While promoting KAHAANI 2 Kolkata, actress Vidya Balan (V) and director Sujoy Ghosh (S) were at their vivacious, candid best, pulling each other’s legs talking about the film. Any signs of the supposed cold war between the two once upon a time are absolutely put to rest as the director tries to teach his actor snatches of Bengali nursery rhymes, and she mocks him with them. Here are the excerpts:
Only a few days are left before the release of KAHAANI 2. How does that make you feel?
V- Wow. You just made us realise that (laughs).
S- Bhoy pawachish keno re? (Why are you scaring us?)
V- But I think it’s a good feeling, a lot of excitement in the people, and in us of course. Everyone who’s seen the trailer is waiting for Dec 2, and the thing is, that they’ve all liked the trailer, and they’re trying to figure it all out.
V- I’m not nervous.
S- I’m a little nervous.
V- That’s his second name (laughs)
How are the promotions going? What has been the feedback so far?
V- I’m thoroughly enjoying them. Unlike KAHAANI, this time Sujoy and I are promoting equally, and I realised that he is not as boring as I thought and can be quite fun. Even with Arjun, it’s been great fun. I like promotions to be a fun thing you know. And so far, the best feedback has been that people have been trying to come with their own little theories and their own kahaanis of the trailer and they are all trying to figure it out. That is really exciting.
S- You do promotions before a film, but after a film, you never find out how the film did. But now, during the promotions, we are getting to find out what they thought of KAHAANI, which is really nice for me. It is the greatest feeling on earth, when people actually tell you what they thought of the film, as they never got a chance to say it before.
V- (To Sujoy) Kaandbe na, kaandbe na (It’s okay, you don’t have to cry).
So, are these expectations, this pressure more because of the success that KAHAANI was? Is it because somewhere there is a need to live up to the first film?
V- So, there was pressure, until about the trailer released, people kept wondering or asking “Is it gonna be as good?” But after the trailer, honestly, people have stopped asking questions. They know that it’s a completely different story and they are trying to do their own Maths. That’s taken a certain pressure off, and somewhere, they’ve bought into the plot of KAHAANI 2. So that way, it’s like the first step has been achieved. But I have to tell you, even before the trailer, I was not nervous. He (Sujoy) was, and I guess he would be, because if it’s my baby, he is that much more when it comes to calling it a creation.
S- Even when we started the film, I think one of the most pressurising points was to find the right story. But like we told people, we never set out to make the film that would be better than KAHAANI. We wanted to make a film which we believe in, a story which we really wanted to tell, and that was the basic intention. It was the same intention which we had for KAHAANI. KAHAANI was never made to create history, or some iconic character etc. It was just for making a film.
V- And also, if we didn’t rid ourselves of the pressure before we started KAHAANI 2, we would have never been able to tell the story at all. If we had to constantly compare shots and everything, it would have been impossible. Because just as no two days are the same, these two films are definitely not the same.
But having said that, there will be a section of critics who will be comparing the two films, the characters, shots etc. Do you think that’s fair or is it just inevitable?
V- It’s completely natural. It’s human tendency to compare, so that’s okay. But we’re very sure of what we’ve put out.
S- It’s like a restaurant. Each restaurant has its own group of stalwart followers na, no matter how good or bad the food is.
V- Kya baat hai, what an analogy..waah. Kisi ko vada pao acha lagta hai, toh kisi ko biriyani. (Wow, what an analogy. If someone likes vada pao, someone likes biriyani.)
Why the wait. What took four years?
V- Why the weight? Why have you put on so much weight? (Laughs)
S- You saw how much I ate just now? No seriously, I don’t know re. I think just trying to find the right story. And maybe the excitement…I had to find something that would excite us. And that just ended up taking four years.
Was Vidya always your first choice?
S- Yes, she was.
What was the first day of shoot like? Were you comfortable knowing that you were on familiar territory or were you nervous?
V- You know, Sujoy and I knew each other and we have worked before, so there was that comfort, but the rest of the unit was new. And we had shot for KAHAANI quite a few years back, and I was wondering whether we had changed or not, and we hadn’t. I think it’s good that there were new people because there was nothing that we could take for granted. We were on our toes throughout, and there was a lot of energy and though we missed the people who were on the previous film, nonetheless, I think it worked well. The madness in him and me is still the same.
