The lead pair of Phata Poster Nikhla Hero – Shahid Kapoor and Ileana D’cruz – in conversation with the Box Office India team
Ileana D’Cruz (ID): It was the craziest narration I have ever heard. Rajji (Rajkumar Santoshi) was very animated and it was a three-hour narration. He had us in splits. He enacts every character with corresponding dialogue. So, whether it was my part or the other characters, he acted out everything. Half way through the narration, he had us laughing and we practically fell off the sofa. It clicked in an instant and felt like a mad movie. There was no other reason to get on board the project. The only apprehension I had were how the hell was I going to do it? It was a challenge and an extremely entertaining story.
SK (Shahid Kapoor): Rameshji (Ramesh Taurani) had been telling me to work with Rajji for the longest time. One day, he told me, ‘Dekh, mere pass title hai ‘Phata Poster Nikhla Hero’. Ab tu ye film kar le.’ Rajji knows exactly what he wants from his actors. He is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. You have got to see him to believe it. Even while on the sets between scenes, he would narrate some hilarious incidents in the most hilarious way!
Also, I’ve been wanting to do a film in this genre for a while. I had no idea who I would be with but the minute I heard the narration, I knew if I copied the way Rajji was narrating the film, I would be fine.
BOI: Now that the film is complete, how close is it to the narration?
ID: Probably even crazier than what we heard. (Laughs)
SK: Yes, because we have some extremely talented artistes in the film like Saurabh Shukla, who is playing a really crazy character. Then we have Sanjay Mishra, who is extremely funny; there’s Padmini Kolhapure ma’am; and Darshan Jariwala; Zakir Hussain and many others. There are a lot of actors who are really good with comedy and each one has added to the script.
With Rajji’s films… like Andaz Apna Apna, where you not only remember Salman (Khan) and Aamir’s (Khan) characters, you also remember crime master Gogo, Teja and the other characters. All the characters in his films are very well defined; all of them have a very clear role to play and he casts accordingly.
ID: To be very honest, I haven’t watched Phata Poster Nikhla Hero mainly because it scares the hell out of me to watch a film of mine. I didn’t watch Barfi! for about five weeks after its release. The only parts of this film that I have watched are the portions I’ve dubbed for. It sounds so ridiculous that, while dubbing, I simply burst out laughing. I have been hearing some really nice things from everybody. This is one madcap film and the fact that I am laughing while watching my own scenes is a good thing. I think this film has the Rajkumar Santoshi stamp. No one does comedy better than he does.
SK: I’ve never played a character like this and have never done a masala entertainer before. So, in every way, it’s very different. And my character Vishwas Rao exists only in Rajkumar Santoshi movies since no other director can think of a role or character like this. Neither can there be a character as animated as he is, in real life.
BOI: Did you have any apprehensions?
SK: Two or three years ago, I might have had some but in the last couple of years, I’ve been hosting shows meant to make people laugh. Since they seem to like these shows, I am more confident now and this was the perfect time for me to do a film like this.
BOI: Ileana, your first Hindi film Barfi! was very different from this one. Did you have any apprehensions?
ID: Now you understand why I am so stressed? I am worried that people perceive me in a certain way, that I will only do serious roles. That’s not how it is. I love madcap humour. So it was a deliberate call on my part, to do a genre that was something different from Barfi!. I like to keep challenging myself, and that’s how I have always planned my career. I’ve always done roles in which I have something completely different to offer.
BOI: Shahid you’ve worn some very colourful clothes in the songs, and even mouthed dialogue like, ‘Vinod Khanna doctor kab ban gaya yaar’. What is the response you’re getting?
SK: (Laughs) Yeah, people are very surprised because this is a new avatar for me, like the songs you mentioned. It’s a very colourful, massy film. I have been getting some very positive feedback.
ID: (Cuts In) We shot for the film together but there was this one particular scene where I wasn’t there and I watched it on YouTube. It was hilarious!
