

Untill, we happened. I reminded her of fairy tale romances, of world which existed beyond societal norms, of all thing filmy but real. I reminded her, to dream about love and marriages, again.

Aliya suddenly realised what she had asked and quickly turned her face away from mine. I gave a small smile, knowing well that this was a topic we didn’t want to touch, hours before the wedding.

“You came to my life when I was at the lowest,” Aliya said looking at the sea, watching waves hit the rocks. “It might sound cliched, but you were the light to my darkness,” she said, throwing the cigerate butt.

I smiled and said, “Because I thought you deserved all the shine in the world. I did nothing. You had it in you, all throughout. May be I just helped you see that. See you.”

Dark clouds are nowgathering over the skyline, with winds becoming slightly more cold and fierce. “Remove the umbrella,” she says. “I want to feel this weather. Please don’t shield me from anything.”

“You know I was thinking…” I say but Aliya interrupts. “It’s getting late Aryan. I think I should leave.” I nod slowly. “But I am so happy that I am seeing this day with you. I mean,” she says and pauses to search the right words.

“I don’t even know if this would’ve been possible without you. Thank you. For always being there.”

I give her a soft hug from the side, and try to hide my tears.

“Can I ask you something Aryan?” She looked at me, her eyes, too, slightly moist. “Have you moved on from me?”

That’s the thing with relationships. Whether a married couple filing for divorce after 30 years of staying together, or a college couple breaking up after months. Sometimes, despite everything right, there are still things which are beyond our control. Sometimes, I feel, all the love in the world is not enough.

After 8 years of being together, we fell apart. For all my promises of a love beyond societal norms, traditions and strong orthodoxes, failed. When it happened, our breakup, it was as if nothing else, no one mattered. Breaking up is just as intense as falling in love. It makes you go mad.

But you know how your soulmate reminds you of you? I thought, before I came to her life, Aliya was still pretty okay with things around her. She should be that, even after me, without me.

We both held each other after our break up and promised that we would let the times spent together change us for the better. At least, till we can deal with it.

“I need to go,” Aliya says and gets up, as clouds start thundering. “I was advised not to meet you today. But how could I not? We owe this much to each other. I owe it to you, to us. I don’t know how it’ll turn out…”

“Aliya relax.”

“Yes, why is it that I am the only one panics. What if he doesn’t turn out like you? What if I am not happy?”

“But what if he does? Listen, Aliya, listen to me,” I say holding her tightly. “It will be fine. I have faith in you.” She keeps her hands on her forehead.

“Congratulations for the wedding,” I say. “It’ll be good. Don’t worry.” She looks at me, like a glass on the verge of being shattered and says, “Don’t come tonight, Aryan, please. You know they…” I interrupt her and add, “I won’t. I promise.”

“And anyway you won’t miss much,” she says, “It’s pure veg.” We both burst into laughter, choking away with tears followed by a long silence where all we could hear was the sound of waves splashing the rocks.

It starts raining, which camouflages the tears of Aryan and Aliya. She walks away in a hurry, looking back at him to catch a final glimpse. He sits there, watching her go, watching her slip away from his sight as she walks past his sight. He sits there alone, on the same spot where they had found each other…

8 years ago:

Aryan: I want this place to be special for us. I love you, I want to marry you, makes babies, make an entire cricket team with you! I love you. I really love you.
Aliya, quickly turns her body towards Aryan. That’s exactly the thing she did everytime she had to share a stupid idea: I love you too baby! You know what.
Aryan: What?
Aliya: We will come here, at this very spot, all the time. We will come here now as college kids.
Aryan: Done.
Aliya: Then later when we are getting married, I would be all dressed up and you would look ok-ok too. We would come here straight from the ceremony?
Aryan: Yes mam!
Aliya: And then later when we grow old, we would come here too. We would come here, no matter what. You’ll have difficulty walking, but we will be here. We will have grand children, but we will be here. The world may break apart, but we will be here.
Aryan: Sure thing!
Aliya: Just tell me, Will you hold me? Forever?

Aryan looks at her, hugs her tightly, and smiles.

“Forever.”

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When Tabu asked me to read a Scroll interview, seven times

There are some interviews you remember for days. Some you want to forget immediately. And some, which you can’t shake off your even after months.

That was my interview with Tabu. This happened sometime in late January this year for her movie Fitoor.

The reason why I hold this particular interview really close to me is because for the first time I felt the celebrity in front of me wanted to challenge and knock me off my comfort zone.

I went prepared with a set of questions, including those which are “important” and “headline worthy” stuff. To my surprise, in an interview which would last nearly 24 minutes, most of my questions, including the “important” ones, were over by 10 minutes.

I did panic a bit. I knew I had 15 more minutes to go with an artist who wouldn’t just settle for any random question. What happened then, was exciting, fun and an absolutely unforgettable conversation.

Here, the full transcription of the interview:

So Fitoor, how’s it looking like. How confident are you about it.

Actually I am so happy with the whole experience that I am not even thinking whether I am confident or nervous. (Laughs) mujhe toh lag raha hai picnic he chal raha hai (I feel picnic is going on). It’s one of the rare films where you’re not (says in a heavy voice) anxious or stressed. Lot of others are there to share my responsibilities (laughs).

What was the first reaction of yours when you were offered Fitoor. Where you on board instantly or took time to figure it out..
No no it was on because we didn’t have time. There was a set standing, I knew the role, the character, Abhishek had spoken to me about it so everything fell into place.

So did you read the script, or did he narrate you the film?
No no, then he sent me the script. So I had two days to do all the work…

So you had two days to get into the character?! How difficult was that?
Don’t ask! (giggles) We were fighting, discussing, I was colouring my hair with the right shade of red, trying costume. So do din may sab kar kay chaapna tha humko (We had to do everything in two days and be ready).

Wow. Okay. From the trailer it looks like the character is very intense and something which is also very (pause) emotionally consuming, if I can say. So how was it for you to do the character?

To do the character or?

