Team Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 – producer Abhishek Pathak, director Luv Ranjan and lead actors Kartik Aaryan, Nushrat Bharucha, Omkar Kapoor, Sonalli Sehgall, Sunny Singh Nijjar and Ishita Sharma – in conversation with Team Box Office India
BOI: When the first instalment, Pyaar Ka Punchnama (PKP) released, it was a risky film made with newcomers. Obviously, there were no expectations. Now PKP 2 is the sequel to a hit film.
Luv Ranjan (LR): On the contrary, before PKP released, our producer Abhishek (Pathak) had already predicted the numbers. And the first part almost lived up to that figure, which we missed only by a couple of lakhs. But, yes, expectations from this film are higher than they were for the first part, as our first film only started growing at the end of the first week.
BOI: After PKP, you made Akaash Vani. At what point did you decide to make a sequel?
LR: When PKP released, we realised that people loved the film, especially the young male actor (Kartik Aaryan). So the demand for a sequel came from the audience. They wanted to see more of these characters. But I wasn’t prepared for a sequel at the time. You can’t work on a sequel unless you come up with a far better idea. So I started working on Akaash Vani and other ideas and, developed the idea of PKP 2 after Akaash Vani.
But I was not sure whether I should go ahead with it or not as it didn’t seem exactly what I wanted. I locked the idea after a few brainstorming sessions. Commercially, it made great sense. Today, whether in the West or in India, franchise films make sense because we have a set audience for them. It’s one of those formulas that can be considered safe today because you can predict how much the film will earn, give or take a little. So they are less risky compared to the first instalment.
Abhishek Pathak (AP): Also, when the trailer of PKP 2 released, we received a humongous response. It was much better than we expected, and the college-going crowd was very excited. There was a demand in the market for PKP 2, which made us think about the sequel.
BOI: What also became famous were the characters. How difficult was it to sketch the new characters in PKP 2?
LR: Yes, people still remember the characters by name. But there was a time when I wondered whether to continue with the same characters or create new ones. I was leaning towards continuing with the same characters till I finally figured out why people liked the first part. It was because the actors were new and you met them for the first time. They surprised you. It is very rare that the characters in a sequel are able to surprise you as much as they did in the first part. You invariably feel shortchanged when it comes to sequels.
So I took a call to change the characters. After that, there was casting. I have a standard answer to why I didn’t change the girl – there is a saying that the devil never changes! (Laughs) I would have honestly not changed anyone. But the girls in the first part didn’t have a very strong image in terms of characters, so there was no question of surpassing them. But that fear arose in the case of the boys, so there was a desire to change the male characters. I would have changed all three but it’s his (Kartik Aaryan) third film with me and he looks very different from how he looked in part one. I also wanted recall value. He does the monologue quite well and I needed someone to pull that off as well.
BOI: Can all of you start with how difficult it was to impress Luv Ranjan during the auditions?
Nushrat Bharucha (NB): This is my third film with Luv and I didn’t have to audition. But we did script tests, where we did readings so that he got an idea about whether I suited the role or not. Then there were look tests.
LR: I just wanted to see how they looked. Acting toh mujhe pata tha kisi ko aati nahin. (Laughs)
Kartik Aaryan (KA): Mujhe toh bas office bulaya gaya aur kaha ki yeh picture karni hai.
LR: (Cuts in) Full stop tha ya question mark tha?
KA: (Laughs) Luv, you told me I had to do it and I said ‘yes’. This is my third film with Luv. It’s always fantastic working with the team.
Omkar Kapoor (OK): Our casting director Vicky Sidana called me to meet Luv sir. At the time, I had no idea what the film in question was. The script was explained to me and we did a few look tests. He wanted to see if I suited the character Thakur or not. But even after all those meetings, I didn’t know whether I was actually doing the film or not because I had not signed on the dotted line. I even attended his birthday party. One day, I called Vicky and asked what was happening with PKP 2 and he said that I would be doing it. I was shocked because no one had actually told me. Vicky said, ‘Party mein bulaya tha na, wahi confirmation call tha.’
