Raazi's Vicky Kaushal: "Whenever I read a script or hear the narration of a story, I always treat it from an audience’s point-of-view."
BY ANUJ RADIA
Vicky Kaushal began as an assistant in Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur. After his selection as an actor in Masaan, the 30-year-old actor has not looked back.
His film roles have been quite out-of-the-box and realistic - be it a man afraid of music in Zubaan or a sinister cop in Raman Raghav 2.0, Vicky does not enact his part but lives it.
In an exclusive interview with Asian Style, Vicky Kaushal talks about his journey in Meghna Gulzar's Raazi.
Vicky, what drew your attention to such a gripping and intense film like Raazi?
When I read the script and turned the last page of the film, the first emotion I felt was disbelief and at the same time, I was in awe.
I was in disbelief because it was difficult to believe that there are individuals who live and exist in anonymity for the security of their containment.
They do such a selfless act of bravery, for people they may not even know or who they are related to. I was completely in awe of this.
After reading the script, I was filled with a sense of patriotism and to be knowing that I have been approached to play a part in this beautiful story, was an honour for me.
You play a Pakistani major named Iqbal. Tell us a bit more about your line of duty in the movie?
In the film, I belong to a family who is active in the army. My father is a brigadier and elder brother is a major.
It is set during 1971, where there is tension between two countries [India and Pakistan] and there is a possibility of a war.
What I enjoyed about playing Iqbal, is a beautiful contradiction to his character. On one hand, you’re playing an army guy that so there is the quintessential approach.
There is a certain style you walk, talk and the costumes give the effect of an Army guy.
The beauty of playing Iqbal is that he’s such a gentle and tender guy at heart. So I had to play a guy who has a strong spine but with a soft heart.
I’ve never seen an Army guy portrayed like that. I instantly felt something for Iqbal, I just completely related to him.
As an actor, what did you learn from working with Meghna Gulzar?
I did not want to miss this opportunity especially when you know the film will be helmed by a director like Meghna Gulzar, who handles these subjects with such sensitivity and responsibility.
The pursuit of perfection that she [Meghna] has is so inspiring as an artist. During testing times at shoots, especially on shoots like Raazi - where you’re shooting 7-9 shots, per day, is a mammoth of a task.
During such mammoth of a situation, it is easy to veer into compromising and get done with the work.
But Meghna is so passionate and loves her work so much, she is dedicated to narrating her story, the way she conceptualised and visualised it. That, for me, is very inspiring.
Meghna Gulzar is an amazing human being. As an actor, you feel nurtured when you’re working with her.
We must talk about your co-star Alia Bhatt. In an interview, you cited that she is a “very secure” actor. What was the highlight of working with Alia?
Firstly I would say that she is an actor who doesn’t come along with any kind of baggage of being a star.
The most beautiful part about Alia is that she knows about her stardom, but she never takes it for granted. When you see her so focused and working so hard on her character, you realise this.
Alia is such a real person. There is no effort or process to actually break-the-ice with her as a co-actor. You start talking to her and it’s always the real Alia talking to you.
That’s why you feel that honesty in her performances as well. Alia is so gifted, but at the same time, she doesn’t take it for granted and works so hard at giving her best. It’s really inspiring to see this.
Vicky, what makes you ‘Raazi’ (willing) in life and why?
I get Raazi just by seeing a simple smile [laughs]. You could give me a smile with a clean heart and I then I’ll be willing to do whatever you want.
That’s all you need. We all just need to believe in each other, be compassionate to each other and give time to each other.
A smile is one of the simplest things to do, yet it is effective. It’s a beautiful thing to do and people should never stop it!
Listen to our full interview with Vicky Kaushal here:
You already have covered a wide-spectrum of acting. What determines you in a story and script?
Whenever I read a script or hear the narration of a story, I always treat it from an audience’s point-of-view.
It’s like I’m watching the film. I don’t consider myself to be an actor who will be a part of the film.
So, by the end of it [the script or narration], if I enjoyed it or felt affected by the story, I judge and take a call depending on that. I have to be an audience and need to know what I feel as one.
There’s this quest of not repeating yourself or exploring new territories so that there’s growth in me as an actor, it’s just about working with good filmmakers.
Vicky Kaushal is undoubtedly a hard-working and sincere actor.
With a fantastic lineup of films in the kitty - including Karan Johar’s Lust Stories, Rajkummar Hirani’s Sanju and Anurag Kashyap’s - we are certain that Vicky will continuously impress us with his acting prowess.Read more
Raazi Interview - Alia Bhatt: "If I was an espionage my ultimate mission would be to help the world!"
BY ANUJ RADIA
She is only six years old in the Hindi film industry (not including her acting appearance as a child actor) and at only 25 years of age, is playing the main lead in acclaimed filmmaker Meghna Gulzar’s next.
From the fashionable Shanaya in her debut film Student of The Year to the victim who develops Stockholm syndrome in Highway, Alia Bhatt’s uninhibited and raw performances has had both the critics and the box office cheering.
Critics and fans alike have been drawn into the Udta Punjab star’s performances finding themselves emotionally investing into her characters whether it’s Humpty Sharma’s Dulhaniya or Kaira from Dear Zindagi.
Is it any wonder she is known as the youngest female superstar of Bollywood and a very bankable actor!
Playing a daughter, a wife and a spy in Meghna Gulzar’s forthcoming film Raazi, Alia is set to exhibit more shades to her acting calibre and we’re extremely excited to see her in this avatar.
Raazi is an adaption of Harinder Sikka's novel ‘Calling Sehmat’, which is a true story based on a young girl (played by Alia), who was sent to Pakistan in 1971, to source out any information she could, as a war was becoming imminent between India and Pakistan.
In an exclusive with our entertainment reporter Anuj Radia, Alia decodes and opens up with Asian Style on becoming Sehmat for ‘Raazi’.
Alia, firstly, what made you ‘Raazi’ for an intense and gripping film like Raazi?