To do the character. It looked very ‘heavy’ if I can put it that way.
Actually ya. She has a very heavy aura around her. She is living in her own world. She has no sense of time, stuck in a time warp, that’s why you see her dressed her like that. Almost in a costume, in a house which exists somewhere in the no-man’s land, cut away from the world. She does not want to interact with anybody. When you see the film you will understand so much about her. It’s difficult for me to explain. I am sure you know the character from great expectations. But this one has an extra layer if drama which is Gattu’s addition.

How was the entire experience of filming?
You know the entire experience was so short. It was like… khatam (over). May be because I wasn’t there from the start, I came only at the end in the whole scenario so mtv tally for me the association started only that time, in June, and my work was only on one set, for one schedule, and then one schedule in Poland and I was done with the whole film.

Haha. You were not in the inception stage of the film so..

Ya. Also physically, the entire work happens on the set, the house. But physically for me it was just one chunk. So it was a great experience like that (giggles)!

It didn’t feel difficult or heavy. I’ve known Abhishek for a long time. I don’t know how it would’ve turned out if we didn’t know each other.

It’s common knowledge that Rekha was initially supposed to do it…
(Raises hands and signals ‘cut)

You don’t want to? Okay.
Yeah, lets leave her out of this.

Coming to another question. Haider and Fitoor, both are adaptions of great literary works. Does it become easy for you as an actress to portray the role because it has already been written and fleshed out? Does that help you?

I didn’t know anything about these characters till the scripts came to me. I have not read these books.

Okay. So but then
Ya say

Has there been a conscious choice in your films where you are looking for author backed roles.
Not really. They have come to me. I don’t know why all book adaptations come to me (giggles).

Life of Pi for that matter…

Life of Pi, Nanesake, Maqbool,

Yes that too. All the book adaptations!
So I must become the poster girl for adaptations of books. (Pauses and thinks) Because I have not made my own thing about them, I go by the script and whatever brief my director or writer gives me about the character.

Is it also then, a conscious choice from your end that you want to associate yourself with a certain kind of cinema? For example, Haider, Fitoor or even a Drishyam for that matter which is more niche than the regular cinema.
That is now?

Ya. But is that what you’re aiming for?

Now?

Haa. That you do not want to associate yourself with the absolute commercial cinema.
Aisa kuch nahi! Aisa bolna bhi mat aur aisa sochna bhi mat mere baarey may (start laughing)!

If I am doing a certain kind of cinema that does not mean I hate the other kind. People will talk about only what is working and they get stuck with that.

I am the last person who has any judgement about any kind of cinema. Least of all commercial cinema because I am a product of commercial cinema.

Yes. I remember reading your reviews that you actually love watching a film like main hoon na, in which you had a small appearance too.
Ya because that’s entertaining for me. What has helped me is my success in commercial cinema. It has given me a platform for others to cast me in their films. If I did not have the commercial success then I wouldn’t be able to do the smaller films that I did.

There are lots of people who think, perhaps Tabu has disdain for commercial cinema.
Woh notion hai logo Ka I don’t know why they forget that out of the 80 films I’ve done, 70 have been commercially mainstream. If you see my work in Telgu films you’ll be like (makes a funny face and laughs).

Mujhe toh kabhi koi problem Nahi laga. Koi film offer hoti hai, aapko accha laga aapne kar liya. Par iska Ye matlab nahi ki aapko dusri cheez achchi nahi lag rahi hai. Hai na? If you look an apple, does that mean you hate an orange?

So people will only talk about what is working. Arey waah Haider and all very good. They get stuck with that, thinking ye nahi karna chahti hai.

Personally as an actress you don’t have any…
(Cuts in) Neverrr. Personally as an artist I never do any discrimination. If I am offered a Golmaal 4 I’ll run and do it.

You did Jai Ho as well..
So how can people make these assumptions about me.

Also, since we were talking about Namesake and Life of Pi, both are Hollywood films. Do you have a Hollywood dream, fascination? We see priyanka and Deepika as well.
Dream kabhi Nahi tha so I’ve done two biggest Hollywood films so ab kya karu? (Laughs)

So no such fascination?
Aisa matlab… (Pauses) see, whatever comes, you make it your… It depends on the experience you have na. I had great experience doing both these Hollywood films. And I am okay being content with just that. And if its great work, I’ll work anywhere whether its Telugu films, Hindi films, Malyalam films, Bengali films…

Golmaal 4…
Golmaal 4, Hollywood Bollywood whatever. So I am not stuck.

You were part of some of the most influential movies. Maachis, Chandni Bar, even Cheeni Kum, Maqbool, they broke barriers. But these dates there are a lot of debates happening within the industry that you cannot make a Cheeni Kum or a Chandni Bar today considering the regulations we have in the censor board which are very rigid…

(Signals cut with a smile)

Do you… Again… Nothing?
Mujhe mat poocho.

Okay then. Haider had a backdrop of Kashmir and Firoor too looks to have the same. Is there an apprehension from you that this is a tricky subject you are treading on. When Haider released, there were people who has problems with the way the army was projected.

We are not saying anything about Kashmir, or the political situations. It’s a love story.

Do you feel in today’s time people have become a little insensitive with the…
(Signals cut with a smile) don’t take me there, I am not going there (laughs).

I just wanted to ask you in general.
Cut cut cut cut.

Okay. What are the kind of roles you want to do after Fitoor?
I want to do an action film.

Hah.
Ek dum dhamakedaar, Out and out action.

Do you have a script in mind?
Not at all. People should think of me and cast me in an action film.I have never done an out and out action. I’ve done action in ‘Maa tujhe salaam’, that action of kicking and punching but not the out and out.

Are we talking of something like a ‘Kill Bill’, which is kind of a women oriented…
(Cuts in) Everybody has asked me this.

Really?
Ya. I have said that in my Scroll interview also.

Oho! It is already out there!
Then!!

Dammit. Arey nahi nahi, because wo pattern aisa hai ki Tabu is doing a certain kind of films. So that’s the common question that what next.
Ya what next. And action bolte he, Maine bhi dus jagah kill bill bola hai, so usko utha kay phir wahi puchte hai.