Ishita Sharma (IS): I guess casting was the most challenging part of the film because the first part had become a cult and everyone remembers the actors. I got this role by luck as someone else had been chosen for the part. So I joined them in the midst of a workshop. To be honest, I had to convince Luv sir that I could play Kusum. I am the kind of person who can make 50 different expressions in one single minute but, for this role, he wanted someone serious. So I kept showing him my work. Through the workshops and reading sessions before we went on the floors, he was finally convinced that I could play Kusum.
LR: As I mentioned earlier, the first part didn’t have much for the girls to do, so I thought let’s keep the devils! (Laughs)
Sonalli Sehgall (SS): I was brought on board to play Kusum because in PKP, I played the glamorous and modern Rhea. In this film, Kusum’s character is close to Rhea’s but then Luv asked me to do a few more look tests and auditions. Then he thought I was a better fit as Supriya in PKP 2. She is family oriented and for her, parents are everything.
Sunny Singh Nijjar (SSN): I play a character very close to who I am in real life. In fact, when Luv sir saw me, he said that my character was exactly like me and that’s how I bagged the film.
SS: But, to be honest, we did a year-long workshop and script readings. It’s just not the couples’ chemistry but also the friends’ chemistry which needs to be seen on screen and I believe it all came out well because of that one year.
LR: Very true. We were working on the script, so in the meantime, we did workshops with these actors so that each one understood what their characters were all about. In those days, they had their names saved in their mobile phones as their respective characters’ names. They used to also address each other by their reel names. The film is about love relationships but it is also about how your male friends stand by you. It was thus very important to show male bonding.
KA: During that one year, we started living as those characters. This was very important to be able to play the characters. Also, the role I play in PKP 2 is very different from the one I played in the first part. Luv sir wanted to make sure that the actors he was repeating don’t look stale. The sequel has a new story, new characters, and, yes, the devil remains the same but in a new way. From 2011 to 2015, the youth have changed, relationships have changed and girls have started behaving differently.
AP: Luv is not all that old; he just looks old. (Laughs)
LR: My writers Rahul and Varun and are 25 years old. So, through them, I stay connected to the current generation. Girls don’t change and neither do relationship problems; it’s the situations that change. For instance, they didn’t have phones earlier; then phones came in; followed by mobile phones; and now we have social networking sites. As a director, I kept everything in mind when I wrote the script. Also, when I wrote PKP, I was 27 but now I am 30-plus but my writers are 25 years old. So I have kept in touch with the trends through them. Besides, the feel of the film is Delhi and I hail from Ghaziabad.
BOI: Which of the characters and which love interest is inspired by your real life?
LR: (Laughs) None of them. I have grown up in Delhi and while in college,
I saw many such couples.
BOI: Abhishek, PKP was your debut film too, as a producer. After PKP, you produced quite a few films. How has Luv grown as a director and also the actors?
AP: We have grown together. The day PKP released, we knew would work on PKP 2. Luv is very clear about what he wants to make. I have seen so many writers and directors who don’t know what they are writing as they are not knowledgeable enough to work on the material they are attempting to write. But Luv is clear that he only attempts scripts he is familiar with. For instance, he talks about the youth as he is connected to them. And to be convincing enough, he had a young script writer in his team, to make sure the language he was using in the script was accurate. So he looks at the details.
Also, he takes his time to work on a script and it will not go on the floors till he is confident about it. Many directors start rolling, whether ready or not, only because they have the actors’ dates and producers are prepared to invest. Luv is not like that and he doesn’t mind waiting. As for these actors, they have also grown over the years. Now they understand camerawork and how important it is to be prepared.
BOI: How close are you guys to your respective characters?
KA: Very close, we know how to handle a girl but at one point we all lose our temper.
OK: I am very silent in real life and even the character I play is like that.
BOI: Luv, how has Abhishek grown over the years? Did he give you a certain budget within which you had to make the film?