What was it like, working with Arjun Rampal for the first time?
V- I enjoyed working with Arjun. He’s so easy. He laughs a lot, very easily, and he’s exactly like that on set. And I’m like that too, I like to get along with people on set, and I laugh a lot too, so finally I found someone who’s exactly like me. And as an actor, he’s wonderful. He’s doing a variety of roles, and this will just add to that. And it was very interesting to see Arjun in this kind of a space. He gelled so beautifully, that it was great fun. He even talks as much as I do.
S- And if I want to put it on record, if Vidya didn’t talk or laugh so much on set, we could have finished the movie earlier. (Both laugh). No seriously, Arjun is a tremendous actor, and even when we were looking to cast someone for his role, he was the first one who came to mind. And he has no airs about himself and he is a great person and a great actor.
How has the equation between you two changed in these four years?
V- I’m much wiser, much more composed, and I handle myself with maturity and wisdom. (Quoting for him) and I don’t get upset at all.
S- And I don’t get upset at all.
V- And I must tell you one thing about Sujoy, he’s reverse age. (Both burst out laughing).
What is the one thing that you like and hate about each other?
V- I really admire the writer and director that he is, because I really think he borrows from life. And it’s really interesting as in whatever he makes. Even the short film called ‘Ahalya’ that released some time back, it has space, it has energy and I love it. I’m someone that is very impatient and restless and his films are very realistic and maybe even raw. But a lot of times films lack energy and space, and his films combine both beautifully so it’s very potent and alive, and there’s this palpable energy and I love that. What do I not like about him? The rest of it (laughs out loud).
S- That was going to be my answer. I like the fact that she is a very good human being, and that is very important in being good at whatever you do in life.
V- Oh why, just because I said good things about you, so you’ll say good things about me?
S- No, no, I really think you’re a good person.
V- Thanks (laughs)
S- Yeah, and I don’t think you need a reason to like or dislike somebody, it’s just instinct. I remember seeing this ICICI ad of hers, and that was the first time I wanted to work with her. How old were you that time?
V- Probably 21 or 22 years old.
S- Yeah and I don’t know why I wanted to work with her then, but I did, and after a few years I met her during SALAAM-E-ISHQ and HAZAAR SAAL BAAD, hum dono ne Kahaani banai.
V- Yes and I must say this, I didn’t really mean everything else, what I genuinely admire about him is that he is the same with everyone else, the technician to the actors to the producers to the audiences…he meets everyone with the same familiarity and warmth. It’s another thing that the same thing could upset me on a bad day but I do admire that a lot. (laughs loudly).
What is he like on the sets?
V- He’s mad! He’s nothing like the films he makes! Not at all, not a patch! I think it’s a split personality, that the person who makes the films and the person on set are two different people.
S- No re. (Very vehemently). I told you na, I’m very intelligent, mature, composed.
V- Apne muuh. (You’re saying this about yourself).
It’s been 11 years since PARINEETA. What has changed? Do you treat success differently?
V- What remains unchanged is my hunger, my passion for what I do. A lot else has changed. I don’t treat success differently; I value both my success and my failures as much.
S- But I think our quota of experiences has changed.
V- Yeah, I was just going to say that my age and my marital status has definitely changed and the fact that our films are crash courses in human behaviour, because as an actor, I’m dealing with another person’s life, and therefore living two parallel lives. And then you’re meeting so many people. You get to understand people that much better, so your experience is far more deep and intense. And I am an intense person.
You’ve always done films that are very woman centric in nature. Was that a conscious decision or did these scripts just happen?
V- I think I’m at the centre of my universe, and I am a woman, so I’m automatically geared towards women centric films and women centric films gear towards me. And I’m getting such exciting, varied parts to play, and such compelling stories, I don’t feel the need to stray away from them, honestly. So it’s not a conscious decision, but I’m just very happy with the kind of films that I’m doing.
What is a normal day for both of you, when you’re not working?
S- I’m looking for work.
V- I’m just sitting back and chilling and waking up late and having chai, spending time with family, with Siddharth, with my niece and nephew, cleaning…I’m a huge cleanliness freak…it’s a pet passion. Then maybe I’ll watch something, or read something or even listen to some music. And sometimes just doing nothing while sitting for hours. I enjoy that.