Category Archives: Views on News

Ranbir Kapoor: ‘Not producer or superstar, I would always want to be known as an actor

Days before the release of a film, the idiosyncrasies of Ranbir Kapoor start resembling Aamir Khan: somewhat jittery, uneasy, impatient and restless.

The break slots between his various TV interviews are punctuated with mandatory cigarette breaks. The current persona of Ranbir Kapoor is a far cry from Ranbir Kapoor of last year or the year before that. Confidence, and a perpetual smile, have seeped into his body language, something that was missing till the time Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was declared a hit.

Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif in Jagga Jasoos. Image from Firstpost

So does that mean that success is the be all and end all? “Not at all. If you see any changes in me then it’s because of my failures. When I taste success, then my reaction is phew! This time got saved. Usually when failure hits you, it sort of sets your life in motion. You start thinking about your career, you get insecure. To be honest I don’t’ know what my existence is and as of now it is to be an actor,” says a pepped up Ranbir.

When it comes to adjectives for this actor, it’s always a dilemma. The man often comes across as the whole package, an amalgamation of all that’s best. So should we be calling him Ranbir Kapoor, the actor, the producer or the superstar?

“Of course I would like to be called an actor. I don’t think I am superstar but yes I am star. I get to work with directors like Anurag Basu. People are interested in my films, my life and my personal life so there is an interest in me but I would definitely like to be known as Ranbir Kapoor, the actor before anything else,” he says.

His polished upbringing, and impeccable manners reflect in his soft voice. The usual tantrums one witnesses when stars are around are missing and instead one gets to meet a bundle of talent whose head and heart are in the right place. Once its revealed to him that this interview will involve no camera, like a typical college goer, Ranbir decides to shift the venue to the fourth floor smoking lounge of Disney’s swanky office.

Though a non-smoker, his favourite ‘Dada’ is there to give him company. And the two in sight together brings me to my next question — if the jodi of Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu is akin to the jodi of Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro?

“That’s a long shot and it’s better to take one film at a time. We have done only one film and the second is due next month. To compare with a jodi of such a stature, you need to make at least four to five films.”

The last time the two came together; the end result was Barfi, a film that was all heart and carried no false notes. The camaraderie that Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu shared during the Barfi phase looked genuine, and was smeared with the right amount of mutual respect of each other’s craft.

And now they both are back with Jagga Jasoos. So is Anurag Basu addictive?

“When you are working with him, he is not addictive but the result he brings is amazing. To be honest, people loved me in Barfi probably more than they liked me in say Rockstar or any other film of mine. I worked 200 per cent more in a film like Bombay Velvet but in Barfi whatever I did, was channelised by him. He takes too much of responsibility on his shoulders be it music, acting, cinematography, make up, choreography, he takes care of just about everything. We only have to support him and he will do the work for you.”

Ranbir furthers, “He is a pain in the ass to work with because he works under extreme chaos. There is nothing called a schedule or a first assistant director on his sets. There is nothing like bound screenplay, which you normally get at your house on the first day of the shoot. Everything is full of chaos and everything is all heart too. I have no memory of anything that did on the sets of Jagga Jasoos or Barfi.”

Jagga Jasoos also marks the debut of Ranbir Kapoor as a producer. If the very first film takes more than three years in making, it’s bound to make any producer jittery and nervous. When asked if the unexpected delay was heartbreaking, he has a different take on it. If one were to take a close look at the poster, it’s apparent that under the producer credit, Ranbir’s name is mentioned before Anurag. Did he discuss this issue with Anurag? “Absolutely, I pointed this out to him and he said No. He said it would be Siddharth, Ranbir and then him. We had this conversation earlier and he was very clear about this.

Baadshaho teaser: Ajay Devgn leads this desert treasure hunt set during the Emergency

The Emergency of 1975 has mostly been used as a backdrop for tense, political dramas — notably high on the ‘gritty’, ‘realistic’ quotient. The latest film to have gone that route is Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar.