Okay chalo theek hai. Any upcoming projects we should be looking forward to?

Missing is complete since a long time now. Don’t know when it’s coming out. Should hopefully come out soon.

Also, if you would like to answer this; There is an issue within the industry that many actresses are complaining about, pay disparity…
(Signals cut). Read my scroll interview na. Please read my scroll interview na.

Ya I mean…
Please read my scroll interview na. Please read my scroll interview na.

(Both Laugh)

Please read my scroll interview na.

No mam I mean..
Please read my scroll interview na… (Laughs) Please read my scroll interview na, then you won’t take the trouble of asking me all this.

But then if you can..
Give me your email id.

Umm justin…
J-u-s-t-i-n (she spells it). You are from Goa Justin?

No mam. I’ll shock you. I am a Rao!
Telugu?!

Well not really. This is the MP wala Rao, because my grandfather was a Hindu

Ah

And my grandmother was a catholic.
Aaah!

And they both had a love marriage way back in the 1950s.
Fantastic!

So I am a product of love stories and Bollywood that way.
Justin? (Signals to complete my id)

(I give her the complete Id, she asks me curiously about how PTI actually functions while she sends me the mail)

Achcha this is one personal question that I wanted to ask you. This is NOT in scroll

Okay (excited)!!!

I am so sure about it!
Lets see!

Lets see! Okay here: you’ve been in this industry for…
Many years

Yes many years. Do you have any plans to perhaps pen your entire journey in a book.
I have just got an offer and I’ve refused (laughs out heartily)

But why? And this is not in scroll!

Because my journey has just begun (laughs out cheerfully). My life has just begun according to me. I don’t know how, where its going to be.

But it will be very interesting for readers to read from your perspective about the things you have seen and the journey you’ve had so far. Of course it has just begun, nobody is doubting that.
I can give one hour talks on this but I’ve to be paid a lot! (Laughs).

But this was not in scroll right?
No.

Yes!!!

(She claps)

Finally I got something which is…
No you should ask what I have said about the pay parity question. Then you will be glad you didn’t ask.

But then you are not telling me (puppy face)
See it!

It’s in this phone, the email id (I point towards the phone which is recording the conversation)
I’ll read it to you.

But then you’re not giving me the quote no mam (giggles)
No no no. That’s what I am saying. You see, that I’ve made fun of all journalists

Ouch
For asking me the most..

Ridiculous?
Predictable questions that they ask to everybody. (Grabs her phone and starts reading) ‘Are you reclusive? Hyderabadi? Sindhi? I laugh at these things.’ I’ll read it out to you.

‘Is it all right to talk about your craft’, ‘it is quite boring,’ I say.

(Both laugh)

‘I protest the one kind of perception created for anybody. Blah blah blah blah blah. The films I’ve acted in were not made by me, they were not my creation…. I just did my part…. Most journalists who come to me with the label of ‘reclusive’ haven’t even looked up the meaning of the word in the dictionary. They think it is a tribe or a community from Hyderabad. Like, are you Hyderabadi? Jatt? Sindhi? Reclusive? I laugh at these things.

(Reads a few more lines from the interview as I giggle sitting there).

Wait, wait. I’ll come to that.

(Keeps scrolling for the particular point) Shit I am so sorry ya.

No no it’s okay.
‘Will your action drama have a female protagonist?’ She asked me

Ha there we go
‘Oh God you asked me that. Now you will ask me about pay parity and feminism’ so she didn’t even ask.

Hmmmm!
So…

Mam I hope I didn’t make you angry or something
NO!!! Am I looking angry?! (With a smile)

Nahi bas, woh thoda sa..
Padna interview ye

I will I will…
Then you will understand what kind of person I am.

Matlab ab toh I can understand, people asking you the same thing again and again.

Acha ek swaaal puchta hu
Please puchiye

Which I’ve read, and you’ve said in one of our interviews only, that filmmakers have been lazy in the portray you.
Okay…

Do you feel a lot of the filmmakers have not been able to tap your full potential yet?
Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve tapped my full potential, forget the filmmakers…I think a very minuscule part of my potential has been tapped.

Why is that?
Ummm I feel that may be it’s not true. May be I feel that now when you have a different understanding of your own potential, of yourself. I feel I could’ve done things in so many different ways.

I’ve got to do a lot. But I feel there is a lot which can be done also. Of course everybody thinks and feels like that.

I think Vishal Bhardwaj has really explored the actress in you.
Yes!!! He has allowed me to do it. I got a chance to do it with him. I didn’t even know what was in store for me in ‘Maqbool’ or the kind of film he was going to make. I was just too excited to play this character which was unusual for a Hindi cinema heroine to do at that time.

Vishal sees in me something which not everybody else is able to. Just to get that from a director that ‘Oh my God heis visualising me like this’, it makes your work different. You look at yourself the way a director looks at you. Its very effortless. He didn’t ask me, he doesn’t brief me. It’s like a playground. He knows me too well! Both the films he wrote for me, with me in mind.

Acha ek last sawaal
Ok

Ek dum seedha sa, don’t know if its there in Scroll
Aha!

You’ve worked with Katrina in Firoor. How do you think she has evolved as an actress over the years?
I am very fond of her. She is one of the best that people I’ve worked with. Though we have worked only for three days with each other, we had very few scenes together, but I have fond memories of those days.

I always have this feeling of wanting everything to go well for her. I think she is one of the most hardworking actors I’ve known. The kind of involvement, attention, time and effort she puts into her work is really admirable and endearing. She’s had a long journey in Bollywood.

Thank you so much for talking to me mam.
Thank you, Justiiiin.

I hope I didn’t trouble you much.

At this point my recording stops. But just so you know, the answer to that question was a big NO from her, in her own style.

Before leaving the vanity van I informed her that this is my first job, perhaps even my biggest interview, and I will remember this conversation for my entire life. Tabu have me a huge smile and said she will too.

Thanks, Tabu. I did read the Scroll interview btw.