I think exactly that, the fact that it was gripping and intense. One of the main prospects that made me agree to do a film like ‘Raazi’ is the fact that it is a true story and I’ve never done a true story before.
To be a part of a true story, was a very special experience because whenever you’re shooting the film or enacting your part, you will always have it in the back of your head that “this is not fiction and it actually happened.”
The fact that it’s being directed by Meghna Gulzar, was also another reason why. I’m very fond of her. I loved her last film Talvar, I wanted to work with her after watching it.
Besides being a spy between two neighbouring countries, could you kindly tell us more about the life of your character - Sehmat?
The spy part is the main part of the film. What I can tell you, is that Sehmat is a very simple girl. There’s not much change that takes place in her personality just because she suddenly becomes a spy.
That is something that Meghna and I were very clear about. We maintain the fact that she is a young girl, who is totally unaware of certain things. Despite being brave, she still has that ounce of fear in her.
She is still sensitive and simple. These factors make up her character and what happens to her after that, is the situation of the film.
You share screen-space with your mother, Soni Razdan, for the first time. What did you learn from her – not only as a parent – but also as an actor?
I learnt that I’m very similar to her, in terms of mannerisms. It’s very similar to the way we are on-set.
We have a certain detachment with our scenes and characters, we don’t sit and stress about it. We will do a shot and get out it. It is that switch on and off for us as actors.
How did director Meghna Gulzar challenge you as an actor in this project?
She held my hand throughout the process, the real challenge was the script she wrote. That itself was the biggest challenge for me in this aspect.
Otherwise, once she and I cracked the stone of the character, we didn’t really need to push each other on set, it all just flowed. The whole process became seamless and natural.
You are one of the most diverse actors we have in Bollywood today and directors seem to have a lot of faith in the range of roles they are offering you. What would you attribute this to?
I think it’s the fact that I showed them a lot of different parts in the past, so I think that makes people a lot more confident that I will be open to different kinds of films.
At the end of the day, I also feel that the director always tries to get an actor on board for the film first. I always attribute that to the directors wanting to fulfil their wish.
Your father Mahesh Bhatt is also a great filmmaker. If you could turn back the clocks and play a role in a film of his, what would that be and why?
Honestly, I would not want to retouch any of his films because all of them are so iconic and simple, that you would not want to meddle around with it.
But if I were to choose, I think I would choose to be a part of Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke because I love that film.
Alia, if you were an espionage in real-life, what would be your top 3 missions to accomplish and why?
I don’t think I’ll be able to accomplish or want to accomplish any mission.
My one and only goal are to help the world, wake-up to the environmental issues that we are facing and raise awareness of how we are neglecting animals.
In fact, that’s my life mission right now. So if I was an espionage, this would be my ultimate mission.
Listen to our interview with Alia Bhatt here:
Post-Raazi, you have an exceptional line-up of films in the pipeline. How are the preparations going for that?
We are just shooting the movies right now. I’m shooting for both Kalank and Bhramastra.
They are going well because we are all breaking our backs and working very hard so that is a good sign of progress!
Well, we surely believe that you are ‘breaking your back’ as hard work most certainly shows. Keep progressing Alia Bhatt.Read more
Umesh Shukla talks reuniting Amitabh Bachchan & Rishi Kapoor for 102 Not Out and Revival of Gujarati Cinema
BY ANUJ RADIA
Umesh Shukla's forthcoming film, 102 Not Out is an ageless comedy that brings together Indian Cinema’s two biggest stalwarts - Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor after 27 years, with the two legends playing father-son duo for the first time.
The movie narrates the story of 102 years young Dattatraya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan) lives life to the fullest and wants to break the record of oldest living man- that’s held by a 118 years old Chinese. Dattatraya wants to live a stress-free life in order to become the oldest living man.
However, there is only one hindrance - his 75-year-old son Babulal (Rishi Kapoor) who has resigned himself to a life of old age stuck in drudgery. Dattatraya now must find means and ways to change Babulal’s sad and grumpy demeanour so that he doesn’t become a deterrent in breaking the record.
Little do they realise that this roller coaster ride filled with comedy, emotion and commotion, will change them and their relationship forever.
In an interview with Asian Style, Umesh Shukla opens up on his journey of creating this slice-of-life film!
Umesh, What was it like to direct two big legends Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor together on one screen in 102 Not Out?
Because the script demanded the two actors to perform. My script was as such that we had to have actors with such calibre [like Mr Bachchan and Mr Kapoor] in the film.
I contacted Amitabh Bachchan first and his son Abhishek helped me out with the appointment. I went with the idea of narrating him the full 2.5 hours narration of the script, but within ten minutes, he said, “I’m doing this movie, it has an excellent premise.”
Mr Bachchan is a senior actor and he’s like a father to me, so I asked him whether Chintu Ji [Rishi Kapoor] should play the 75-year-old son character?
In response to this, he immediately jumped and said “Great idea. We have played brothers and friends, we have never played father and son. If this subject excites him, then please go ahead.”
I met Rishi Kapoor and started narrating the script with my co-writer Saumya Joshi again on the 10th minute and said the same thing as Mr Bachchan.
Now, it's releasing on 4th May!
The film is an adaptation of the Gujarati play of the same name. What are some of the key differences between the stage and screen versions?
Oh, there are very much different. The subject is the same, but treatment is completely different.
When you’re doing a stage play, you’ll have to finish it 7/8 scenes.
When you’re making a film, you have to create 40-50 scenes, both the mediums are different and equally challenging.
As Mr Bachchan & Mr Kapoor reunite after a 27-year long hiatus, there must have been very fond memories from the set of 102 Not Out. Could you kindly share a few of those yaadgaar pals?
So, this is the first time that Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor are playing Gujarati characters.
They must have done over 200 films, but they never played Gujarati characters.
I’m sure all the Gujaratis abroad will be happy to know that they are playing Gujarati roles [laughs]. They also speak a few lines of the language.
The fun was, where there was a huge set of a house and on the first day of the shoot I told them that Gujaratis don’t wear chapals [slippers] or shoes in the house - and we were going to shoot there for 30 days.