But Milan Luthria’s Baadshaho, while set in the same milieu, goes down a different path.

This is an out-and-out action thriller/entertainer, which eschews ‘gritty realism’ for quintessential Bollywood masala.

The official teaser has been released by T-Series on its YouTube channel, and we start off with the Emergency being announced, with the country going into lockdown mode. Amid this, a bunch of six “badasses” (men and women) have decided to pull off a heist that could bring them untold wealth.

Poster of Baadshaho. Image via Twitter

We’re introduced to the principal characters — Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Ileana D’Cruz, Esha Gupta, Sanjay Mishra, Vidyut Jamwal — and vignettes of Rajasthan’s desert and glorious havelis, some high-octane stunts and dialoguebaazi that don’t really establish the plot of Baadshaho as such.

It is believed that the film is based on Indira Gandhi’s orders to take over Jaigarh Fort (which was believed to be the hiding place for Raja Mansingh of Jaipur’s treasure — spoils of war from his campaign in Afghanistan during Emperor Akbar’s time) at the time of the Emergency.

Manto: Purab Kohli to feature in Nandita Das’s film, also starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Actor Purab Kohli who will feature in a sub-plot of Nandita Das’s ambitious directorial project Manto, says he was always keen to work under her direction.

Purab Kohli. Image from Twitter.

Manto is a project on the life of celebrated Urdu author Saadat Hassan Manto. It features Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role, and Rasika Dugal essays his wife.

Parts of the movie will reportedly recreate some of the writer’s most controversial stories, and Kohli will be seen in one of these.

Talking about getting to work with Nandita again, Kohli said in a statement, “The first two films in my career had me acting with Nandita. Bas Yun Hi then Supari. After that, we also acted together for Onir’s I Am.

“She and Farhan Akhtar are the only two actors I’ve worked with in three different films. And incidentally, they both are directors I would love to work with.

“When Nandita called for me to play a small role in one of the short stories woven into the main narrative, I couldn’t say no. One, for the want to work with her and then also to be a part of a prestigious project such as a film being made on Saadat Hassan Manto.”

Kohli will be seen playing one of the three men who set out to hire a prostitute and only realise when she shows up that she’s a child. What transpires is an uncomfortable yet innocent outing written by Manto, in his short story Dus Rupaya.

There’s also a buzz that actors Divya Dutta and Ranvir Shorey have been roped in to bring alive in the movie, Manto’s Thanda Gosht which is set in 1947.

Saif Ali Khan to be roped in by Netflix for upcoming web series based on The Secret Game book?

Saif Ali Khan, who was earlier approached by director Kabir Khan for a web series titled The Forgotten Army based on Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, has now been approached by Netflix for yet another web series, reports DNA.

Courtesy: Facebook

Saif Ali Khan. Image from Facebook.

As per another DNA. report, the Netflix web series will be based on ‘The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph’, a sports novel by Scott Ellsworth. For the uninitiated, the novel is a written account of a secret game that was played between teams from the North Carolina College for Negros and Duke University, in 1943. The book recounts the one game that changed basketball for America and also helped usher in a new nation altogether.

The same report suggests that Khan is being considered to play coach McClendon, who originally trained the North Carolina College for Negroes’s basketball team. There is no confirmation from the streaming service or the actor yet.

However, once the finances and dates are worked out between both the parties, the director of the web series will make a formal announcement, states the same report.

Since sport will be the dominant aspect in the film, Khan will undergo strenuous physical training for the part. Khan is currently shooting for Chef, which is a remake of the much-loved Hollywood film by the same name. Chef will be in theaters on 6 October, 2017.

