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Shivaay lead actress Erika Kaar in conversation with Team Box Office India

How did Shivaay happen to you?

The leading actress of Shivaay had to be European. The producers went to Europe to look for the actress and came to my hometown, Warsaw, in Poland. I got to know about it, I went there and I got the part.

But you must have had to audition.

Of course, and the audition was to be conducted in English. They sent us a scene in English and Hindi. It was bilingual but they told us to only prepare in English because no one speaks Hindi in Poland. I thought I would put in an extra effort and I learnt a few lines in Hindi for the scene. It was super difficult for me as it was really hard to learn the lines. So I acted in English and spoke only a couple of lines in Hindi. I think that helped because it showed the producers that I might be able to learn the entire script. We worked on the scenes and did variations, and then I got a call in a few months, saying I had got the part.

Did you have to undergo any workshops for the preparing for the role?

In January, after I got the part, we had the first workshop in Mumbai. I came here for two weeks. I took Hindi lessons, dialogue coaching, accent coaching. I had some costume trials and it took us over half a year to prepare everything. I took Hindi classes almost every day. I worked on the part and did some coaching on the character. So there was a lot of preparation, actually.

When you were told that you are doing Shivaay, what was your first reaction?   

I felt shockingly lucky because this was my second project and I am Polish. My first project was British and the second one was Indian, so my family and I thought it was very fortunate. My second thought was huge excitement because it’s India. To me, it is a completely different world and a different culture. I was equally excited to acquaint myself with the culture as I was to be in an Indian film.

Did you have any preconceived notions about Hindi films and our industry?

I didn’t know very much about the industry but I had heard that the acting technique here was different and that it called for actors to be very expressive. I had never seen this myself but I prepared a back-up option of acting with really strong facial expressions. But acting with Ajay (Devgn) was normal and organic. It was like working with a natural character. I didn’t do anything different from what I had prepared.

Were you aware of Hindi films before Shivaay?

Not really. I knew about Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol but I hadn’t really watched a Bollywood film before. A few of my friends back in Poland are big fans of Hindi films and they were very excited that I had got the part. But it was all new for me. After I got the part, the producers of the film told me not to watch any Bollywood films so that my performance wouldn’t be influenced by them. Now I am trying to catch up.

You mentioned that your first project was British and now you are working in a Hindi film. How different is the approach to work in both the industries?

It is very different. First, Shivaay is a big film, shot on a big scale whereas what I did in Britain was a mini-series for TV. It was also very professional but the scale was smaller than Shivaay. The British production for BBC was very tightly scheduled. For example, if my make-up time was 6:25 am, I had to be in the chair at 6:25 am. It was all counted down to the minute. In Bollywood, it’s still on schedule but it’s more flexible, like we would never set up a scene and have it exactly that way. Ajay would never restrain me in any way and I had a lot of freedom while performing. It was all very chilled out. It was done really well.

If you had to comment on Ajay Devgn, the actor, Ajay Devgn the director, and Ajay Devgn the producer, what would you say?

Ajay Devgn, the director, is very busy. He is not to be disturbed because he had to do his work in addition to other functions. He was really great and helped me with every scene. He had an eye on the entire cast. Ajay, the director, also kept an eye on the crew but Ajay, as director, working with his actress, helped me with every scene.

We could also talk it through. Sometimes I would get a little lost. There was an emotional scene where I had to be very much present in the character. I am only a beginner and I would sometimes get a little confused, like, I was not sure how to make all these feelings and actions really vivid inside of me so that they came across that way on screen. It was really wonderful.

On the other hand, there were times when I would look very deeply into a scene and wonder what I should be feeling. He would then explain things to me in a very simple yet in a to-the-point way. In order to take away all of the women drama and preparations just do this, feel this or what happened, look what Shivaay just did, what do you feel and then all things became very easy. So that was great. This is Ajay, the director.

Now Ajay, the actor… It is a pleasure to work with him. He is such a great actor and he has really strong eyes, which I noticed especially twice. I looked into his eyes all the time because of the kind of scenes we had together. One was a flirting scene and the other was a fighting scene. When he really gets angry, or when the character is flirting, his eyes are expressive and very powerful.  My sister was on the set with me and was watching us while we were doing a romantic scene and she fell so in love with him. It was so funny, she would run to him and say, ‘It was so fantastic.’

And what about Ajay Devgn, the producer?

He is just my boss. Ajay Devgn, the producer, is the one with whom I don’t have much contact. I recently went to the production office and I met Ajay Devgn, the producer, there. We drank tea and chatted but not about production. I don’t know him very well. (Laughs)

What was it about Shivaay, the story, that made you want to be a part of it?

When I went into the casting, I didn’t know the entire story. I had only a few scenes with me and these gave me only a glimpse into what was about to happen. It was more like a teaser because everything had to be kept confidential. But what caught my attention was the character. Initially, I thought the character would be a bit different but as the film proceeds, you gather memories and things about the character and that made me see the character in a completely different light.

You are in quite a bit of trouble when you have to play scenes from the end of the script at the beginning of the shoot. And that is what I had to do. I think the second-last scene in the film was the first one that I shot. So I had to do my homework and imagine all the things that had happened to my character. What I loved was the memories created for the character while shooting. Like if I shot a scene where I am having a huge fight with Shivaay, for the next scene I could carry the baggage. So it was a great experience, really.

Now that the trailers are out, you must have had many fan reactions. How did your family react?

My family are my psycho fans!  My grandmother has learnt to operate YouTube on her smartphone. The last time I met her, she showed me my song Darkhaast and she loves it. My mother analyses all my interviews and my work but she is as obsessed with Ajay as she is with me. It’s really funny. And my friends are really excited to watch the film. They are all very proud of me.

Since the film will release soon, how happy are you with it?

It is still a mystery to me. I haven’t seen it completely, only in bits and pieces. But Ajay is very happy with it and he can’t wait to show it to all of us. It is always so awkward to see your face so big on the screen, as somebody else. I can’t wait to watch it.

Did you do any action scenes in the film?

Not too many as I am not a professional like Ajay. I was the one hanging from the tent and I was the one falling in the tent with Shivaay. Those were the most difficult scenes. And we did do some scenes high in the Balkan mountains.

Lastly, can you narrate any of your favourite lines from Shivaay?

I can say one sentence that I really like a lot and maybe it is not from the film. You will have to watch the film to know, ‘Apni itni tareef maine pehele kabhi nahi suni’. (Laughs)

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