Initially, I thought they would refuse to take off their footwear. But instead, they immediately removed it and they shot barefoot.
They realised that without Chappals [slippers], the walk is very different.
I really feel that both Mr Bachchan and Mr Kapoor are not just superstars but are so sensible and passionate about their work. They never imposed anything on me.
In addition to films, you have directed Gujarati plays before. Since films like ‘Wrongside Raju’ and ‘Gujju Bhai Most Wanted’ have been well-received globally. How do you feel Gujarati cinema is reviving?
It is going very well. There are two films like ‘Chal Man Jeetva Jaiye’ and ‘Reva’, both are doing extremely well in all the circuits in India.
I don’t know about the overseas market, but these two films are rocking. ‘Gujjubhai Most Wanted’ did very well.
Now, good content has started to come out. I’m really hopeful that we do very good stuff and we make Gujaratis really proud!
Finally, what would you like the audience to take away from 102 Not Out and why?
I want people to understand that life is just a celebration and age is just a number.
Life is a celebration and we must celebrate it. Even though the actors are old, the film is very young. I’m sure even the youngsters will enjoy it too.
Umesh Shukla's films have always appealed to an audience of all ages. Be it Oh My God or All is Well, Shukla's movies convey that simplicity is the best policy.
102 Not Out also seems to be a family-friendly venture that can be enjoyed by the masses. Furthermore, it would be wonderful to see Bollywood's two legends - Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor - reunite after a lengthy hiatus.
The film releases in cinemas worldwide on 4th May.Read more
Award-Winning Numerologist Swetta Jumaani gives her predictions for young Bollywood stars & the future
BY ANUJ RADIA
Astro-Numerologist Swetta Jumaani, is the recipient of the ‘Legend of India Award’ and the Sooryadutta National Award.
With over 15 years of experience, she has been instrumental in changing the destinies of numerous people for the better.
Jumaanis’ recent Bollywood successes include: Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal Again which rocked the Box-office again. It has been labelled the 'Best Golmaal' film so far and Jumaani who suggested the name has already coined a fresh title for the next instalment of the Best Comedy franchise of Bollywood.
In an interview with Asian Style, Swetta Jumaani talks about her predictions about the young, forthcoming actors in Bollywood and the future for the industry.
Swetta, tell us a bit about life as an astro-numerologist. What are some of the challenges you face?
Mostly, at the beginning, I used to feel very depressed looking at people’s problems. Now that I’m used to it, I’m cool about it.
What I really don’t like, is when men cry like a baby about their problems. In my whole career of 15 years I have seen at least 3-4 men have cried in front of me. That’s the only thing I feel bad about.
Otherwise, it’s a very easy thing for me because I’ve been doing it since childhood. I don’t look at it as ‘work’ so I’m hardly working.
You hail from an eminent numerological family and your brother Sanjay Jumaani is also highly acclaimed in this field. How much of a guide and mentor has he been?
It all began from my father Bansilal Jumaani. Wherever we are today, it is because of my brother and his marketing skills.
I’ve been learning numerology from my father since I was a kid. Sanjay was a non-believer, it was literally forced on him because after my marriage, I was all over the country with my husband, who was in the air-force.
Ekta Kapoor found out about my father and got hold of him. But we started from the base, we couldn’t even afford to keep a telephone wire at home, we were so poor.
Being my father who then became very busy, old man and handling it alone, Sanjay helped out. The way my brother has handled it is amazing.
For me, it was my passion - so it’s not a big deal. But for Sanjay, who wasn’t as passionate before, is 50 or 100 times more passionate than me.
Even at parties he talks about numerology!
You have many celebrity clients and been responsible for a few successes, like suggesting new release date for Padmaavat, to name a few. How rewarding is this feeling?
There are some things in vibrations knowing your lucky colours and numbers, for instance, it can help you amount of a lot of mess.
For example, with Chennai Express, you saw the logo going up. We suggest to everybody that the logo should go up. Going upwards is a good sign.
But I tell you what gives us a kick, is when childless couples thank us for being blessed with a baby.
There are people who tell us about going through a divorce but after getting our advice, this doesn’t happen.
You find more of ordinary people whose lives are changing and that makes me very happy.
Who in particular do you enjoy working with and why?
Actually, what happens is that they don’t have so much time to meet us repeatedly.
Once we have made them understand a certain thing, it is either their staff that communicates with us.
It’s not like we keep talking to each other. Communication is usually done through mail, SMS or WhatsApp.
From the new Bollywood celebrities to be launched like Ishaan, Janhvi and Ananya, whom do you predict will make it big?
Ishaan amounts to (numerological number) ‘2’ and November makes him a Scorpio. The biggest Superstar we have today is Shahrukh Khan - his birthday is on 2nd November and he is also Scorpio.
Ishaan Khatter has great chances.
Amongst the girls, Janhvi Kapoor will be my top pick.
Janhvi Kapoor is born on the same month as Alia Bhatt - though Janhvi is 6th and Alia is 15th March. Regardless of the date, both are still amount to the numerological number of ‘6’.
She is born on the date of 30th October that makes her a Scorpio. Ananya is going to be very beautiful and wealthy.
After Janhvi, I put my hopes on Ananya Panday, who of course, is going to be very good. But Janhvi will always have a little (numerological) upper-hand than her.
Finally, What do you see in the future for Bollywood?
Even in 2000, numerology started. Our first hit of the year was ‘Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai.’ Remember the two ‘A’s in the ‘Naa’ and the one extra ‘A’ in the ‘Pyaar’, That was the year numerology started and Bollywood started making those bucks.
For Bollywood, in general, this is going to make a great year. Let me tell you the reason.
The Year 2018 is totalling to (numerological number) two. Two is the number of superstars and of the Bollywood industry. For instance: Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan are born on days speaking ‘two’.
So, the superstar number is 2. It’s a very good number and going to be a great year for Bollywood.
You can find more about Swetta Jumaani and her work right here: http://jumaani.com/index.aspRead more
BY ANUJ RADIA
Ishaan Khatter, The half-brother of actor Shahid Kapoor and a dance expert from Shiamak Davar’s academy, now strides his way into the world of cinema with Beyond The Clouds.
