Shayan Khan: Our goal is to promote worldwide cultures

    BY ANUJ RADIA

     Smart, suave and sincere – these are the three qualities for a great and actor it seems like debutant Shayan Khan possesses these three aspects, thus, it seems like he has everything to become successful.

    Brought up in America, Shayan is the producer and actor in the vibrant comedy ‘Na Band Baraati’, a film which ran successfully during Eid.

    As the film releases today worldwide, we caught up with the actor to discuss his experience on the movie!

    Shayan, firstly, a huge congratulations on the success of the film. You must be thrilled about this?

    It feels very good and now I’m very excited about the international release now.

    What has it been like being the new kid on the block in the Pakistani film industry?

    I’ve been treated by people and the audience have been very loving towards me. I think there’s a lot of support for new artists in Pakistan.

    What were your expectations like prior to becoming an actor? Have these changed post your debut?

    I’ve done some stage shows when I was in school, then I did theatre. I was also filming for a show on NTM when I was 11-years-old, so I’ve been on the camera when I was young.

    I’ve found that it is a lot more than what people expect – everyone thinks you’ll just come in front of the camera as if it’s a phone, a video will be made and there’s the film. But what people don’t realise is that it can take two days to shoot one scene.

    Filming is difficult, the technical things – you’ve got to be professional. Lots of people think you can just come in and break into the industry. I think the biggest thing that helps you break into the industry is professionalism. Not everyone is cut-out for this!

    Patience is absolutely necessary. We had first-timers that came on set and had to wait for 6 hours. I’d say that actors get pretty much paid to wait. Newer people come in and start getting impatient about “when’s it going to happen?” and that’s the thing directors don’t like.

    You’ve mentioned that your character Zahid is quite close to your heart. What aspect of your personality matches your role?

    At this point, because I’m more serious and sober now, this character resonates with my teenage-self. I was kind of mischievous like I would ride my bike around the city and cause problems. For instance, if I didn’t want my friends to come to school, I would puncture their parents’ car.

    You must have quite a lot masti and mazaak behind-the-scenes. What types of jokes and pranks (if any) were played to maintain the jovial atmosphere on set?

    There’s a guy named Guru (in the film) and he’s the guy who arranges a wedding scene. He’s a very funny character and his line “Koi Bhaag Ke Nikaah Karne Ka Mauka Ho, Toh Zaroor Bata Na” was very funny so everyone kept repeating that line.

    There was a lot of youngsters in this film including Mikaal Zulfiqar, Ali Kazmi, Komal Farooqi and myself (to name a few) we’re all young with lots of energy. We all chilled out together, there was a lot of good chemistry going on in the film.

    Is there anyone in particular whom you gelled well with?

    I think me, Mikaal and Ali particularly gelled well together. With me and Mikaal, we play brothers in the film and now we actually feel like brothers. We almost talk every day other than the film. Ali Kazmi too has become a good friend of mine.

    I, Mikaal and Ali are like the three musketeers, we roast each other and the most hilarious thing for us is shout-outs. Every channel we go to or designer we shop with, they always ask us for a shout-out, so we roasted each other on this because someone is making it in the low-angle or someone might be in bed and giving the shout-out (laughs).

    Besides the fun and family aspects does the film actually focus on the challenges that Pakistani people face in Canada?

    I think the film is more of a comedy. There are no messages really there – it’s more of a romantic comedy where you just have a good laugh. Having said that, you will see the disparities between the parents and children. It’s Canada, the lifestyle is Canadian, but there’s nothing that serious.

    Na Band Na Baraati also comprises of talented artists from the USA, Canada, India, Pakistan and Iran. Do you feel films like this will make way for more international collaborations happening in Pakistani cinema?

    Yes, because I feel the world’s getting smaller with the influence of the Internet. Aside from the countries you mentioned, we also have Britain, because Mikaal is born there and he’s done Bollywood. Ali Kazmi has also done some Bollywood.

