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Of Love & Longing

The lead cast of Sanam Re – Pulkit Samrat, Yami Gautam and Urvashi Rautela – speaks to Team Box Office India about their soon-to-release film

Box Office India (BOI): Let’s start with how each of you was approached for your respective roles.

Pulkit Samrat (PS): Yes, let’s start with the ladies.

Yami Gautam (YG): I got a call from Bhushan Kumar because we are already doing another film, Junooniyat, which we had signed before this one. I had just signed that and he said he had another script for me but that he would not narrate it to me because he said, “My wife would kill me. I want my wife to narrate it to you.”

PS: (Cuts in) I didn’t even know it was his wife who was going to direct it!

YG: Really?

PS: Yes, all he said was that it was a very beautiful story and that I should hear it.

YG: So I met her (Divya Khosla Kumar) and she asked me to meet her writer. They narrated the entire story and it didn’t take me long to say ‘yes’. I met Bhushanji and Divya ma’am together and they asked me what I thought of it. I told them I was blown away by the script and would love to be part of it.

Urvashi Rautela (UR): I got a call from Divya ma’am. When I met her for the first time, she was all set to cast me in the film and I was the first actor to be cast.

YG: (Cuts in) That’s what each one of us was told. We all were on board. (Laughs)

PS: Mujhse toh woh pooch rahe the… yeh kaisi hai… woh kaisi hai… dhokebaaz…

UR: Many believe that I got this film because of Yo Yo Honey Singh’s single Love dose but I signed this film first even though the song released first. I have a very good association with T-Series, I have signed a three-film deal with them and this is my first film with them. It is a treat to work with Divya ma’am, she is an amazing director.

PS: As Yami said, we were already doing a film with them, Junooniyat. So I got a call, ‘Arrey Pulkit, ek aur film hai toh zara aake sun lo ek baar.’ I said I had just signed a film with them… one more? I learnt that Divya was supposed to direct it, I met her and the narration happened.

Divya asked me if knew why she wanted to cast me in this film. I thought she would praise my looks, performance and acting or say that I am good at romancing on screen. Instead, she said there was a certain sadness in my eyes and that she needed that for her character. I don’t know whom to thank for the sadness in my eyes. She says I still have it and I am carrying it forward for the promotions of the film. That’s how I came on board.

I think this is the fastest ‘yes’ I have ever said to a film in my short career. When they narrated the film, Divya along with the writer showed me the visual references. All the locations were already there on paper, ‘Tum aise ghode pe aaoge, tum aise shirt kholo ge, yahan ek tree hoga, ladki ka haath tumhare haath mein hoga. Main toh wahin phisal gaya as I have grown up watching films like this.

BOI: Both of you had already started working on Junooniyat. How different was your approach to this film in terms of your chemistry?

PS: Actually, the film approached us differently.

YG: (Cuts in) I remember, we had just finished the first schedule of Junooniyat in Amritsar. We wrapped Junooniyat and had to start shooting for Sanam Re the next morning. They had to change my look for Sanam Re, so I was getting my hair done at midnight. I was amazed at myself and I remember calling my father and telling him that I didn’t know how I would do this. I am not a great actor who can switch on and switch off. That’s where the workshops played a very important role.

PS: Yes, we had already done a lot of homework. Before going on the sets, we had done a couple of readings and workshops.

YG: We all were always connected. Not only creatively but also the styling of the characters had already been thought of by Divya. In the film, we have a variety of looks, one being the adult look and the other being our teenage look.

PS: Yami literally cried when they decided that she needed to wear her hair in a fringe for the teenage look.

YG: We tried the fake ones but that didn’t work, so they said ‘cut’! I asked them ‘cut’ what? And they said ‘your hair’. I really did cry and still do because whenever they needed to shoot some patchwork, they had to cut my hair all over again!

BOI: Apart from the story, what was it about your respective characters that enticed you to be part of this film?

UR: My character’s name is Akanksha and she is a rich NRI socialite but she deeply believes in love and is a very decent girl. The best part about my character is that she is business-minded and ambitious but at the same time she knows what she wants from life. She also has an emotional touch, where she would do anything for the one she loves. Majority of my portions were shot in Calgary, Alberta. It was really cold and I had to wear short dresses and crop tops but I had a lot of fun while shooting for the film. She (Divya) is a strict director and very clear about what she wants.