Comparatively to some of the other Indian film debuts, Ishaan’s has to be one of the biggest and most prestigious.
After all, it’s not every day you get to debut in a film which is helmed by an internationally acclaimed and Oscar-nominated filmmaker like Majid Majidi. That too, backed with music by award-winner, AR Rahman.
The movie narrates the story of 19-year-old Amir (Ishaan Khatter) who, when on the run from the cops, finds his estranged sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan). Tara, in a bid to protect her brother, lands up in jail.
In a candid chat with Asian Style, Ishaan Khatter opens up on his career, dance and family.
Ishaan, ‘Beyond the Clouds’ is a tale of human relationships, how much could you personally resonate with the film’s narrative?
A whole lot. I felt like there was a lot to this character that I could relate to on a personal, especially towards my character’s emotional graph in the film.
But at the same time, there were characteristics of this boy that I had to build and create. I did feel that there was a lot I could resonate with, emotionally.
How would you best describe your character ‘Amir’?
I would say that he is a young, energetic and robust enterprising boy. Amir is somebody who finds ways of making a living. He has this rough exterior that he’s built which is almost like a defence mechanism.
Amir is hard on the outside, but inside he is just a young boy who has his emotional chord very strongly connected to his sister Tara [played by Malavika Mohanan], from whom [the sister] he has lived apart for a few years - when you see him in the film and the narrative begins.
He was orphaned at a very young age, so he’s had to be independent and fight his way through life.
Majid Majidi is a highly acclaimed filmmaker. How did he mentor and guide you throughout this journey?
At first, I made it a point to spend as much time around him as I could. He predominantly speaks Farsi and can speak Basic English, so we would have a translator on-set at all times.
I found that spending time with him and getting to understand him – as a person and filmmaker, helped me to develop this synchrony with him and understand his vision.
I feel that Majid sir guides you in ways that are often a mystery to an actor. One does not realise how he moulds the actor and pushing buttons for an individual to perform in a certain manner.
Majid sir is someone who is extremely focused and meticulous. He, naturally, has this leadership quality and everybody wants to adopt that.
His method of working with actors is very spontaneous and his text is so strong. It’s his choices as a filmmaker like to shoot on live locations rather than built sets.
At often times, he does not have junior artists in the shot and will allow his actors to interact in a real environment. That encompasses a natural feel to the scene.
Ishaan, if you could literally look ‘Beyond the Clouds’ what do you wish to find and why?
Ah, that’s interesting [laughs]. I would hope to find a new dimension to myself and be able to interact with my future self.
How does Shiamak’s dance skills contribute to your development as an actor?
Oh, a whole lot. I feel that dancing and music, in general, are huge contributors to my sense of timing and instinct as an actor. The rhythm plays a huge part in everything.
I was born and brought up in a household where my mother [Neelima Azeem] who is a Kathak exponent, she’s a student of Pandit Birju Maharaj. She has travelled the world, representing our country. She was in a postage stamp at the age of 14 – so it kind of runs in our blood.
Those early impressions of understanding music and dance alongside observing the arts and culture have really formed us into the performers we are today – especially my brother and I.
Learning from Shiamak was a delightful experience. It was one year of very intensive training. He [Shiamak Davar] has been a teacher to my brother for years.
I think it was a really special thing for him, to watch me grow as a dancer. The overall experience with Shiamak was extremely enriching, physically, for me, as a performer.
I learnt a lot of tools that has stayed with me ever since. I also developed my physique and learnt a lot about training.
That year was integral for me to grow as a performer.
Your brother Shahid Kapoor is also an excellent actor. How supportive has the ‘Bade Bhaiyya’ [Big Brother] been in your life?
A lot! He is been like a father and he’s a paternal-figure in my life. Shahid is almost 15-years older than me and he’s looked after me ever since I was a child, in more ways than one.
He’s always been there to advise me and give me guidance. He also shares his journey as a performer with me.
Since we are both passionate about the same thing, we really bond over that. So, we really do have a very special bond.
Who is your inspiration in cinema and why?
I watch a lot of cinema and it would be very difficult for me to pinpoint one inspiration. But I definitely like to say that cinema itself is the inspiration.
The diversity of cinema as an art-form and the fact that there are films worldwide that have such a connection with the audience and have convey so much.
As I watch a lot of world cinema, cinema itself has a very big influence on my life. There are actors all over the world that do something beyond their capacity and I find that very inspiring.
So, I have a long list of actors whom I am inspired by and names are added to that list every day [laughs].
Since you grew up in a family of terrific actors was this profession always on the cards for you?
As far as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated and passionate about the performing arts. When I was growing up I took more serious steps in order to develop myself as an actor and dancer.
This profession, acting, was always something I wanted to do. What was lovely, is that I grew up in a very liberal household and I was never pushed into this direction.
Nor was I inhibited from following my instincts and pursue acting because they were understanding and of course, I come from a family of artists.
I’ve always been passionate about this.
Listen to our interview with Ishaan Khatter right here:
Overall, it is not easy to breakthrough into a competitive and cut-throat industry like the Indian film fraternity.
But it seems as though Ishaan has truly put his heart and soul into his work in Beyond The Clouds.
His next venture Dhadak is an adaptation of super-hit Marathi film Sairat and from the posters, it seems to be equally intense as the original film.
Produced by Karan Johar, Ishaan will be featuring opposite Sridevi’s daughter - Janhvi Kapoor - who makes her Bollywood debut with this romantic drama.
One looks forward to seeing what this potential new Bollywood heartthrob has to offer in his upcoming projects!
Beyond The Clouds releases in cinemas from 20th April 2018.Read more
BY ANUJ RADIA
Highly acclaimed director Shoojit Sircar is a filmmaker par excellence.
Whether it’s making an advertisement or a feature film, Sircar presents narratives which are fresh, dynamic and are subsequently appreciated by the masses.
