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Team Fugly – producer Ashvini Yardi, director Kabir Sadanand, and actors Vijender Singh, Mohit Marwah, Kiara Advani and Arfi Lamba – in conversation with team Box Office India

Box Office India (BOI): Can you take us through the journey of Fugly?

Kabir Sadanand (KS): I met Ashvini (Yardi) with a couple of other scripts and she asked me what else I had. I said I had a script titled Fugly and told her all about it. But I was keen on pushing another script of mine. I was, like, ab moti machli haath aayi hai toh bada haath maarna chahiye? I ran her through it but she asked to read the Fugly script. But I was still trying to push the other one.

Ashvini Yardi (AY): Yeah, he kept trying to push the other ones but I kept going back to Fugly.

KS: Ashvini liked it and offered her take on the film, which helped the film a lot. After the initial reading, we came up with a draft that was far more dramatic and what she brought to the table helped the script reach out to even more people. I gathered from our first meeting that she is a team player and a hands-on producer. In Ladakh, she was at the locations with us and worked very hard.

AY: I was attracted to the title ‘Fugly’, which had grabbed my attention. I also thought the script had a lot of potential because it talked about youth and today’s issues, and the youth is an audience that is very difficult to grab. They are not a loyal audience but if they like something, they go all out to support the film.

Of course, the film will appeal to the masses too, but at that point, I thought the second half was a little dark and we felt it might get too heavy. So we kind of changed it. I thought the characters were so well etched that we could build on that. When we cast, we simply built on the characters. It wasn’t, like, we had cast these people and were wondering how to mould them into the characters.

BOI: Did Akshay Kumar get into the process?

AY: We did not involve him in the initial phase. It was only after a couple of months that we told him the subject because we had worked on the script for a year.

BOI: How did the casting come about?

KS: We were very clear about the casting. I was working with Ashvini and Akshay (Kumar), who had just won the National Award for OMG Oh! My God and the film had made a lot of money. It would have been easy to simply rope in the stars. But what I liked about them was that they said this film requires the youth and that helped me cast the actors rather than the other way around. Also, the script demanded that you need to fall in love with these four guys. So I thought the best thing would be to let them share their horror stories. (Laughs)

Mohit Marwah (MM): While auditioning for other films, I came across this audition and I was given this six-page character sketch. I had never seen anything like that before but it told me they knew exactly what they wanted. I auditioned for the role because I think they felt I looked the part. I had to audition many times before they were convinced I could play the part well.

KS: But you haven’t mentioned how you were actually cast.

AY: Hmmm!

KS: There’s a woman involved in his casting.

MM: That’s how you got to know about me. That’s not how I was cast!

AY: Ok, let me tell you the secret. There’s this girl in our office called Shilpa, who is the head of digital and she’s a very quiet girl. She’s so soft that when she speaks, you can barely hear her. One day, she suddenly came up to me and said, ‘There’s this guy and he’s quite cute and he’s Anil Kapoor’s nephew. Maybe you should Google him.’

I Googled him and I saw this short film that he had done, and we checked that out. We were quite impressed and I told Kabir we needed this guy to audition. So it was basically this girl he owes it all to. (Laughs)

MM: Yeah, and if I get an award, I will thank her on stage. (Laughs)

KS: Viju’s (Vijender Singh) casting was done by me. I have known Viju for a long time and we both have a sorts background. He had also met Akshay during that time. It so happened that Akshay had told me that Viju wanted to act asked me if I had a story that would suit him. So Ashvini said, why don’t we meet Vijender? Ab aage ki kahaani aap batao.

Vijender Singh (VS):I had already met Akshay sir at his office and I met Ashvini there. I thought she was the actress in the film. When they told me she was the producer of the film, we had a good laugh. Then I auditioned and they told me about my character, which was very similar to me in real life… the way I talk, the way I behave.

BOI: Vijender, since you are a boxer, the assumption was you would have made your debut in a film about boxing. But you chose a very different route.

VS: Boxing comes very easily to me. Jao jaake do teen ko todo aur kaam ho gaya. But acting is the toughest part. It requires a lot of patience. I am very aggressive in real life, so I often had to restrain myself. Acting mein bahut sunna padta hai, daant khani padti hai. And when the narrations took place, Arfi (Lamba) and these guys would ask questions. I would slowly try to grasp what they were trying to convey and somehow manage to perform. Boxing movie toh main jab chaahoon kar loon.

MM: You should do a boxing film at the end of your career. Jab biopic banegi tab! (Laughs)

BOI: Nobody wanted to make a Rocky or a First Blood with you?

VS: No, it’s all too easy. I wanted to do something completely new for me.

KS: He has moved up a whole lot in life and that’s only because he is smart and works very hard.

VS: I had come to Mumbai just after I won my Olympic medal and I had only shot for ads in Delhi. You can’t call that acting as I had to merely face the camera for 10 seconds and I would get a lot of money. I came to Mumbai to get a taste of real acting.