Behen Hogi Teri movie review: Rajkummar Rao, as always, is hugely watchable and endearing

The one festival the young men of Lucknow fear is Raksha Bandhan. For some reason, the girls of the neighbourhood are considered equivalent to sisters — a concept abhorrent to the testosterone-fuelled boys. This entire idea becomes the bane of Gattu’s life. The protagonist of Behen Hogi Teri, Gattu (Rajkummar Rao) is an average boy — below average at academics, a bit timid when it comes to standing up to his parents and with no future prospects to boast of. But the one thing he’s sure of is his fondness for his neighbour Binny (Shruti Haasan).

Gattu and Binny’s homes are opposite each other on a narrow street. It’s a convenient set up for the two to meet. Several circumstances throw the romancing duo together, under the auspices of their approving families especially as Gattu is considered the ‘brother’ who will help Binny’s family during a crisis.

Rajkummar Rao and Shruti Haasan in a still from Behen Hogi Teri

There’s very little to this story written by Vinit Vyas and directed by Ajay Pannalal. Mostly it’s about Gattu needing to find the courage to stand up to Binny’s family — and his own — and declare his true feelings, which takes painfully long to happen. He just stands by and silently observes Binny’s engagement to NRI Rahul (Gautam Gulati) and allows a huge misunderstanding about her alleged affair with his best friend (Harry Tangri) to snowball.

Post-interval, much of the action becomes about this latter plot. Ranjeet and Gulshan Grover appear as local thugs who respond to inter-caste romances with honour killings. If they stand on one side of the war lines, Darshan Jariwala, who plays Gattu’s father, stands on the other side, desperate to assert his authority in this neighbourhood.

Initially there is enough nuance and situational comedy to carry the film. Rajkummar Rao, as always, is hugely watchable and extremely endearing as Gattu. There are a couple of charming scenes like the one outside Binny’s college when Gattu gets rejected, and later when he gets drunk and blames all the Shah Rukh Khan heroes named Rahul for always winning the girl.

Had Rao had a more skilled co-star, the chemistry might have been more believable rather than appearing ‘staged’. In fact the pitching of the performances is the second issue with the narrative (besides the wandering script). Where Rao, Ranjeet and Ninad Kamat (as Binny’s older brother) are steady, Jariwala, Gulshan Grover, and Harry Tangri (as Gattu’s bestie) are loud and jarring.

What the writers (dialogue by Sanchit Gupta) and the director do get right is the idea of how ‘rakhi’ and the concept of sisterhood is a terrible manipulation for young people unrelated to one another. They also capture many subtleties of non-metro India and the preoccupations of local communities. Other pluses are a clever title, good production design and costumes, some finely edited scenes and yet another earnest performance by Rajkummar Rao. But the introduction of subplots (such as the daily ‘jagran’ where Gattu dresses as Shiv, or Gattu’s father’s obsession with becoming president of the neighbourhood and the vengeance seeking father and uncle) are diversions that make you restless.

Tubelight: How much Salman Khan will earn from the film (whether or not it’s a hit)

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that after the Dangal and Baahubali mania, the next film to do justice to the term “most-awaited” would be Salman Khan and Kabir Khan’s Tubelight.

There’s been much buzz about the film. In Tubelight, set against the backdrop of the Indo-China war of 1962, Salman plays a do-gooder who is very close to his brother. He’s a little slow, and is therefore called a Tubelight by everyone. The film also stars Chinese actress Zhu Zhu and Sohail Khan. The film is a remake of Little Boy.

Given the massive success of two big Bollywood films globally, Dangal and Baahubali, it is being touted that bigger opportunities have opened for future Bollywood films globally.

DNA reports that Salman is planning a grand release in China and premier for Tubelight, and since the film already has a Chinese connect (it has multiple Chinese actors), the box office collections are expected to sky rocket. With Zhu Zhu being a big name, trade experts are predicting 700-800 crore collections from China itself.

And so, the big question on everyone’s mind is, how much of this profit will Salman Khan be pocketing for himself?

A source from the crew of Tubelight has revealed that the film has been made at a budget of Rs 170 crore, and Salman Khan has taken a signing amount of Rs 60 crore. This is due to the fact that all his films bag satellite rights worth Rs 60 crore, which is regardless of its box office fate.