From highlighting taboo subjects like sperm donation in Vicky Donor or a hush-hush yet natural topic such as constipation in Piku, Sircar weaves narratives in a way which entertains and educates the audience.
In an extemporary conversation with Asian Style, Shoojit Da talks about his forthcoming film October (starring Varun Dhawan and Banita Sandhu) and his perception of Indian cinema as a whole.
October seems to be a profound and riveting tale about love. Tell us a bit more about the film?
This film was supposed to go on floors much before Pink, but because our cast was incomplete, that’s why October was not ready then.
I’m not an expert on love stories, but there are some insights of human emotions that I’ve experienced myself and we always talk about it.
I’ve just picked up those very delicate emotions. There are no single narratives in the film, like Piku. It starts, I keep holding that thread and keep weaving through the narrative [Laughs].
Even though it’s based on a boy-girl relationship, it has a universal meaning.
Varun Dhawan is cited to be a very hard-working and dedicated individual. How did you push is boundaries as an actor?
First, I asked him to unlearn a lot of things.
As we don’t come from the same cinema we make. It was completely North-South Pole for us. So Varun’s casting was completely accidental.
Why I say accidentally because Varun was calling me for quite some time to meet. One day, I was about to leave my office and he called me.
I said, “Okay, come over.” He said he had just-woken-up and wasn’t dressed properly. I suggested he has a cup of tea and go back.
When you’re writing a script or trying to make a film, 24x7 the characters are in your head. So Varun stood in front of me and I don’t know what happened. I kept on looking at his eyes and I figured out that this is not the Varun Dhawan I heard or seen of.
I found that there was some innocence still there. I took pictures and immediately sent it to Juhi Chaturvedi [Writer of October] and Ronnie Lahiri [Producer of the film]. I said, “I think this is the right character.”
In terms of his preparation, the workshops were not like reading the script or knowing what the character was. It was more about spirituality and calming down. It was about seeing life the way it is.
So there were quite a few things he had to learn. In the film, you will see how bright Varun is as a character and cast. You will see how perfect he is as Dan.
From Minissha Lamba to Yami Gautam, you have launched several fresh female talents in Bollywood. What did you see in Banita Sandhu?
Banita was cast much earlier on, before even Pink. I also do commercials and I was shooting a double-mint chewing gum commercial, around 2016.
I was looking for a fresh girl that was also a girl-next-door. The script and character of Shiuli [Banita’s character] were written and as soon as I met her.
The way she spoke, the way she presented/conducted herself when I took her first shot and the way she looked on-screen, I figured out from Banita’s performance and expressions, it was like less is more. I liked that [laughs].
From then, I figured that there is some kind of intelligence in her that was so aware of her role.
She’s just 20 - so young but yet there is some kind of sensibility in her and she can express through her eyes.
What challenged you as a director in October?
Challenges with this kind of film are not to lose integrity because of Bollywood commercial pressures. My challenge was to not lose focus on making this film.
It’s important that one remembers why they have made the film, why one has chosen this story to tell.
So, to keep that honesty and not getting lost to any gimmick is the biggest challenge.
Some of Indian cinema’s finest filmmakers have emerged from Bengali cinema. Is there anyone in particular who has inspired you? If so, who and why?
Oh, undoubtedly Satyajit Ray. I try in every film to be inspired by Ray, in whatever form and way. Ray is like a bible for me.
I tell all my actors - from Deepika to Banita to watch Ray’s work.
Satyajit Ray has already done the best in cinema. It is very difficult to reach where he has in terms of the kind of cinema he has made.
Plus, the films are so modern in terms of the thinking. I think all the artists should watch his films.
Whether it’s Vicky Donor or Piku, you have always presented hushed or taboo topics within society. What drives you to do so?
It’s just everyday life and observing people around you. I have lived 20 years in New Delhi, so most of my films are based there.
The basis of October remained with me since 2004. Something happened in my personal life I experienced something and from there this thought developed about depicting this through a film.
I used my personal experience as the backdrop of October. Same with Piku, I mean constipation is a universal subject which is discussed in every household.
It’s all about observing and living everyday life.
Theatre inspired me to come into films. Theatre grounds you and keeps you socially aware of your environment.
Listen to our full interview with Shoojit Sircar right here!
Overall, it seems like October was quite a spiritual experience for Shoojit Sircar. His upcoming project is a film on the Indian revolutionary Shaheed Udham Singh.
One hopes that this will be just as gripping and insightful as Sircar’s Madras Cafe!
October releases at a cinema near you on 13th April 2018Read more
BY ANUJ RADIA
Oscar-nominated Iranian filmmaker, Majid Majidi is truly one of a kind. The most endearing factor about Mr Majidi's films is that they all highlight the importance of human relationships.
Whether it's the Children of heaven or The Color of Paradise (which was nominated for an Academy Award), Majid Majidi movies have a worldwide appeal due to his prominent portrayal of innocence within humanity.
His movies completely overcome the language barriers and one becomes so engaged in his narrative and the world which has been created by Mr Majidi.
Majid Majidi's forthcoming film Beyond The Clouds is his first Hindi film and his first time shooting in India.
The filmmaker speaks with Asian Style about his experience of shooting Beyond The Clouds in India.
Majid sir, this was your first time shooting in India. How was your Beyond The Clouds Journey?
It was a very nice experience for me and I am familiar with Indian cinema. It was my desire to come to India and make such a film.
Because of Satyajit Ray’s cinema, which I was fond of, I was very much interested to make a film in India.
I was always looking for this opportunity to come to India and make this film.
This is because our Iranian culture and Indian culture are very much close to each other.
Through Beyond The Clouds, this desire has been fulfilled.
Ishaan and Malavika seem to be two exceptional talents. What is the most admirable qualities about them as actors?
No doubt they are talented artists, but I also tried my best to manifest all aspects of their talents. It was a nice experience for me as well.
Besides Beyond The Clouds being a gripping and poignant story, what more can you tell us about the film?
This, Beyond The Clouds, is the continuation of my own cinema but this time, just set in Mumbai, India.