SK: (Cuts in) She was once dubbing for the film and messaged me, saying, ‘This film is damn funny, man!’ (Laughs)
ID: There are so many characters and it’s not just about me or him. There is so much more happening. It is very well put together.
SK: I am getting so many calls from people saying, ‘Itne time se terko bol rahe thhe aisi picture kar aur ab jaake tu kar raha hai, dekha kitna acha lag raha hai.’ People say there are some films one must watch with the audience. And that’s precisely what I plan to do, to gauge the reaction to the film.
ID: I genuinely didn’t think I would be successful after Barfi! and wondered whether I would get any offers after that film. Perhaps because the only films I have done down South have been commercial films, romantic comedy films, masala films and so on. After Barfi! did well, I got a lot of offers but they were serious roles. So when Phata Poster... came along, it seemed like a good thing to do a role like this one.
I don’t mean to distance myself from the South industry; I simply want some balance in my career. Also, if I am starting a career in Hindi films, I need to give it undivided attention and commitment. You can’t keep jumping between two things. At some point, you have to focus on one of them.
BOI: Shahid, considering the kind of films you do, do you see PPNK as a one-off film or is it the way you initially wanted your career to shape up?
SK: Honestly, my decision is not based on how the film performs at the box office. Obviously, I hope people like it and all that. I had a lot of fun making this film, and not just this one, but Rambo Rajkumar as well. This is the first time I am going out there and playing roles that are meant to purely entertain. I realised that while I was doing it, hum logon ko dekhne mein jitna maza aata hai in log ko banana mein bhi itna maza aata. I am sure I will do more films like this because they are just so much fun.
There are certain films you do to entertain and then there are films you do to push yourself as an actor, to prove yourself as a performer. I have really enjoyed doing this film and am definitely going to do more movies like this one.
BOI: What is the buzz from the trade for this film?
SK: I guess you guys at Box Office India are in a better position to judge but I have heard that the film has got very good buzz and is looking good from the trade perspective. But when you are promoting a film, people around you know more about the film’s response. For example, people I interact with on a day-to-day basis, like my staff… They have been saying the film will do exceptionally well. But then, again, according to them, every film I do will do very well! So I can’t take them seriously.
But I have been receiving text messages from industry people including some who I connect with just once in two years. They too have given me a positive response, which matters a whole lot since the people you meet often tend to be biased.
The music of the film has done well, which is always important for a film. Five weeks of promotions has been devoted to the music. The films we are now making are of diverse genres. Like one never imagined a film would ever earn more than Rs 210 crore, as Chennai Express has done. The way the market has changed is amazing, especially for actors of our generation. We need to go out there and reach out to as many people as we can because this genre can attract a massive audience across the country. As actors, we need to clock numbers like that. But it’s not the genre that limits us; it’s the reach that limits the collections of a film in this genre. That is why I am making an effort to reach as many people as possible.
SK: I have learnt to enjoy them. As an actor, you feel, ‘I am here to act, mera kaam hai acting karna camera ke samne.’ And when you start doing promotions, it is initially very hectic, it takes a lot of time and is exhausting. But in the last couple of years, mainly because I took big breaks between my movies… I have gotten out to meet people after a year. So the first time I walked out and got so much love, it was a really nice feeling. I have been visiting a lot of colleges and events, where the aam janta is there and I have been interacting with people who will watch my movie. They give you so much love and I have started to enjoy that.
ID: I am very new to understanding the core reason why people promote so much. I am still getting used to it. I have not done things like going on television shows. I have only promoted films on talk shows, where you interact with the host like an interview. But to be on a show, where you have to be yourself and people get to see you for the person you actually are, is very nerve-wracking and a little intimidating.
SK: (Cuts in) I barely used to promote my films before. Now I am open to going out there. Unlike before, where actors looked different on screen than in real life, now with so much exposure and access to an actor, they connect more with the person that the actor is. They automatically start liking them and they go and watch their movies. Many people I have met during promotions tell me that after meeting me, they feel like going to watch my movies.