It was further revealed that Salman will also be bagging half the profits of the film. This could also be because he is the producer on the film, as Tubelight is jointly produced by Kabir Khan Films and Salman Khan Productions. (Please note that these figures are not verified by the makers of the film).

Manisha Koirala on Dear Maya: ‘I loved the script instantly; it’s a feel good film

After a five year break from arc lights, Manisha Koirala, who makes a comeback with coming of age drama, Dear Maya, was nervous about facing the camera.

The 46-year-old actress will be seen in the role of a middle-aged woman looking for love, and she says, “I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. I was on the edge when I was facing the camera.”

Manisha has worked with some of the biggest directors back in the 90s like Mani Ratnam (Bombay, Dil Se), Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Khamoshi), Vidhu Vinod Chopra (1942, A Love Story), and now she chose to make her comeback with young director, Sunaina Bhatnagar, who has assisted Imtiaz Ali for six years.

dear maya social

“I first read the script, I loved it instantly and so I decided to meet the director. When I met her, I knew that she will make a good film. Sunaina had made a good character sketch. She was very clear about the character’s psychology. It is a feel good film, and that is another reason it attracted me,” says Manisha, who’s working with a woman director for the first time in her career.

Says Sunaina, “Manisha told me that she was used to melodramatic, loud acting, so she wanted me to tell her if she was doing that. Somebody as talented as her was so honest about it and hence I knew it will be an easy process of shooting with her. Her sensibility is subtle and realistic. Even in those days she tried to keep it subtle.”

Interestingly, while her character in the film is shown being a victim to the pranks of two young girls, Manisha says, that she was a big time prankster in her hey days. “I have played many pranks on people,” she laughs.

After Dear Maya, Manisha is looking forward to Dibakar Banerjee’s Bombay Talkies 2 which has been made in small segments like the previous part. Then there is Sanjay Dutt biopic, “in which I play Nargisji. I have a miniscule yet an important role. It is like special appearance,” she says. “I have altogether worked on four films this year and played some interesting characters. Next year I have been offered two to three good scripts so let’s see how that progresses,” says Manisha.

Coming to the Dutt biopic, one wonders if she shared some notes with Sanjay Dutt particularly since both of them have been paired together in over half a dozen movies in the 90s. “Sanjay and I are like buddies but we haven’t spoken as yet about me playing Nargis ji,” she smiles.

Even as Manisha sounds awestruck by the work of her contemporaries like Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit, she can’t stop praising some of the current lot of actresses. “Look at Alia, Kangana and Deepika’s work, they are doing more meaningful roles now. I saw Udta Punjab, and I don’t know much about the film but I remember Alia’s work. She leaves an impact. I saw Queen years back, Kangana left an impact,” says Manisha.

However, she is aware that the dream roles may not come to her easily at this juncture. Recently Raveena Tandon had a funny take on the sequel to Andaz Apna Apna; she said that if the slapstick comedy was to be made today, she and Karisma may feature in the sequel only as a photograph: “You know how the sequel will begin? Both Lolo and my pictures would be hanging on the wall with Aamir and Salman crying that they have lost their wives. Cut to the next scene, they will be seen running after 21 year old girls”.

To this Manisha says, “That is so true, Raveena said it so correctly. But this is a kind of dilemma that all actresses go through. It is in Hollywood as well.”

“Manisha, who has worked with all three superstars, continues, “What is not natural is that these three Khans have still managed to survive. After being in the industry for 10 or 20 years, it is natural that you go down and some other energies, talent come in and they follow the same graph. But Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir are still on top. There is something god gifted in them. Nobody can replace them. It is a unique feature. We should admire their staying power, rather than feel bad.

Half Girlfriend: Chetan Bhagat’s book or Mohit Suri’s film, which one is worse?