It’s only the location which has changed.
My feeling is that I am just continuing my film Children of Heaven.
The only difference here [in Beyond The Clouds] is that the children in the film have grown up and got to a new position [in life].
Your films often revolve around sibling relationships and innocence which overcome challenging hurdles. Does your personal life have any influence on your filmmaking style?
My main concern has always been for the innocence of humanity, for every human being.
Depending on the different situations and surroundings, which we grow up in, those may change.
But some things remain intact within us and that, itself is innocence. I just try to pick up that point and show it to the audience.
Finally, what would you like the audience to take away from Beyond The Clouds?
The main message is to love each other. That’s what I want to convey through the film.
Listen to our interview with Majid Majidi right here. Please note the interview was conducted via a translator:
Beyond The Clouds release in cinemas from 20th April 2018.Read more
BY ANUJ RADIA
Not only has Ahmed Khan's Baaghi 2 emerged as one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of 2018 as it races towards the 100-crore mark, but it has also established Tiger Shroff as a bankable name.
From the jaw-dropping action sequences to a suspenseful concept, the movie is a wholesome entertainer which captures the audience's attention from beginning till end.
In an interview with Asian Style, the Hero himself Tiger Shroff talks about how he roars once more with Baaghi 2!
How excited are you about the release of Baaghi 2 and how do you feel it's shaped up compared to Baaghi?
I was ready from the word go! Sajid Sir told me that he is planning to do Baaghi 2 which will be even a bigger attempt than Baaghi. The story had the perfect balance of romance and action, which I felt instantly connected to.
It is a completely different film and you will be watching a fresh new film with great visuals along with a very good story. It is a sequel but nothing to do with part 1.
The film is a full-blown entertainer; it has great music, amazing action and a heart-warming love story. It's a movie audience have not seen before in a long time and I'm sure they'll enjoy it.
You are rugged, with that military haircut and trimmed beard has been well received. How much input do you have on your look?
Not much really! [laughs]. I love my hair. I think Ahmed sir put it rather well, he called me a 'choreographer's actor'. Which I think is a perfect way to define me. I'm not the kind of actor to question or argue with the director, I always trust his/her instinct and deliver what they expect from me on screen.
There must be a lot of pressure for the film to do well as this would be your hattrick with Sajid Nadiadwala after Heropanti and Baaghi?
The pressure is always there to perform well for any film. I am just glad to be working with him. He is my father figure in the industry. When I am under his wings, I feel unstoppable and ready to take on an army.
There's a lot of controversy surrounding the 'Ek Do Teen' song remake. Do you think this controversy has taken away the focus on the film?
Those reactions were expected when people compare our song with the great Madhuri Dixit and the iconic number Ek Do Teen. In no ways do we mean to compare ourselves. Our song is just a humble tribute. But you can't take away from the hard work Jacqueline has done for the song.
The film boasts of some extraordinary stunts, performed by you such as deep-sea diving action sequences which if rumours are true - have been performed mostly by you. How long did it take for you to train to do such stunts and how long did it take to get the shot?
I work out every day. But my work out routine changes according to the role I am doing. For example, for this film, I had to gain 5kg's in which my work out routine was geared more towards weight training. Nonetheless, I don't feel my abs and physique takes over my craft, as I work on my physique to make the character I'm playing more authentic and believable on screen. That's what being an actor is all about; we're supposed to become the character we're playing.
I think it's unfair for an actor to take body doubles. That's why I try and work hard and perform all my stunts as much as possible. If there was a body double, I would rather allow him to be the hero of the film. It's not right to take his credit. I try my best to be honest with the character.
How would like to be defined as an actor – Dancing star, Action man, Chocolate hero…?
Honestly, I am so blessed to be given an identity so early on in my career. It is for me an achievement already. But that being that – it was always my dream to be an action hero and I have just started to realise this dream. I am blessed at this point to be in my shoes. Right now I am just playing to my strengths and if there is an off-beat role, which there are a few – I will work towards it. I don't want to feel limited at all.
You have so many young fans, who love your martial arts, if you had a message for them, what would it be?
I had a dream so I made it my goal to achieve it. My father always tells me to listen more, speak less and to respect everybody. We follow a quote by Bruce Lee since we are his fans ''an actor should be like water and adapt to the environment''.
This will be my message to all my young fans.
In addition to Tiger Shroff, Baaghi 2 also stars Disha Patani, Manoj Bajpayee, Randeep Hooda, Darshan Kumar, Deepak Dobriyal and Prateik Babbar in key roles.
Running successfully worldwide, make sure you catch Baaghi 2 at a cinema near you!Read more
BY ANUJ RADIA
A velvety voice, an irresistible charm and a charisma that smitten not thousands, but millions across the globe.
Hailing from a renowned musical family and despite being trained in Hindustani Classical, Malik’s versatility as a singer extends to other world genres like Pop/R&B, EDM and Big Band to name a few.
Since his first break as an adult playback singer with Salman Khan’s Jai Ho in 2014, the singing sensation has gone on to win several prestigious awards like Filmfare, Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Stardust, Big Star, Radio Mirchi and GiMA.
Recognised for popular tracks like ‘Main Hoon Hero Tera’, ‘Wajah Tum Ho’, ‘Bol Do Na Zara’ and ‘Sab Tera’, 22-year-old Armaan Malik is one of the finest talents in the Bollywood music industry today.
After a lengthy anticipation by fans and admirers, Armaan Malik finally becomes the voice for Varun Dhawan in Shoojit Sircar’s forthcoming film, October.
His song ‘Theher Ja’ from October has a strong breezy, emotional and yet uplifting atmosphere, it is truly a Bollywood love-song like no other.
The song has become so popular, that it has grossed over 10 million views within a week since the video released on YouTube.
In a candid interview with Asian Style, Armaan Malik talks about ‘Theher Ja,’ his music career and more!
Armaan, what was it about 'Theher Ja' that stroke a chord with you?
It’s not another love song that I’ve sung. It’s very different. The lyrics are very simple but still heart-touching and the beats of the song are very unusual, unlike a normal love song in Bollywood.