    I would say that our goal is to make a small family of all the countries and promote worldwide culture, not just South-Asian culture. I got friends of various races and cultures, we are so close. We don’t look at religion or colour.

    The goal of our production house is to make international films and our movie (Na Band Na Baraati) has almost every race. I like to call it our melting pot.

    Our film is the first Pakistani venture to be filmed 100% overseas, we’ve got 70% outdoor location and the entire crew is Canadian, some of whom have worked in Canadian movies. In fact, our steady cam guy worked on Harold and Kumar. We’ve been lucky to be with very good people.

    Who are you particularly interested in working in the future from Pakistani cinema?

    You know, Pakistan doesn’t have that many big directors, but I’d like to say Nadeem Baig is very good, Fiza and Nabeel Qureshi are doing well, even Yasir Nawaz who made Wrong Number.

    I actually always wanted to work with Mikaal Zulfiqar it’s a good thing that we got to work together. Next, I want to work with Salman Khan (smiles).

    Is there anyone you would particularly like to work in Bollywood?

    If we talk about action, I really like Salman Khan a lot. If we did comedy, then it would be Akshay Kumar and if there’s a message-based film, Aamir Khan.                                                

    What advice would you convey to all budding actors out there to survive in this cut-throat industry?

    Go out there and work as hard as you can. Respect your audiences and fans. Each time you go in front of masses, you will be taking a lot of negativity – you must have a strong shield and not let it break you.

    Here’s wishing Shayan Khan all the very best for the future. Na Band Na Baraati has released in cinemas worldwide.

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    Saif Ali Khan: It’s in our blood to be these shameless tarts!

    BY ANUJ RADIA

    Saif Ali Khan began his career with playing mainly chocolate boy and comedic Casanova roles, but over time, he has matured a lot as an actor and has left his ‘Ole Ole’ days behind.

    Whether it is the conniving antagonist in Omkara, a terrorist in Kurbaan or a determined father and food connoisseur in Chef, Saif has moulded into various characters with such ease and gusto.

    The actor has now decided to put his acting prowess to the test as he undertakes the role of a cop for the first time in India’s first Netflix original series – Sacred Games – which is produced by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane.

    Sacred Games is an eight-episode thriller follows the riveting journey of Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a seasoned, cynical police officer and Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte) - an intelligence officer, to the centre of a mysterious web woven the powerful criminal overlord, Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).

    The plot twists and turns along the dark alleys of Mumbai, with Ganesh and Sartaj tightening their grip on each other and staking everything on victory, including the city itself.

    In his most candid interview with Asian Style’s entertainment correspondent Anuj Radia, Saif opens up on Sacred Games, the ups and downs of his career, life as a celebrity parent and what it takes to be a ‘shameless tart’ aka an actor!

    Saif, the thriller genre is quite popular on Netflix. In your opinion, what sets Sacred Games apart from the other web-series out there?

    The fact that is a Netflix show is a huge thing. A few other companies (whom I won’t name) offered a few shows and money. My management agency (called Exceed) said, “Netflix is completely different” and Netflix themselves said, “Look, other people will sell everything from movies to scooters and lamps. We only make movies.” So, there’s a difference there.

    When you work with a production like them (Netflix), the quality control of how things get made is just different. There’s more to making movies than money. There’s a kind of a know-how required.

    Having successfully established your career in Bollywood, how do you hope that this web-series will enhance your creativity as an actor?

    Because it’s another platform of delivering content to a viewer, but on a more intimate level. It’s an opportunity to be quite artistic.

    It’s an opportunity to be graphic novel-style darker and grittier than you could on TV and that you would on film. It’s a different medium which can really showcase what you’re trying to do without censorship or worrying to about it.

    Having said that, I think we’ve been very responsible (smiles).

    Is that why you feel Sacred Games is more of a Netflix series rather than a feature film, because of the censorship issues?

    No, Sacred Games is perfect for Netflix because it would take about 20 hours to tell this story properly!