Some questions are truly critical. For instance: “Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?” Now that we have the answer to that particular question, there is another burning question for the pop-culture-obsessed mind, and that question is this: Does Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend retain that line, immortalised by Chetan Bhagat. Deti hai toh de, varna kat le. The answer? In a bit.

First, we must address the elephant in the room. Why are people casting Arjun Kapoor in roles that demand complexity, nuance, skill and an overall understanding of context and milieu? Say what you will about Chetan Bhagat and his writing, but his books are fodder for the kind of films that can strike gold at the box office, if they’re made and positioned smartly. 3 Idiots and 2 States have proven that.

Shraddha Kapoor as Riya Somani in 'Half Girlfriend'

In fact, Half Girlfriend — despite being a mostly-unimpressive and sometimes-revolting book — has the kind of story that would have been a smash hit as a film in the ’90s. And treated with the right amount of texture and sensitivity, it had the potential to make for an intriguing watch even for today’s audience. One of the key aspects of the story – the protagonist Madhav Jha’s struggle and conflict with the English language, can come through strongly only with a medium like cinema; because in the book, everything is in English, including the bits where the character is actually speaking in Hindi.

However, the film falls flat on its face, largely because rather than seeming like an under-confident but rugged, attractive, athletic and intelligent fellow — what Madhav is supposed to be like — Arjun’s Madhav comes across looking like an overgrown oaf (pardon my language, but it’s true). His supposed-Bihari accent is not only terrible, but also inconsistent. In one scene, he says ‘loojer’ and ‘loser’ within a few seconds of each other, without irony. (What’s surprising is that Arjun played country bumpkin so much better in his first film, Ishaqzaade.)

About the only not-bad thing one can say about Arjun Kapoor in Half Girlfriend is that the film version of Madhav Jha comes across as less of a sexist creep than the book version. But that’s because Arjun Kapoor completely lacks the chops to pull off the character the way it was written. The character in the book is your average horny Indian male bred on a staple diet of entitlement, who shows a semblance of evolution through the story. (Sample this: At one point, when the girl covers her exposed legs, Madhav in the book reacts with, ‘Damn, I just lost my view’.) The character in the film, though, is just a brawny bumbling buffoon, his facial hair standing in for actual expressions.

Mohit Suri also takes the best thing about the book — the character of Riya Somani — and makes her a brooding bore, with spurts of being a slightly improved version of the high-on-life-or-cocaine character Shraddha Kapoor played in his own Ek Villain. While she was insufferable there, she’s quite, well, sufferable here.

Riya was an enigma in the book, the reasons for her demeanour, stoic personality and her actions through the story being a mystery all through, revealed only in the third act. (Yes, the book is actually split into ‘acts’. Bhagat knew right then that he was writing a script, not a book.) Like the book, in the film the narration itself is forcibly non-linear. However, the story unfolds quite linearly, cutting to the present once in a while. The result is a dumbed-down film with virtually no peaks or hooks, preferring to spend its time wallowing in shallow emotions, accompanied by a thoroughly unmemorable soundtrack.

In fact, the ‘village area’ scene from the trailer, which has already become a mildly funny meme, actually has ‘rural area’ in the book. That’s how little the makers of the film think of or trust the audience, and that’s the level they decided they must stick to all through. In another scene, we see Shraddha Kapoor put a bottle of water to her mouth to take a sip, but clearly not sipping or even wetting her lips. That’s how little the director cares.

What we’re left with, then, is that burning question from the start of this column. (Spoiler ahead!) In the book, Madhav attempts to get intimate with Riya, is rebuffed and becomes violent, before he utters that most infamous and reviled line, which created a stir when the book came out. Deti hai toh de, varna kat le. (‘F**k me or f**k off’ is how Chetan Bhagat translates that line in the book.)

