Box Office India (BOI): Hate Story is considered one of the more popular franchises in Hindi cinema. How does it feel to be part of such a franchise?
Ihana Dhillon (ID): I agree that it is one of the most popular franchises and I am very happy to be part of it. I am especially glad since this is my debut film. It was great working with the whole team.
Vivan Bhatena (VB): The reason we came up with this instalment is that it is a commercially successful franchise. I had watched the first part. I watched Hate Story 3 in London. And I knew that having T-Series backing the music of the film would be brilliant. The film has one of the most amazing tracks this summer. Also, I wanted to work with Karan (Wahi). We missed being with each other on several reality shows. It was good to meet up with him.
Karan Wahi (KW): The reasons are pretty much the same for me. I think I was the last person to be finalised for the film. It was fun because I have watched all the Hate Stories, so I was like since my friends have done it, I should do it too. As much as the film might sound like a hoax or a lie, the script is nice. There is a story.
VB: The trailer doesn’t tell you what the film is about at all.
BOI: Was there any pressure to live up to the success of the previous instalments?
VB: Not really. I mean, like Grover (Karan Singh Grover) has done a shirtless scene. That’s the only pressure (Laughs). I think Urvashi had a lot of pressure as there was a lot riding on her shoulders. We were okay.
KW: Even the promos reveal that the film is from her perspective. It is a lot of pressure when you have to shoulder more responsibilities than your co-stars. But when you know people on the set, it is really fun. It is not a very big unit; just 50 people working in London.
ID: Since this is my debut, I had my share of stress. I know people are going to judge me on the basis of this film, which is a very successful franchise. I had to give one hundred per cent. I was very lucky to work with a great team. They are good sports!
VB: It is difficult to perform the erotic scenes, especially for the girls. I had many scenes with Ihana, who was so scared that she was shaking at one point. It is tough to do scenes like that in front of 50 people.
ID: Also, the director was very focused and clear about what he wanted. He used to explain everything to the actors and draw the best out of them. This makes it very easy for the actors to deliver.
BOI: The erotic genre is growing rapidly. What is your take on that?
KW: When Fifty Shades Of Grey was made, everyone was, like, ‘Oh, wow, what a film!’ Unfortunately, when we make films in that genre, they are tagged as ‘massy’ films because we don’t want to find out if someone has done a good job. We do justice to the characters given to us and we believe that our job is done. It doesn’t matter whether the film is an action film, an erotic thriller or a love story.
VB: Fifty Shades Of Grey released at the same time as Avengers did, and the trailer of Fifty Shades… got more views than Avengers did. So that says it all. To people who have a problem with films like these, I want to ask them, ‘How were you born?’ The reason this genre is growing is whereas once the audience was very regressive, they are much more accepting of these things now. Also, we have not gone anywhere near the Fifty Shades… level. We have just scratched the surface.
KW: People will watch it but it is difficult for them to accept. There’s still a single-screen audience who just wants masala; they don’t want to exercise their minds.
VB: This film has a story, there is a revenge element. Vishal has come up with a complete package. He has very cleverly put together a package that has made everyone deliver.
KW: If the Hate Story films didn’t have a plot line, I don’t think people would have gone to cinemas just to see the actors kiss. People can do that on their phones or get that on the Internet. So, if the previous instalments made so much money – Hate Story 3 earned almost 60 crore – it means people didn’t go to watch the kissing because then you can’t tell people it was a good film. People would not spend even a hundred rupees for that! In this genre, people don’t understand that the actors need to act. It is just a different kind of script.
BOI: Can you tell us something about the characters that each of you play?
VB: Karan and I play brothers in the film. My character, Aryan, is the elder son, the more responsible son, the son who handles the business, the father’s blue-eyed boy. He also tries to make his brother’s life easier, and so, because of me, he gets to be the brat. At the same time, I have got this very dark side; this is what appealed to me in the first place. This guy is not evil, in an in-your-face way; he does things behind the scenes. And that’s what we were trying to focus on, to keep it subtle and downplay everything, to not show his real side because then the audience would know where things were heading.
ID: I am playing Reshma, who is a corporate girl. She is very strong-willed and always has a reason for whatever she does. She always weighs things before she does anything. I can’t tell you any more.
KW: My character is Rajveer, who is the opposite of Vivan’s character. He is a spoilt brat and is spoilt by his brother, not even his father. My character is very fond of photography and he falls in love and gets his heart broken.
