With the much-awaited Kabir Singh hitting theatres soon, Kiara Advani in an exclusive chat with Bhakti Mehta, talks about becoming part of this remake, how she approached her role and her career transforming over the last year
What’s up with you?
These promotions are quite taxing, yaar. (Laughs)
Do you not like it?
No yaar, liking it… It’s fun! But these films are very hectic, man. You tell me! How do you like the songs?
I loved them, especially Bekhayali…. It’s such a sweet and mellow song.
Yaa… everybody is tripping on Bekhayali.
What is the response you have been receiving?
The response has been very good. We are excited to just watch the film. It’s overwhelming because we have just started promoting it but already, just from our teaser, never mind the trailer, it has already got people excited to watch it.
Yes, the teaser was very impactful. And I am definitely one of those who are waiting for the film.
Have you seen the original film?
Yes, I have. What was your reaction when you saw the original film for the first time?
I saw the film before I signed it and I loved it. I was in love with Vijay Deverakonda.
(Laughs) I was, like, I want to meet him. Even though he is so flawed, and this is wrong, and you cannot be drinking and doing all those things but we all want someone who loves us like that. I became a fan after the film and I think he performed so beautifully in that film. When I knew that the film was being made and the director met me for Kabir Singh, I was, like, it is such a universal love story and it’s such a passionate love story. It’s been a while since we have seen something like that. I remember seeing Saathiya, such a passionate love story, and films like this at that time. Those films were altogether something else and I hope people feel the same way with Kabir Singh.
But we have films focusing on other themes, especially when they have social messages attached to them.
This is not like that. This is pure romance, about two characters falling in love. There is no social message in this film and there is nothing preachy about it. It is just the world of these two people and what happens in their lives, and their story. That is what I liked about it.
Going back to when you met the director, Sandeep Reddy Vanga. What was your conversation about this character? Did he give you the reference point of the original film or did he tell you to make it a fresh character?
So the film is an exact remake of the original. Also, it is a story which is very close to Sandeep sir’s heart. It is something he has experienced and is part of his own life, in a way. So he is quite passionate about it. He is very clear about who his characters are. He is very clear about who Kabir is and who Preeti is. Of course, I am a different person and we all are different actors. So there will be a certain difference that we will all add with our own touch. But the essence is the same, the characters are the same.
Her simplicity, her thehraav – whether you call it ‘passiveness’ or ‘submissiveness’ – her innocence and vulnerability and simplicity and purity is what I saw and I didn’t judge her for that. I feel that there are girls like that, who are a little introverted, who come from families that probably don’t allow them a lot of things. She comes from an orthodox home, she speaks when she is spoken to but her silences are strong. She is not somebody who is outspoken or expressive. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have substance.
But it is very difficult to get your message across using silence.
Exactly, it is the toughest thing because it is such an internalised process. And you are channelising so much of that inner stuff… I remember when I was in Delhi for a month’s shoot, I used to feel really low and I couldn’t understand why. I think I got so immersed in this that I almost felt as if I should get some counselling or talk to someone. How do I detach from this? I am the very opposite of Preeti.
I am very expressive, outspoken and animated but, still, I was my character for so long that I didn’t know how to switch out of it for a while. I was almost confused and conflicted with what I was thinking. But another way of looking at it is that it is such an insane experience to play a character which is so different from you, and then to be so nuanced and so subtle. But then again having an actor like Shahid opposite you gives you enough to feed off. It helps you with your reactions, with everything. It becomes effortless and organic.
The chemistry on screen does seem effortless.
It just happened organically. Also, on paper, I think it was so strong. That’s what I felt about the original. We discussed the fact that they had this amazing chemistry in the original as well. And in a love story, that’s the most important thing. It would have been a big problem if it wasn’t there. Thank God for that!
What was your reaction when you saw yourself as this demure, docile girl?
I see myself when I even wake up in the morning. It wasn’t different for me. But I have got such a lovely response from the audience. When our song Mere sohneya released, every single person I knew messaged me, people who I had not spoken to since school and college, and colleagues in the industry too. They said I was looking amazing in the song.
So there is this one laptop shot when I am crying. Everyone is going mad over that scene. I am, like, what’s the big deal about it? (Laughs) It’s overwhelming that these little moments touch people’s hearts and that’s what this film is all about. Whether it’s Arjun Reddy or Kabir Singh, the first five minutes into the film and you are already in their world. Thank God it’s the same director directing us. That’s the biggest plus.
