The lead pair of Dil Juunglee, Taapsee Pannu and Saqib Saleem, in conversation with Suranjana Biswas and Sanghamitra Gogoi
Box Office India (BOI): In the first teaser poster, both of you are covering your faces with a book. What is the significance of that?
Taapsee Pannu (TP): We did not want to reveal that we were a part of the film. There are certain procedures that we have to follow. We wanted you guys to first interview me so that we could bank on it, and reveal it accordingly.
Saqib Saleem (SS): The trailer always comes out the day after.
BOI: The trailer looks like a fun ride. How much fun did you have shooting for it?
SS: We went on the sets and did all kinds of nonsense. Matlab raita phelaaya hai. What we realised when we met while shooting is that all the actors, not only the two of us, think alike. We were also fond of similar things, so we eventually formed a group called the launda gang. There are more girls than guys in that group, though… just three guys. We had a mad ride, really enjoyed each other’s company.
TP: The vibe that you get from the trailer is the same that we felt on the sets. It is not just about two people; it is also their friends and how they influence their lives, their decisions and how they become a part of their love stories as well. The off-screen craziness translated on-screen.
BOI: Tell us about your respective characters.
TP: I do not relate to the character of Koroli Nair. Koroli and I are nowhere on the same level. Actually, the name got me really excited. Usually, I play characters with names like Meenal, Shabana, Seema, etc. It was a challenge for me since I do not identify with her personally. Even my look is quite different from what the audience has seen of me in all my films so far. I would call the character ‘daft’ or slightly immature, and she has a persona like that of Alice in Wonderland, where she believes that everyone around her is nice and whatever happens is all good. There is no evil in the world. She lives in a bubble; she has no sense of reality. Although she is very rich, she does not have attitude. She lives in a protective shell. The crux of the story is about what happens when she steps into the real world and her bubble bursts.
SS: I identify with this character a lot because I have grown up in Lajpat Nagar; I went to Aleya (Sen) and said you can’t get a better Sumit for your film. The character is this loud, out-there kind of guy. Even if I am not like this, I have observed people like this closely.
I connected to this character and his insecurities, strengths and weaknesses; I have understood the guy really well. I have performed very freely. He says just about anything. After doing films like Bombay Talkies, Hawaa Hawaai, I enjoy doing commercial films. It is easy to make people cry but it is really tough to make them laugh. I took it up as a challenge. Besides, I haven’t done a happy film in a while.
Sumit is basically a boy from Lajpat Nagar, Delhi, and was raised by his mother as a single parent. He is the kind of guy who bunks school and is not fluent in English. He wants to be an actor but luck is not in his favour. He is waiting for that one moment where he will be noticed by big directors. He believes that if he succeeds in getting these directors to notice him, they will fall over themselves to cast him in a movie.
He loves going to the gym and believes that if one has a good physique, one can become an actor. When I was 20-22 years old, I was obsessed with going to the gym and wanted to be an actor. Sumit is an animated guy when he speaks to people and I could immediately see the similarity between him and me.
BOI: What difference does a woman bring to a film as a director?
SS: I feel a woman brings a different perspective to a love story, a script or a film. She will always have a different point of view. I have had the good fortune of working with three directors who are women in my short career so far. They have a different vision, especially coming to Aleya, she is an ad filmmaker and has made some lovely ads. We have done a music video together and Taapsee too was a part of it. We worked so well together that it translated in the film as well.
TP: She is a Bong (Bengali) raised in Delhi.
SS: She understands what she is trying to create. I believe the character of Koroli is actually Aleya and the character of Sumit is actually Aleya’s husband, Amit Sharma.
TP: Sometimes, Aleya used to enact certain scenes to make me understand them, which is when I realised that Koroli is actually her.
SS: The guy I play doesn’t have any filters when he speaks, which is very much what Amit is like. It didn’t strike me when I read the script, but while shooting, I realised how she came to picture this story in her mind.
TP: It is the perfect case of opposites attracting.
