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Team Mr Joe B Carvalho, director Sameer Tewari and lead pair Arshad Warsi and Soha Ali Khan in conversation with team Box Office India

Box Office India (BOI): Arshad, let’s begin with Bhola Ram Malviya, who has been looking after your work. When did he decide to become a producer?

Arshad Warsi (AW): I think Bhola wanted to become a producer all his life. So he is extremely happy now that he is producing a film. He had tried to do this several times and has only succeeded just now. And uski kismet bhi achchi hai, because somehow he managed to get a good film. Iske pehle usko ek-aadh filmein mili thi, which I told him itni buri tarah se pitegi dekh lena. And woh sab itni buri tarah se piti bhi thi. I hope that doesn’t happen with our film! (Laughs)

BOI: You have been very supportive of him always but what made you back this film?

AW: He’s not very artistic, and he doesn’t know very much about scripts, stories and cinema per se. Thus, I decided to play safe and thought comedy would be the best genre to do as I am very comfortable with it. And when we found the right script, I told Bhola that karna hi hai toh yeh karo. Yeh achchi bhi hai, saaf suthri bhi hai, it sounds clichéd but yes, I can take my entire family to watch Mr Joe B Carvalho.

BOI: Sameer, how did you meet Bholaji and how did everyone, including Jaaved Jaaferi and Soha Ali Khan, fit into the film?

Sameer Tewari (ST): I had actually met Arshad for another script and that didn’t work out so we started thinking about something else. Then he came up with the idea for this plot. That’s how it worked out.

BOI: What made you cast Soha as a dabangg police officer?

Soha Ali Khan (SAK): Hmmm, yeah I too want to know.

AW: Inhone inke biceps dekhe thhe. (Laughs)

ST: She is very intense and we needed someone like that. Although the film is a comedy, her role is pretty intense.

BOI: Soha, what kind of feedback have you received so far?

SAK: I giggle when I see myself in a cop’s uniform, beating up people. But I think people like the cabaret song. They like the look and it was fun to wear different outfits. I have always portrayed characters that are from a royal family and ….

AW: (Cuts in) Humne inki royalty ki dhajjiyaan uda di.

SAK: Really! Everything people used to say about me… that I am a thinking actress etc is shot to pieces with this film.

BOI: Was that the intention behind casting her?

AW: Yes, we wanted to destroy her reputation. We said that iss nawabzaadi ko tabaah karke rakh denge.

SAK: Having said all that, I was happy to be portrayed in this way. We used to joke that the title of the film was ‘Joe Bhi Carvalho’ and, honestly, I have done things I never thought I would do, with this film.

AW: Coming back to the question you asked earlier… She absolutely does not fit into this kind of role. That’s the beauty of it. It was Sameer who came up with this idea. I think it’s wonderful when you look at a person as an actor and utilise their potential, not for the perception they have of you.

SAK: But it happens. You know, you become the comic hero, the serious hero, the action hero, and you become an item number. So you have a comfort level ki yeh yeh karti hai ya yeh iss type ka role karti hai.

BOI: Sometimes, it’s nice to surprise the audience.

AW: Yeah! It’s great fun. I look for scripts like that. But I don’t always get roles like that. When I come across films like Ishqiya, I don’t let go because roles like that are different from a Dhamaal or a Golmaal.

ST: But this is not Arshad’s signature comedy. It’s not what he has done in any of his earlier films. It’s a serious, deadpan, straight-face kind of take on comedy.

AW: It’s the kind of comedy families can enjoy together. The audience once liked crass, over-the-top comedy with sexual innuendo. We started with Chashme Baddoor, Golmaal and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, and now we have taken a U-turn with films like Kyaa Kool Hain Hum and Grand Masti. I am not afraid that the film is bad; I am scared that logon ke taste kharab ho gaye hain. So yeh saaf picture chalegi ki nahi. I would like people to give this film a chance.

BOI: Sameer, there are so many characters in the film. How did you manage to justify all of them?

AW: (Cuts in) Sorry, let me add something here. Hum toh sirf ek-ek hain, Jaaved toh 12 role kar raha hai. (Laughs)

ST: I had to speak to each of those 12 characters within Jaaved separately.

BOI: Why did you decide to cast Jaaved Jaaferi?

ST: Sometimes, you know exactly who you want to cast, and, for this character, there was only one name that came to mind.

AW: I think no one could have done this role better than Jaaved. Itne saare characters hain, aadmi aurat and he can do all of them. Also, since he is a dancer, his body language is very expressive.

