MUMBAI—With just three days to go for the release of “Bareily Ki Barfi,” the film's team held a late meeting with the media, and all we got was a rapid-fire with the three crucial members of the team – director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, leading man Ayushmann Khurrana and actress Kriti Sanon, who plays the title role.
Excerpts from this zoom chat:
Q: How did “Bareily Ki Barfi” happen?
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (AIT): I must say I am grateful to BR Films, with whom my husband worked on “Bhoothnath Returns.” They wanted to work with me as a director even before I actually shot “Nil Battey Sannata,” my first film. I respect them for having that faith in me even then. I never knew what I would make after that film then.
Q: Both Nitesh (“Chillar Party”) and you began with films revolving around children and their issues. The same goes for all of Nitesh’s subsequent films to an extent, including “Dangal.”
Ayushmann Khurrana (AK): Yeah, never thought of that!
AIT: I just thought of my films from the kids’ point of view. I just wanted to examine the relationships and complexities of relationships between children and parents. So the adults took my films in their ways, and the children had their take!
Q: Both your films, Ashwiny, are small-town films. Do they lend themselves to a certain caricaturing of characters from these villages?
AK: When I was shooting “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” in Uttar Pradesh, I realized that the Hindi dialects changed virtually every 10 kilometers! Ashwiny believes in realism. The actor who plays my best friend Munna in “Bareily…” was also my dialect coach. Ashwiny is culturally aware, born and brought up as a Tamil Brahmin in Mumbai’s Chembur and later exposed to U.P. after her marriage.
Kriti Sanon (KS): What we speak in “Bareily…” is very much Hindi, and comprehensible. In fact, Ayushmann’s and my characters are educated. People from such places, when they go to cities or metros to study and later work, acquire a certain polish. So Rajkummar Rao, who is shown as an uneducated man, speaks differently from us, and he speaks a language closer to what my on-screen parents do. So he says “Saadi” instead of “Shaadi” and “Zindagi” instead of “Zindagi,” and they have a common sing-song way of speaking.
AIT: I think a lot comes naturally. Some of Nitesh’s cousins are MBAs, and all of them still say “Hum” (We) instead of “Main” (I or me) when conversing. They still say talk in the way everyone with the same roots speaks, like “Pranaam” (greetings) or “Kaise hain aap (How are you)?”
Q: Ayushmann, there are two firsts for you. One that for the first time there is a male co-star in Rajkummar Rao in “Bareily…,” and two, you have two back-to-back releases, with “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” coming a fortnight down.
A: Yes, it’s not easy. I will just finish promoting “Bareily…” and will have to start promoting “Shubh…” (Grins). As for Rajkummar Rao, our characters have a lot of give-and-take as I am aggressive and manipulative, while he seems meek and then turns around into something else. As people, we became instant friends. On screen, a powerful actor like him only upped the quotient for the film. He enhanced the film and every scene I had with him.
Q: After starting out with “Vicky Donor” on sperm donation, you are into a character suffering from erectile dysfunction in “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan.”
A (Laughs): You could call it an ‘organic’ transition! I am an Alpha male in “Bareily..” and a Beta or Gamma male in “Shubh…!”
Q: So when are you going to do serious roles? And would you like to play a villain?
AK: In fact, my next film, Sriram Raghavan’s thriller, has me as a gray character. In “Bareily…,” for the first time, I am an aggressive and manipulative bully. In a play I did based on Dharamvir Bharati’s “Andha Yug,” I played a savage. It was a gray role that fetched awards for me.
Q: Kriti, do you take time to switch on and switch off between your characters?
KS: Oddly enough, I do. After practicing being a character, what and how she talks and how her body language is, it takes time for me to wane off. My role in “Raabta” could have rubbed off a bit here, but I realized that in time and stopped myself. Dipti in “Bareily…” is bindaas (carefree), quirky and almost boyish. After the film was over, I once told my sister, just as Dipti does in the film, “Main bataa rahi hoon na (Take it from me)!” and my sister said, ‘Hello! What’s wrong with you?’”
Q: Ashwiny, your husband is always involved in your films as a writer. Do you at least unofficially get involved in his films?
AIT: He is involved only until the writing stage. Look, when a couple is involved in making different films, it’s a bit like two married surgeons at home discussing their work. But only one will do the actual surgery. The other will not be around!
Q: So what attracts you to small-town subjects?
AIT: I like the freedom when I go rustic – in textures or characters. I get happiness in discovering the most mundane of things. That’s very tough in Mumbai. But I enjoy making movies, and I do want to explore other areas.
Q: Pankaj Tripathi was stunning in your debut film as the school principal. He also coached there on the dialect. Is he a part of “Bareily…” as well?
AIT: Yes! Of course, he is! I am not going to leave him!