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To all those who discuss box office, I say just fucking watch the film: Emraan Hashmi

I met Emraan Hashmi a few days ago ahead of his latest release Azhar. For a man who was giving back to back interviews since two hours during the noon before my turn came, Emraan was still pretty interesting and also at times, refreshingly candid to talk.I had a 10-min conversation and here are the excerpts:

Q) You have often said that you are a great fan of Mohammad Azharuddin. How was it knowing up close and personal for the film?
A:
There have been new dimensions that I came across once I started talking and understanding his personal experiences. Not just about his cricketing career, ups and downs, but things like losing his son. He was fighting a court case for 12 years and just when he was about to win it, he lost his son. Portraying his personal journey as accurately as I could was challenging.

Q) So was getting into his shoes difficult?
A:
 I am not much of a cricketer so portraying that one screen was a huge task. I trained with Azhar bhai for three months. We used to train three hours every morning; I used to have 150 balls chucked at me, that is almost like a match. It was just to get the form right.

Q) The film might get divided opinions since it is based on a controversial figure.
A:
I am prepared for it, because when you are portraying someone’s life on screen, everyone has their own interpretation of it. You can never always accurately depict someone’s life. You can do it through someone’s perception, like this (film) is my perception of how I see Azhar bhai.

Q) But then have you taken any cinematic liberties to portray his life on-screen?
A: For screen it is important to slightly change and tweak things for dramatic effects. Some might not see it as 100 percent accurate but we are okay with it because it’s not a docu-drama, it is a Hindi film.

Q) Fans have been wanting you to get back to the Shanghai space of films.
A: 
I would love to get back too, provided I get a good script.

Q) But you did complete Danis Tanović’s international project Tigers. When do we see the India release?
A: 
They have released the film abroad, they still haven’t it here. It is the producers call and I can’t say much about that.

Q) And what about Murder 4? When is that happening?
A:
Murder 4 is on the pipelines, they are working on the script. It is going to happen for sure but I don’t know exactly about when the film will begin. Then there is Raaz 4 which will be a spook fest the way horror films are supposed to be. It will definitely take the horror genre more forward in India.

Q) You have been in this industry for more than a decade now. While it was always trade-hungry, do you feel today it has become obsessed with numbers like never before?
A:
Obsession with numbers gets the thrill out of working in films. Everything can’t be equated only with numbers. Sometimes it is a small film and you crush the spirit of the small film because it may not do the kind of numbers but it is appreciated to a certain extent and people need to understand that.They need to understand what the film tries to do. And not equate everything with the box office numbers.

Q) Does box office pressure dictate an actor’s choice of films too?
A: In some films it does, in some films you like to take a risk. But I think the more you have news articles coming out, the media talking about these terms, then it also gets the actors jittery. They are afraid of trying something new.

Either that, or they are pushed to try something new. Because the industry dictates, ‘Ok he is not doing anything new, so he should do something new’. But no one really knows what works or doesn’t work. At the end of the day, you have to let something touch deep inside you and understand this is what I am going to do.

Q) Have you felt the pressure to deliver?
A:
I have never been swayed by the numbers. It is a bit annoying because everyone has become a trade pundit. You go to the street and your watchman is telling you how much your film has collected, it has come down to that. Your driver knows about the trade collections. Even my family, friends who are not from the industry, trainer know how much weekend business a movie has done. I say ‘Just  fucking watch the film and enjoy it, why are you telling me numbers.’ 

Q) I think ‘100 crore’ has become the new age ‘4-star rating ‘review…
A:
That’s another thing. Some will say ‘this film is not good it got only two stars’ and then that becomes a benchmark of what one critic they like speaks. I am comfortable with constructive criticism, I am not okay with if you for no reason try to pull down an actor or a film, personal biases and all that. You can see through those kind of reviews. When you have done something wrong, you know it.

 

Interview done exclusively for PTI.check-out-the-motion-poster-of-e-752x440

How I Met Shah Rukh Khan

On April 7, I got a message from my senior that we were getting an interview of Shah Rukh Khan. On any other day, I would’ve probably lost my sleep with the anticipation of the meeting. Except, on that very day, I was out of town. I will admit, I was heartbroken. After almost 24-years of wishing, dreaming and praying, the missed-opportunity was the closest I had gotten to Shah Rukh.

Three days later
, I was shaking hands with him.

I can fill reams and reams of paper describing the journey to everything which led to the first ‘Hi’, but that is for some other day. This journey, has been all squeezed into– believe it or not– four days.

April 7, happened to be the 25th wedding anniversary of my parents. For a month now, I was planning to give them a surprise they will never forget. So here’s what I did: Made Shah Rukh Khan wish them.
Yes, he did.

Sure I was sad I couldn’t interview him, but nothing made me happier that here was a man wishing my parents– who had loved ever since I remember–all the happiness in the world. They got married the same year as Shah Rukh. I was born the year Shah Rukh made his feature film debut. My first movie in a cinema hall was Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and till this date, not a single Mumbai trip begins untill we visit Mannat.

So when he wished them, my parents were overwhelmed, with tears in their eyes and still trying to make sense of what happened. It wasn’t always just my dream to meet him, to talk to him, to just get any message from him- it was theirs too.

The next day, on April 8, my mother just casually said something which now makes sense when I look back. She said I missed interviewing him because may be God has it all planned in a better, more special way. Of course, I laughed it off. What better could it be to meet him at his place, talk about his upcoming film at length and get to know the man- one on one?

I was wrong. While my mother did say I will meet him in a ‘better and special’ way, what she, and both of us did not know was it would be, in all sense- ‘Historic.’

April 9, I get a confirmation that I have been assigned to cover Prince Williams and his wife Kate Middleton’s meet and greet with Bollywood biggies in Mumbai on April 10. I knew Shah Rukh was going to introduce the Royal Couple, but that was about it. Even then, my parents were more excited that I would be covering the event and were keenly awaiting my call, informing them that I had got what they wanted- Selfie with the couple.

I did call, though. But with a slightly different news.

“Mom, I just met Shah Rukh.”

