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Not A Nursrey Rhyme

Lead actors of Baa Baaa Black Sheep, Maniesh Paul and Manjari Fadnnis, talk to Team Box Office India about this week’s release, what it was like to work with veteran actors and much more

Box Office India (BOI): Congrats guys. The movie has only just released but people were intrigued by the trailer much earlier.

Maniesh Paul (MP): Touch wood, the response was good from the very beginning. Everybody liked the trailer when it came out. They found the name very intriguing. When they realised it was about contract killers, it became even more interesting for them. Maybe that is what got the audience excited and will get them to theatres.

Manjari Fadnnis (MF): The response has been fabulous ever since people got a wind of the movie. When I told people close to me that my next film was Baa Baaa Black Sheep, they were very excited and intrigued. They kept asking me, ‘Yeh kaunsi movie hai? What is the story?’ And this was before the film was even announced. After the trailer released, the response was very positive.

BOI: You said that everyone found the title Baa Baaa Black Sheep interesting. Why was it chosen and who came up with it?

MP: The film’s director Vishwas Pandya came up with the idea. I am playing a guy called Baba. Most of the characters are a little grey, with their characteristics and antics. And this is because everybody is playing a dual character. The only one who is completely innocent is Manjari’s character. Her role is very straight and doesn’t have any shades of grey. She is the good girl in the film.

MF: Yes, that’s true. I play Angelina Morris, Baba’s girlfriend. She has a funny and quirky dad. He is an art teacher to the world but an undercover cheater. He sells fake paintings. He recreates famous paintings and sells them as if they were real. Angelina knows about this and tries really hard to get him to stop. She loves him but quarrels with him bitterly about this. Angelina and Baba are childhood sweethearts and are in love. But her dad, like every other father of a girl, hates her boyfriend. She has to keep balancing the equation between her dad and her boyfriend.

BOI: Did you find any connection with your characters?

MP: My character is very relaxed. He is casual and laidback. I can relate to that. Apart from that, no, I am not a contract killer like he is. (Laughs)

MF: That’s for sure. Maniesh could not kill even an ant. (Laughs)

MP: Also, my father is not a cashew dealer. But, in all seriousness, it is quite a cool character. I loved playing it and loved shooting the transition that my character goes through. That was fun.

BOI: What was that one thing that made you say yes to the film?

MF: It was a combination of many things. First, it was the title that attracted me. Then, there was a one-liner which Maniesh can explain better than I can. That one-liner was so exciting and very out-of-the-box, very different. So I said yes, I definitely want to do this.

MP: What I found interesting was something Vishwas said. He told me this was the story of a guy whose father is a cashew dealer but it turns out that he is not a cashew dealer but a contract killer. His father tells him that their family has 12 generations of contract killers and he is the 13th generation to carry on this tradition.

At first, the storyline took me by surprise but, then, I wondered what would happen if my father, who is a chartered accountant, wakes up one day and tells me that he is not a CA but someone who kills people. I kept wondering what I would do and how I would react. I found this very intriguing and so, wanted to do this film. Obviously, there is the rest of the cast that I am very happy to share screen space with.

BOI: Did you find any connection with your characters?

MP: My character is very relaxed. He is casual and laidback. I can relate to that. Apart from that, no, I am not a contract killer like he is. (Laughs)

MF: That’s for sure. Maniesh could not kill even an ant. (Laughs)

MP: Also, my father is not a cashew dealer. But, in all seriousness, it is quite a cool character. I loved playing it and loved shooting the transition that my character goes through. That was fun.

BOI: What was that one thing that made you say yes to the film?

MF: It was a combination of many things. First, it was the title that attracted me. Then, there was a one-liner which Maniesh can explain better than I can. That one-liner was so exciting and very out-of-the-box, very different. So I said yes, I definitely want to do this.

MP: What I found interesting was something Vishwas said. He told me this was the story of a guy whose father is a cashew dealer but it turns out that he is not a cashew dealer but a contract killer. His father tells him that their family has 12 generations of contract killers and he is the 13th generation to carry on this tradition.

At first, the storyline took me by surprise but, then, I wondered what would happen if my father, who is a chartered accountant, wakes up one day and tells me that he is not a CA but someone who kills people. I kept wondering what I would do and how I would react. I found this very intriguing and so, wanted to do this film. Obviously, there is the rest of the cast that I am very happy to share screen space with.

BOI: What was it like working with veteran actors Anupam Kher and Annu Kapoor? What was the dynamic on set?

MP: It was hilarious. I was very nervous to shoot the first scene I had with Anupam Kher sir. Sure, I have shared the stage with him before, during award shows and the like, but this was different because this was a film. It was the first time I was acting with him.

I was very nervous but he made me very comfortable. He loves to rehearse, so he keeps guiding you. The best part was the timing between Anupam Kher sir and Annu Kapoor sir. It was so funny because they kept pulling each other’s leg. Annu Kapoor sir would greet Anupam sir, saying, ‘Sir, kaise hain, sir?’ Then, after the shot was over, Annuji would ask Anupam sir, ‘Sir, theek tha? Acha tha kya? Over toh nahi tha na, sir?’ This banter would just crack me up. I kept wondering whether they were serious or just playing pranks on each other. But it was a lot of fun and we had a blast.

BOI: And what was the dynamic between the two of you?

MF: It was mad fun because Maniesh is mad! I have never laughed so much on any set before. Bahut maza aaya. Plus, we were in Goa, so it was like a fun vacation. We were all having a great time. We didn’t even realise when the film was shot, start to finish.

BOI: Comedy is tough. What were the challenges to get the comic timing right, especially while working with experienced actors?

MF: Not for him!

