MUMBAI — It’s a supernatural romantic thriller, with the emotional intensity and musical brilliance for which Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt are especially known.
“Khamoshiyaan,” releasing Jan. 30, stars Ali Fazal (“Fukrey,” “Bobby Jasoos” and the Hollywood actioner “Furious 7”), Sapna Pabbi (Anil Kapoor’s daughter in “24”) and Gurmeet Chaudhary (famous on the small screen) in an intriguing saga on relationships. India-West meets the youngsters at the Vishesh Films’ Khar office for a joint chat that ends up being super and natural in its mix of fun and seriousness.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: A quick rewind of the past, please.
Ali Fazal: I loved basketball in college, but when I broke my hand, I had to choose an alternate activity there. As I was good in English, a friend suggested that I act in school plays and participate in debates. Soon, acting became my newfound love, and I even won awards. So I came down to Mumbai and Rajkumar Hirani watched a play here and cast me in that small cameo in “3 Idiots.” After that, it’s been one step at a time – Shah Rukh Khan casting me in “Always Kabhi Kabhi,” which flopped but gave me a perspective of the industry; “Fukrey” and finally “Bobby Jasoos” in which I got my first solo lead opposite Vidya Balan.
Sapna Pabbi: I come from a strict Punjabi background. My family lives in London and my father is almost a replica of Amrish Puri in “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,” who wanted me to focus on studies, so I would sneak out and do stage as I was always fond of acting! I completed my studies, did jobs and then someone got me a show in India so I summoned the courage to ask dad permission. He was okay with it as my foundation in life was secure, with education.
Gurmeet Chaudhary: I remember meeting Yash uncle (Yash Chopra) when I first came to Mumbai and he suggested that I do television, so that I would be picked up for films rather than having to struggle to make a career in cinema. I followed his advice.
Q: So how different is cinema from television?
Gurmeet Singh: I am very excited about my first film as everything is different from television. Even on TV, I try out new looks all the time on my own, but in films one gets lots of time to develop a character. So I tried out several looks here and showed some of my pictures to our director Karan Darra.
I was also shocked when on my first day of shooting, with Vikram Bhatt and Mohit Suri also around as visitors, an assistant director told me that there was lots of work to be done! I was nervous already, but then he gave me one page of dialogues! In television, we do 12 on a normal day! (Laughs)
Actually, I have a very interesting character, someone who is very lonely. I have never played such a layered character before. In many scenes, true to the title, you can hear the silences speak. In fact, there is an interesting line in the film – “You are what you hide.”
Q: Sapna, how did you get “24”?
S.P.: I had gone in with my best friend for an audition for her to be Anil Kapoor’s daughter. I was hanging around and suddenly, someone there decided that I was better for the part, and offered me the role, while my friend was cast as Shaina, the assassin. At that time, there was a television show that had not worked out for me, so things fell into place.
Q: And “24” got you this film.
S.P.: Yes, it did.
Q: As far as I recall, you had no accent when you spoke in Hindi in “24.” But you do have a British English accent.
S.P.: We speak Punjabi at home and I was also sent to a Punjabi school every Sunday. Hindi was a bit more difficult and my education in it was completely from the Hindi I have heard in television programs and the films we watched. At home, we were not into English programming or movies. But personally, I believe that we must speak all languages in the way they need to be spoken – Punjabi, Hindi or English – sans accent!
Q: Okay, what’s your favorite Mahesh Bhatt film?
S.P.: I love “Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin.” “Chaahat” is a special favorite and that scene where Anupam Kher is driving with Shah Rukh Khan is awesome.
A.F.: I too love “Chaahat,” though it did not do well. And yes, I love all of Sanjay Dutt’s films with Bhatt-saab. He is the only person about whom I am star-struck. No one else!
G.C.: “Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin” and “Duplicate,” in which Shah Rukh Khan’s acting was fabulous. In fact, I am such a big Mahesh Bhatt fan that when, after meeting Mukesh (Bhatt)-saab, he told me to go meet Bhatt-saab, I entered the room and blabbered, “Hi, Mukesh-ji!” And Bhatt-saab thundered, “I am Mahesh!” But Bhatt-saab makes you completely comfortable on sets and he has a very different kind of energy. He has even clapped for me on the sets.
Q: What is your take on the bold sequences you guys have shot?
S.P.: I had no inhibitions.
A.F.: They made me more nervous as they were difficult to do, but that’s why I also gave them my best shot!
G. C.: Actually, the bold scenes in the films of the Bhatts are always esthetically done, well choreographed and completely natural. They are the need of the hour in the story.
Q: There is some great music here. How do you react to the songs as actors?
S.P.: I think that having such music sets the tone and plays up a scene for you. Such songs keep everyone on the same page.
G.C.: I would go so far as to say that Bhatt-saab’s the poet Amir Khusrau of our times, who brought in understandable Khadi boli in his times.
Today’s lyrics are not very comprehensible. But Bhatt-saab keeps them relatable and they touch you. They are neither ‘jhintaak’ (flashy) nor in the category of Pharsi-like lingo that is considered cool because we do not understand it! The songs narrate a story within them.
Q: Gurmeet, with your huge fan following, do you feel a sense of pressure? Also, your wife Debina Bonerjee, is doing a small role. And she has been a part of your debuts on television.
G.C.: There is a sense of responsibility because expectations are high and TV fans are more aggressive, but I convert the pressure I feel into positive energy.
As for Debina, she has been always lucky for me. We met as strugglers and I was 17 when I told her that we would get married the day I had my own house and car. I was a villain in my debut serial where she was the heroine. When Sagar Arts decided to cast me as Lord Ram in “Ramayan” she was separately selected as Sita! And now she is there in my first film too! Without her, I am nothing!
A.F.: And we have stolen some of the luck too. Her character sets the tone for this story! (Grins)
Q: What next for all of you?
S.P.: I do have a contract with Vishesh Films. I also hope to be in the second season of “24.”
A.F.: I have completed “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” But the production company has postponed its release.
Q: Gurmeet is married, but how come there are no rumors linking the other two of you to boost the movie?
S.P.: Aren’t there? (Laughs) I think we are dating to the world!
Q: But what’s the truth?
A.F.: The truth is friendship!
Q: Gurmeet, why do you think most heroes from television have not been successful in films?
G.C.: I think that they do not wait – television actors get excited and carried away when they receive film offers. They must look at the setup, the banners and the directors. Like Vishesh Films is as old as I am!
Q: Finally, who is on your wish-list of big romantic co-stars?
S.P.: Farhan Akhtar is a superstar for me. He’s such a good actor, so hot and a cool guy too!
A.F.: Sapna, I am going to be a superstar so you can name me too! For me, after Vidya, Deepika Padukone!
G.C.: Alia Bhatt, but outside Vishesh Films! (Laughs)