I think stardom today is more about communicating and not about building a persona, where people feel they can’t reach you. The more accessible you are, the more love you get from the audience, including social networking sites.
BOI: Rakeshji (Roshan) was here last week and he said…
SK: (Cuts in) Yes, he said ‘Promotions have become an expensive contest.’ There is a difference. I am sure he understands these things better than I do, but I think it’s a generational difference. Also, I think with changing generations, perspectives are also changing. Earlier, there were no social networking sites and socialising took place in very small groups. Today, socialising takes place on a global platform. And we have to accept that. It is a larger reality that is speaking for our society. People are feeling the need to connect with people across continents, who speak different languages. Everything is becoming global and we need to work with those parameters as well.
SK: No, it actually becomes scarier. There are so many actors doing so many hit films like Dabangg, Singham and Rowdy Rathore. I did this film because he is a funny cop. Unlike all the others who are larger-than-life characters, here is a struggling actor who is a paid cop. All he wants to do is save face and the only worry he has is that mere face pe chot lag jayegi mera career shuru hone se pehle khatam ho jayega. He makes that filmy entry because he is the kind of guy who has always dreamt of becoming an actor. And he’s the kind of cop who wants to solve crimes without getting involved in the mess. That’s what makes him different from any other cop. I mean, I have never seen a fake cop, a crying cop or a cop who does pole dance!
BOI: For the last three years, you have done just one film a year.
SK: Yes, I should be doing more films. I have three films lined up – Rambo Rajkumar, a film with Vishal Bhardwaj and one more after that.
BOI: But why did you decide to do just one film a year?
SK: Maine decision nahi liya tha. Aadmi jab flop picture deta hai, toh usko lagta hai agle din set pe bhej do taaki main koi acchi se film doon. You don’t want that period where you want an unsuccessful film to last for so long. You want to get over that and remind people of something else immediately. But it was just a series of coincidences. First, Mausam took a lot of time and then I was supposed to do Shuddh Desi Romance. It kept getting delayed and then it got further delayed for six months. So it just happened that for three years, I did just one film a year.
I was unhappy with this as I worked in the industry for 11 years and was not used to having no work. I did not enjoy this period. A lot of people thought that Shahid baithke kuch plan kar raha hai. But I was not planning anything; I was just hoping ke koi picture start ho jaye.
I always say that during a horse race, there is a door which opens and then the horses run. I felt like mera darwaza hi nahi khul raha hai. Everyone was running and my door had slammed shut. I felt, like, please yaar, koi mera darwaza toh khol do. (Laughs)
BOI: There is this divide between films… some are tagged as ‘multiplex’ films while others as ‘single-screen’ films. How would you categorise Phata Poster...?
SK: I think it is a film for all kinds of people.
ID: Anyone can watch this film, from an eight-year-old to an elderly person. Everyone will enjoy it and it cannot be categorised.
SK: The film will entertain everyone because there’s plenty of comedy. There are also many songs as well as action. There’s romance and some family drama too. It’s the whole package. The film was assigned a ‘U’ certificate, so it is literally a universal film.
SK: Rameshji has always been extremely kind to me. Whenever he has a new subject, he always asks me to do it. I guess we have a special equation because after he launched me, there has been a special connection and he has a lot invested in me as an actor. In fact, before I started acting, I used to visit his office pretty often. The other day, we were shooting for a behind-the-scenes for the film with a camera following me. So I took them to the Tips office and I asked them to pan the door. I said, ‘Yeh darwaza hai na main iske bahar pehle struggle karta tha aur ab main darwaza todd ke ja sakta hu koi nahi rok sakta hai.’ Rameshji has seen me grow as an actor and I will always be grateful to him.
BOI: A final question for both of you. Phata Poster… releases on September 20. What do you hope the audience gets out of the experience?
SK: I hope this film makes the audience laugh, and enjoy some wholesome entertainment. I hope it’s a good stress-buster for them and they return home feeling good.
ID: I wish for pretty much the same. I want them to experience the kind of happiness and laughter we shared while making the film.