A week before the release of Arjun Patiala, a cop-based spoof, lead actors Diljit Dosanjh and Kriti Sanon talk to Titas Chowdhury about coming aboard the project, working in a comedy film, the Friday phenomenon and their upcoming line-up
Let’s start with some of your favourite cop films.
Diljit Dosanjh (DD): Amitabh Bachchan’s Zanjeer. It is an amazing film. It had my favourite actor, Pran sir. It was so entertaining.
Kriti Sanon (KS): Apart from Zanjeer, I would mention Dabangg. It was a different kind of cop film. We had not seen anything like that before. Then there was Singham. Simmba also performed really well.
Let us rewind a little. Kriti, in 2015, Diljit had interviewed the cast of Dilwale for a channel in Punjab and you were in awe of him. Was working with him always on the bucket list for you?
KS: Back then, I had expressed my desire to work with him. Sometimes it so happens that when you give something out to the universe, it happens miraculously. Now when we watch that interview video, it seems funny. (Chuckles).
Take us through the process of how the two of you came onboard for Arjun Patiala?
DD: The producer of this film, Dineshji (Vijan) called and narrated the script to me. Riteshji (Shah) was also there. I liked it and that is how I became part of Arjun Patiala.
KS: I became part of the film in a similar way. I heard the narration and I found it very, very funny. This is a spoof comedy, a genre that has not been explored much before. I found the film to be quite different. That is how the film happened for me. Kaafi crazy comedy hai yeh! I usually love comedies; they are entertaining. This film is no exception and it tries to make you laugh.
DD: I remember asking Dineshji about the purpose and the theme of this film. He told me that there’s none. The purpose of this film is to laugh, enjoy and have a good time.
When we watch a comedy film, it looks like a pretty easy genre to pull off. As actors, how difficult or easy do you think it is?
DD: It is very easy. Bade aaraam se ho jaata hai! And it is a lot of fun to act in a comedy film. It is a plus for you as an actor when you are working in such a film because you can have fun.
KS: I like watching comedy films. I love doing them also. But I believe that making someone laugh is not up everyone’s ally. Diljit is naturally talented, so he can make people laugh. His comic timing is very good and he knows that. I was recently talking to Riteish (Deshmukh) during the shoot of Housefull 4. He is fabulous at comedy. He said to me that much like dance, comedy also involves and depends on rhythms. If you do not respond at the right time or to the right beat, then that scene will not be funny enough for people to laugh at. Riteish is someone who generally knows a lot about comedy. I have also worked with Akshay (Kumar) in Housefull 4. He too knows a lot about comedy and has an impeccable comic timing. To pull off a comic scene is difficult but it depends on the situation and a lot of other things. I believe that it is important to make people laugh.
From the trailer, which promises a laugh riot, it seems like you had a fantastic time and equation on the set. What do you have to say about that?
DD: It was so much fun!
KS: The most important thing about a comedy film is that you need to have a fun vibe and dynamic on the set. You need to keep laughing and be happy. One of the highlights of our set was that it had a Punjabi flavour to it.
DD: I believe that there can be different kinds of comedy. I do not know what timing is but Kritiji just now talked about reacting at the right moment and to the right beat. But what if we reverse it? Even if we do not respond at the right time, it can still make you laugh and it can be a comic scene. You can make people laugh and infuse comedy in any scene as long as your words are impressive. It is about saying things that can have a lasting impact.
KS: It depends on the reaction too. If I react subtly, you can still laugh. If I respond in a loud manner, even that can you leave you in splits.
DD: Not only timing, but off-timing is also an impactful tool (Laughs).
As actors, what is the importance of improvisation especially when you are working on a comedy film?
KS: I love improvising.
Did you constantly improvise on the sets of Arjun Patiala?
KS: Yes, a lot! Improvisations are very common in comedy films. Sometimes, our reactions are improvised while shooting. We have improvised a lot of scenes that you see in the trailer. The ‘easy bro’ phrase is Diljit’s addition. There was this one dialogue that was not there in the script at all. Improvisations used to keep happening. Our aim is to better the scenes as actors and we achieved that through a collaborative effort.
Kriti, you have turned a marketing guru for this film. We did see a few episodes of Arjun Patiala Marketing. As actors, do you usually keep tabs on the marketing aspect of your films?
KS: I can talk about myself here. I do try to involve myself a little bit. I do not interfere too much because marketing is something that is taken care of by a designated team. They, for sure, know what is best. I can tell them if I like a certain concept as an audience. If I think that it will not strike a chord with the audience, I do say it. If some idea strikes me and I feel that we can incorporate it and it can help the film in terms of the goal that it has set out to achieve, I convey it openly.
What about you, Diljit, considering you have produced films in Punjab?
DD: In Punjabi films, we decide the budget and the marketing techniques according to what we feel is the best for the film. I am actively involved in these aspects there. I need not be involved in the marketing of a Hindi film because there is a very good team here who decides it. The scenario is very different in the Punjabi film industry. We chalk out a plan to spend maybe an amount of one or two lakh or we give that amount to somebody who uses it to market a film according to their strategy. We divide up the amount in terms of how much must be spent on television and how much must be spent on social media marketing. I have a very clear idea of the amount that we are spending there for marketing. Marketing is a bigger sphere here in the Hindi film industry and it is something that I am not much aware of.
KS: This whole concept of budget is something that I have absolutely no knowledge of (Laughs).
