After doing a handful Hindi and South films, Amyra Dastur hit the jackpot with the international film, Kung Fu Yoga, along with Jackie Chan and Sonu Sood. Here’s the talented actress in conversation with Team Box Office India
How were you approached for KungFu Yoga?
Mukesh Chhabra’s assistant sent me a script in English. This was the first time I had read a script in English. I tried to call him and ask him why he had done that but he said, ‘I am not telling you, just learn the script and come to the office. And we want you to look like Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, feminine but, at the same time, butch.
I did that, I said my lines and I remembered that the girl’s name was Kaira. He got back to me a year and a half later. I was in dance class when I suddenly got a call, saying, ‘Listen, do you know what you auditioned for?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t know what I auditioned for, was it that English film?’ He said, ‘Yeah and it’s a Jackie Chan film and you got it.’ I was, like, no you are messing with me. I said, ‘I haven’t even heard of it.’
I had heard that Ileana D’Cruz was doing the film with Jackie Chan. He said, ‘No, you got the part. They will Skype with you in two-three days to sort out everything. Then they will fly you to China for the training and then you have to start.’ I thought he was messing with me, I did not believe it.
But, in the next two to three days, I was on a video conference call with the producer, Jackie himself, and then I went into training.
What was your first reaction when you interacted with Jackie Chan on Skype or when you personally met him?
I was at a loss for words. I first met the director, Stanley Tong, and then the producer. I was happily chatting with them when they suddenly started talking in Chinese. I could see that someone had popped in and was saying ‘hi’. I was like…I mean, I have grown up watching the man… Rush Hour is my favourite. I was, like, dude, this is real! At that point, it hit me that I was going to do a film with Jackie Chan.
Was it intimidating on the sets while working with him?
I think I made it intimidating for myself because the first thing I said to him was, ‘I love you.’ He came up to me and gave me a jacket, and I was, like, I love you. He just looked at me…I am sure he has heard that a hundred times before. I couldn’t talk to him for a week.
I was talking to everybody on the sets and he kind of thought I was creeped out by him. He started talking to me and he made it comfortable, created such a nice rapport, and he made it so easy to talk to him. After a point, you don’t see him as Jackie Chan, the superstar, I mean, it’s obviously in your head but he became like a friend.
What about Sonu Sood?
Sonu Sood started in Dubai but when I came for my first schedule, he wasn’t there. I met him during my second schedule. He is so funny and, oh my God, he makes you work out. I am a fit chic and I like working out but I can’t do what he does. We were doing squats and he was making his friend take a video and I was, like, literally shaking… But, yeah, he is a gem to work with.
Did you have to train for something specific, like Kung Fu?
Yeah, we had a lot of aerial training because they work a lot with wires. It was the first time I wore a harness and we did a lot of training with the harness. It was very uncomfortable. I was there for about two weeks just to train until I actually went on the sets. They made me very flexible, so the split you see in the poster is real. I can do that now.
Are there any action scenes with Jackie Chan?
Yeah, of course, but that’s the thing, it’s an actual Jackie Chan action-adventure movie, so it has all stunts. I have scenes with him doing action but not against him. (Laughs)
Jackie Chan is known for his impromptu action. Was it the same during the shoot of this film?
He has got his team and the best part is Stanley, the director, and he had worked together on his first film and they have been friends for 30 to 40 years. So he works with his team and coordinates with his team captain.
If he feels that changes need to be made while on the sets, the changes are always minor. We went on the sets and planned for an entire day; we didn’t shoot for that day. They use that day to plan the action scenes and see what they can and can’t do with the props. At the end of the day, it’s safety first. When you fall, there’s a mattresses painted like the flooring of the set. I remember my first stunt was flipping back and falling straight and I was, like dude, you are going to kill me on the first day. But it was easy and we got through it really well, no injuries.
In the South, the working atmosphere is louder and much more robust. Everybody is running everywhere. But it was still fun. I like a lively set. I don’t like a quiet, serious kind of set. I like it when people are running and screaming and all of that. In the South, they are very efficient when it comes to timings. I would choose the South over any other industry because if it is an eight-to-eight shift, it is an eight-to-eight shift. Or else, the unions will kill you.
My favourite experience in Bollywood was with Mr. X because Vikram (Bhatt) is a dream to work with. He is very calm. I got to wander off the sets and go shopping in South Africa, till I had to come back and shoot. That was fun, but in China, I was on the grandest sets that I had ever been on. The budget for this movie is ridiculously high. This is the biggest film I have ever done.
Can you share something about your character?
My character’s name is Kaira. She is a very Indian girl but a very, modern Indian girl. She is also a kind of trickster. She fools people in a couple of scenes and that’s the fun part about her. She is fun, spunky and a lot of the action sequences that we did were on my own. So, yes, she is a trickster and you’re going to see a lot of funny antics from her.
I can’t tell you but, from the trailer, you can guess that he is the male baddie. He too plays an Indian character. There’s a lot of Indian history in our film. That’s why there are so many Indian actors in it. He is a classy bad guy in the film; not the Dabangg types. He was quite a lot of fun to work with. He is scary in some scenes. There was a scene when I had to argue with him and all I did was look at him and shout. It was quite funny in some parts.
Can you tell us where you shot in India and abroad and what was the experience like?
They decided to shoot in Jaipur and Jodhpur in April, and people on the sets were dying due to the heat. At some point, even Stanley (Tong) was cursing and there was Farah (Khan) on the sets too. If the heat wasn’t enough, you had to deal with Farah screaming and shouting if you didn’t get the steps right. But she is so funny. She makes you laugh, she never makes you feel bad. So, yes, we shot in Jaipur, Jodhpur in India, and Shanghai and Beijing in China. And in Iceland… that was my favourite.
Do you have any songs or dances with Jackie Chan?
I have one song with Jackie Chan, which is a grand song on Indo-China that Farah (Khan) has choreographed. We shot it in bits and pieces everywhere. It’s going to be a really fun song – and she has made Jackie dance! Me, Disha (Patni) and Sonu were dumbfounded. Farah not only made him dance, but he also got to kick our asses in it.
Jackie is wearing a sherwani in the song. Sonu got him that costume and he gladly wore it. We were so amused to see him in that avatar. He loved it and it was a lot of fun to watch.
Jackie Chan is a superstar but he is supposed to be very down-to-earth in real life. Was he the same with the other people on the sets?
I remember this one incident in Jaipur. Unfortunately, we had this really bad habit of flinging our trash all around. He got up and started picking up all the plastic bottles, wafer packets and everything else. He started doing it himself. Then, gradually, everybody followed suit. The next day, the sets were clean!
That’s the kind of person he is. He has OCD when it comes to the environment and cleanliness. He believes the next generation should inherit a better world with us not polluting it. He actually picks up someone else’s trash.
What is the marketing plan of the film?
I will let you know when they share it with me. But I know for a fact that Jackie Chan will be coming to India for two days. We are going all out in South East Asia and, of course, China as well because, at the end of the day, this is a Chinese production. But, don’t worry, the film will be dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, as far as I know.
Will you be dubbing for yourself?
In Hindi, yes, but not in Tamil and Telugu.
What’s next for you?
I am doing a South film; I gave up two of them to do this film. I am also doing a special appearance in a Bollywood film. I am planning to do another Bollywood film but I have not yet signed it.