BOI: Do you relate to your respective characters?
KW: I think every girl or boy goes through a phase where there is heartbreak and all that jazz. I have already experienced that phase in my life. My character is extremely loving in one frame and then you might find him a little grey. I have not experienced something like this, personally.
ID: I am very different from my character. She is very manipulative but, in real life, I am quite easy going and not at all manipulative.
VB: I can’t relate to my character at all. I like creating interesting characters; it’s fun. That’s why I chose a negative space; it gives me a range of characters to essay. It gives me more play, more meat. I prefer doing characters that I love. Nowadays, people look at the production house, budgets and so many other factors. People watch all kinds of films. For the longest time, I used to turn down films like this because I was in a shell; I thought I should only do good films. In my next film, I play a ghost and it’s fun. That’s the fun of acting, to do something different.
BOI: How do you think the audience will relate to the film?
VB: Oh, 40 million views!
KW: Everybody loves cinema and they want to be entertained. Even if people are in a dilemma about whether or not to watch the film, they want to watch it. People believe the promos will get views because of the content of such films.
VB: Those who object to the film are the first ones to watch it!
ID: I am from the Punjabi industry. They say negative things about films like this but if you look at the business of the previous Hate Story films, the franchise has done maximum business in North India or Punjab.
KW: Regardless of a film’s genre, playing my part well and believing in my character is more than enough for me. Making 200 crores or 50, 20 or 10 crores will not give us work.
BOI: What was the dynamic like on the sets? What was it like to work with each other?
KW: I was playing Ludo.
VB: We were battling the elements more than anything else, it was zero degrees and we had night shifts. Luckily, we are all friends, at least the three of us, so we didn’t have any hang-ups. We were always on the same page. Everyone was in their own zone; I mostly hung around with Karan. Ihana was busy shopping and travelling around more than shooting there.
ID: They knew each other and therefore they used to hang out together a lot. We all got along really well.
VB: We became food bloggers, we used to go to different restaurants and eat out a lot.
KW: Like he said, we had so many night shifts. A big chunk of the film has been shot at night. There were times when the three of us were not working together and we had scenes one after the other. So we would chill on the sets during each other’s shots.
ID: Everybody used to just hang out on the sets.
KW: Yes, and that was because the alternative was to be alone in the hotel and who wants to be alone in the hotel? (Laughs).
VB: Yeah, so if you didn’t have any scenes that day, you would just get your workout in and then go back to the set.
ID: I have been saying in all my interviews that we have all become like family. We were there shooting for 40-45 days. All of us got very close.
BOI: Karan and Vivan, both of you began your careers in the television industry. Did you feel the difference when you made the transition to films?
VB: I think I have done everything under the sun. I started with modelling and have also done theatre. I feel I have covered every aspect of work in this business.
KW: (Cuts In) We will give Vivan a Padma Bhushan and ask him to retire. (Laughs)
VB: Yes, why not! But in all seriousness, everyone keeps asking us if there is any difference between TV and films. In reality, they are not very different. Both mediums involve acting.
KW: I don’t think our work varies with the medium. Acting does not change based on the medium. In television, there is a way people shoot for it, there is a way it is edited and then it is presented in a certain way.
VB: (Cuts In) There is a formula for it just like there is one in Bollywood.
KW: Absolutely. The only thing is that one cannot shoot for one scene a day for TV, as one does on a movie set because the episode has to air at a given time, regularly. That is the major difference. Otherwise, kaam toh hum same hi karte hain.
VB: One thing good about television is that it’s a trial by fire. So, when you walk onto a film set, you are well prepared with regard to what is going to come your way. Doing a big scene in one shot or remembering a huge monologue becomes much easier. On a TV set, the director will literally throw chappals at you when you get something wrong, so you make sure you get it right. When you finally reach a film set, you just glance at the script and you get the dialogue down pat.
KW: (Cuts In) One thing I have seen change is people’s perception towards you even though nothing has changed for me. I still chill with the same people and I still behave in the same way. Suddenly, from a two-door or a three-door vanity, I get a single-door vanity even though I didn’t ask for it. This is how people perceive me now.
VB: It’s not all so bad. We are called to be interviewed by Box Office India now! (Laughs)
KW: (Laughs) Yes, it is great that you guys call us to your office now. It is my 14th year in the industry but nobody has talked about my work before. But now that I have a film releasing, everyone is talking about me and my work. They look at you differently.