BOI: Vijender, if you look at our Bollywood films, most sportspersons, whether Ajay Jadeja, Sandeep Patil or Leander Paes, were not really talented as actors.

VS: But, Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson were very good at acting.

MM: The Hollywood examples are very strong.

KS: I think he is a natural. ‘Method acting’ is not his cup of tea; he has to learn hands-on. He has a very good understanding of the script. And jisko script ki understanding hoti hai usko perform karna bhi asaan lagta hai. There was this scene where he had to hit Jimmy and our action director told him, ‘Maar usko!’ Vijender replied, ‘Main maroonga usko toh woh mar jayega.

So the action guy tried to evoke the feeling by saying, agar koi meri maa ko aise kehta toh main use jaan se maar dalta. Vijender tells me, Sir yeh pelne ki liye keh raha hai mujhe main maroonga toh sach mein mar jayega. I said, you don’t have to actually hit him, you have to act! Toh his reaction was genuine. He said main gunda nahi hoon, ki main maaru peetu kisi ko. Now, Arfi-ji aap apni story batayiye.

Arfi Lamba (AL): I knew Kabir sir for a very long time and I knew he was making a film and casting for it but he had not called me. One day, we bumped into each other while we both were catching the same flight for Delhi. Although I was a little hurt that he hadn’t called me, I didn’t let it show. Next, he said, why don’t you audition for the film? I was like bulate toh ho nahi. After clearing the audition, I attended rehearsals and was last to join the gang. On the first day, when I went for practice, they had already formed a gang.

Kiara Advani (KA): (Cuts in) No one told us he was Arfi and he was to join us.

AL: I was wondering whether I should back out as I felt they would bully me. Then slowly, we all started bonding and we all went to Leh, which was the ice-breaker for all of us.

KS: It was not I who spotted the talent in Arif, it was Ashvini.

AY: Oh God! You guys drag me into everything!

KS: Since he is a friend, I was a little lenient towards him. But, during the audition, it was Ashvini who saw potential in him.

AY: Actually, we had someone else in mind for the character of Aditya. Then I saw his audition and thought he was pretty perfect.

AL: We began to bond in Leh-Ladakh as the Delhi schedule was very tight. They were, like, jitni masti karni hai, Leh mein kar lo Delhi aao batate hai. So we were chilling in Leh while shooting a few songs.

KS: Aaj mujhe batao ke aaj ke date mein kaun aisa ladka hoga jisko gaadi chalana nahi aata hoga (Laughs).

AL: Arrey, scene ki discussion ho rahi thi and he mentioned something about a bike. But when he gave me the scene, it demanded that I drive a car. I think it’s pretty cool, if you don’t know how to drive, I will look for a girlfriend who will drive for me.

KS: I felt like drowning you in that lake.

KA: He doesn’t know how to swim either (laughs).

KS: Yes, he doesn’t know how to swim.

KA: I got a call from Kabir sir and I went for an audition, where he gave me the sketch of the character, a Delhi girl, and a very strong performance. After reading it, I knew there was something about the film and I should take up the project. I needed to get into the character as I am not from Delhi. I went to audition in this long skirt, ekdum Delhi wali banke. After I finished auditioning, he said, ‘Ok, let’s start the paperwork.’ I was, like, it was easy to get the role but he called me to audition again and again. I was, like, he told me I had landed the part, so why is he making me do so many auditions? Why did you do that?

KS: She had a lot of angst in her and the character demanded that. It requires someone who will be firm and I required someone who could push. So I thought, let’s see how soon she breaks down or whether she breaks down. So we did everything to test her patience. She can act, which is very rare, and she looks pretty. Ashvini too liked her audition and that’s how we chose her.

BOI: The movie is about friendship and it was very important that they share a certain chemistry. Was there anything special done to create this bond on the sets?

KS: I did this psychological thing. I used to call them for workshops but I never attended a single one. So, actually, there were no workshops.

MM: We were told there would be workshops. Every day, I would call him and say, Sir, humko koi material nahi mila. Humko bas saamne saamne bitha diya and we are chatting, that’s it. He tricked us to put us in a room together so that we would get to know each other.

KS: I think there was some bitching ki yaar kyun inko yaha pe bitha ke rakha hai. They were in a situation where they were stuck bout couldn’t really mess around as the producer was around and it was their first film. So they used to sit, chat and go back home.

AY: Darr director se lagta tha inn logo ko. I used to sit next to him on the monitor and he used to scream foul language and then say ‘sorry-sorry’.

VS: Main poore sets pe sirf Kabir sir se darta tha aur kisi se nahi darta main. He used to get angry very often as I used to forget my lines. He used to shout and tell me to prepare and then come on the sets.

AY: At least you all were at a distance he used to scream but I was sitting right next to him!

KS: We were even recording everything they were doing and, every evening, I used to watch what they had done that the entire day.