It has got this laid-back vibe and has got this kick-drum with nice funky baseline happening.
While the song itself is quite emotional as the male character [in the track] talks about how he wants her [the beloved] to wait to convey his emotions to her, but not now, ‘I just want her to wait a little bit more.’
That’s what the lyrics are conveying, yet there is an upbeat groove to the song. It is that contrast that really worked for me.
It was a very interesting and exciting collaboration with Varun Dhawan. For a long time, I’ve always wanted to sing for him. Finally, it’s happened in October.
How much could you personally resonate with the lyrics of ‘Theher Ja’?
‘Theher Ja’ is so amazingly described. Even though the lyrics are so simple like the first two lines are: ‘Saal Badla, Haal Badla, Tere Aaane Se. Zindagi Ka Khayal Badla, Tere Aane Se.’
It says so much and so little, that’s the beauty of the lyrics and I definitely resonate with this.
When I heard the song for the first time, I asked the composer who wrote the song, to which he told me it’s Abhiruchi.
She (Abhiruchi) previously wrote the song ‘Buddhu Sa Mann’ from Kapoor & Sons, which I sang. I didn’t know she had written ‘Theher Ja’ so I went into the studio and they handed me a sheet of the lyric and I was like ‘wow – this is really interesting.’
It’s so simple. Sometimes simplicity is the key it just tends so much without saying a lot. I think that’s the beauty of the song.
Also, the treatment of the song by Abhishek Arora – He’s done a fab job of the production and composition of this track.
It’s very unlike a quintessential romantic song you would hear for a Bollywood film. It has this very nice European vibe to it.
You have cited that it's a 'dream come true' to sing for Varun Dhawan. How supportive has he been towards you?
I couldn’t have asked for a better actor than Varun. I think he is fabulous at what he does and he is so hands-on. That’s the biggest positive thing I can say about him.
He, as an actor, is involved in every stage of the song – especially if it’s about the mixing, mastering or feeling whether the beats are right.
Many of the times, an actor is usually in their own space. I.e. Doing their acting bit or being with the director, but for the first time, I’ve seen an actor who is so involved in a song.
It was really sweet of him, he called me up one evening and said “your fans have been requesting me and my fans have been requesting me to get you on board for one of my songs.
He had done this tweet where he wanted to find the ‘voice of October’ and he got a lot of messages from people stating my name. That’s when he called me and said: “this has to happen now.”
Our collaboration didn’t happen before due to some reason or the other. But everything finally came together for October and now it is out – Theher Ja [laughs].
The name 'Armaan Malik' promises pure quality. Having received fame at quite a young age, would you say it is pleasure or pressure?
First, that is a very tricky question [laughs]. To be honest, I didn’t expect so much to happen to me at such an early age of my career.
Everything has happened so quickly that I have not got the time to understand what’s happened and that is the beauty of it.
If you really understand what’s happening [in terms of popularity and fame], that is when you start taking yourself seriously and that should not happen.
To an artist, it’s really important that you go-with-the-flow, do your music, let the music flow with the audiences and never take what you have achieved too seriously because that holds you down.
I’ve always been driven to do bigger and better. For me, quality over quantity has always been the case.
Even during 2016 and 2017, I was really conscious of the songs that were released under my name and the kind of artistry I wanted to put out.
The track, ‘Tere Mere’ from Chef, even though the movie didn’t go on to do that well, the song itself had so much of a fan-following.
For new concerts, whatever I’ve been doing, everyone has just been rooting for ‘Tere Mere.’
It’s such a big pleasure for me to know that despite the shelf-life of a movie, a song still lives on.
It is important that I make the right song choices and the stuff I do because it is an extension of me as an artist.
With every step, I just want good music to come out. That is always my main focus.
Your brother, Amaal Malik, is an exceptional composer and singer. How does your personal relationship with him influence your professional rapport?
We both started working at a young age, Amaal was 16 and I was 10.
Musically, whatever I have learnt [apart from my Gurus] is from my brother. Amaal listens to a lot of world music.
He has a varied taste in music and sometimes many people don’t believe it, but he [Amaal] often listens to instrumental music.
This inspires him and instrumentals play so much importance in his musical taste.
I have just been influenced by him in such a musical way. We have grown together musically, rather than just as being brothers – which is a very beautiful thing.
He used to listen to a lot of Western music when we were growing up and I used to learn Indian classical. I used to share Raagas with him and he used to share the music he was listening to.
Our first collaboration happened in Salman Khan’s Jai Ho, which was my debut as an adult playback singer and Amaal’s debut as a composer.
After that, he did a lot of tracks with Arijit [in tracks like ‘Sooraj Dooba Hain’ and ‘Soch Na Sake’] and with so many other amazing people.
I’m so glad that I have Amaal as my brother because I can go to these recordings and learn so much from the other singers too.
For me learning never stops, so it is such a beautiful thing at home. In fact, it’s like a jamming session at home. It’s just music, music and music [laughs].
Would you consider becoming an actor anytime soon?
Well, as of now, I’m focusing a lot on music. But since so many people want to see me on-screen and on video, I’ve been making a lot of music videos, in many of which I feature in.
A single of mine is coming out very soon where I’m featuring in the video. Probably, that’s a slow transition into something [regarding acting].
For me, personally, if I want to do something, I should be very good at it.
Like I always said, when it comes to my music/singing, I’ve put in so many years of training. Hence, I can sing live and perform the way I do.
It is the same thing with any other profession or art. It’s important to put in that much time.
So if in the future I decide that I want to do acting, I will put in a lot of time and learn acting, rather than just come out and do acting.
I don’t want to come on-screen and someone says that I don’t know acting. I really don’t want that to happen [laughs].
A good singer needs to eat in order to perform well. Armaan, what is your favourite food dish?
My favourite is actually North-Indian food, dishes like Butter Chicken, Daal Makhani and Butter Naan, that’s the stable diet of mine [laughs].