    Its like ‘War and Peace’ would be great for a show rather than a movie, because it’s long and convoluted and there are different strands. Like ‘The Killing’, you can’t really make a movie out of it.

    I mean, you could, but it’s better to expand characters and developing different characters aspects of it so that viewing becomes your world for a while. 

    Prior to signing the series, did you read Vikram Chandra’s original novel? If so, what was your reaction?

    I did though I didn’t read the whole thing as its 1,000 pages. But I read enough to get an idea of who ‘Sartaj’ (my character) is. Vikram also wrote a short-story ‘Love and longing in Bombay’, which has a great write-up of what this guy is like.

    I came up with the two words I needed because most characters are seen through a certain lens, you know you define somebody and can use one word to describe everything. So Sartaj’s two words are ‘troubled’ and ‘honest’. I found that from the book, so that helped.

    We’ve seen you play secret agents in films like Agent Vinod and Phantom and this is your first time playing a full-fledged cop role. What was it like stepping into the shoes of Sartaj Singh?

    When I was a kid and doing romantic-comedies, I was always told that I’ll never be able to play a cop because I didn’t look tough enough. It was probably true in that case.

    The first thing I wanted to do, is to make sure I could do this convincingly. This involved putting on some muscle and making my shoes a bit higher-heeled so I look taller like a good old Sardar cop – they’re tough guys, you know!

    So I didn’t want people to think, “What kind of a Sardar is this”?    I think I’ve been quite convincing, it’s quite a victory to pull that off and that too in uniform.

    Were there any specific preparations you had to undergo for the character?

    Weight training and that kind of physical stuff. Then learning Punjabi and figuring out what kind of dialect Sartaj has got. Meeting some cops.

    You played a Sardar in Love Aaj Kal, so did that experience help?

    It kind of did. But I wanted this to be more authentic and proper. I think Sartaj is better.

    As you’ve mentioned, the shooting took place in live locations in Mumbai, which contrasts to shooting in studios for feature films. How did you cope with this change?

    It’s more fun to shoot at live locations but it was really tough and hard-work. I mean shooting 13/14 hours-a-day and no lights so you’re always ready. But to show how crazy of a city Mumbai is it’s nice to have a digital camera which doesn’t require as much paraphernalia that some film-setups do.

    You can really see the city for what it is because of the digital camera and the digital medium which doesn’t require lights.

    That must’ve been quite new and interesting?

    It was interesting but very tiring. It was the toughest shoot I’ve ever done. In normal film shoots you get a lot of time to rest while they re-light and change stuff. Here, you’re on-the-go all the time and it’s gruelling.

    Plus, the subject matter of Sacred Games is quite intense and heavy, so you have to live with that surrounding and as Sartaj Singh?

    The great thing about playing Sartaj Singh was that he wore a turban. Honestly, I really get worried about the heat in my head, mainly and trying to keep my head dry when you’re sweating.

    But wearing a turban, you could put me anywhere, it didn’t matter. So, I was a really calm guy, which I needed to be. Otherwise, I would’ve been edgy because it’s too hot.

    You also described, “It was someone else’s house where I did everything that I don’t usually do in my life.” What did you do to get out of your comfort zone?

    You had to live this guy’s life and see where he lives and what does. It’s much more than in a movie where you would fake it more on-sets. Here, I knew exactly what it was like for my character to do everything.

    It must’ve been hard to settle in. How did you cope with those initial stages?

    I remember I came to the set and I had to do this shot of putting on my gloves and inspecting the flat. I started doing it really fast because I thought it was really cool, but my director (Vikramaditya Motwane) said, “No. You’re too hyper. You have to be really slow because Sartaj is depressed and doesn’t want to be here so just slow down by 100.” So, I had to do that.

    The parts that I’m playing these days, my own nervous energy gets in the way. I have to calm that down.

    Is that the toughest part for an actor to actually live that role rather than play it?

