Anubhav Sinha, director of the upcoming Tum Bin 2, interviews the leading pair of the film, Neha Sharma and Aditya Seal, at Box Office India
Anubhav Sinha (AS): Neha, what is your first memory of cinema?
Neha Sharma (NS): Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) made a big impact on me.
AS: No, what I meant was, when was the first time you saw the big screen?
NS: I was in sixth grade, which is when I watched DDLJ.
AS: What about you, Aditya?
Aditya Seal (Aditya): I can’t say, specifically, but I remember the film clearly, it was Jurassic Park.
NS: I too remember Jurassic Park, as in going to the cinema hall and
watching the film. But, among Hindi films, it’s DDLJ.
AS: DDLJ released before Jurassic Park.
NS: What is your first memory?
AS: Zanjeer. The scene in which the kid is looking through the cupboard while his parents are being killed…. Amitabh Bachchan.
AS: When did you first decide to become an actor?
NS: I never thought I would become an actor.
AS: When did you decide, ‘Yes, I will take up acting’?
NS: I remember watching the Oscars. I don’t know why but I was obsessed with the Oscars. We used to have exams at the time but we would still wake up early to catch the telecast, watch the Oscars before leaving for the exams. I was always fascinated with cinema.
When I did my first film, I didn’t really know what filming was all about. I thought it would be like travelling. It was only after I finished shooting and watched myself on the big screen during the premiere that it struck me that this was huge… this is what films mean.
AS: The night before the shoot, was there a transformation from being a regular girl to becoming an actor, someone who would be facing the camera the next day?
NS: No, I felt very normal. The good thing about my director was that he asked me to be myself.
AS: What about you, Aditya?
Aditya: I did my first film when I was 14 years old, Ek Chhoti Si Love Story. It attracted many controversies, which I didn’t understand at the time. I hadn’t read the script, so I didn’t know what the story was about. I was asked to come on the sets the next day. The first time I watched the film with my family, we took my dadi, uncle, aunty, everyone, along. And we didn’t know how to react!
AS: Do you remember the moment you delivered your first shot?
Aditya: Yes, it was the first day of the shoot and I was asked to sit and look through a telescope. We started at 9 am and all I had to do was look into it. Somehow, I wasn’t getting it right, and I was getting very nervous as we had to shoot the film in 16 days. It was a very tight schedule and the director was getting angry about the actors he had cast as he was wondering how he would complete the film. Somehow, after lunch, the shooting proceeded very smoothly, so there is a connection between me and food!
AS: I remember you eating even before giving your audition for Tum Bin 2.
Aditya: Yes, somehow I deliver better after I eat.
AS: When was the first time ever that you heard of the brand Tum Bin?
NS: Very early, I think the trailers must have made an impact. It was all about the visuals and, of course, the songs.
AS: Aditya, what memories do you have of Tum Bin?
Aditya: I didn’t watch the film at that time but I remember the songs being very soulful. They are fresh even today. Chhoti chhoti raatein was one of the best numbers from that film.
NS: Name a few unforgettable memories from Tum Bin?
AS: Lots. Like getting a call from Dev (Anand) saab, getting a call from Dharmendra sir. Someone called and said ‘Main Dharmendra bol raha hoon.’ At first, I didn’t believe it was him but after he spoke his second sentence, I recognised his voice. The whole industry called me, I was 35 years old but it was my first film and everyone loved it.
NS: That’s good.
AS: What is it about acting that gives you immense pleasure?
Aditya: Delivering a scene exactly as it should be delivered gives me immense pleasure. I keep doing it till I get it right. My director has to get what he wants. When something is written and you add something to it, when you start living the character, add an extra dimension to it, that satisfies me.
AS: Name some moments like that from Tum Bin 2.
Aditya: There are many… like the watch sequence, the way I wanted to give the watch and enact it.
AS: Have you ever asked yourself what matters more… acting or stardom?
NS: The reason I am here is not because of stardom, I am here because I am passionate about acting. I am passionate about everything that has to do with cinema. When you make a film, there’s a lot more to it than just acting, like reading a script, reading so many characters, so many perceptions. A film is a collaboration of so many things, from costumes, to camera, to dialogue, make-up, drama, everything about cinema excites me, especially the cinematographer’s job as I am inclined towards photography.
AS: So you are not interested in stardom?
NS: No, that’s excess baggage that comes with being an actor.
AS: Why do you call it baggage?
NS: It’s a byproduct but it’s also baggage because sometimes you don’t want that… because there is a lot of responsibility that comes with it… what you are drinking, where you’re going, there are thousands of people following you. When you are a star or a celebrity, you can’t take your own decisions; you have to be very responsible. That’s kind of scary for me.
AS: What’s the difference between being a celebrity and being a star?
NS: A celebrity is someone who is famous and there are thousands of celebrities. You don’t follow every celebrity, whereas you follow stars. There are only a few stars. So a celebrity is famous but you don’t idolise them.
AS: They would write notes and what beautiful notes they used to write during the shooting. I sneaked into their notes so many times and tweeted something else. Once Neha got very upset and she thought it was not funny.
NS: Sir, I have a very wry sense of humour or maybe because what is funny to other people may not seem funny to me. And he tweeted that … That is just the way you look at things.
AS: Yes, I too thought it was funny but you didn’t. And you sulked for two days.
NS: I have sulked many times.
