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Lead pair of Heropanti, Tiger Shroff and Kriti Sanon, in conversation with team Box Office India

Box Office India (BOI): How did it all begin for you guys?

Tiger Shroff (TS): Ladies first!

Kriti Sanon (KS): I think Sabbir (Khan) sir had seen me in my Close Up ad and hence he approached me. I was asked to meet Sajid (Nadiadwala) sir and then Sabbir sir gave me a narration of the script and told me about the character. While listening to the narration, I was drawn in and reacted to it as a movie-goer would. I loved the story and the character, and we had a look test. That’s how Tiger and I met each other. There was a photo shoot, then I had a screen test, which was like an audition. The day we packed up on the screen test, Sabbir sir told me that we had to meet Sajid sir. On the way, he said, ‘Krits, in 10 minutes we will be signing the film.’ I was in shock because post-audition, the process usually takes much longer, a week to 10 days. But this happened so quickly.

TS: Mine is not such a long story. After I graduated from school, a lot of photos of mine were published in the newspapers and Sajid sir spotted me. One day, he contacted my manager, we had a meeting and Heropanti happened. And here I am!

BOI: You had a manager back then?

TS: Yes. I used to get offers while I was still in school and I eventually knew this was going to be my true calling. You see, academically, I was not very gifted but, physically, I was talented. So, I thought if I got a script which allowed me to express my talent, whether action or dance, I would take it up. Thankfully I was offered Heropanti during that time. Sajid sir told me the reason he chose me was my eyes. He said I had very innocent eyes and a tough body. He liked that combination.

BOI: When Sajid signed you, did he already have Heropanti in mind or was he keen on just launching you?

TS: Umm, that’s a very good question.

KS: (Cuts in) I think he already had Heropanti in mind.

TS: Yeah! They were basically looking for a fresh star cast. Besides, us, there are 23 other newcomers in the film. He wanted to do that, make a film with newcomers as he has never done that before. He has always worked with big stars.

BOI: Your debut film is called Heropanti and your father Jackie Shroff’s debut film was Hero. Was the title of your film derived from Hero?

TS: This film has nothing to do with my father’s film. They are two totally different love stories and the characters are totally different. My father and I are very different as individuals. The only similarity is that we have borrowed the signature tune of Hero and used it in the song Whistle baja.

BOI: Tiger, especially you, since you had been getting offers while you were still in school, what made you choose Heropanti?

TS: When I was in school, I was not in the least interested in acting in films. I was into sports. There was a time when I thought I would become a football player. Unfortunately, sports does not have much scope in this country, unless you’re a cricket player. So, after I graduated, I thought I would choose a career in the film industry as there were offers coming my way. Also, being a sportsperson, I had learnt to give everything I did a full 100 per cent.

BOI: What made you choose Heropanti over the other offers that came your way?

TS: Heropanti happened at a time when I finally decided to be an actor. It was the perfect launch pad because, not only is it an innocent and pure love story, it is also an action entertainer. It also has a completely new star cast, which made me feel so much more comfortable. It was very comfortable to work with Kriti as opposed to a senior actor. I think we were all groomed together, raised together, as it were, and that was part of the reason I chose Heropanti. Of course, the film also gave me a chance to show my talents.

BOI: You have been athletic since you were a child but did you focus on it more because of this film? What kind of preparation did you do for the film?

TS: Sabbir sir and I used to meet and chat a whole lot. He wanted to get to know me; he wanted to figure out my strengths and weaknesses so that he could highlight my talent and work on the weaknesses. There was a lot of discussion on how to mould the character according to best suit me. As far as training was concerned, I was prepared as far as dance is concerned. I also attended workshops because I am shy and I don’t open up easily. I don’t have many friends and I don’t have much of a social life. So opening up in front of the camera was tough. He made us go through a lot of look tests, photo shoots and workshops as part of my training.

BOI: What about you, Kriti, have you always wanted to be an actor?

KS: No, I am actually an engineer. I was born and raised in Delhi and I was always academically inclined. I had never acted in my life or done anything related to it. However, I liked to dance. When I was pursuing an engineering degree, in my second year, I thought I should give modelling a shot. It was a hobby and I thought it would be a great experience.

When I started shooting TV commercials, I grew to like being in front of the camera. Of course, commercials don’t require you really act but I began to enjoy the process more and more. My ad directors told me I had the ability to act and that I should explore it. Eventually, I started feeling that I could perhaps do it and turn it into a career.