YG: I play a character called Shruti. First, for me, I was excited that it was a love story. Not only the actor in me, but even the girl in me wanted to do a love story, and here I was the heroine of the film! The very thought of acting in a pure love story is very exciting. What I felt was very special about Shruti is the fact that there was an array of emotions that I got to display in the film, which unfolded as the situation changed. She is a fun-loving girl, who believes there is no reason a person should not smile, no matter what happens. But, when story progresses, you will see a vulnerable side to her too, which is what I really connected with. I think all of us have a side that is contradictory to what people see. I really liked that about my character.

Also, the transformation in her look got me excited. Any film that requires me to do some homework is a sign for me that it will take me somewhere. If something is easy to achieve, it does not appeal to me. When you have reason to push yourself, to pour your soul into a character and when you receive good feedback, you’re even happier. Amid the medley of thoughts, about your look, your character, etc, you know the result will take you somewhere and that you need to put in that much hard work.

PS: I am playing a character called Aakash, who is from a small town called Tanakpur. Study and work bring him to Mumbai at a very early age and the chaos of the city captures him, and eventually takes him away from his roots. That happens with everybody, leaving family behind to make a career. So my character is also caught up in that chaos, and moves away from his roots.

People build a wall around themselves, which happens with my character. Shruti’s character helps him break down those walls and rekindles the essence of happiness in his life. The film is about soulmates. How we always keep saying, humara soulmate hum dhundenge. But is it really possible to find your soulmate? Can you make an effort to find your soulmate? Or will destiny play a part in it? The film is about Aakash and Shruti and how they know each other from childhood and whether they end up or don’t end up together. Then there is Akanksha (Urvashi), who is a very pivotal character in the story because without Akanksha being the catalyst, the chemistry between Aakash and Shruti is just not possible. The screenplay is very interesting and I am sure the editor is having a tough time editing the film. It travels from the ‘90s to present day and keeps going back and forth.

YG: (Cuts in) Even the kids in the movie are phenomenal.

PS: I insisted that I play a six-year-old boy but because Yami couldn’t, they had to cast kids. (Laughs)

YG: I was actually asked if I could do the gestures that the little girl does, you know, facial expressions and how she delivers her lines. I told them she looks damn cute doing that but I might not. I had to ask them if we could do something similar.

PS: It was fun to pick nuances from the kids because it can’t be other way round.

BOI: Was it difficult to act according to the era? For instance, your characters’ six-year-old version was played by children but you also played the teenage character apart from the grown-up parts.

YG: For me, dubbing was very difficult. I had to do it twice.

PS: Yes, dubbing was very difficult because, obviously, the bass is less when you are younger. In fact, I was given a poem and asked to recite it with emotion. But reciting it according to two different ages was tough.

BOI: You have you seen the rushes of the film. How happy are you with the outcome?

PS: I am shockingly happy with the outcome. The kid’s portion with Rishiji (Kapoor) is very endearing. It’s so beautiful that I can’t even tell you how amazing they are. I saw it while dubbing though I didn’t have to do anything in those portions. And then there is one song which Shaan has sung, Chhote chhote tamashe, which is very cheerful.

BOI: You also had scenes with Rishi sir?

PS: Yes.

YG: He (Pulkit) shot the maximum with him.

PS: That was the deal!

YG: (Cuts In) I unfortunately had just one scene with him.

PS: I wasn’t aware of that. I thought it was just me… when did you shoot with him?

YG: I can’t say when or which portion.

PS: Yaar, that’s not done! Even I don’t know which scene is she talking about. But he is amazing.

UR: (Cuts In) Yes, Rishi sir is amazing.

PS: You didn’t shoot with him…

UR: I didn’t shoot with him. He is an amazing actor. I have grown up watching his films, Mera Naam Joker, Chandni… I love his craft and his passion for work.

PS: ‘Passion for work’ might sound like a regular phrase but at this age, and at this point in his career, you think, ‘what a pro he is!’ I switch on and switch off but it is not easy and he can still do it at his age. I think, among all of us, he did the most prep for his character. He has three different ages to portray, so he has prosthetics on his face for all three stages. At one point, he loses his memory, and that required an altogether different type of body language. In one portion, he is a little more gloomy and aged and, before that, he is around 60 years old, which calls for a cheerful type of body language, where he is the coolest grandfather. I think after this film, one can call him the official Santa Claus of India! It is very inspiring to work with him.

BOI: You also shot at various locations in snowfall and under other challenging weather conditions. Was it difficult to shoot?

PS: Not at all, what makes you think so! (Laughs)

UR: I am from the Himalayas… Uttarakhand, so I have grown up playing with snow.

PS: (Cuts In) But you must have worn woollen clothes, na, while playing with snow.