There is no ‘Gaana’ without ‘Khaana.’ That is the phrase that works in my family, even for my brother, we all are foodies.
For us, we cannot make music without food.
Who first springs to mind when I say to you, 'Main Hoon Hero Tera' and why?
I would definitely say, Salman Khan, because he has definitely been a hero to me. He was the first one to introduce me to the film industry.
Finally, what message would you like to convey to all the fans out there?
I just want to say to all my fans in the UK, in India and all over the world, that I really love them.
Apart from music, they love artists like us, as people too. That’s such an amazing thing that I can connect with them on a human-level, rather than just as an idol and fan.
Thank you to everyone for being there in my life, for loving me so much and connecting with me. I’m sure whatever song I do, I’ll always stay connected with you and give you all my love.
Listen to our interview with Armaan Malik right here on our SoundCloud page, plus he sings a few lines of 'Theher Ja' for us!
Overall, it is very difficult to break through the Bollywood music industry. With cut-throat competition rising every year, to survive and to continuously impress is a mission in itself.
However, Armaan Malik’s success proves that hard-work combined with talent is the perfect formula to triumph.
But besides Armaan’s terrific skills as a singer and performer, it is his grounded upbringing and humble demeanour which makes this artist loved by the masses.
Asian Style wishes Armaan Malik all the best for his forthcoming projects!
October releases in cinemas worldwide on 13th April 2018.Read more
Sajjan Singh Rangroot is a Punjabi movie, starring Diljit Dosanjh in the lead role. The film traces the arduous journey of the Indian British Army’s Lahore Regiment as it takes on German forces during the war. The film highlights themes of alienation, discrimination and loss whilst also celebrating the bravery of Indian soldiers who put their lives on the line for their colonisers. The period drama, directed by leading Punjabi film director, Pankaj Batra, is based on the experiences of Sikh regiments on the front lines of the war.
British actor and Yorkshireman, Peter Irving, won a major role in the film. He spoke exclusively to Asian Style Mag about his role and how he found the experience of working with Diljit Dosanjh.
By FATIMA PATEL
How did this film come about for you?
Well as an actor you’re constantly applying for jobs, your agent is putting you up for jobs and vice versa. Naila Mughal casting agency who do most of the casting for Indian films, they’d seen my details and said to me, 'Would you like to come for this film called Rangroot?' So what made me kind of go for it, was because I think maybe in the past I’d seen castings for Bollywood films before, but in my head I felt well what role have they got for English people and it’s normally a lot of singing and dancing and very romantic, so I didn’t go any further, but this particular film, it wasn’t the fact that it was a Bollywood film, it was the subject matter that excited me. So, the fact that it was the first World War and so that’s what drew me. The fact that I’d always wanted to do a war film. My grandad, he was in the second World War, my great uncle he was in the first World War, so I really wanted to do a first World War film and then I thought ooh this is Indian as well and the connection in the detail seemed really interesting. So, I thought this sounds really good and it was for a lead role. So, obviously I thought I had to go seem them.
The audition was in a nice hotel, so I immediately felt at ease and it was so relaxed, as it wasn’t an audition as such, but more like a meeting with Pankaj (Director of Rangroot). The actual brief said it was an officer's role, so when you know it’s an officers role you have to think like an officer. So when I walked into the room I walked in like an officer, I had to think of the class, the social status and how I spoke and so on so it’s kind of an absorption of that. I liked Pankaj and I liked the way he did things, so I thought this is how it should be done. I asked Pankaj if he wanted me to read anything and he said no I can tell a lot about an actor, from the first five minutes I meet them and what we’re looking for. So, it was talking and seeing bits of videos and then I left and you kind of forget about it. Then a few days later I was invited to a summer garden party with free-flowing wine, I got a bit hungover and it was there I got the call that I got the role (laughs). The exciting thing about it was they wanted me to come in the day after, so I said yes, before I could let it sink in.
So, you went to India for the shoot. Did you pick up any of the local language whilst you were out there?
Well, I used to say ‘theek hai’ (that’s OK) quite a lot (laughter). Apart from the fact that I do get along with everyone and we spent a lot of time filming in the UK before we went to India, so I could get by. But I picked quite a lot of things up.
Diljit Dosanjh is huge in India and across the globe. How did you find working with him?
Well, it’s not the first time it’s being said, he is a very humble man. When you meet him for the first time,
you know he bows and you bow towards him. So, he is always on the same level. And yes, he is a huge star, so therefore he has to keep a level of distance. Otherwise extras and people will always go up to him all the time. He was very good to work with and if you had to do a take again, he was very considerate, so I think he is a great guy. He is very easy to work with. And that’s another thing I feel very honoured to be in this production, it’s not just because that he’s an extremely good actor, but also because he is a good human being as well. He oozes talent, so hopefully to learn something from working with him.
We’ve seen the trailer and seen glimpses, how have you found glimpses of you in the film so far? Are you happy with the way the film has shaped up?
There is something very different about this film. So, it feels like you know you’ve got the Indian culture, the Sikh culture in there and that’s the beauty of that and the spirituality of that. At the same time, you sort of see other films where people put it in a box and say that’s a Hollywood film and that’s a Bollywood film and things like that. This film is something else, because it seems to have those elements, that have risen to the surface and it could be seen as an American blockbuster. I mean the battle scenes look amazing, the acting strikes you as it’s going to be good acting I wanna see this and very powerful. There’s power about it and it’s a very strong emotional film to watch. At the same time, it looks very colourful and beautiful. So I think it’s amazing how many people have reacted so wonderfully about the trailer. I think it got to 5 million really quickly which is really amazing.
Sajjan Singh Rangroot also stars newcomer Sunanda Sharma alongside Yograj Singh, Jagjeet Sandhu, Dheeraj Kumar and Jarnail Singh in key roles.
The film is produced by Jay Sahani and Bobby Bajaj of Vivid Art House with music by Jatinder Shah.
Sajjan Singh Rangroot is distributed Worldwide by Omjee Group and Grand Showbiz Entertainment and releases in cinemas on Friday 23 March 2018.