My father is a chartered accountant and my mother a professor, so it was difficult to tell my parents that, after doing my B Tech, I wanted to go to Mumbai to pursue an acting career. But they have always supported me and it also happened that my father was working in Mumbai at the time. So I moved here and started looking for work.

BOI: You have also done a film down South.

KS: Yes. I first signed a Telugu film opposite Mahesh Babu. After shooting for around 25 days, I signed Heropanti. I was kind of simultaneously shooting for both films. Since I juggled both films, I completed them at around the same time. The Telugu film released in January.

BOI: Wasn’t juggling two projects hectic?

KS: Well, before that, I was modelling and studying at the same time. So I was used to a hectic schedule. In addition, the two films were in completely different languages and of completely different genres. While the South film was an action thriller, this is a romantic drama. It was very exciting as I had a bit of both. It took me 12 days to get used to the whole grind.

BOI: Has that film done well?

KS: Mahesh Babu is a superstar so we expect it to become a huge blockbuster. But it wasn’t a typical Telugu masala film. It was an experimental film, a psychological, action thriller. For a Mahesh Babu film, it didn’t do all that well but it did well overseas. Both our performances were appreciated and that was very satisfying.

BOI: Are you still open to doing South films?

KS: I don’t think I will have any restrictions. I think both industries work in a very different manner, so if I get a good project and I have a good role and the story is nice, then why not?

BOI: Since you are both newcomers and Heropanti is a romantic film, how did you guys break the ice and get comfortable with each other?

KS: Strangely, there was no ice to break.

TS: Yeah, from day one, we were very comfortable with each other although we are two very different types of people. She is very outgoing and confident and she likes to talk!

KS: A blabbermouth.

TS: And I am very shy and don’t say much. But her confidence is infectious and that rubbed off on me. She is such a good actor and can help her co-actors up their own game. You don’t want to …you don’t want… Sorry, I have been rehearsing these lines for her! (Laughs) She reminded me of my dad as she is bindaas. She speaks her mind and holds nothing back.

KS: I think it helps when you are types of different personalities. When you are a star son, you tend to think that I am so and so’s son. You kind of dream of becoming an actor since you were a child. And you know how the whole thing works… you assist directors, and they are absolutely sure about how these things happen. But with me, I was absolutely unaware of filmmaking and so was he. So we kind of started on a fresh note. Everything on the sets was a new experience and that’s how we gelled.

BOI: Since you are the son of a celebrated actor, was it comforting to have someone to talk to?

TS: Not at all. There is a level I have to achieve, there are expectations I have to live up to and that’s a driving force. The pressure of being a star son drives me. It is the force which pushes me to work hard because I want to prove how different I am from my father, how different we are as artists in the same field. In fact, after shooting this film, my respect for my father has doubled because I realised exactly how much goes into making a film.

BOI: More than success, it’s the goodwill that Jackie Shroff has built in the industry.

TS: Exactly! Nobody has a bad thing to say about him in the industry. It’s because of that goodwill that people have treated me very kindly and with so much warmth. I am very grateful to my father.

BOI: Doesn’t that put additional pressure on you?

TS: Of course, I have to live up to them. I have to do my job well and make my parents proud.

BOI: Now that the film is ready, how satisfied are you with the final product?

TS: As an actor, you’re never satisfied as you keep growing; it’s the urge to get satisfaction that keeps you growing. I think Kriti and I would not mind shooting the film all over again but at the same time we are very secure about our work, we are confident about the Heropanti team, especially our director Sabbir Khan, how he has presented the film and both of us.

BOI: Tiger, how would you rate her as an actor?

KS: (Cuts in) Please don’t start that. I don’t like all these ratings, yaar.

TS: 10 being the highest rating, I would rate her as…

KS: (Cuts in) Let’s just give each other 10 on 10, yaar.

TS: I was going to say 11. Chalo 10 on 10.

BOI: What about you, Kriti?

KS: 10 on 10.

TS: (Cuts in) No I am 9.5 (smiles).

BOI: You guys have started doing city tours. What kind of response have you received from the audience?

KS: We went to Jaipur and Ahmadabad and the response has been great. In Jaipur, the first event was in a college and the students were screaming while I was entering the gate. I remember thinking, ‘do they even know me’ or is it just because someone is coming. So it’s a great feeling. I have never seen such madness!

TS: I honestly thought it was too good to be true. We worked really hard for two years, and as newcomers, we have never been in the limelight as our producer and director asked us to prepare for our roles and focus on the film. So, when you’re exposed to the outside world, the response is overwhelming and you start thinking ‘is it scripted or is this really happening?’