I could hear nothing but loud cheering and sense nothing but excitement. This call was almost after an hour of my conversation with Shah Rukh. What took me so long? I was trying to regain my calm after shivering, smiling, almost teary eyed in one corner.

It was around quarter to eight on April 10 at Taj Palace Hotel, when I overheard a lady say, “Now the entire attention will shift to the man in white”. I was standing a good 30-feet away from the entrance, when I tilted my head slightly towards the right and saw a man greeting everybody.
I smiled.

I quickly rushed to the spot and saw him in a white tuxedo. Just a few feet away from me. Remember I said ‘historic’ moment? It was the Royal Couple’s first visit to India, and I was the only journalist in the room, getting access to cover the entire evening, with champagne, celebrities, businessmen and even Sachin Tendulkar around me.

And then it hit me. I should go and talk to him. Not ask for a picture, no, just walk upto him and talk. I waited for the right moment, as I saw Shah Rukh talking to several people- Karan Johar, Manish Malhotra, Jacqueline. Then a few more, important people, I assumed. Why will he talk to me, just a fan, tonight?

I remember standing barely 2-feet away from Shah Rukh when a lady walked away after talking to him. It was only a matter of 3 seconds before he would turn and join the group of other celebrities. For the first time in the entire evening he was alone, even though for fraction of seconds. On any other day, I would’ve let go of the chance, thinking that I will meet him some other time, for a longer duration, when there is no hustle bustle, when we can freely talk. But then, within seconds, I walked upto him, put a huge smile on my face, extended my right hand and said the words I had always dreamt of saying to him:

“Hi, Shah Rukh! I am Justin Rao.”

Holding a glass of water on his left, he shook hands with me. I don’t even remember looking at our handshake because I could not take my eyes off him. He looked me in the eyes and said “Hi”. I said I am from PTI. He nodded. I told him that I am the same guy whose parents he had wished a few days ago. “Ah okay yes I remember,” he said while nodding.

“I just wanted to thank you for that. My parents really loved it”, I said and like a nervous wreck started fumbling, “My mom got really sent… Like..” I tried to complete the sentence but could not get the right words.

I took a deep breath and continued, “My parents got emotional. Thank you for everything, it means the world to me.” And, what I never thought would happen, Shah Rukh blushed. “No no, it’s okay, I am glad they loved it.”

By this time, I had lost track of what I was saying and could see nothing but him. Then, for the lack of control over my excitement, I blurted, “I missed interviewing you recently. But looking forward to do that soon.” He smiled and said sure. As if that wasn’t enough, I quickly added, “I have also written a book about you.” Shah Rukh was then surprised.

“Oh wow, you did?” he raised his eyebrows, almost curious to find out more. I said I will gift him soon. Just then, representatives from the British Embassy asked me to make way for the Royal Couple. A man started talking to Shah Rukh, but realising that I was already talking to him, he turned towards me to hear what I was saying.

And that was it. If he could have the courtesy to acknowledge a nobody like me, in a gathering of who’s who of the world, then it speaks volume of a man’s character. Awed, yes, but not trying to take too much of his time, I shook hands with him again, and wished him luck for his Fan before moving to the other corner. Which was merely 10-feet away from him.

I watched him the entire ceremony. I spoke to him later too, when he had met the Royal Couple and used his quote for my exclusive story. Standing there, I watched each and every move of his. His body language, how he holds the glass, how he laughs, how he looks at you as if you mean the world to him. I watched him as I stood shivering in that one corner, trying to make sense of what happened. A fan’s dream had come true, interestingly, the same week that his film Fan releases.

It will be in the history now, about the Royal Couple’s first visit to India. What Prince said, what Kate did, how Shah Rukh felt. All because I was there in the room, standing as a journalist, doing my job. A job, which happened because he inspired me. Because all I had ever wanted to do– when I was scribbling his name on the walls as a kid, trying to woo girls like the way he did in my teenage, and writing a dissertation on him to get a degree – was become someone important enough to one day see him.

Long back after he left, I stood there taking in everything that had just transpired. A dream of 24 years crammed into four days. Those four days leading to the most historic minute. And all the blessings in the world, culminating with that one, special, ‘Hi’.

And that, everyone, is how I met Shah Rukh.

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Men can do ‘gandi baat’ but women cannot say ‘Look, my lunch is coming’- interview with Pan Nalin

A week after his film Angry Indian Goddesses has released and garnered both, critical acclaim as well as box office numbers, director Pan Nalin is a happy man.

What I thought would last for a few minutes, my conversation with him clocked nearly 30 minutes, where the ecstatic Nalin talked about how he is overwhelmed by reading blogs, articles, tweets and Facebook posts regarding his new film.

“On a flight I was in recently, I saw that the entire crew was female. Even the pilots were women. That does not happen even in Europe. Such is the story of Indian women. It is incredible,” he says.

His film may be titled Angry, but Nalin anything but that.

Excerpts from the interview.

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Q) After years of struggle, your labour of love Angry Indian Goddesses has finally released and is doing well.

A) All my films have been a struggle but fortunately not a single film of mine has lost money. People trust my instincts and they have always paid off. My films can’t be like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. The aim was to create a film which people will be talking about and create a thought pattern… When we were facing rejections, I told my team that when people reject something, it means it is something really important.

Q) No wonder the film is being appreciated all over…

A) It is a simple story. It has nothing in it, I am telling you (laughs) there is nothing. See simplicity has become so rare in our industry. My film is just about these 7 women, who meet, spend time… it is like smoking a cigerate, putting your arms around your buddy and asking, ‘How have you been?’ It is that simple… But also, there is a story. If 7 women in India meet, there will be, if not more, 7 different stories coming out from their life.

Q) So is there a sense of relief that you have proved the cynics wrong who didn’t believe in the project earlier?

A) The people we approached never had the time. Now everybody is saying that they have contributed to the story with some suggestions. That is good too. But when I set out to make the film, no one stood behind us. Jungle Book came in, the girls were there and an investor from Bangalore who had seen the film and wanted to back it.

The first question the studios used to ask was ‘Who is in the film?’ In 21st century, it is a wrong question to ask. You must instead ask, ‘What is in the film?’ People today are opening up to great content, let us provide them that.