MP: I don’t deny that comedy is very difficult. I do a lot of comedy but our film does not only revolve around comedy. There are a lot of thrilling elements that are an important part of the film. It is not about the relationship between Baba and his father or the fun time Baba and Angelina have together. There is another track in the film led by Kay Kay Menon. Unke saath ek khcihdi pakti hai and how we solve it is one aspect of the film.

MF: It has a lovely plot. It is just not comedy or slapstick elements in the film. It has a very smart plot.

BOI: You have mentioned that, in the film, your relationship is one of childhood sweethearts who want to get married. But the trailer does not reveal anything about your relationship. Why is that?

MP: That’s because the relationship is not an important part of the film. The film is about a boy who turns into a contract killer. The story is about whether or not he becomes a contract killer. Or the things he encounters while turning into a contract killer. Does his love interest dump him? His girlfriend is a simple girl and she wouldn’t want to marry him if she knew he was a contract killer. The girl’s father also hates the boy because he is the son of a cashew shop owner. He doesn’t want his daughter to get married to the son of a kaju dealer. The way he gets to know about the boy being a contract killer and everything else is done so beautifully.

BOI: When it comes to comedy, our cinema usually focuses on the slapstick variety; filmmakers tend to not experiment in the dark comedy space. For example, Kalakaandi received a lot appreciation but didn’t make good numbers at the box office. Why do you think films like these fail?

MP: I don’t really know. Maybe the audience is not ready or open to such subjects. When something new arrives in the market, it takes a while to grow on the audience. I think it is a wonderful genre. People will eventually connect with it and grow to like it.

BOI: Do you believe that Baa Baaa Black Sheep will revive this space?

MP: I cannot promise that people will start accepting this genre but I can promise that this is a good film. It is an honest effort and we have some wonderful performances. I guarantee that people who watch the film will enjoy it and have a great time.

MF: It is a very entertaining film.

BOI: Maniesh, you are well-versed with comedy, you have done TV shows, hosted shows… Do you think your background helps get roles like this?

MP: Obviously, whatever I have done on TV is very different from what I have done in Baa Baaa Black Sheep. The director did not want the comedy. He wanted something very different from what I do or have done in my career. Something that will set me apart from my previous roles or my regular image.

So, I completely surrendered myself to the director and asked him to make me do whatever he could and whatever he could bring out of me as an actor. It was his duty and I feel he has done a fabulous job. Maine toh bas surrender kar diya tha.

When I watched the film, I found it was very different from what I had done before. Some of my friends saw the film as well and they liked it. This is the first time I have done a lot of action sequences, like beating up goons. I was worried that people may not appreciate my role. But all my friends feel that I have done a good job.

MF: I feel the same; he has done a pretty good job. It has turned out so well.

MP: The song about transformation, called Ram leela, in which the entire transformation of my character takes place, from a chilled-out guy to a rough-and-tough guy, a contract killer… all these things are being appreciated. So far, so good.

BOI: Does it also help to break the mould of being a comic actor?

MP: I will break it today if I get the chance. I feel it doesn’t depend on me; it is people who decide what we are. Also, I am janta ka aadmi. I think the audience has started accepting me differently and this is one of the reasons I have started getting different roles. I am already doing another film in which the character is completely grey. He doesn’t smile even once in the film. And looking at him, you wouldn’t want to smile at all.

He is a Mills And Boon kind of character, who is romantic but with a lot of shades of grey. That was the brief given to me by the director. He said the girls should go mad when they see your character. Again, I surrendered to him and said, ‘Aap karwa do, saamne baitha hoon.’ I am totally a director’s actor. I do not want to meddle with the director’s vision. My job is to do whatever my director asks me to.

BOI: As actors, how important are box office numbers to you? Do you diligently track the numbers of your films?

MF: I don’t really track the numbers because at the end of the day we are creative people. Besides, I am not very good with numbers.

MP: Main toh bachpan se hi maths mein weak hoon.

MF: I am not weak in maths but I still do not track the numbers. For me, my craft is of utmost importance. But, sure, box office numbers are very important for producers. It also helps actors get better roles because their market value increases and more people will come and watch your films. So, in those terms, the collections of a film are important.

MP: For me, Box Office India is important jaha baith ke main interview kar raha hoon. (Laughs). So, yeah, they are very important. But I don’t really think about it. Even with the shows I have done on TV, I have never tracked their TRPs. Even if the TRPs of a show are high, my performance is not going to change. I give 200 per cent to my performance.

Similarly, if my films make 100 crore or 200 crore, I will not change my performance. Irrespective of what my film earns, I will always give it my best shot.

BOI: Your film released along with another movie, Hichki. Any apprehensions regarding the clash?

MP: I think it is something to be proud of. People are going to look at the poster of Hichki from Yash Raj Films and simultaneously look at the poster of Baa Baaa Black Sheep starring Maniesh Paul! I am loving it! I believe that because of Rani Mukerji (in Hichki), people will take notice of my film’s poster. For me, there is no competition; I want people to watch both films. I think we are a family. I want all films to work.

BOI: What are your expectations from the film?

MP: I don’t have any expectations; I never do. I want everyone to be entertained. On behalf of my team, I can say that I have made a product for the audience and I want them to watch it. I hope people enjoy the film.

MF: I feel the same way, I hope more and more people go and watch the film.

BOI: What projects are you looking forward to?

MP: I have a single releasing in April. After that, I have the Da-Bang Tour in the US. I have shot for another film whose post-production should be complete by the time I return from the US, so I will get on with that soon.

MF: I have one short film releasing. I am also doing lots of stuff in music. I am singing many covers and I also have my own single releasing.

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