KS: Yes, we were getting goose bumps when we were walking into that college with so many bodyguards.

TS: It’s such a good feeling when you get appreciation like that; it’s like you want more. I want to work twice as hard now. It’s such a great feeling when your work is noticed and appreciated.

BOI: There is a lot of buzz on Twitter about you. Are you aware of that?

TS: (Smiles) Oh, yes. You’re talking about my name, right? Well our job is to entertain people and if my name is serving that need, that’s fine with me. It’s a good thing and I look at it positively. People are noticing me through my name. Now if I would have to complain and say, ‘Arrey give me a chance, why are you doing this to me?’ No, I am nobody. If Shah Rukh sir and Salman Khan sir both till date have some negativity going around, people are not always positive about them. If people write negative about them, then who am I? I am nobody? It’s all part and parcel of the game I think. I really want people to criticise because that’s how I will improve, that’s how I will strengthen my weakness and that’s how I will grow.

BOI: Were you aware that the remake of Hero was being made? And did you want to be a part of it?

TS: I am thankful I am not. I was offered that film a long time ago but I was not ready to enter the industry. I also knew I didn’t want to do the Hero remake because I didn’t want to be compared to my father, that too his debut film. I can’t achieve what he did in Hero, which made him a star overnight. I didn’t want to mess with it. I am glad Sajid sir chose me to do Heropanti.

BOI: Apart from Hero, is there any other film of your dad’s that you would be happy to explore?

TS: Parinda and my father did a film called Shiva Ka Insaaf.

BOI: The 3D film?

TS: Yes, that was the first 3D film in Bollywood. My dream is to play a superhero, maybe Spiderman.

BOI: Speaking of superheroes, are you aware that Heropanti is releasing alongside X-Men?

TS: Really? I guess I might give my film’s premiere a miss, then! (Laughs)

BOI: Are you aware of the trade numbers, openings and weekends, given that you belong to a filmy family?

TS: If I say no, will you call me an idiot, sir?

BOI: No, obviously.

TS: My parents raised me as a very normal child. My father never wanted me to become an actor. They have always kept me away from the limelight because of the pressures on star kids.

BOI: What about you, Kriti?

KS: A little. Actually I started following the numbers after I decided to become an actress. But I think you don’t remember the numbers; you only remember a good or a bad film.

BOI: What do you have lined up next?

KS: Nothing right now.

TS: Nothing. We are totally concentrating on Heropanti right now. We can’t wait for the film to release and gauge the audience’s response.

KS: No, I don’t mind signing a film if I am offered one abhi.

TS: I am very concerned about Heropanti to consider something else right now.

BOI: So far, what kind of a response have you received from the industry?

TS: Overwhelming! The proudest moment was when my parents said they couldn’t recognise me. My mother said, ‘You can talk like this? You can do this also?’ That was a high.

BOI: What about you, Kriti?

KS: I really don’t know anyone in the industry. For the time being, Heropanti is my industry. My director and producer are very excited. My parents are very excited. They call me and text me whenever they see a song from the film on TV. They are very proud of me. Yeah, it’s a great feeling, my parents have already booked a ticket to visit Mumbai to watch my film. I don’t know whether there will be a premiere but there will be a screening.

BOI: Sabbir’s previous film Kambakkht Ishq released long ago. It had many Hollywood actors featuring in it but it didn’t do all that well at the box office. Were there any apprehensions about that?

TS: I didn’t even know he was the same guy who directed Kambakkht Ishq. When I met Sabbir sir for the very first time, I liked him immediately. He is a very genuine and gentle man. When he spoke, he sounded very confident. He is clear about his craft, he was clear about what he wanted and how he wanted to direct the film. Initially, we used to meet often as he wanted to get to know me as a person. So with the very first meeting, I knew I wanted to work with him.

BOI: What about you, Kriti?

KS: That thought did not cross my mind. The first time we met and he gave me the narration of the story, I was blown away. The way a director narrates a story tells you how the film will look, what the character is all about, and he was very clear about how he wanted the film to work out, how he wanted the film to flow, and how he wanted the character to act. I love the way he narrated the script and I believe he is underrated. I hope Heropanti gives him what he is due.

BOI: The film is not only a love story; it’s also about honour killings.

TS: Yeah, that’s definitely one of the key elements in the film. But we are not talking a whole lot about that.

KS: (Cuts in) I am surprised you guys know about it.

TS: At the core, it’s a love story.

KS: It’s not exactly about honour killings. The social issue is only an undercurrent, it’s not like the film is a serious film. Somewhere you feel it, you see it, but there is a message.


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