We’ll never quite know whose call it was, but the scene in the film ends up a cop-out, simply by virtue of one changed syllable. It could have played out exactly in the disgusting manner it appears in the book, after which Madhav could have gotten his comeuppance through the story. Instead, quite like the book and the film, its most (in)glorious moment is also a half-damp squib. Who would have thought that one day Chetan Bhagat will get to hear these golden words: The book was better.

Dobaara’s real life siblings, Huma Qureshi-Saqib Saleem on their spooky Oculus remake

After making her debut in a supporting role in the two-part crime drama Gangs of Wasseypur (2102), followed by a raft of award nominations, Huma Qureshi went on to do films in several different genres. That same year, she played the lead female role in the romance Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, and followed it with a role in the supernatural thriller, Ek Th Daayan.

Further, the actress was seen in the black comedy Dedh Ishqiya (2014), the revenge drama Badlapur (2015) and most recently, in a comic role opposite Akshay Kumar in Jolly LLB 2.  Huma — a history graduate, found herself in the international space with Gurinder Chadha’s British-Indian historical drama Viceroy’s House. 

Huma is now looking forward to the release of Dobaara: See Your Evil, which happens to be a remake of the supernatural/psychological horror Hollywood flick, Oculus — rated as one of the scariest of films ever. Besides Adil Hussain, Lisa Ray, Rhea Chakraborty and Madalina Bellariu Ion, the film also stars Huma’s brother, Saqib Saleem.

The brother-sister duo is working together for the first time, and while Huma says, that she couldn’t disconnect from being an actor and a sister, Saqib tried maintaining a balance between their “professional and personal relationship” on the sets.

Siblings on screen, and off: Saqib Saleem and Huma Qureshi. Photos via Facebook

“First of all, we never thought that we would do a film together, but it happened…then we started shooting together. I had to stay away from the fact that we are siblings or else it would have been difficult, and once we moved past that, it was a lot of fun. But we share an awkward sibling relationship in the film, totally different from how we are in real life.  In the film, our characters detest each other, even though there is a lot of love between the two,” says Saqib.

Says Huma, “It can get very irritating working with your brother. Just imagine, what you have to go through at home, the same follows at the work place [laughs]! Actually I was more irritating on the sets as compared to Saqib. I could never disconnect from being an actor and being a sister. I was always a sister on the sets, watching out for him, what is he doing, why is he doing it, who is he getting friendly with, why is he helping out so and so, whether or not he has eaten his food. Saqib wouldn’t like it, and he was like, ‘Back off man, give me my space’. So I was the more irritating (one) in this sibling equation. But there was definitely a comfort level. You can say anything, you can trust him, you know each other’s reactions. Saqeeb and I don’t look very similar but there is a kind of similarity in our reactions if you speak to both of us.”

Saqib further says, “It is because of the fact that we are family, sometimes the lines tend to get blurred while working together, but then you enjoy that also. At times, I would speak to Huma as an actor and at others, as a brother,” he said.  However, Saqib found the balance very interesting. “It made us understand each other as actors more. We got to know each other’s process of working. For that, I think this film was a great exercise and we had great fun shooting,” he says, adding, “We both wanted the film to become better, that was our endeavour, and I think both of us gelled on the set. I was surprised. We bonded really well. It was a very nice equation we shared. I thought we won’t gel on the set because we are two different kinds of people, but I think we somehow managed. I think we brought different energies. As actors, we have different energies and that kind of helped while shooting the film.”

Posters of Dobaara: See Your Evil

Oculus, which released in 2013, was a thriller mystery about the relationship of two adult siblings who lose their parents very early on. While the girl believes that an antique mirror is the reason for the death of her family, her brother is trying to rebuild their lives. The two of them together try to find the truth. So, how well did being real life siblings work out for Huma and Saqib in Dobaara? “I was really amazed at Huma’s performing skills. She did not have a very conventional debut and I have always admired her as an actress. She is very alive in this film and in every scene. She is extremely spontaneous and can be seen playing with the dialogues,” says Saqib about Huma.

