MUMBAI — They are individually in fine spaces, one, a young hero who has been around for nine years and has had a great and flop-free innings in the last few years, and another, a star-kid who has made a special mark in the only two films she has done so far.
Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan, rumored lovebirds since mid-2019, have finally set the record straight that they are only co-stars. With Imtiaz Ali’s “Love Aaj Kal,” they both say that they have discovered themselves. In a joint interview at Jio Studios (which co-produces the film), they are great fun to talk to—relaxed, effusive and articulate.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: How have things changed for you guys after working on this film?
Kartik Aaryana: Working with Imtiaz has been a life-changing experience. I play Veer, who is a bit weird, even robotic, and someone who lives separately from his parents. He is an introvert, and very awkward. He goes after people he likes almost like a stalker! Raghu, my other character who is from the 1990s, is as ‘filmi’ as can get. He watches the 1990s films, listens to the music of that era, and even proposes in a ‘filmi’ way. I learnt a lot doing these films, especially in things like body language.
Sara Ali Khan: As Imtiaz believes, one can never understand love in its entirety. As a young person and a new actor, I discovered myself as I experienced my character. This is exactly why I wanted to be an actor, because life itself is very limiting, whereas in my profession I can live different lives. Today, there is a chasm between what we are and what we show, and the definition of love, life and even women has changed. This chasm has been shown in a relatable way.
As an actor, there has to be a difference between my on-screen role and my public personality, like how I come across on social media. My character is the director’s prerogative, his vision, which I have to fulfill with complete conviction and full honesty. Like, as a person, I do not stand for the consumption of alcohol, the use of foul language and so many things about my character.
Q: Kartik, comedy is always considered the toughest part of acting. And you have been doing virtually that most of the time. How easy or difficult was it doing a love story?
KA: I agree that comedy is the most difficult genre to crack. There is a thin line that can make a difference between connecting and not connecting with the audience. Touch wood, I have been able to do that, and since I have cracked the most difficult part of acting, it has helped me in non-comic roles. But I would say that while comedy is difficult, romance too is challenging, as you have to express what you feel with minimal expressions. I always wanted to do intense and romantic roles. So I would say that both are tests as an actor.
Q: Was the ‘90s part challenging for you?
KA: It was fun, and Imtiaz-sir made it easy. The small touches, like the trend of pocket combs present then, which a boy would remove to straighten his hair a split second before meeting a girl, also helped. There was some amount of method acting involved, like we even discussed the body ‘chakras’ of Raghu. I had to become Raghu and walk and talk like him on sets. And as I said, I had to be completely ‘filmi’.
Q: Sara, how do you take to expectations from your fans, which has also resulted in trolling?
SAK: In life, there are always expectations, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good, because it is encouraging to know that so early in my life, people have expectations from me, and bad because matching those, which is probably the only form of motivation, can disappoint people as well.
But then, I think of it this way: if I have disappointed some people in some sequences in the “Love Aaj Kal” trailer, and others are happy with other sequences, and I have been just two films old, and have been in the industry only for a minute, I must be doing something right. Also, when learned filmmakers have faith in me, I hope I have the opportunity to meet my as well as everyone else’s expectations even in the future.
Q: Your father was the hero in “Love Aaj Kal.” What does he think of you here? And how much do you actually feel love has changed over the times?
SAK: As a father, whatever I do he will like, but as an actor, he knows that the media and audience will make the difference with their views on me. As for love, I think what has changed is maybe the external aspects, like the freedom to express love, the duration of the time we have for sweet nothings and so on. But the basic ethos, the feelings—they will stand the test of time, and idealistic though it may sound, if that changes, it was never love.
Q: Kartik, you have this film, which could be called “Love Aaj Kal 2,” and are also doing “Dostana 2” and “Bhool Bhulaiya 2.” How do you look at this phenomenon? (This interview happens hours before his latest film, and first 3-D actioner, is announced, with “Tanhaji” director Om Raut)
KA (Laughs): Look, I don’t go around telling people that I will star only in a Part 2 film! And “Love Aaj Kal” cannot be called a sequel to the earlier film. The theme is the same. The context too has similarities, but it’s a new film with new characters.
I would look upon the other two films as added responsibilities, as the producers have showing their faith in me for taking these franchises forward. “Bhool Bhulaiya 2” is my most commercial film. And “Dostana 2” will push the envelope further for me. It is something that I have never done, and hopefully will connect to a larger audience.
Q: This is especially for you, Sara. It’s been over a year since your debut film. You are barely seen and heard. There is silence and then a dhamaka (explosion) like this new film. Is this a planned strategy to get an edge over the huge competition around you?
SAK: The kind of girl I am, every day would be a dhamaka if I was quoted all the time! (Smiles) I am like that, I speak what I feel! Brands, interviews, gym—we are always under scrutiny. As it is, I am telling you all this because you asked this question, and you are print medium, so why should I be speaking when it is not about my work? It is potentially dangerous to speak all the time if you are an effusive person. It is important to know when to speak and when not to do so.
But I have had great fun interacting with the media in the last fortnight. So in any case, how much more do you want to write about me? I think that the only way you can have an edge over the competition is to be yourself all through!
Q: You know Kartik pretty well. Does that shape your on-screen chemistry?
SAK: Not at all! I think that on-screen has nothing to do with how well I know Kartik. Since I know him, we have more fun, but our on-screen characters only reflect a strong director with a strong idea. Love is a journey, filmmaking too is a journey, and what happens on sets was the result of work-shopping with Kartik, reading with him, and understanding what he was doing as my co-star. Yes, he gave me more cues than any of my co-actors, and I am grateful for that because it kept me happy, and in a good mental space.