KA: Every day, one person would be the bakra who would get yelled at. Even the ADs used to bet, like, today it’s his or her day. We would even bet Rs 300 sometimes.

BOI: So that’s how you started earning money?

AY: Yeah, that’s how they made money (Laughs).

BOI: What preparation went into the film apart from the bonding?

KS: After we did some extensive workshops, we had someone help them learn the body language and mannerisms of Delhiites as each one hails from a different place. It was easy for Viju (Vijender) because he is from Delhi.

KA: It was toughest for me.

KS: It was but thanks to the coaching, everyone said the dialect was perfect when the trailer released. We didn’t get into script reading because I didn’t want them to get stale with the script. It was, like, we’ll go with whatever comes out on the sets during the shoot. Acting is about how the opposite character reacts and you. So everything was impromptu on the sets.

BOI: What was it like to share the screen with Jimmy Shergill?

MM: It was superb. I felt that acting with him lifted my own performance because when you act with an actor like him, you tend to deliver better. His body of work, whether Special 26 or A Wednesday, has some fabulous roles. I remember the first day of shooting…

KA: (Cuts in) The first time we shot with him we were not nervous but… you know, he is such a good actor. In the scene, I had to walk up the stairs with him and, five to eight seconds later, all four of us were to follow. So he went up the stairs and we were a little hesitant, ab jaye, kab jaye, and from behind the camera Kabir sir was screaming, ‘bhaago kya kar rahe ho tum log!’

MM: Yeah, he is very humble and was very concerned about all of us. He never stopped guiding us.

AL: When I met him and told him I had watched Mohabattein, he told me, ‘Yeh mat bolna ki tum school mein the.’ He has a great sense of humour and was such a strength on the sets.

BOI: Can all four of you share your experiences while preparing for the film?

VS: The first time I met these guys at a workshop, there was this exercise which required us to talk in gibberish, which was very difficult for me. I wondered what the heck kind of acting is this! Mohit and Kiara did it so well and Arfi hadn’t joined us by then. I thought, I can speak in Hindi, Haryanvi, Punjabi and English but gibberish? That was my first lesson in acting.

MM: (Cuts in) …and then there was this session about animal instinct.

VS: Yes, that session too. We had to express our inner animal instinct. Mohit did it very well, he was a lion. When it came to me, I was wondering what I should do and chose to be a horse. (Laughs)

KA: Those sessions helped us get comfortable with each other too.

MM: Initially, we were very shy and grew comfortable slowly.

BOI: Ashvini, as producer of this film, how happy are you with the final product?

AY: As I mentioned earlier, the vibe I got on the sets was very positive. I think that really worked. I mean, everyone gelled with each other well and you get a feeling of how things will go. The first cut of the film was very long, so I was like now we need to get back to work. After the next cut, I was like good enough as I am from the creative side so I have issues everywhere. I always want something to be edited or different but, after the final cut, I had nothing to say. So I am very happy and very proud of it.

KS: The only challenge I felt was that Ashvini and I are friends and I hold her in high regard as a person. She was backing me all the way and it was important that I give it, not 100 per cent but 1,000 per cent.

BOI: Are the four of you happy with the film?

VS: Hamare saath Salman Khan hai, Akshay Kumar hai, so why not?

KA: The way you are asking us ke hum khush hai we use to ask Kabir sir ke aap khush ho. Whatever you see, it’s all due to him.

MM: It has surpassed my expectations. As a producer, she has surpassed my expectations and as a director, I got so much from him because he is also an actor. I am very lucky to be a part of this project.

AY: He really knows how to get his actors to work.

VS: He is so energetic and hardworking. Even on the sets, he did most of the work himself!

AL: He is like a one-man army.

AY: There was one scene which went wrong and the bike fell in the water. Before I knew it, I see Kabir jumping right in and pulling the bike out.

BOI: Now that you are promoting the film, what kind of reaction you are getting from the audience?

VS: Everybody has been asking, Yeh fugly fugly kya hai. (Laughs)

MM: The kids have been giving us so much attention. The other day, we were in Kolkata to promote the film and these kids came up to me for pictures and autographs. Vijender is already a celebrity but it’s all very new for me. It has been quite an experience.

AL: We thought we needed to create awareness about the film but people are already very aware of it. For instance, the spider step from the title track has already caught so much attention that people already copying it!

KS: The reaction has been fabulous. In fact, when we were putting the music together, we had 13 tracks in the album and...

AY: (Cuts in) We are going to use the remaining songs in the sequel. (Laughs)

KS: Ab har baap ko apna bacha acha hi lagta hai.

AY: He was trying to use all the songs in the film and I was thinking, why shell out so much money? I will use six songs in the sequel and this one can have seven songs. (Laughs)

MM: People have made videos dancing on the track Dhup chik and uploaded them on YouTube. People have actually made Fugly videos. It’s such a big high. There is an English rap version that someone has uploaded and then there is the Chipmunks version. A DJ has made a remix version too.

AY: I think we might even use the English version in the film.

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