BOI: Can we say that Jaaved Jaaferi ko iss film mein nichod liya hai?

AW: Absolutely. We have tapped every role he could potentially play in his next 12 to 15 films. Iske baad woh koi film karne ke layak nahi rahega. (Laughs)

BOI: Since Sameer is a debutant director, didn’t both of you have any doubts?

AW: I have only worked with new directors and they are all doing extremely good work right now. Raju (Rajkumar Hirani), Kabeer (Kabeer Kaushik), Abhishek (Chaubey) and Madhur (Bhandarkar). Time and age doesn’t make you smarter. Just because you’ve been in the industry for years doesn’t make you a good filmmaker. You could be a first-timer and still create magic.

BOI: Why were you convinced that Sameer could carry the film on his shoulders?

AW: I think you can talk to a person and decide within the first five minutes whether he is capable or not. Sameer was absolutely capable. The story he had narrated to me… those were very solid scripts. I was reluctant to do them because they were very dark and intense stories. I believed this guy definitely had a vision, a serious vision. Plus, he had been directing ads for donkey’s years. What else do you need?

SAK: The humour in this film is not the usual kind; it’s strange and very different. It’s the kind that you will either get or you won’t. But you have to also get actors to carry it off. He has a really weird sense of humour.

ST: I don’t know if that’s a compliment.

AW: For a ‘weird’ film like ours, that’s a compliment.

ST: In one of our first scenes together, he was picking her up from a cabaret. That was only the second night, when we had to shoot this really intense scene which features in the second half of the film. She thinks he’s a killer and he thinks she’s a hooker. It’s a hilarious scene and we have done it with so much earnestness. When we saw the edit, we knew it was exactly what we wanted!

AW: Yes, the scene and its context are very real. She is a cop, who’s pretending to be a cabaret dancer and a hooker.

SAK: Not a hooker, just a cabaret dancer.

AW: (Laughs) Oh yeah! And I am a stupid detective who thinks she is a psycho-crazy killer and once upon a time they were together. So there is a love story there too. But the question is, how do you execute something like that? That’s where the director comes in. One could go over the top and say, look, I am talking rubbish, thoda loud, zyada acting. Ek yeh hota hai ki aap poori conviction ke saath woh bewakoof scene karo. If I were to mute that scene, you wouldn’t know what was going on. It would look like a serious scene. That’s very difficult to portray. And I think that is being honest to your job. I am trying to make you laugh; I am not making funny faces. You will laugh at the gibberish he is uttering. It is sort of in the league of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Angoor.

ST: In fact, there is this bikini scene in the film but it is shot really nicely. It’s casual, no lingering body shots. There is no attempt to be provocative.

BOI: And it has been used in the posters too?

SAK: (Laughs) Yes!

AW: (Laughs) That was a PR demand that, oh my god, she is wearing a bikini, I want this in the poster. But, jokes apart, this is exactly what I am saying and I hope that changes. If films like these do well, maybe the next PR guy will not push for this kind of poster.

SAK: But it’s a very cool poster.

AW: My kids did not cringe when they saw the bikini poster. We have been to Goa, we keep traveling, what you wear doesn’t bother you that much. It’s like if you wear a swimsuit at the pool side, it’s fine. If you wear lingerie at the pool side, that’s not fine. It’s about what you wear and where you wear it. You have to be appropriate.

ST: I also think the poster is getting so many eye balls because Soha features in it.

AW: (Cuts in) Oh my God! Soha, you’re wearing a bikini? Bigad gayi ladki…

BOI: Soha, what response have you got for the bikini scene?

SAK: People laugh when I tell them it’s a very important plot point in the film and that’s why wearing a bikini and getting into the pool is integral to the script. I know it sounds really stupid but that is true. It’s one of the most ridiculous shots I have ever shot. If you watch the film, you will understand. The response has been overwhelmingly good. I agree that it looked elegant and classy. In fact, there was an article with my brother’s picture that read, ‘Nawab of Pataudi and the women in his life’. And they had put my mother (Sharmila Tagore) in a bikini, Kareena in a bikini and then me in a bikini next to each other! (Laughs)

BOI: Arshad, comedy is your forté. How do you reinvent yourself with every comedy film?

AW: I don’t work too hard and simply follow the script. There is no point having preconceived notions about how you’re going to act. When I read a script and listen to the director, I try to understand what he has in mind and absorb what the writer and director want. Then, things automatically fall in place. The weird part is that the films that have brought me more recognition are the non-funny ones, where they say, ‘Oh, what an actor!’ Like Seher or Jolly L.L.B.

