What is the reaction you have received from the industry and the audience regarding the film’s trailer and songs?
When I meet people, they say our movie seems like a sweet, romantic film. We are very honoured to get such a huge response from the audience. I am fortunate to be a part of the song Gazab ka hai din. I was born in 1988, when Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak released, and we have lived with that song for 29 or 30 years.
I am also seen romancing in this movie, just like Aamir Khan was seen romancing in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak .I am a regular Delhi boy and when things like this happen to me, I keep pinching myself wondering whether I am really part of a huge song. Gazab ka hai din is a song that grows on you and the response from the audience is tremendous. The movie will release on the 9th of March and we are all hoping for the best.
Since this is a romantic film, do you think releasing on March 9 could affect its business?
This year, every release has had to play a game of musical chairs. Besides, this was a call that was not in my hands. It was taken by both Vashu Bhagnani ji and Jayantilal Gada ji. The movie Aiyaary was also pushed around and I believe that since we are part of the same fraternity, we have to look out for each other. I believe that every film should get a fair chance. So I don’t know whether business will be affected or not, but I am hoping it doesn’t and we are expecting March 9 to bring us tremendous success.
Your character Sumit is a Delhi guy. What makes him different from the other Delhi guys we’ve seen in Bollywood movies?
I don’t want to say that the character I play in this movie is different from who I am in real life. So, when I read a script, it should excite me and when I read this particular script for the first time, I thought that bade din se khulke acting nahi kari.
When I did the film Dobaara: See Your Evil I, couldn’t explore my other side. There has to be some kind of emotion when you are playing your part and you have to feel the character you are doing. I am a Delhi boy and I was born and raised in Delhi. Here, I was getting to play a character like Sumit, who is also from Delhi. We connected with each other and, gradually, this character became close to me.
When I was 20-22 years old, I was obsessed with going to the gym and I wanted to be an actor. Sumit is an animated guy when he speaks to people and I could immediately see the similarity between him and me. I don’t understand why people think I am a serious actor. I am not a serious actor. I genuinely like doing romantic movies, where you get a chance to open your arms wide or strike a romantic pose. I am glad to work in a movie like Dil Juunglee, where I am thrown into the space where I started my career. My first two movies were Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Mere Dad Ki Maruti, where I play the boy-next-door. It is good to be back! I did those films when I was 21 and now I am 29. It is good to be doing a romantic film again.
Saqib, can you take us through your character, Sumit?
Sumit is basically a boy from Lajpat Nagar, Delhi, and was raised by his mother as a single parent. He is the kind of guy who bunks school and is not fluent in English. He wants to be an actor but luck is not in his favour. Every time he tries to grab the limelight, luck is not on his side. He is waiting for that one moment where he will be noticed by big directors. He believes that if he succeeds in getting these directors to notice him, they will fall over themselves to cast him in a movie.
He loves going to the gym and believes that if one has a good physique, he can become an actor. This is his school of thought. This film is about two characters, Sumit and Karoli, falling in love with each other but they are not sure whether they are meant for each other.
The film sees a leap of seven years. Were there any quirks you had to incorporate between the two Sumits?
Of course I had to graph my character in this movie. Sumit is a very unconventional Hindi film hero and he is not a hero who always does the right thing. This character makes a lot of mistake that you will get to see in the entire picture. A protagonist in the film plays the central role and you cannot make the audience dislike the main hero of the film, if they start doing that then it becomes difficult for the movie. So, it was very difficult for me to make people not dislike Sumit. I was trying hard to border the thin line of the character between being cute and naïve at the same time. When the film starts, he is only 21. He is a person who is full of expressions and someone having a lot of life experience. His definition of love what he had when he was 21 changes quickly when he turns 28. I had to try hard to change the body language of the character. This is surely not a picture where I lock myself up in a room or go into method acting. I had to maintain my spontaneity and had to wipe off the person I am now. This is a film which is all about chemistry and I had to really work on this aspect and I am thankful to have such lovely co-actors.
What was it like working with Taapsee and the other characters?
A lot of fun I would say. So the film is from Delhi and mostly all the actors in the film are from Delhi so yeh Dilli ka humour chal gaya tha is picture mein. The producers are from Bombay be it Vashu Ji, Jackky (Bhagnani), they are all Bombay people and we were all Delhi people. It was a great experience working with them. As for Taapsee, I had a wonderful time working with her and the best thing which I like about Taapsee is, there is no pretense and she cannot behave like an actress nor have any sort of tantrums surprisingly. So, it was very easy to work with her, in fact we had done a music video before which was for T- series. That is where I met her properly, and I saw that she is an easy going person and I was really happy to work with her.
You have been working in this industry for seven years. Tell us about your journey and how you have transformed as an actor or as a person.
I am from Delhi and I had a different kind of upbringing, and there was this transition that happened to me. And when it did, I told myself that I would do whatever comes my way very passionately and sincerely.
But I also never take myself seriously and never put undue pressure on myself because the whole idea is to enjoy yourself, and if I enjoy myself, then people watching me will enjoy watching me on screen. For me, it was about enjoying the whole process and never thinking about stardom. Also, when I go on a set, I want everyone to love me because I believe that a film set is like a family. I play the character of a leading man in the film and that is why it is important to bring the vibe to the set. I decided that although I am not the producer of the film, it is my responsibility to bring a smile to everyone’s face and I make sure that everybody is having a good time. Therefore, I don’t think of the result, I just enjoy the process.