    One aspect of it is to get onto the frequency. Some actors are actually on the same frequency as the characters they are playing, so it’s easier. But when you have to make an effort to be much calmer and more mature, then that’s a bit of a challenge (laughs).

    Stillness is the secret to being watched. People who attract too much attention actually put off people from watching them. It’s the quiet ones who hold your attention.

    Let’s talk about your career. You have witnessed success as well as failure. How have you dealt with the drawbacks, especially of recent?

    I don’t know actually, partially through denial, blaming various other people like the director and producer (laughs) and then blaming myself.

    I think sometimes I’m excited to try new ideas but they don’t always find resonance with the audience, that’s the most honest appraisal of the situation.

    Commercial films like Race have more of a chance of succeeding with the audience than films like Kaalakaandi, but I’m still happy I did them.

    What I am beyond a point, is that I’m not bothered about this (drawbacks) anymore. Reviews are good, I work hard so I am quite dedicated. I don’t take things for granted. I don’t turn up late at shoots.

    After a point, I don’t want to bounce around or panicking about why what film succeeded or why it didn’t. Part of me wants it all to end, so I can stay home and be lazy. The other half says, “No, I don’t want that.”

    Tomorrow if it all ends, if I’ve got enough cash, I think it would go on long holidays.

    Besides work, it’s a great time for you as Sara is about to be launched in movies and Taimur is beginning to walk. How is celebrity parenthood treating you?

    I should have made them sign contracts that they should give me 5% of their earnings. Taimur definitely. I’m going to make him sign that (laughs).

    But honestly, it’s in our blood to be these shameless tarts (laughs). It’s in our blood to act so that is what’s happening and it is a fantastic job yaar. Bless the children.

    I hope Sara has fun being an actor because she is so passionate and hard-working. She is the most amazing child.

    Check out our candid interview with Saif Ali Khan right here!

     

    Are there any particular tips you gave to Sara as an actor?

    I just told her to not worry about her looks and told her to focus on the individuality that comes from within, because it is this what attracts people.

    Happiness and confidence in life can look so attractive on-screen, more than the perfect nose or face.

    I only advised her to focus on her own personality and individuality – to bring what nobody else has, which is her.

    Acting can be a strenuous job. What is your favourite holiday spot that Taimur also enjoys visiting?

    Londres! (Laughs) But London and Gstaad (in Switzerland).

    In Gstaad, I like to just eat, walk in the snow and be surrounded by nature. I often don’t leave the house in Bombay apart from going to the gym. I mean, where to go, somebody else’s house?

    Post Bazaar, you have a variety of projects lined up. How are the preparations going for those?

    I’m in the middle of Navdeep Singh’s film and it’s going well. I’m looking forward to some non-action films, including Luv Ranjan’s comedy film. So hopefully I can relax and have fun with those non-action movies.

    This film that I’m working on is taking the mickey out of me a little bit. It’s so much hard work. The director says that I should not use a stunt-double because it takes too long. So he wants me to do it all myself. It has been very exhausting.

    Well, it’s great to see Saif Ali Khan back in action and we are certain that he will continue to impress us with his terrific work!

    Sacred Games is now available globally on Netflix.

    Sacred Games Images courtesy of Netflix

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    Ranbir Kapoor: If I met the younger version of myself, I would say that life has a great journey set for you

    BY ANUJ RADIA

    Ranbir Kapoor made his big Bollywood debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya just over 10 years and ever since, the heartthrob has continued to sweep us off our feet with his sometimes charming, hard-hitting and soulful performances.

    Whether it is the ambitious Kabir in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, the Casanova in Bachna Ae Haseeno or the love-torn Janardhan Jakhar in Rockstar, Ranbir has always expressed and impressed.

    Despite hailing from an illustrious film lineage, the actor has paved his own path in the industry and has proved that names are just tags – it is talent that does the talking. Even though there has been a low-phase in his career, RK is seizing every opportunity to rise and shine.