He continues, “My character is very rational and practical person, whereas in real life I get swayed by emotions. I am the frivolous kind but I play an intense person in the film. I am not a trained actor. I take time to get into the character. My character here is sent to a juvenile home where I spend 12 years. I am a complete loner. I stationed myself in Delhi for some time to attend workshops to get into the skin of the character. I also visited juvenile homes in the city to bring authenticity to my performance. Then, I spent some time all alone in a room. I locked myself in a room with no access to the outside world…absolutely no communication…no phone, no television…nothing at all, and it was so very difficult. While in my character, my silence talks about my angst, I don’t verbalise emotions, but post-pack up I was a different person…”

Shraddha Kapoor on Saina Nehwal biopic: ‘I can’t wait to learn (badminton) from her

The actress with the girl next door image, is thrilled to have bagged the ace badminton player Saina Nehwal biopic while she is in the midst of completing the other one, Haseena: The Queen of Mumbai, based on Dawood Ibrahim’s sister Haseena Parkar.

Gearing up for the release of Half Girlfriend (12 May), adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s novel, Shraddha talks to Firstpost on the exciting phase of her career her love for cinema, and her closest rival, Alia Bhatt. Excerpts from the interview:

half girlfriend 825

You have upped the glamour quotient for Half Girlfriend.

My character, Riya Somani comes from an affluent background from Delhi. She’s one of those girls who blow dries her hair, wears designer clothes and travels in big cars to college. She is the most popular girl in college with every guy wanting to date her. While everybody thinks that she is happy and has everything in life, she is not. She gets happiness with simple things like getting wet in the rains, for example. She meets Arjun’s character Madhav Jha and likes that simplicity in him.

Your character is a basketball player, and you are seen shooting hoops in the film. Was it fun?

It was both, fun as well as challenging. In school, I used to play basketball but I was a substitute player so I was called only if someone was injured or tired or unwell. That was the fun part in the movie, and now I can say that I have become a decent basket ball player. Training for that was really hard, I trained for almost a month.

And what about badminton since you will be soon doing a biopic on Saina Nehwal?

I loved badminton. I am sure most of us have played the sport in our residential complex, in our building compound. However good or bad, and I have some amazing memories of playing the sport in my building compound.

It is really very strange how I will be playing the former world number one badminton champion.

So what kind of prep you will be doing to play Saina Nehwal?

Basketball is just part of Half Girlfriend, but here the entire film will revolve around badminton as that is the crux of Saina’s biopic. I will have to train for a while. It is not going to be just for a month but for at least few months. The preparation for this film is going to be very, very challenging. It’s probably going to be my most difficult film till date. I can’t wait to learn from Saina herself. She is going to teach me the sport.

Have you met her?

I have spoken to her, we have exchanged messages but I am looking forward to spending time with her.

With films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, MS Dhoni…the standards for sports biopics has been rising.  Do expectations make you anxious?

Absolutely. That’s why it is so important for me to give good time before the shoot of the film so that I can prepare well. I will have to train a lot. I am scared and excited at the same time.

Shraddha Kapoor, not Deepika Padukone, has been confirmed to play Saina Nehwal in a biopic based on the badminton ace

Some time back you were juggling between the two characters  – Haseena Parkar and Riya Somani. How difficult was that?

That was quite tough. While I was shooting for the Haseena biopic I had to do the dubbing and promotions of Half Girlfriend. Haseena and Riya Somani are two very different characters. It was definitely challenging in its own way to juggle back and forth from both the characters and to get in and out of two worlds, especially since it is for the first time that I am playing a grey character (in Haseena).

The reaction to the first poster was quite overwhelming and I hope people react to the teaser the same way. When you watch the film, you will know what Haseena went through in her life: losing her loved ones, her son, her brother dying right in front of her. It was quite difficult for me to feel those emotions.

It must have been tough shooting with those prosthetics for Haseena?