Also, I have received offers after my serious films, not after my funny films. After Munna Bhai MBBS, I was jobless for eight months. Also, Golmaal and Dhamaal didn’t improve the offers I received. But Sehar and Jolly L.L.B. did. It’s weird but true.

BOI: Isn’t that because the films you mentioned are multi-starrers?

AW: No. When you watch a film, you can gauge the actor’s capabilities.

SAK: This is a misunderstanding. Because it’s very difficult to do comedy.

AW: Nobody takes comedy seriously. That’s the problem.

SAK: Unlike drama, where the actor gets a lot of support from the sound team, light department, make-up and music, in comedy, it’s just you.

AW: In drama, you can cry a little more or a little less but, with comedy, you can’t do that.

SAK: The minute you go overboard, you lose the plot. If you underplay your part, the audience will lose interest.

AW: It’s very difficult. We take comedy too lightly.

SAK: Even Jim Carrey doesn’t win any awards when he does comedy whereas he is a phenomenal actor. But when he does serious roles like in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, they say, ‘Oh, wow, he is such a great actor!’

AW: I have done serious roles and I do it with absolutely no problem, like in Jolly L.L.B. Sehar was a cakewalk for me. It’s the other roles that make me work really hard and leave me drained.

SAK: This is a really fun film. You have to actually say ‘CUT’ because you’re lines are making you laugh!

AW: And I find it really difficult to control my laughter. In Ishqiya, we had a serious problem Vidya (Balan) and I used to start cracking up all the time.

BOI: Are you biased towards comedy?

AW: I enjoy doing comedy. I told Sameer I wanted this film to work because I want this film to become a franchise and I do this film every two year. This was like a vacation, a seriously funny vacation. It’s better than laughter therapy.

BOI: You have had a very long journey in the industry. How would you sum it up?

AW: It has been a roller coaster ride. I will admit that I am not the brightest and the best. And I am very grateful for the life I have. But, talent-wise, I think I am pretty good.

BOI: What about you, Soha?

SAK: I think he is pretty good too.

AW: They are asking about your journey. (Laughs).

SAK: I know that, I was just complimenting you.

ST: In real life, she is a very funny person, very different from the serious characters she has played.

AW: She looks serious but she is funny. I look funny but I am serious (Laughs).

SAK: I am very happy.

AW: She is very secure.

SAK: Yes, I am very secure. It may come from my family background or my educational background or maybe it’s just who I am. I like the space I am in; I like my work; I like the money I am making. My career is very much a part of my life but it’s not my whole life. I am very happy with other parts of my life too.

This is the third profession I have taken up and it may not be my last. The important thing is to have a versatile mind when you’re in films, whether you’re an actor, whether you become a producer or you do real estate... I think I have enough work experience and qualifications to think about that.

BOI: 2014 will ring in with Mr Joe B Carvalho. Do you think it will be a good year for the industry?

AW: Either it’s going to be great year for us or a bad year for us, one of the two (Laughs).

SAK: If people go to the cinema with an open mind, I don’t see why they wouldn’t like this film because it’s really fun with truly laugh-out-loud moments and whacky characters.

AW: Compared to the comedy I have seen, it has got tons of humour and good, clean, funny moments. It doesn’t make fun of other people and it doesn’t kick someone below the belt. We thought, if nothing else works, at least it will make people laugh. (Laughs)

SAK: We have tried to use humour that is not new but we haven’t seen in our films for a long, long time. We are not saying that Grand Masti should not have been made but that’s not the only kind of humour. There is space for sex comedy and we celebrate it but we should have space for alternatives too.

AW: This is a good space and we hope people like it.

BOI: Sameer, you’re going to start your career in 2014…

ST: I know, and one of my favourite films Sholay is also releasing on the same day.

AW: Someone had commented on the same thing and I said I had never imagined I would ever compete with Sholay. Yeh kahan se aa gayi, yaar. God is great. It’s like tum kuch bhi achchi picture banao, par Sholay se jeet ke dikhao. During Munna Bhai, there was this rumour that I had won the National Award for best supporting actor. Later, I realised I didn’t win. It was the person who played Gandhiji that won the award. I was, like, I cannot compete with Gandhiji. Politicians decide on these awards, so they would obviously give it to Gandhiji, right? It was hilarious! I think God had planned that chalo tumhare saath koi aur film nahi aa rahi, toh Sholay daal deta hoon.

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