    For the first time ever in his career, the Bollywood actor plays the role of a real-life character in Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic Sanju. In an exclusive and candid interview with our entertainment correspondent Anuj Radia, Ranbir Kapoor opens-up on what it took to live life as Sanjay Dutt and much more.

    From the Rocky to Munna Bhai guise, you bare an uncanny yet remarkable resemblance with Sanjay Dutt himself.  Can you describe the preparation process to get these looks right and how long it took?

    To be honest I just followed Raju Sir’s vision. I had to sit for prosthetics for 5 hours to get the oldest look right. My favourite look was the one where Sanjay Dutt comes out of the jail. It’s a very iconic look, the one in the blue shirt and the beard.

    Looks is one thing, but getting the famous Sanjay Dutt walk right is another. How did you manage that process?

    Well, we had a good six months of prep and I was quite obsessed with the script and diving into the film. I was quite obsessed with finding the answer to his life on the script and I was very inspired in the parts. So you know I had loads of fun exploring Sanju to the fullest.

    You bulked up to get the Sanjay Dutt body, training must have been intense?

    Absolutely. My structure is of a very thin person and Sanjay Dutt is famous for his physique and all the years he has built his body. His physique is something that people relate to so it was something I had to get right.

    I worked really hard with my trainer, and we used to have 10 meals a day, train for 2 hours, wake up at 3 in the morning, have protein shakes. I had a good 6 months trying to put on 20kg. And we shot the film in reverse.

    So, I kept losing weight as the phases kept changing. We started at 60 and we ended the film at 20 when he was lean.

    Portraying Sanjay Dutt over the years on the big screen is a mammoth task, but a challenge any actor would relish. Can you describe your feelings about getting into Sanjay’s soul and playing him?

    I was always a Sanjay Dutt Fan. It’s a Fan trying to play his icon. The hard part was having the confidence to play this incredible man. Sanjay Sir is a good person but is considered flawed as well - to get to play this part was incredible. I have observed him all my life.

    Sanjay Dutt has been your idol and it is believed that you had a picture of him on your cupboard when you were younger. What fan moments do you recall of the actor and what was your very first meeting like with him?

    I remember when my father was shooting a film with him. They were shooting in Kashmir for a film called Saibaan, and I saw this man – a really tall man with long hair wearing an earring.

    He had a swagger about himself. He had this presence that was quite mesmerising. And all of the years since, because he is a family friend, he has been quite close to me.

    I used to work out in his gym, so he would always come and give me tips on bodybuilding. He used to take me driving in his Ferrari car; he used to also spoil me with a lot of gifts. I mean he had given me a Harley Davidson Bike some years back on my birthday.

    So I have loads of memories attached to Sanjay Dutt. And finally, you’re portraying his life on screen! It was quite amusing for me, as a fan and as someone who admired him. I only have respect and admiration for him.

    Which aspect of his life was the toughest for you to depict?

    The most challenging phase was the ‘young Sanju’ because it included his mother’s death. So the first chapter of Sanjay Dutt’s life was very challenging to play.

    From Saawariya to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, many of your projects revolve around the theme of self-discovery. How do you undergo a soul-searching process during the making of your movies?

    I think it comes a lot from the script, from the director, from your experience.

    It’s the culmination of many talents, a lot of minds coming together - so I have never really taken credit for what I have done because it’s quite a combination of a lot of people coming together and making something right.

    Ranbir, if you had to live as one of your film characters for a day, which role would that be and why?

    Well, I think Sanju. Because of the life he had and, what a man! He is someone who I would really like to be. I know I lived him in a film but I would really like to live his life for one day.

    Previously, you expressed an interest to direct a film, if the ‘right story’ came up. What are you looking for in an ideal story and how close are you to finding it?

    Well, I am really far from it as I am still searching. But a story just instinctively and organically has to come from you. And when you have it - you know it. But I still don’t have it yet.

    If you met the younger version of yourself, what would you do and say?