Q) And audience has reacted very positively to the film.

A) It is humbling that people are connecting with the film. It is a small film with epic ambitions. We had to struggle to ask the distributors to give at least one show for the film. We were like at least give the audience a chance to watch it. Whether they love it or hate it, let them decide.

Q) Do you think we limit our audience’s intelligence?

A) Indian audience should not be judged, that is extremely wrong. Sure we love watching the Khans and the Kapoors and they will always be there, but they come up with one film a year. What about other weeks? There are 52 weeks and we need to keep the momentum rolling.

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Q) But then you may get typecast as a certain filmmaker making a certain type of cinema.

A) I personally never differentiate between an indie film or commercial, off-beat or mainstream. I say, make a film which will fight with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. You have these films and they will continue to exist, you can’t escape. There is an audience for that too. But don’t say ‘watch my films because I am a different kind of a filmmaker’.

When I made Samsara, people said I have made a regional Ladaki film. It then travelled to various international film festival and people said ‘oh it is a festival film’ and then it bagged 30 awards and people said ‘it is an art house film’. Finally when it got released, they said ‘He is an Indian trying to make an exotica, selling sex to the western.’ They will always doubt and label you, because your film does not have any stars so there must be something wrong with it.

Q) Interestingly, the success of a female buddy film like Angry Indian Goddesses comes right after the success of Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, which many deemed a women-bashing film.

A) The audience doesn’t think if it is a male-bashing film or female-bashing film. They want to be entertained and if they are getting inspired by it, like what is happening with Angry Indian Goddesses then that is great. I haven’t seen Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 but is a franchise film backed by studio, it works differently.

Q) This year, there were two big women centric films, Piku and Tanu Weds Manu Returns and both had stars. Angry Indian Goddesses had no A-lister and yet it is doing very good.

A) We would’ve loved to bring in talented important stars too but it would have been difficult. I believe Deepika and Priyanka, both are amazingly talented. They can open a film alone on their own merit. They don’t need a man to do that.

But you cannot venture out to make a ‘women centric’ film alone, that would be a failure. You can have a central women character with a beautiful, sensible well-crafted story around it.

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Q) So will we see you taking the story forward and making a sequel?

A) Right now we are totally engrossed in the success of the film. But I would really love to do a sequel. Even the actresses are saying that the journey should continue and I cannot stop it. The film’s story is endless and we will always keep finding some journey similar to this.

We have just taken a breath and are still living the dream. We have a big international release lined next year for the film, including a big German dubbed release. We are still in dialogues with the audience, understanding what they liked, how are they reacting to the film. That gives us the clear picture of what to do next and take it forward.

Q) There were reports the film would be adapted as a TV series…

A) We have got an offer from a big Hollywood network which is coming to India. Right now I cannot divulge any details but they loved the film. They have asked to adapt it as a TV series, chronicling tales of Indian women because they can sustain the series with great content of their stories.

Q) You recently released a list of dialogues and scenes which were chopped off, censored by the censor board. You think it has hampered the film in anyway?

A) Impact of the film has not been lost but certainly when the words are muted and images are blurred, it breaks the flow of the movie. I never understood the logic behind muting words anyway. As filmmakers we work on every little detail. If there is a garden scene then we add the sounds of birds chirping and so on. And when you see little details getting away from the film, it takes away the joy.

We have in writing whatever they asked us to remove. For decades Indian men were shown teasing women and it was normal. They can say ‘gandi baat gandi baat’ but women cannot even say ‘Look, my lunch is coming’? (Laughs)

Q) Is it an unnecessary controversy?

A) Today people are awaken and smart. You cut 30-second kissing scene from James Bond, they will imagine 30-hour of the kissing scene. At this age, where information is available freely, where porn can be accessed at our finger tips, I don’t see the point… Censor Board needs to rethink what it is doing.

Q) The ‘Gods’ are angry over our sanskaars it seems.

A) (laughs) If the kissing scenes were not cut out, nobody would have even spoken about it anyway. They did that and highlighted it themselves.

Interview done exclusively for PTI.

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‘Whatever I’ve discovered about myself is not interesting to me’- Interview with Imtiaz Ali

As I started walking towards his cabin in the office of producer Sajid Nadiadwala, my mind was flooded with questions about just what will be my opening line to a director whose work I’ve most connected with. Just then, a man came from behind and stretched his hand to greet me. “Hi, Imtiaz Ali.” I blurted in my mind, “But who doesn’t know you?!”

Within minutes, I told him how he was one of the reasons for many things in my life- relationships, filmyness and interest in cinema. How, after watching all his films, I have come out of the theatre becoming his characters.

In conversation with filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, about his latest romantic-drama Tamasha and other things in the Imtiaz Ali world.

And for those wondering what was my opening line to him- It was just my name. Kind of sweet, I guess, for a guy who thought he was Shahid Kapoor after Jab We Met, Saif Ali Khan after Love Aaj Kal, Ranbir Kapoor after Rockstar….

Over to the interview.

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Q) You wanted to make Rockstar much before it actually happened. Highway was originally a 45-min TV episode for Rishtey on Zee TV, almost 15 years ago. Was Tamasha conceptualised right after Highway or was it with you for some time?

A) The idea of Tamasha has been with me perhaps the longest time but then I had never thought of it as a film. The idea, or the feeling is perhaps the oldest one that I remeber which has now come as a movie. The story of the film fabricated itself around the idea, by and by. It was actually after Rockstar that I thought of making this film. Taking the idea and making it as a film. And then Highway came in between because it kind of worked out in that way. It created its own space and I made Highway first. So that is the story.

Q) So were Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika always the choice?

A) I was not thinking about who is going to be cast in it while I was thinking of the story. It was only later when I had the seed and I knew I am going to be making in into a film… Because Ranbir is a friend so we anyway chat about stories. He knows most of the stories which are going on in my mind. He has some stories on his mind that I know as well. So then I told him this one and said I am going to make this into a film. And then, at that point of time, even at the inception stage he decided to work it out. But by that time, the basic soul of the film was in my mind already.