Yes, it was, but eventually it became a part of Haseena. But I had tried to gain weight for this film, and I did gain but everything went to one area (points towards her stomach). I have to get rid of it now for the Saina biopic. I was trying to gain weight on my arms but it didn’t happen. I was hoping that I gain weight on my face little more but I couldn’t get the desired results. Prosthetics helped and it gradually became part of my character.  It was needed when my character is in her late 30s and 40s.

Shraddha Kapoor in the first look of 'Haseena'

Do you believe in half girlfriend relationship?

Yes, I do feel that it exists. Now there is a movie been made on it, but my friends and I have experienced the situation when something is holding us back to commit to a relationship; I like this guy but I have to focus on my career; I want to be with him but I can’t. It is something halfway. But in certain situations, it is really sad that two people who like each other are not able to spend their lives together.

What is more challenging for you, fictional or real life characters like Haseena and Saina?

With Saina, because she is a living legend and youth icon, I will have to speak exactly like her, my body language will have to match hers and I will have to try to look like her. To be true to the real life person is challenging in its own way. While playing a fictional character, you can interpret it in your own way and add your imagination and thoughts.

Have you read Chetan Bhagat’s book?

I had started reading the book and I told Mohit (Suri, director) but he stopped me from reading any further and told me to read and connect with the script instead because he had made some changes. I have read just about 50 pages.

This is your third film with Mohit. Both of you have given big hits like Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain. How was your experience this time round?

Mohit knows me a little too well but it was his wife Udita who pointed out few things that set us thinking. One day when I went to his house, Udita said that we have done two films together in which I had played the girl next door coming from a middle class family, from humble beginnings, so how will I play Riya Somani? How will the audience accept me?

He told me to incorporate the body language of high society girls from Delhi and made me meet some of those girls.

A still from the song. Image via Youtube.

I was supposed to observe them and adopt their style and mannerisms, how they speak and stuff.  And while I was talking to them, slowly my body language changed and I was sitting cross-legged, lady-like just like those girls. I found that whole process very interesting.

You began your career with films like Teen Patti and Luv Ka The End which were complete failures at the box office.  How do you look at your journey and career now?

Fridays can change an actor’s life and similarly Aashiqui 2 changed my life overnight.

From Aashiqui 2 till now I have had back- to- back releases. I feel grateful that I started off with failures because it teaches you, whereas with success everything moves smoothly and then we don’t strive hard to make efforts. You learn the most when something is not going right. I went through a tough time but it taught me a lot.

Saina had once said that she would want Deepika Padukone to do her biopic if it’s ever made. She had said that Deepika’s father has been a badminton player, that she had seen her playing badminton, and she played well. She would do justice to the role. What would you say to that?

I am not aware of that.  But I think Saina is quite happy with me too (laughs). I hope not to disappoint her. When I was offered Saina, I was very scared and I had asked the makers if they were sure about casting me. It is a massive effort to put and huge expectations to live up to. I will do my best. I hope people like my interpretation and effort as Saina.

 

You are one of those actors who have created a space in singing as well. Off late there’s been a debate with certain singers having a problem with actors turning to singing. As someone who has been on the other side as well, what do you think?

Whether it is singers, actors, directors, lyricists, or the media…we are all interconnected. We are all part of a creative medium. We have a large responsibility to support each other and help each other grow. If an artist has a dream to become singer, actor or dancer, then nobody has the right to object. It is better to be in a supportive environment

Your contemporary, Alia Bhatt is a big draw, and she has a huge fan following. Is she a threat to you?

I get inspired from her because she is doing such good work. It is very important to not only support each other but it is also important to celebrate the other person’s success.

Tomorrow, if I am offered a film with Alia, I would love to do.

 

How is Arjun Kapoor as a co-star?

He is very eloquent and an expressive guy. He’s got this inherent innocence which is heart-warming.

So where do you see yourself five years from now?

I don’t know beyond Saina. I’m going with the flow. But at present I am really excited about the Saina biopic.