    I’ll say that – life has a great journey set for you ahead in the next 10 years of your life and just do everything to the best of your capabilities, take your job seriously and really be grateful for everything that you have in life.

    Finally, you have a busy schedule with projects like Bhramastra and Shamshera lined up. What can we expect from these grand movies?

    Wholesome entertaining films! They both have different genres, exciting directors, exciting roles and are a great opportunity to showcase my talent and for me to just be a part of good, commercial, successful films.

    With a fantastic line-up of entertaining films, we look forward to seeing more excellent work by Ranbir Kapoor in the near future!

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    Freida Pinto: Women can be light & dark, not in terms of skin colour, but in terms of personality

    BY ANUJ RADIA

    Breaking through the stereotypical image of an Indian woman in foreign films, Freida Pinto is India’s first Hollywood star and this label makes her an icon in every way.

    Post undertaking the role of Latika in the award-winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, we have seen the actress shine in several American and British productions including ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, ‘Trishna’ and ‘Dearest Dancer’.

    What also makes Freida a formidable and admirable individual, is her passion for philanthropy and the fact that she is incredibly vocal about women empowerment.

    As a result, by launching the non-profit organisation called "We Do It Together" (which provides finance for feature films, documentaries and television shows which focus on women's empowerment), proves how Freida has taken yet another step regarding the development of women.

    Perhaps her fervour for the subject of female empowerment is a reason why Freida Pinto chose to get involved with Tabrez Noorani’s ‘Love Sonia’, a film which exhibits how the lives of young Indian Village girls after being victims of human trafficking into the vicious global sex trade network.

    In an exclusive with our entertainment reporter, Freida opens up on her role in ‘Love Sonia’, acting and what woman power really means to her.

    Freida, Love Sonia is having its world premiere at the opening gala at the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival 2018. You must be thrilled about this?

    Yes, I’m absolutely thrilled. Love Sonia has been a labour of love for over 10 years and it’s finally getting its world premiere in London.

    This will be an international release for the film, in such a multicultural city, and will be attended by audiences from every walk of life.

    Tell us more about your character and role?       

    I play Rashmi whom you see shortly after the first act of the film after Sonia has been forced and drugged against her will into a brothel in Bombay.

    Rashmi is an unpredictable character which you never know what she is going to do next. I like, in many ways that I got to play this character because I was so tired of playing the same sunshine roles in films that I have done in the past.

    Playing Rashmi gave me a chance to come out of the box, into this crazy side that I believe we all have. As I was working with Tabrez Noorani on this film I had some interactions with real life Rashmi's.

    That was interesting because at the end of the day what they want is no different than what you and I want - they just want to be accepted, loved, and cared for.

    Even in a messed up world like a brothel, it is survival of the fittest. My character is a survivor and she does what needs to be done to survive.

    Does your character interact with the character of Demi Moore at all in the film?

    No, she does not.

    You will be sharing screen-space with exceptional various Bollywood actors like Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chaddha, Adil Hussain and Rajkummar Rao, to name a few. How enriching was this experience?

    I mainly interacted with Richa Chaddha, Rajkummar Rao, and Manoj Bajpayee. I absolutely enjoyed interacting and playing with these characters.

    I had a scene with Rajkummar Rao that did not make the final cut, but I’m so glad I got to play that out with him.

    These are all actors I supremely respect not just because they’re talented but because they’re actors in India who really stuck to their guns and never gave up on to their dream.

    Rajkummar Rao and I were friends before this film came around and it was nice to finally work with him. Manoj is a spectacular actor who I really look up to. I am really inspired by these actors.

    Apparently, there are 800,000 victims of sexual trafficking each year and 50% of them are estimated to be children. Through Love Sonia and being a renowned public figure who often promotes humanitarian causes, how do you hope to use your celebrity status to tackle heinous crimes like human trafficking?

    My dream for this film is to reach far and wide, to all ages, genders, and races. I would also love to see Love Sonia reach that group of people who can actually help us do something about the laws protecting humans that are vulnerable to trafficking.