ID: (Cuts In) But I have worked with both of them for the first time and this is my debut in Bollywood. And let me tell you that they are both very down to earth. There was this funny incident that happened when we were on location. I was walking on to the set one day and someone told me to be careful as there was something on the ground. I looked down and I saw Karan sleeping on the floor.
BOI: That is literally being down to earth.
ID: But they are like that. They sit anywhere, chill anywhere, eat anywhere. That’s why I felt so comfortable working with them.
KW: Arre yaar, if you are sleepy and you don’t have a room, what would you do?
VB: Yeah, there were times when we were shooting on the road literally for hours at a stretch and the vanity van was 2 km away. Since we were sometimes shooting in the middle of the road, in the middle of a forest, on a bridge, we had no choice but to sleep on the road. (Laughs)
KW: We are besharam enough to not walk those 2 kms to the van for a nap, so just kambal bicha ke so jao.
BOI: Ihana, is it very different working in the Punjabi film industry vis-à-vis the Hindi film industry?
ID: I don’t think the two industries are very different from each other. A film is a film, right? Punjabi cinema has been booming since the last five years. Along with content, budgets too have grown. Luckily for me, I started my career in the Punjabi industry, when it had just started booming. Filmmakers were getting a chance to showcase their creativity and content. So, I see no real differences.
VB: It’s not just the Punjabi industry, all regional film industries are booming right now. Look at what Marathi cinema is doing. It’s great! Every industry is booming and that’s good for us because we can charge more! (Laughs)
KW: People have also become more accepting of regional cinema. These movies are not just releasing in their own sectors any more. Baahubali made everybody realise that regional cinema can be consumed by everybody and it can be great even when dubbed. This change is amazing for an actor because if we are approached by a filmmaker from the Punjabi or the Marathi industry, we don’t shoo them away.
VB: (Cuts In) That used to happen earlier. People would say that inke paas toh audience nahi hai, distribution nahi hai, kya kar lenge? Now, regionals are selling like crazy. I just finished a South film last year and it did business worth 60 crore, which was actor Ravi Teja’s biggest career hit.
ID: Many Bollywood actors are becoming a part of regional cinema now.
VB: Yes, exactly. Now there is an alternative career path for you. There’s so much happening. It’s very good for us because it opens new doors. So, if one film doesn’t do well here, you can take a break from Hindi films and do a South film. If you don’t get work here, you can get work there. This is one way in which regional cinema is helping us.
KW: The thing about doing regional cinema just because they did not get work in Bollywood has changed. Regional flavour is now mixing with Bollywood. If you can break the language barrier, you can work anywhere. That’s a great thing for all of us.
BOI: Finally, can you share some details about your future projects?
KW: I think Vivan has a contract with the Queen of England. He shoots one film in London, comes back for a few days and then goes back again.
VB: (Laughs) Yes, it does kind of seem that way. I was there for Judwaa 2, then for this film. And now I am going back to shoot two films. Since I like London, I have no complaints.
ID: Besides Hate Story IV, I have a film called Nastik with Arjun Rampal that will also release at the end of this year. Then there are Punjabi projects which keep me busy. I will also start shooting for another Bollywood project in April.
KW: I just want to go on a holiday.
VB: He talks like this a lot but he works the hardest. He doesn’t have any dates free, he is that busy.
KW: I have been working continuously for six months. I have been a part of a few web shows. There is Sacred Games with Saif Ali Khan, which will release soon. Then there is a web show with Anurag Kashyap and Vikramadtiya Motwane. I have also just finished something with Kumar Mangatji called Barcode. Hopefully, T-Series will give us Hate Story 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. among other films. So, I am doing everything that comes my way. And it’s fun.
Everyone tells me that the reason I don’t get films is because I am so accessible to the audience through TV. So why would they pay to watch me on the big screen? But thanks to social media, all the stars have become accessible to everyone and that notion has been shattered. Also, TV gave us financial backing and we didn’t have to choose random projects when it came to films.
VB: Earlier, while shedding the image of a TV actor, we used to get many small roles. But that has helped us gain so much popularity on social media and so many followers, that it actually helps in getting projects. If filmmakers see that your followers are growing organically, they realise that this person is good.
David Dhawanji told me that 10 years ago, he would never have cast me in his films. It’s harsh but he is right. After all, why would a filmmaker put his money on someone who is not popular? Now, luckily for us, things have started changing thanks to web shows and social media. The future is here.