But Diljit, is there any plan of producing a film here in the Hindi film industry?
DD: Why not? Producing a film is no big deal!
You are making it sound so easy!
DD: It is very easy. Do you want to become a producer?
DD: Then that’s a different thing. Do not be scared. (Everyone laughs) But anybody can become a producer.
Diljit, you have collaborated with Rohit Jugraj, the director of Arjun Patiala, earlier on films like Sardaarji and Sardaarji 2. Was this one of the reasons why you became part of this film?
DD: When I came onboard, the director was not decided. Rohitji came onboard much later. Earlier, the team included Dineshji, Riteshji, Kritiji…
KS: (Cuts in) No, I also joined the film much later.
DD: But I knew that you would join the film.
KS: But I was not told about it before.
DD: They told me about you. Coming back to your question, they told me that Rohitji would direct the film. There were a couple of other debut directors too. I met one of them too who gave me a brief on what we will do in the film. Then one day, the makers told me about this one director whom I have worked with before. They asked me if I would work with Rohitji? I said, of course! I thought that it is better to work with someone I already know than someone completely new. I am not saying that I will not work with a new director. I was also new at one point of time and people did not shy away from working with me.
We have seen you doing more comedy films in Punjab. Here we have seen you doing more serious films and roles such as in Udta Punjab, Phillauri and Soorma. Is there any reason why?
DD: I am hardly given comedy films here in Mumbai. I did get offered a couple of them but I did not do them.
KS: He looks very serious. But he is a really fun and comic person.
But why did you not do them?
DD: I rejected one or two of them.
Because the scripts did not resonate with you?
DD: No, I felt that I will not be able to pull those films off. For example… Well, I cannot tell you (Laughs)! I will tell you and then I will regret it. This always happens to me. I say things that should not be said. Not everyone edits them out.
We will edit it out.
KS: Don’t forget what you just said (Laughs).
DD: Okay, I will tell you later (Laughs).
Kriti, there was a time when we had fantastic female comic actors such as Manorama and Tun Tun. Then there was a phase when there was a dearth of comic roles for women. Do you think that the situation is changing again now?
KS: I do agree that more male actors do comedy and comic roles are mostly written for men. But I believe that it is never too late for things to change. Things have begun to change now. Srideviji was so good at comedy. She was mind-blowing. I am a fan. I hope more and more comic roles are written for women. Girls can also pull off a comedy film.
Diljit, we recently watched Shadaa which is still running at the box office. Kriti, we last saw you in Luka Chuppi that also performed well and you have some big commercial hits to your credit. Are you still scared of Fridays?
KS: I will always be a little scared of Fridays. But it is no longer a do-or-die situation. You work so hard for a film. So many people and their efforts are involved in a single scene. There is so much that goes behind every film. We give our all to our films. Every time a film is about to release, it feels like an exam result. You feel scared and you wish for the audience to like your film because films are made for the audience to watch them. The more people a film reaches, the better it is. Now I have begun keeping an eye on the numbers that my films are making. Even if I don’t want to, one person or another messages me the numbers. I don’t think I can do anything about that. But yes, I am quite curious about the numbers that my film is earning. After a point, you figure out whether your film is working or not. I am always anxious and I want my films to be good.
DD: What is meant to be will be.
So you aren’t nervous before a film releases?
DD: What is the point of being nervous? (Laughs)
KS: But being nervous is a good thing. Don’t we get nervous about things in general in our lives?
DD: I get nervous before starting work on something. I get nervous before going up on the stage. When it comes to the release of a film, I am not nervous because I have already done the film and I cannot do anything about it. Let us wait and watch what happens with this film. If a film earns well, I will work harder.
KS: And if it earns less?
DD: I just won’t talk about a film not doing well. (Chuckles).
KS: These days, the reviews start coming on Thursdays as films release in the UAE on that day.
Do you read the reviews of your films?
KS: Yes, all of them!
DD: I only read the headline.
KS: But sometimes, the headlines are misleading.
DD: Really? Often I retweet a review without even reading them. (Everyone laughs) If I believe that the reviewer’s intention is good, then I retweet without reading the entire thing. If I start clicking on every link to read them, then it will take up all my time. Do you know what happens if I read them?
DD: It makes me feel restless.
Do you think that Arjun Patiala will kick-start a whole new genre?
KS: I hope so. I wish people like it. If people like it and respond to it well, then more films can be made in this genre. I personally love spoofs. We hope there can be a franchise but it depends on how well it is received.
DD: Wait, didn’t they explore this genre before we did?
No, not in Hindi films.
DD: Oh wow, what have we done? This is a big deal! (Everyone laughs)
Diljit, any update on Good News?
DD: The edit is currently underway. I got a call from Raj (Mehta) sir recently. He said that it is turning out really well. Good News has a comic flavour but it conveys a sweet message. It is an emotional film laced with comedy.
Kriti, what is next on the plate for you?
KS: I have Rahul Dholakia’s next, which is yet to start. It is a thriller. I’m quite excited about it. But before that, I have Housefull 4, which is releasing on Diwali. I have Panipat. I am awaiting too many exam results (Laughs). I am excited because these films are very different from each other. Housefull 4 is a very successful franchise and it’s again in the comic space. Panipat is my first period drama. I’m working with Ashutosh Gowariker sir and Arjun (Kapoor) for the first time. I am a Delhi girl but I play a Maharashtrian girl in Panipat, which made it very challenging.