UR: So what!

PS: (Cuts In) I felt like calling Bhushanji and saying, ‘Can you please take your wife back? Every time it snows, she asks me to take off my shirt!”

UR: Oh, yes, right, there is this shot…

PS: (Cuts In) Yes, and not just one.

YG: (Cuts In) During the Leh-Ladakh shoot.

PS: We also shot in Kalpa, which is nine hours from Simla and the temperature there was around minus six degrees. It was snowing there.

UR: (Cuts In) Minus 13 degrees.

PS: Minus 13 degrees! I am hot blooded, so I felt like it was minus nine. There, we were walking in snow up to our knees and I was told to take off my shirt and Yami was asked to wear a sari. There is this one shot in the trailer where we are riding a cycle. At first, I was told, ‘Pulkit, Yami ko cycle pe bithao aur tum chala chala kar aao.’

YG: (Cuts In) And the moment I sat on the cycle, it half sank into the snow.

PS: I was not even holding the cycle and it was standing without any support because there was a thick layer of ice. It was very difficult and, then, she (Divya) would scream from a distance…

YG: (Cuts In) We couldn’t even see where she was!

PS: She would scream, “Pulkit, what are you doing? Why are you walking criss cross? Can’t you walk straight?” At one point, I thought of telling her, ‘Why don’t you come over and see how difficult it is to just walk straight.’ We would try to walk straight but we would end up somewhere else!

YG: So we told our dada (unit hand) to shovel up some ice over there but she didn’t even want that! She wanted a thick layer of snow.

UR: Do you remember the height of that particular thing in a scene where I was sitting?

PS: That was Pangong, I guess Pangong is around 18,000 feet.

UR: So, yes sitting over there was very difficult. It was the most difficult shot of my life.

YG: As I said, we used to feel very tired after the shoot.

PS: When we were shooting in Calgary, we thought it was summer.

YG: (Cuts In) Yes, so we could chill and relax.

PS: But it started snowing there as well!

YG: It happened the very day we arrived, and they were, like, ‘It is you guys!’

PS: (Cuts In) Bemausam, it was even shocking for the residents for it to snow at that time of the year.

YG: We bought woollen clothes after we arrived there in a small town called Waterton Lakes National Park. There weren’t any places to shop, I don’t know from whom and how we sourced the clothes – a jacket from someone, a muffler from somebody else.

PS: It was crazy! And then we shot at a snake habitat. So we would be chatting and, suddenly, there would be eight to 10 snakes slithering by… and these were rattlesnakes, not just any kind of snake. That location was crazy!

YG: (Cuts In) And you can’t harm them.

PS: I don’t know the name of that place but I never want to go back. I don’t know how Divya knew of this place. I think Divya and Bhushan honeymooned there, romancing between the snakes… a rattling romance. People have crackling chemistry; they have a rattling chemistry. I asked her how she came up with locations like this. There is this one scene where two of us are hugging each other and people told us that it looked like it was shot against croma but it was a real location. And it was snowing at that time. It looks very romantic now but, trust me, we would be hugging each other and as soon as Divya said ‘Action!’ someone else would scream, ‘Move, move, the train is approaching!’ So we would start running from there. Also, I think two to three people tripped and fell into the valley. We came back up with fewer people. (Laughs)

YG: It was difficult for everybody, including the crew and technicians, because in terms of lightning, we didn’t have much scope for retakes. Only I knew how I delivered my lines. I think the only motivation was the outcome, and we were very relieved and elated when we saw the response to the trailer and the music. Now everything depends on February 12.

BOI: Your film is clashing with Fitoor.

PS: We will be giving people a lot of entertainment on that day! I wouldn’t call it a clash. I think there are sufficient screens and with the number of films being made every year, it is not possible to get a solo release. If Dilwale and Bajirao could release on the same date, then Fitoor and Sanam Re can as well. I think everybody has their own audience and when people watch the first trailer, they decide what they want to watch and what they don’t want to watch.

BOI: Yami, the audience will watch the film on the Valentine’s Day weekend but what more can the audience expect?

YG: I think love is for every day, I don’t know why there is only one Valentine’s Day. Yes, it is special but…

PS: (Cuts In) Ab roz roz koun teddy bear dega!

YG: It is an undying emotion, something that doesn’t need a day to be celebrated, and this movie is not only for lovers. Sure, it is primarily aimed at the youth and at lovers but, like we spoke about Rishiji, I think he is the coolest grandpa. I think you will see a very cool chemistry between a grandson and a grandfather in the film.

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