With Prassthanam releasing next week, actors Ali Fazal and Satyajeet Dubey talk to Bhavi Gathani about their experience of working with Sanjay Dutt, the rustic and intense flavour of the film and their upcoming projects on digital platforms
Prassthanam is an out and out action and political drama. What draws you, as an audience, to such an intense film?
Ali Fazal (AF): I think the USP of the film is such. There is everything. There is politics, drama, action and we have also put songs. It has interesting flavours that will bring back old memories of the cinematic legacy which we have grown up watching. All this is clubbed with modern-day politics.
Satyajeet Dubey (SD): But I genuinely believe that it’s not just another potboiler. It’s not a typical masala Hindi film. I think the writing and the characterisation is layered and nuanced and I think I can say that every character is an author-backed role and then as an actor you have to find out your meat in it and flesh it out. But there is a lot to do with every character and everyone has given their 100 per cent.
In such a dialogue-heavy film, how difficult is it as an actor to match to the intensity of these dialogues?
AF: We are part of the film. The film is us in so many ways, so it’s not like we have to buy ourselves into it. Those dialogues become heavy because humne usko sehaj ke ek moment banaya hai uska.
SD: When you are feeling from deep within and when you project it between action and cut, then you are performing. You are living that moment and you want to live the truth of that moment. For every scene, first I need to convince myself to convince my director and to convince the audience. Am I right, Ali?
AF: Why are you asking me? Are you mad?
AF: It’s too late now. Now the audience will only answer this.
SD: No, but genuinely you need to be convinced about it. And I can’t talk about anyone else but I was completely into it as much as I could.
AF: (To SD) I wasn’t, right?
SD: (Laughs) Speak for yourself!
AF: Matlab, what is this? Only you were involved in the character kya?
SD: These are the effects of sibling rivalry. (Laughs)
So how much of these improvisations happened while you shot Prassthanam?
AF: Sometimes, we almost choreographed improvisations. We had to improvise it, fix it and play it. I have done that for the first time, so it is scary that the dialogue is being written impromptu but it also is a very interesting process.
SD: I remember a scene when I was at the edge of the 12th floor and saying some dialogue… Deva (Katta) was like ‘Satya, I don’t feel it when you are saying it. Say something else.’ You are at such a height and you can see the pool at the bottom. Obviously you are harnessed and everything but you are still scared as hell. At that time, a lot of lines come from inside. So many times it happened to me that I have said things which I didn’t even think but it just came out because of the situation I was in. In this situation, your director is pushing you and you keep improvising your lines and then finally he says, ‘Now this is sounding good’. Such improvisations kept happening on set.
I remember, there was this pre-climax thing where there is hand-to-hand combat happening between Ali and me and he really helped me out.
AF: What was that?
SD: Aree yaar… I don’t want to reveal the plot.
AF: No, but give me some hints because I don’t remember.
SD: The railway track scene where we were fighting and you were beating the hell out of me. I was not getting that one line. We all were looking for that one small line which will become the final nail in the coffin. At that time, Ali said why don’t you say this and when I said it and it made absolute sense. It worked and we immediately went ahead and got the take.
AF: Toh agli dafa apni scripts likhwani ho, mere paas aaeyega zaroor…
Ali, you just said that the film has the feel of old masala films. But at that time, the heroes were expected to do the right thing. Now films have grey characters.
AF: Which is where the film is merged with the modern time. Our trailer shows you that Chunky Panday comes out looking like he is the villain of the film. Actually he is just the opposition leader and not the villain. The villains are all inside the family.
So as an actor, what attracts you towards such characters?
AF: Nobody should be attracted to a grey character. (Laughs) Look, I got this film at a time when I had just finished up Mirzapur and I had just worked with Tigmanshu (Dhulia) sir. This film was perfectly placed. There was only two months gap after I got done with the previous work. I was just lucky. I got a call from Sanjay Dutt and he asked me to come on board. Satya was already part of the film. I was really excited.
SD: We both are hardcore Sanjay Dutt fans.
Was it intimidating at first to work with him?
AF: He is such a giving actor. He is very sweet and he takes care of everybody on set. It was easy. We were actually afraid because we have been hearing stories but he is the total opposite.
How did you groom yourself for your characters in terms of attitude and looks?
AF: My character is a straightforward guy from an upper middle class, privileged family. Khandaani log hain. All the pieces that I needed were already there in the script. I have this thing - my movie gets made when I know my costumes. That’s me. I have a thing for that. I sit with my costume department before I start a film.
SD: When I heard the script for the first time, I found it really exciting. The kind of character it is and to get into the psyche of the character was a traumatic experience for me to play that part. I couldn’t empathise with him and I couldn’t relate to his decisions.
AF: (To SD) I want to ask you something… this is a really tough thing for an actor to play a role that he can’t relate to. How do you justify the character you are playing? How do you remove your whole persona and just get into the character?
SD: For me, if you are narrating a story and if I am sucked into it, then it’s like a virtual reality game. If I can see those characters coming alive and if I can see that they are talking to me and I can be that character, somehow it just happens. A lot of it is there on paper and you start believing in it. By the time you are on set, it just happens. I don’t know how it happens but it just does. It’s a very personal thing. And if you don’t believe in the character, you just can’t act it out. For this role, I used to keep a distance from the people who are close to me.
AF: And you were grumpy.
SD: Yes I was grumpy. I was trying to maintain the anger in me throughout the film. I couldn’t switch off. I hope it comes off well on the screen and I hope people see it.
Ali, any update on Mirzapur 2?
AF: We finished shooting it. Mostly it will stream early next year.
SD: (Suddenly shouts) Guddu bhaiya… Guddu bhaiya…
AF: Aree what are you doing?
SD: Sorry yaar, I am really excited about it. So we were promoting the film in Lucknow, Jaipur, Delhi… Sanju baba, Ali, Jackie (Shroff) dada, me, everyone. Sanju baba enters and we understand the excitement. He is the man of the masses. But when Ali enters… Oh my God! It was like he has given a 200-crore film. The kind of euphoria I saw was really magnanimous. It was beautiful. It was heartening to see that. The kind of stardom these OTT platforms enable, it’s just amazing.
Satyajeet, you saw the stardom of Guddu bhaiya. Any plan of foraying into the digital space?
SD: Well, I am working with an A-list director. It’s a big series, it’s a great character. I am playing one of the leads in the series and I am really excited about it. It’s a human drama. The backdrop is this big event that happened a few years ago and then how these people are dealing with it. It’s a great opportunity for me. And there is another film, a horror-comedy, which will start in March next year.