MUMBAI— It’s more of a peppy chat, we discover, with Nutan’s granddaughter and Mohnish and Ektaa Bahl’s daughter Pranutan Bahl and Zaheer Iqbal than an interview with newbies. Confident to the core, talkative and full of wit, the third of the couples Salman Khan has introduced in his films, after Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty in “Hero” and Aayush Sharma and Warina Hussein in “LoveYatri,” are a lovable pair that has also got along like a house on fire ever since they met when they were signed for “Notebook” to play lovers who had never met!
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Was it always like this – the rapport between both of you? You seem to hit it off really well as I was observing before coming up to chat with you.
Pranutan Bahl: Absolutely!
Zaheer Iqbal: From day one!
Q: So is it not ironic that yours is a love story in which you guys hardly meet when it begins?
PB: Yes, we shot very less with each other.
ZI: We get along so well we wanted to tell the director, “Chaar paanch scene aur daal do (Put in four or five more scenes of us)”!
Q: So we will not ask about how you felt working with each other! Tell us something about your director, Nitin Kakkar? Especially since neither of you are trained actors.
ZA: He is such a legend I could spend five hours talking about him! I have a major man crush on Nitin-sir. What we are today as human beings, as well as actors, has a lot to do with him. But before that, I have done multiple workshops and lots of acting classes.
PB: Acting coach Hemant Kher was with us on the sets 24/7. I have not been to any acting school, which is what I had to answer people at our trailer launch. I come from the Nitin Kakkar institute! And do you know that he would tell me to do or to say something within the film and when I would tell him, Firdaus would never do that, or say that he would have a twinkle in his eyes, and would say, “Relax I know Firdaus too!”
ZI: And he told us, “My goal was to reach a point when you people would argue and talk like this, which showed how well you know our characters!”
PB: Yeah! I forgot that! You are right!
Q: So how deep did you go into the character, and how much was all of this challenging?
PB: Firdaus is just a sweet and pure girl, but it took me time to make her happen and highlight the aspects that were needed. But there was no specific challenge as such.
ZI: But we back-tracked our characters. Nitin-sir told us to go back and make a life journey of our characters. So when my character Kabir is on sets, is he sad? If he is, why is it? What does he do? Why did he not have tea but has coffee? What was the tragic incident in his formative years? What is the color of his cycle, which route did he take to college? Who were his mother, father and best friend, and what were they like? So much so that I began to feel that Kabir is a real guy, and he is like that because of certain people and reasons.
Q: What were your reactions when you read the script?
ZI: We read a lot of scripts that were mostly conventional love stories of a boy and a girl and opposition from a father. They were predictable. But we were lucky that “Notebook” was chosen. The trailer gives the perfect sense of the film and makes you curious what the film is like.
PB: And I told myself, “Please give this role your everything.” I don’t like putting things in a box. 2018 was a year in which great stories worked and got translated into great box-office figures. The audience pulse is now more open.
Q: Pranutan, you are a standing example of nepotism as per Kangana Ranaut’s definition…
PB: No! I am not! And I will tell you why! I have not chosen this path for myself. My father never even spoke to anyone for me. I gave auditions all over the city by myself, that too after completing my Law! And Salman-sir saw me by chance. When he was told I was my father’s daughter, he called him up!
ZI: Actually, I am the one who is an example of nepotism – in my father’s construction business! I would go to work on his sites during vacations instead of chilling out. I still take out a few hours every week to go his sites. I love constructing buildings and watching them come up! I dreamt once of being the youngest builder in India. But there was a ‘filmy keeda’ (madness for films) in my blood, which I should have explored earlier! I would perform at events, not just dance, and Salman-sir saw me at my sister’s wedding. I should have given auditions before that lucky break, but I was scared. What if it went bad? I guess I was wrong.
Q: Pranutan, you have a legacy that goes down four generations.
PB (Shakes her head): Five, not four. My great-great-grandmother was Ratanbai, a huge artiste who was an actress and musician. My great-grandmother was the famous Shobhana Samarth and was married to the famous filmmaker Kumarsen Samarth, and my dadi (paternal grandmother) was Nutan.
Q: How familiar are you with their legacy?
PB: I hope I am quite familiar! I try to keep abreast with the beautiful legacy bestowed on me, and I hope I live up to it.
Q: Which are you guys’ favorite films, Hindi or otherwise?
ZI: I love any film that is entertaining. As Pranutan says, the dynamics have changed now, so my pulse has changed too, towards content-based entertaining out-and-out commercial films that are a good mix of both. But I will always do entertaining films. I love “Hum Tum.” Also “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,” in which Abhay Deol played a builder, and “Vaastav.”
PB: In “Vaastav” my father (Mohnish Bahl) and mother (Ektaa) played husband and wife.
ZI: Wow! I did not know that! That’s amazing!
PB: And MY favorite is “Andaz Apna Apna!”