    So much of this change can only happen if people in the legal world and people with political influence make this crisis a priority. But those without political influence can also do something about it.

    Revolutions can be ignited and kept alive on social media these days. Everyone can help keep a heightened level of awareness that’s generated through technology.

    A Facebook post or a heartfelt tweet, if someone is truly inspired, can add some value to the collective voice. But ultimately it's going to take more than 140 characters to effect legal change and for governments where trafficking is rife to start viewing this as a grave crime against humanity.

    You are also vocal about women empowerment. What does woman power mean to you?

    Female empowerment is simply the right to choose for yourself without judgment; without judgement towards oneself or judgement towards other women.

    For me, it think it’s about embracing who you are, embracing your strengths including your vulnerabilities.

    I am not a proponent of the myth that just because we are coming into an age of overt female empowerment, a woman should never show their weakness.

    Or that women should never let their emotions get in their way. Emotions are beautiful. To be able to own your emotions, to be able to accept them, and accept other's emotions, for me is a strength, not a weakness.

    According to a recent interview with a leading daily, you stated: “[I refused to play characters that were seen as] a piece of meat or a cardboard cut-out.” What type of roles stand out for you and why?

    Women are not one-dimensional. Women have strengths and weaknesses. Women can be light and dark, not in terms of skin colour but in terms of personality. I also am drawn to characters that don't indulge in the conventional perception of “what is right”.

    A woman doesn’t lose her femininity just because she needs to step into a man’s world to make unconventional choices. I love women that realize the consequences of their decisions and actions and own those as well. I love female characters that make decisions and own them.

    How do you feel that these character choices help to evoke a change within society – especially regarding the stereotypical perception of an Indian woman?

    I think the stereotypical perception of Indian women has already changed. From the start of my career, I never felt like I had to play a stereotypical “Indian” woman.

    I did play some general stereotypical female roles in the early days of my career, but that’s something neither white nor are black actresses immune to. Especially at a time when boundaries were still being broken 11 years ago. It’s also about how you navigate those stereotypes.

    I may be offered a stereotypical role but I ask myself if I can I make it my own? Can I make it different and still memorable? Can I talk with the director about making changes to things I don’t agree with?  I also think that art imitates life.

    The studios and studio heads that made the decisions back then commissioned and okayed such characters to exist in their scripts because that’s all that they had tried before and somehow that formula worked for many years.

    Objectification of women in cinema is certainly not a recent phenomenon. But it's simple for me. Even if a script like that comes my way, my job is just to say NO, thank you very much but no.

    Finally, you are an inspiration and role-model to many. What advice would you give to all the budding actors out there?

    I don’t like the idea of giving advice as much as I prefer leading by example or by simply sharing my own story. And if someone gets inspired along the way then that does make me very happy.

    I remember everyone around me being so enamoured by the success of Slumdog Millionaire that many were quick to pin it on luck.

    But luck only lasts for so long and in the end its hard work and persistence that pays off, in addition to the prerequisite of having some talent. And even then life and certainly this career has been all about peaks and valleys.

    I had to learn very early in my career to let go of both successes as well as failures to maintain my sanity. Negative self-judgement is possibly more dangerous than other people’s opinions about you.

    And once you arrive at a place where you can be at peace — secure with who you are and the choices you make — then all the other insecurities can be tamed more easily. It really doesn’t matter what other people think of you or say as long as you’re owning whatever it is you choose to do.

    We also believe that hard work and persistence pays off. As such, this sentiment is palpable in Freida Pinto’s success as an actor and social activist. Keep rising and shining Freida!

    Love Sonia opens tomorrow at the London Indian Film Festival 2018. For more information, visit the website here

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.asp

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    Ishaan Khatter Interview on 'Beyond The Clouds', Acting, Rapport with brother Shahid Kapoor & Dance

    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.

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    Shoojit Sircar Interview: A Talk on October, Indian Cinema & Beyond

    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 2018.

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