Do you feel an added responsibility since it is a remake, because not only in Telugu cinema but the film is a rage all over?
I think it also could be a plus because the original film did so well. I think people who have watched that film would want to know what this one is all about. If I want to look at it in a positive way… so let’s look at it that way. If people come to watch the film to judge it, then they will have that version. I know there is an expectation; I feel that about people who have seen the movie. And they all want to know whether this film can live up to the original one. There will be a little pressure but I think that since the response is already so positive, then the glass is half full.
Did you think there would be challenges when you were doing a remake or when you are associated with a remake of such a huge film?
I didn’t feel anything like that. I don’t think we even had time to think of all that. We were so busy working on the film and shooting it, and now promoting it that I haven’t thought of the pressure of being a part of a remake of a big film. Ask this question to Shahid. He would probably have more to say.
Kiara, you are not from a filmy background. When you came into the industry, what was your goal?
There was a list of directors I wanted to work with – Neeraj Pandey, Abbas Mustan and Karan Johar – and I am fortunate to have worked with them so early on. But when I started, when I wanted to be an actor, I had thought that the toughest thing was to get your first film. I thought that after the first film, people keep doing films and the films keep coming. But, no, I realised that the toughest thing was to get another film because the first film happened but it didn’t do well at all. After that, I didn’t even know whether I still had a career. Then it was, like, keep your conviction going, don’t lose that confidence in your talent, move forward, believe in yourself, say that ‘you know what, I am not going to give up. I am going to keep working harder till they want to see me again.’
I did everything I had to, whether it was going for auditions again or going back into my routine of building on my own craft and honing my skills. I know that what I have is my talent and no one can tell me that I can’t act; I won’t let anyone have that power over me. I will challenge them and win too. In my head, that was the goal, that I won’t give up. If you believe in yourself, there is no looking back. I debuted in 2014 but people still think I am a fresh face. People still think MS Dhoni: The Untold Story was my first film. It’s a huge advantage that I am still considered a fresh face.
Do you think Lust Stories was a game-changer for you?
Absolutely! I think Karan knew that this film would give me an opportunity because it is so heavy on performance, and that people would see me as an actor and a performer. Those were his exact words when he was talking to me and telling me about this film he was making, and I just wanted to work with Karan Johar. He is a very sensitive and a very aesthetic filmmaker. There is nothing that he would do that would be vulgar. So I had full faith in his conviction and in his story and in him.
Lust Stories was a game-changer and today the kind of roles I am getting are different but they are all performance-oriented because people finally saw an actor in me through that. Karan is a mentor for me. If he advises me about something, then I listen to him. I know has one’s best interests at heart.
But I think they saw your courage. There are many actors who would have been very self-conscious about doing what the film required.
I was so uninhibited because in my head I was innocent at that time; as innocent as the character I played because it is actually a very innocent story. So I feel, like, because I was so uninhibited in my head, the performance came out very innocently. I wasn’t conscious of what people would think, will there be memes, these thoughts didn’t even cross my mind. And because they didn’t, it worked to my advantage. If I had to do the role today, I wonder whether I could pull it off today as I did then. I was very innocent then and that’s why I was able to pull it off the way I did. Everything happens at the right time.
You have an amazing line-up with Good News right after Kabir Singh. Then there is SherShaah and Laxmmi Bomb… With all those big-banner films, is digital still an option for you?
Of course, good content is the key for me.
This past year… since you said it was a game-changer, how has it changed for you?
This past year I have finally been working a lot and I love it. It is exactly what I wanted to do. And you said digital… I would also say that not just digital, but also South, for that matter. I could do South films in that one year and that film was a mega hit. If I could balance it even now, I would like to do one South film a year because I just want to reach out to as many people as I can.
The lines are blurring, so it’s great…
Yes, platforms, languages, and places today… everything is all about content. I am not leaving out any of these avenues.
In reaching out to people, do you think social media helps you?
It’s fun! It is like your own little taaza khabar. There’s an app for everything today. It keeps you relevant and you know what everyone is doing. It has both pluses and minuses.
If you have to sum up your journey from the beginning to Kabir Singh, what would you say?
I would say it is a work-in-progress and I am making the most of this journey. I have decided to focus on the journey rather than the destination.
What do we expect from Preeti in Kabir Singh on June 21?
A lot of love. (Smiles)