You don’t come from a film family. How has your perception changed about the film industry after you became an actor?
The last film my father saw before my film was Mughal-E-Azam. I think my family is the non-filmiest family ever. I had no perception of the industry, really. I used to watch every film on a Friday, at home and read all the film magazines I could get my hands on but I never really thought about the film world because I knew no one in it.
Both Huma (Qureshi) and I made our film debut at the same time, and have achieved whatever we have on our own. We just went and met people and auditioned. All I know is that if somebody wants to work, this place can offer them work. All you need to do is find your zone, like your zone as an actor. Once you do, you should keep going. Ultimately, it is just one Friday that changes every actor’s life. Everybody is looking for that one Friday.
As an actor, how important are box-office numbers to you? Do you diligently follow them?
They are very important because there are people who are investing money and every picture made nowadays is quite costly. Sasti banate banate 10 crores ki ban jaati hai. My intention is to make sure that my producer is able to recover his money. That is of paramount importance.
I am not too concerned about how much profit it makes. I am bothered about how the audience is receiving the film. Every film has its target audience, not every film is for everybody. When I was doing Mere Dad Ki Maruti, I knew that my audience was the youth, the college-going audience. Somebody aged 50 or 55 would have found it juvenile but they were not our target audience. My intention is to make sure the producer gets his due and my film reaches the target audience.
Speaking of numbers, there are a couple of other films releasing on the same date as Dil Juunglee. What is your take on the clash?
I have no idea, I just know that Pulkit (Samrat) and Richa (Chadda)’s film 3 Storeys is releasing. There is a game of musical chairs of release dates underway and dates are shuffled too often. I have no apprehensions about other films releasing on the same date. There are just 52 Fridays and clashes cannot be averted. It is inevitable for more than one film to release on the same date. The idea is that it should happen peacefully.
We decided to shift the date because we believe in the music of our film and we needed to give it a little more time to grow on people. It is anyway a four-week promotional campaign and even if the songs are great, by the time the music becomes a hit, the film is out of theatres. So we were a little sceptical because of this.
Thankfully, everything has fallen into place on March 9. And when it comes to competition, I hope all the films work well because every film is made with a lot of hard work. I wish the other films releasing on the ninth, whether it is 3 Storeys or other films, all the luck they need and I hope all of them make money. The more films are made, the greater the benefit to actors and everybody gets work.
What do you want the audience to take back when they watch the film in theatres?
I want people to laugh and have fun because this is not a Martin Scorsese satire; you do not enter the cinema hall wondering whether you will understand the movie. We are simply inviting everyone to come and have a joyride with us; we have made the film with a lot of love.
Just come to theatres to meet these junglees. The definition of love when you are 21 or 24 is very different from what it is 6-7 years later. By then, you will have met so many people in your life and so much will have happened to you as a person over the years. So we want to tell people that pyaar na khul ke hota hai, you don’t really need words tell the person about your life. At most, you might get rejected but it is important to let that person know your feelings.
And it is not only about your partner; it is also about your friends and family. How often do we call up our parents and tell them how much we love them! There is no better emotion than love. So we are taking people through a fun ride packaged with great soundtracks. I hope when people enter the cinema on March 9, they forget their stress and worries. That’s the intention.
Talking about your future projects, Race 3 is your next after this. What was it like shooting for this movie?
I am very excited because when Race released, I was in the first year of college and there was a funny incident that took place. Thee was a 2:30 pm show and I went with my best friend to watch the film. We arrived at 2:15 pm. We had just entered the cinema hall and the film ended 5 minutes later! We realised that we were watching the end of the previous show and had just watched the climax of the film. So the entire time, we were watching the film and trying to guess how the characters would reach the climax.
Jokes apart, I am very fortunate that I am a part of such a big franchise and am getting to do action, even though I have injured myself a bit. I have literally poured blood and sweat into the film. It was a great experience working in the film. I am getting to learn so much from everybody, whether it is Salman (Khan) bhai, Anil (Kapoor) sir or Bobby (Deol). All these guys are very warm and welcoming, and it is like one huge family. We all eat together, party together, shoot together, and train together. This is a very different kind of experience for me and I am getting to learn a lot from them. Everyone is very experienced and has seen so much success and failure in their lives. They know how it works. I am just one happy young boy who is getting to be on the sets with these guys.
Apart from Race 3, what other projects are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to a film called Chumbak. We might have to change the title of the film as there is a Marathi film that has already used that name. It is a very quirky film, in that fun space, and I am planning to stay in this zone for some time. I have done a lot of intense roles and want to explore more romantic characters because serious films take a toll on you as an actor.
Since I am not a trained actor, I take my time and understand the script. Even though I am not a trained actor, I do have a process. The serious films kind of leave you drained. Like this scene in Dobaara where Huma I kill Huma. But Huma is my sister in real life too; so sometimes it just hits you inside. It is good to show people a different side of you as an actor but it is also important to keep the fun side alive. I have decided not to do a horror film though but people here just don’t know how to make it. I want to keep my horizons open and explore everything I can do. I want to keep coming back with more and more content-driven stuff.