LR: Yes, he has grown and evolved as a human being too. PKP was our first film and we were both finding our way and learning new things. But he produced a few more films and learnt the tricks of the trade. Because PKP was a new start, with newcomers, the budget was low but with PKP 2, we went bigger. The budget is bigger because Abhishek was confident of the film from the very first day. He knows the returns will be higher as we set a benchmark with the first film. Even during the promotions, he made sure the film reached out to a wider audience. That’s why the star cast is going all out to promote the sequel.
BOI: Let’s talk about the bonding between each one of you, both in the film and off screen.
LR: Yes, talk about the bonding. (Laughs)
NB: We bonded very well.
IS: All my co-stars and I have had good days and bad days. There were days where we gave a shot in one go and there were days where we just couldn’t get the perfect emotion. But Luv sir made it all happen. When your director is very clear, it makes our work easy because he tells you exactly what he wants the scene to look like.
SS: We have all worked in the first part and, over the years, we have grown up together. That was our first film and there was lots of excitement. This is our second chance and if this film becomes a hit, the franchise will continue. There are so many things that happen at various stages in the characters’ lives but the way they interact with each other is amazing. Viewers will connect with every situation in the film.
LR: I guess the hardest part was Nushrat’s because she had to borrow a tone. It was not her original tone and borrowing a tone for the entire film is very difficult.
BOI: Abhishek, tell us what you felt when your first film PKP was releasing and how you feel about the sequel releasing. Are you still nervous?
AP: If I was nervous or even a tiny bit doubtful, I wouldn’t have decided to make the film. The first draft that Luv wrote was reworked. We took one more year to finalise matters and when we went on the floors, we made sure everything was perfect. Yes, I am nervous about the release and that happens with all your films because more than recovering your investment, you want the audience to love what you have made. Fridays are very scary days.
BOI: What role is Viacom18 playing in this film?
AP: A huge role. PKP was not a big film and it was a great risk with newcomers. Everyone is a newcomer in this film too but they stood by us. When you have a big corporate house attached to your film, you reach out to a wider audience. Since Viacom18 is known for their marketing strategies, that’s an added bonus.
BOI: You guys have already started the promotions. What kind of response have you received so far?
SSN: It’s been fabulous. We went on city tours and to colleges, and the crowd went crazy. We may not be recognisable faces but the film is a cult, so the response has been outstanding.
SS: Yes, we went to Delhi clubs and there too the response was very positive. They were all eager to know when the film was releasing and many even told us that they loved the trailer. When your trailer is a hit, you know the audience will come to cinemas. It all depends on the first look of your film.
AP: When you know the kind of audience you are catering to, it becomes easy to market a film. We knew our film had the right flavour for the young audience. While marketing and especially during the city tours, we knew exactly where to go and what to do.
LR: When we made part one, there was this question mark about whether we would recover the money. This time, the question is, how much will we earn, because we know we will recover the money. There is a huge difference between these two questions.
BOI: Earlier, you mentioned how people usually like the first part more and how the sequel has to be equally strong. How did you make sure the sequel would be as good as, if not better than, the first part?
LR: Now that I have seen the film, I know it is better. But before making it, as I told you earlier, I wanted to change things so that there was no direct comparison between the two parts. When you make a sequel, there is a very thin line between delivering something new and also what is expected. You can’t change the grain of the film so that people are still getting what they have come to see but they are getting it in an altogether new way. So I kept my writing in check to maintain that balance. This film is three times the budget of the first part and we had to make sure it showed in the film.
BOI: Luv, you have always worked with newcomers. Is there any specific reason?
LR: I was once new to this industry and believe we should give newcomers a chance, so that we as directors have more options to look for when we write a script. Also, newcomers don’t come with any baggage, so they play the characters with conviction.
BOI: Any final words?
AP: All I am waiting for now is support from the audience. I hope we live up to their expectations.
LR: I hope the audience connects with the characters this time too.
KA: I hope I get more films after this one releases! (Laughs)
NB: Same here.
SS: I hope the audience loves our film and that it has recall value.
OK: The film should be seen by every single young person in this country. (Laughs)