Q) And Deepika?

A) Deepika came in after Highway, or may be before. I don’t remember exactly… But later, after I finished writing the script—Not that she heard the script—

Q) She didn’t?

A) No, because I think it also goes on trust. What happens is that she has seen me, she has worked with me before, Ranbir has worked with me before… I will never offer something to somebody if it is not valuable to them. And I will make sure it becomes interesting and important. So that way she had not heard the script. But since we were making it she wanted to be a part of it.

Q) Was that a particular characteristic you were loooking in Deepika that will fit in very well with Tara?

A) Yes. I thought Tara was a kind of person who would look really nice if Deepika does that part. Because it is not like Deepika is exactly like Tara but it would be interesting. Because I wanted somebody who is like sharper, quicker and less creative than Deepika. Deepika in her life has discovered emotional quotient but Tara in her life discovers the emotional quotient in the story of the film, not before. So that was the big difference.

Q) There are a lot of talks that Ranbir-Deepika are the next Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol in terms of pairing.

A) I don’t see it like that. People who are in the film industry talk in a different language. I feel that if the roles are suitable to both of them, then it will be the greatest fun because both of them are great fun to work with. And they are very good to work with together as well. But the roles have to have the basic chemistry otherwise the so called ‘chemistry’, there is nothing like that. Beacsue the same couple will look different in different film

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Q) You worked with Shahid-Kareena in Jab We Met when they were dating. Now you have worked with Ranbir-Deepika. You think people who are or have been in a relationship can add an emotional depth to the charterers?

A) It is totally not necessary. It is not necessary at at all. It really deopends upon the characters and it depends upon the people these actors are. The fact that they are having a relationship, or have had it will not really make too much of a difference.

Q) You’ve said in the past that you were an underachiever, who failed exams… From the promos it seems Ranbir’s character is also an underachiever- he isn’t doing what he wants to. How much of Tamasha comes from your own life?

A) I have been more lucky than Ved was in his life. Because ultimately I got the chances to steer out and come in the direction of my own interest. The same is happening to him but it is happening in a different way. In that way, there is something similar. At least I understand where he is coming from. It is not autobiographical but I would say that the life I have lived makes me understand what is going on in Ved’s life and obviously, it may be probably sourced because of my own experiences.

Q) You came to Delhi and found your true calling while doing theatre. Tamasha has a theatre angle too where Ved finds his true calling in it…

A) Yes, I actually started doing theatre while I was in school in Jamshedpur, very very early and I always thought it’s going to be my hobby but it didn’t remain a hobby and I am still doing exactly the same thing. Tamasha has got a lot to do with theatre because… All the worlds a stage. Bazeecha-e-itfal hai duniya meray aage. Hota hai shab-o-roz tamasha meray aage (The world is a children’s playground before me; Night and Day, this theatre is enacted before me). So it is like Tamasha is a play, it is a performance. So stage is a very good simile for that.”

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Q) Ranbir said he and Deepika would love to act in a play directed by you. Can we see that happening in future?

A) (smiles) Yes, these are dreams we have but sometimes some of them come true if we push them. I hope that happens. I have not done a play for the longest longest time in my life. It would be fun.

Q) From your debut film Socha Na Tha till Tamasha- your characters are always initially confused about what they want, they are in search of something. So should we believe you are on a journey of self discovery through filmmaking?

A) It is involuntary. It is not as if consciously I am on a journey of self discovery… Even the term sounds boring to me. I don’t want to discover myself, whatever I have discovered about myself is not that interesting to me. There are other things in the world that are more interesting which I am trying to enjoy. So I am not really moving with any great purpose in life. I am just trying to go in the direction that I am being led or am interested in going. I am discovering whatever comes my way. And that (what comes way) is not me. It is said philosophically that every discovery is a discovery of your self… May be so, but the discovery or the journey for me is not myself, it’s always outside.

Q) I think with you a lot of things have happened by accidents. As you have said, there are many things that you didn’t want to do but you ended up doing that…

A) (Laughs) Yes yes, correct. I feel that there is this larger subconcious within you which guides you much more than five percent intellect that is going on in your brain.

Q) You did Rockstar with Ranbir when he was going through a low phase- Rocket Singh and Anjaana Anjaani hadn’t worked. The movie brought him success. Now you’re coming with Tamasha, after three of his films have failed. You think Tamasha will turn the tide for him too?

A) I hope so. These things are far too transcient. The career graph is just a dot in the time line, it changes all the time. I hope for both of them, Ranbir and Deepika, this becomes a high point. Or this takes them somewhere higher. I know as actors, and for me as a director, we have gone to a different level, in the work that we have done with Tamasha. I hope that the same happens in terms of stature for both of them.

Q) Jab We Met changed the career of Sahid and Kareena. Love Aaj Kal did that to Saif, Cocktail to Deepika, Ranbir changed after Rockstar, and Alia after Highway. You have given actors their biggest turn arounds…

A) It’s coincidental yaar, I don’t know what it is… I feel that I love these people… I am happy to have contributed to their careers and their lives. Because I know what value they hold for me and what they have done for me.

Q) Deepika seems more open, more mature and more in control as an actress in Tamasha than she did in Love Aaj Kal. Has that change come because of her film choices, which have established a confidence which perhaps was missing earlier?

A) I think she has grown as a person. She has shed her very very inherent shyness while acting. She has been able to overcome that. That is why she looks more confident, she has always been good, but she looks more confident because she has been able to deal with the shyness.

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Q) You got your first break as a director because of Sunny Deol. He is now coming as a director with Ghayal 2…

A) All my life I will be indebted to Mr Deol for giving me the first film. I wish him all the best. I know he is a very intelligent man, the world knows him as the angry man who beats up people… (Laughs) but he is a very senstive person, extremelly shy person. And I will always wish him all the best in whatever it is in my capacity to do for him, I will always do.

Q) Have you seen the promo?