AS: What was the happiest moment for each of you after we started rolling Tum Bin 2? I know I gave you a lot of stress before we started shooting.
NS: Yes, we both were not sure if we wanted to be part of this journey together. The biggest moment for me was when I got the script and I read it, which was a while later. Usually, you get the script first and everything else follows but here it was different. The script came a few days later. I mean, we were meeting and everything but I got the script after that.
AS: After you were finalised?
NS: Not finalised, but we were having meetings and things were falling in place. So I knew the film might just happen but the script came to me later. When I received it and I finished reading it, my first thought was that Taran was a beautiful character and I wanted to play Taran.
AS: Taran is not a very feminine name.
NS: Yes, people tell me it is a male name.
AS: I don’t know very much about Punjabi culture and I had not heard of this name for a woman.
NS: So where did it come from?
AS: Well, a very dear friend had his first crush on a woman named Taran. He was just 15 years old then and didn’t stop talking about her for 20 years later. The name therefore surfaced from my subconscious. There are two other sisters, one is Manpreet and the other Gurpreet.
AS: What was the most depressing feeling I gave you while filming?
NS: Too many. (Laughs)
AS: (Laughs) most…
NS: Sir, I honestly cannot pick one.
AS: They were all one better than the other.
NS: On a serious note, during all the films I have been a part of, I am used to…
AS: …being pampered?
NS: That I am, and that didn’t happen here. But that didn’t depress me. The only thing that bothered me – ‘depressed’ is a very strong word – was not being able to see my shots on the monitor. Whenever I am performing, I like to look at the monitor because I want to deliver my best. But this time, the control was with you.
AS: Not even me, even I wasn’t watching the monitor.
NS: It was a call that you took, it was not like a collective decision. So that really bothered me, because I didn’t know if my performance was good enough.
AS: It is normal to feel anxious about that. Remember, seven days after we started the shoot, I kept asking everyone whether we were really shooting a love story because, after a week, I started feeling that this was not a love story. Everyone used to scold me and say ‘of course, we are making a love story.’
Aditya: He asked me once and even though I felt otherwise, I assured him that we were making a love story just to boost his confidence.
AS: Even you felt we were not shooting a love story?
Aditya: Yes, because we were shooting all the heavy scenes earlier.
AS: And, Aditya, what was your most depressing moment while filming?
Aditya: It was the first day of the shoot as I felt the first scene I did was horrible.
AS: You felt that way till the very end.
Aditya: Yes, till the end. I feel it was the worst I had delivered. But there was another person at the other end of the phone, in the scene, and you assured me that was how you wanted it. So eventually it balanced out well.
AS: You know, there is always a difference between what you feel and how something comes across. While filming Tum Bin Part One, we were shooting a scene with Priyanshu (Chatterjee), who had a lot of lines and who also had to cry in the middle of them. The shot was set, it was a close-up, he delivered his lines beautifully and he showed perfect timing with his tears. But the scene didn’t come across as it was intended to. I told him it came across as flat on screen. He said, ‘Sir, but I felt it inside.’ The thing about him was that he used to cry without glycerin. He was also a new actor back then and was working in a film for the first time. So it took us three to four days to see the growth on his face. Even Aditya can cry without glycerin.
There are actually a lot of similarities between Tum Bin and Tum Bin 2, both parts have a Bengali hero and a Bihari heroine. The composer of both films is a Tiwari. Then it was Vinay Tiwari and this time, Ankit Tiwari. So there are many similarities of this nature.
AS: I remember, I was working with Pankaj Kapur sir and we were taking about the joys of acting. In the movie Dus, he showed me that character he had played in seven different ways before the shooting began. He showed me the same scene in seven variations and then he asked me which one I preferred and why. I said, ‘I can chose one scene but to answer why would be difficult for me.’ He insisted and I asked him why he wanted to know the reason. He said, ‘I will deliver what you ask but I want to know the reason so that I can bring out that reason in the entire film.’
NS: Which were your happiest and most miserable days during Tum Bin 2?
AS: All were good.
NS: No, mention the most satisfying day you had, one that made you feel really good.
AS: The most satisfying scene I have done in my career, to date, is the Shekhar dinner sequence. That is probably my best writing, best-edited scene, best performed and best shot scene. It was completed in two and a half days.
NS: Yes, I remember you were very happy.
AS: Every time I watch it, I feel very proud. I would be really hurt if no one talks about that scene after watching the film. I am hoping to have that scene mentioned in the reviews.
Moving on, Neha, and I have had a very topsy-turvy relationship since Neha had already worked in a couple of films and had experienced a certain style of filmmaking, which I personally opposed to. I don’t apply that only to the actors but also to myself. So there are certain luxuries.
NS: (Cuts in) Sir, that was not the reason I was upset. Our approaches to making a film are different.
AS: What are your expectations from Tum Bin 2?
NS: This is a very myopic question for me. The sky is the limit. I want a lot from the film as Tum Bin became a cult film and, even if it stupid to compare both, I want this to be another milestone. I want people to remember it and say ‘this was a special film’. That would be a victory for me as an actor. And I am not talking about the box office.
AS: You have to talk about the box office as you are at the office of Box Office India!
NS: Yes, the box office would be great but I want to see the film doing something fantastic. I want people to look at Taran and say, ‘I love her.’
AS: Aditya, you know how happy would you be if the budget of your next would be doubled after this film.
Aditya: Can I tell you whom I want it to work with?
Aditya: Farhan Akhtar.