SS: Sometimes, when you love each other, you are not meant to be with each other but you are still meant to be together, and that is what these two characters are like. That’s the complexity of these two characters.
BOI: What is that one thing the audience will relate to in your movie?
TP: I think people, whether they are in their teens, twenties or early thirties, will relate mainly to the humour, and the situation we have created. Another bonus is the music. You will love the music and songs. We are happy that we have a great album, in which Arijit Singh, Mohit Chauhan, Guru Randhava and many more have contributed. There are times when the audio is enough to visualise what is there in the scene because the songs here have a powerful narrative style and obviously its gets better when you see the visuals. We also have a song which is not exactly sad but is melodious and you wouldn’t want to miss it. You will find a brilliant mix of songs in this movie. You will laugh, you will enjoy yourself.
SS: I think this is my strongest album to date and I have never had a better music album. The music is such a huge plus for the movie that it is difficult to decide which song is better. They are all power-packed. I also believe that when we grow up, our definition of love changes. When you are a teenager, you tend to be immature and you believe whatever your friends tell you and this influences your definition of love. Like Taapsee said, it’s a film that will bring a smile to your face. It’s a very high-energy film, which you can see from the trailer. Every frame makes the film look refined and beautiful.
BOI: Can you tell us one incident when your dil went juunglee?
SS: (Laughs) My heart has gone juunglee every time I have fallen in love. I had only just arrived in Mumbai, signed my first film and was single. I did not want to date anyone. I was at a coffee shop and I bumped into one of my friends. When I turned around, I saw this girl walking in and I immediately believed that love at first sight was real. She had come to meet my friend and after that, we met through my friend and dated. Your heart skips a beat and you know there is something magical happening to you. There are times when you think you won’t fall in love again after a break-up. But you know what? Life goes on and you fall in love again and again. In our picture, love happens just once; not again and again. Also, when you meet your friends after a long time, you talk about the same things that you would talk about in those days and laugh about it.
TP: When I meet my school or college friends, there is a crazy side that comes out. Those crazy moments might not embarrass them as much as they embarrass me. (Laughs) Now I have to think twice before I do any crazy stuff because now people know me. Even while talking, people would have to tell me to lower my voice and things like that. I think being crazy with your friends is the juunglee-est thing anyone can do.
SS: She’s right. When you hang out with your friends, you go crazy and you let go.
BOI: What did you like most about each other?
SS: I think Taapsee is one of the most fun girls and I have enjoyed working with her. I think her best quality is that she has focus. She dreams of something and achieves it. I believe we are all dreamers but somewhere down the line, many of us tend to lose steam. Also, she doesn’t like mediocrity and wants to do the best for herself as well as the people around her.
TP: While making this film, I got to meet different kinds of people with varied talents and there is so much I am going to take away. Saqib is easy to talk to and I found that I could talk to him about anything. In fact, some of our conversations would embarrass some people as we have no inhibitions. Also, the kind of language we use would burst the bubble that surrounds us as actors.
SS: When we first met, we never tried to put on a front. We realised early on that we were very similar in terms of tastes and preferences. Also, since we both come from Delhi, we share a similar culture and language. We did not pretend to be something we were not. So we let our guard down and enjoyed every moment that we had.
BOI: How do you guys plan to promote the film?
SS: By talking to you. (Laughs) Is there anything better than Box Office India? Box Office India rocks. It is the number one trade magazine in the world. (Laughs)
TP: We want to show people that we are real and that is exactly how we come across on screen. So we are going to be ourselves. I think the audience will understand that this is the chemistry they will be seeing. That’s the only strategy we have.
SS: The best thing is that we have no strategy and this is just a fun picture and we had a lot of fun making it. That is what we want the audience to see when they come and watch it on March 9. I promise they will have a smile on their faces when they leave the theatre.
BOI: What projects are you looking forward to?
SS: Taapsee is doing Mulk next, and then Soorma and Manmarziyan. I have Race 3 and another film that I want to do… that will only happen after Race 3. Soon after that, I will work on the next. That’s it!