A) I have not seen the promo yet. I have been just working on Tamasha. I think once Tamasha gets over, I will see a lot of new things. The world will be a new thing for me…

Q) That is when you will go on a journey of “self-discovery…”

A) (Laughs) Yes that will be a big journey as there are so many things waiting to be discovered by me. I am just looking at Tamasha right now.

Q) What was the reason you started your own production company, Window Seat? Was that always part of your plan?

A) No, my plan was and is never to become a producer as such but sometimes I feel that certain films need to be made in a certain way. For instance, I wanted Highway to be a film which would not be percieved as an out-and-out commercial film. What I mean commercial is that… Have you realised it is so unique that film industry is perhaps the only place where the deal of sale is done before the product begins to be made.

So what are you going with? You are only going with reputation and promises. Those promises can be false and the reputation can be binding. If I have made Rockstar, if I have made Love Aaj Kal, if I have made films of a certain budget of a certain type… If I make Highway, which is a different budget, a different style, then, is somebody going to get cheated in the line?

Somebody’s going to say arey yaar see his last collection was this much and see what happens here, so now you have newcommers you don’t have stars so you cut this much and still give me this much money. So I wanted to produce it because I wanted to make sure that it is sold ahead in the right price. So that is why I started Window Seat. Now that it is there I will try to invest in it and I will see which of movies need to have that production arm, just to make sense of the film and push it forward in the right direction. I feel that nobody in the making of a movie should lose money. That is really not right.

Q) So will you be producing only your films or looking out for other projects as well?

A) I do not have a steady plan. There are also so many stories that I have… Like Cocktail, where I know as a director I can only direct these many movies… Like probably be able to direct one movie in a year and a half or two years but the number of stories I have are a lot. There are some other stories I feel they can be made, so those stories perhaps I can fester and make or produce under Window Seat.


Q) Almost all your movies have had a common theme of love, romance, longing. Will we see you working with the king of romance, Shah Rukh Khan soon? There were reports…

A) (smiles) I hope so. I hope to work with Shah Rukh Khan. He is a very positive man. I’ve spent a lot of time with him. There is nothing confirmed so, I can’t make a statement or anything on
that.

Q) You are known to make contemporary romantic films and he has starred in some of the most iconic romantic films in the 90’s… Did any of those films ever inspire you? Considering if the collaboration happens it’ll be very…

A) (Cuts in, smiling) It’ll be fun. It’ll be fun for me at least. ‘DDLJ’ was a great film, in fact I also liked ‘Darr’ before that. Although it was on the other side of romance… It was obsession. It was interesting the way the story was told, even what he did in ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’, that is one of m favourite movies and also some of his recent films. He has various shades… I feel that because he is from Delhi and from my university, we understand the language of each other.

Q) So any other upcoming projects?

A) Nothing yaar. As I said, the whole focus is on Tamasha. Once this clears then… And it always happen, I have some stories on my mind but which is the one which is going to be the next, I have not really sealed, signed or delivered yet.

Q) I think the next time I come to interview you, my first question still would be ‘when was this story conceptualised…’

A) (laughs) Correct, correct. That’s what happens with me…

Interview done exclusively for PTI.

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If Masaan is a train, you are the bridge- It will leave you shaken

No Spoiler

Few minutes into watching the movie, I was tricked. Rarely had I seen a film with such subtlety in expressing love between two characters. Where only a few steeling glances, awkward smiles and two red balloons, flying up in the air, made my eyes moist and heart soar.

And then, it shook me. Rarely had I seen a tragedy unfold in a way which toppled me and made me struggle to gather the crumbled pieces of my heart. My eyes were moist again, heart sunk a little bit and the balloons burst.

Neeraj Ghaywan’s Cannes award winning debut feature Masaan runs like life. It soars, it sinks, it glides, it pauses. But more importantly, it surprises.

Poster of 'Masaan' (image courtesy filmsofndia.com)

Poster of ‘Masaan’ (image courtesy filmsofndia.com)

I had watched Ghaywan’s short film ‘Epiphany’ just last year. About a couple who fight while travelling together. There was a sense in setting even in the 20-minute short. Ghaywan focused on telling us, where the characters were coming from, where they are now and where they are heading. And it is this emphasis on the setting which reveals about the characters more than just their locations. It justifies what they do. And don’t.

Masaan—a story about a low caste boy who falls in love with an upper caste girl; a young independent daughter who gets embroiled in a sex encounter which goes terribly wrong; a father with fading morality; and a child yearning for a family is wonderfully set in Banaras. So before Devi (Richa Chadda in a spirited performance) checks into a hotel to make love with her partner, she quietly watches porn on her computer and hides her face with a duppatta.

Richa Chadda in a still from 'Masaan'.

Richa Chadda in a still from ‘Masaan’.

When Deepak (Vicky Kaushal, in a moving, absolutely terrific role) falls in love with Shaalu (Shweta Tripathi is a breeze), he makes his first ever Facebook account, before asking her awkwardly on a date, “So, what are your hobbies?” Remember those days when the social media bug hadn’t bit us?

Vicky Kaushal in ‘Masaan’

Masaan (shot gorgeously by Avinash Arun, with Indian Oceans’ music and Vraun Grovers soothing lyrics), brims with deftly handled moments. Two of my favourites being when Deepak lights a stick with a pyre which interjects with a shot of flames on kitchen gas. Deepak works on the ghats of the Ganga as he belongs to the untouchable Dom caste who burn dead bodies. It is their livelihood. Someone recognises Devi’s face and she walks away from there. Cut to, a shot of her watching a TV game show where you get cash prize for recognising the face of the celebrity… While she has to bribe for hiding hers.

Masaan talks about rebellion, love, loss, small towns, smaller mindsets, big heart and bigger dreams. Every character deals with a tragedy, and is weighed down by social, emotional, stigma. And every character wants to let it go and fly. Even though, alone.

It is a moving film, one which talks about death yet evokes life.

Remember the two balloons, flying up in the air? Now look carefully. They are going up, lifting above crowds, mindsets, caste, corruption, tragedies and boundaries, but are actually, just flying solo.

Don’t wait, go, fly with it. masaan-story_647_072115010130