Vicky Kaushal and Taapsee Pannu get candid with Asmita Sarkar about how India needs fresher content to take the cinema forward with grace.
Love has been explored repeatedly in films across the world because of how deep and universal the emotion is. Every human reacts differently to making stories more interesting and novel. In search of novelty, director Anurag Kashyap, known for dark films, has taken a page out of Anand L Rai’s book and made a foray into the romantic genre with actors like Vicky Kaushal, Taapsee Pannu and Abhishek Bachchan in a love triangle, Manmarziyan.
“The emotion of love is constant through the ages. There was a time when holding hands with a partner on the streets was a taboo but today it’s not. Nobody will judge or stare. This old couple in my building one day told me how he met his wife. She was his good friend’s sister. ‘When I saw her for the first time I sent a letter to her dad asking permission to marry her,’ he told me. Back then, you would seek the legit route like or meet chori chupe. My parents, for instance, met only once before the wedding. And my 25-year-old mother moved to Mumbai from a small village in Punjab. We might think that the emotion of love has changed but it hasn’t. Be it in the 1950s or now, you get the butterflies when you fall in love. You feel like doing something extra. Not just first love but every time love happens. It is only the identity of love that changes,” said Kaushal, who plays a brash and demonstrative lover in the film.
Pannu, on the other hand, believes that we’re getting closer to reality in terms of portrayals of man-woman relationships.
Both are director’s actors, but one seeks a thread of connection to the character she would play while the other seeks out the uncertain and the uncharted. As Pannu told us, “We have to connect to a part of the character. I’m not a trained actor who can brilliantly just become a different person altogether. I will become a different person but I need one common thread between me and the character. Once I find that, I build the character over that. That one thread I will find, be it as Shabana, Meenal or Aarti. In Manmarziyan, I connected to the character because she doesn’t believe in log kya kahenge. She has no inhibition whom she’s answerable to. There’s this line in the film, which I believe in as well, ‘joh log zyada sharm karte hain woh aage jaake suicide kar lete hain.’ She believes that there is one life and it’s short. I can live for myself or for others during it. But others aren’t living for her, so why should she? She takes decisions with what she’s happy without bothering about who’s looking or thinking what, which is quite close to how I am in real life.”
She said that playing the average Indian girl is her USP and she plays on it. “I need to understand what will my audience relate to. We have been making aspirational movies since generations. There are enough of them. Now, we make some relatable content. I’m not saying that the women playing divas on screen are in anyway lesser but that’s their forte, this is mine. I’m an average Indian girl, I represent an average Indian girl and I use that as my biggest strength and weapon, that I can be the voice of an average Indian girl. For me, they are the audience and they buy the tickets for my films. I choose to be relatable to them than be aspirational,” she added. To do a film, where she’s unsure, the director needs to be a Midas. Nothing short of it would convince her to take it on otherwise. “I’m a director’s actor. They have to bring out something from me which even I didn’t know existed,” she added.
However, Kaushal’s take on how he chooses his characters is wildly different. He calls himself a “greedy actor” who wants to explore and scare himself to the fullest. “I want to jump into territories in which I feel I can’t do this. I want to be unsure of the fact that I can do this,” he said, adding that the audience wants to be surprised and see different work, conceptually, by treatment or character while 15-20 years ago they preferred seeing actors in set roles.
His hardest role so far has been for Raman Raghav but he surrendered to the director’s vision without having doubts. “It’s like scuba diving, I am scared of deep water bodies. If I’m scared of a character, let me just dive in without doubt. The director will take me there. Raman Raghav was a character to which I couldn’t relate at all. I felt that character was emotionally, mentally very far away from me. He was edgy, had a drug problem, he had an unprotected and unsecured upbringing. No shade of that was applicable to me. We were shooting nonstop, the space of that character was claustrophobic,” he said.
Ask him about how he is in real life and pat comes the reply that he’s both Clark Kent and Superman. “As a person, I am diametrically opposite, I am very close to Deepak in Masaan and Vicky in Manmarziyan. Deepak is close to the guy you’re talking to and Manmarziyan is close to my alter ego. That character is flamboyant, eccentric and impulsive. You play Punjabi songs he can dance all day. He doesn’t think of consequences, he’s earnest and lives his emotions to the fullest. If he’s happy, angry, jealous or sad, he won’t bind it. He’ll cry like a baby. There’s red and then there’s yellow and no range between that. He doesn’t understand responsibilities and is terrified of commitment. There’s two sides of me, there’s a Clark Kent and a Superman. I’m both. Vicky Sandhu is the Superman, the one you’re talking to right now is Clark Kent,” he said.
Talk to both about stardom and they seem incredulous about it. While Pannu doesn’t take it seriously, Kaushal is very grateful to the love he’s been receiving.
“Thank god Abhishek is not sitting next to me. He hates this fact that I don’t take it seriously because I still don’t feel that I am a star. For me the definition of a star is someone in whose name a movie would sell. The audience buys tickets just because my name is on the poster and think that it’s worth spending my hard earned money and three hours which will never come back. When my audience has that mentality, then I will be a star. Then I will shout at the top of my voice that I am a star. But until then, I have to work for it,” she said.
For Kaushal, it still hasn’t sunk in. “One day somebody called from the trade and said you know everybody says you’re an A- lister now. I said, you’re saying this I don’t know.” He says he’s been working non-stop for two years which is why his movies are coming in like an avalanche and he’s grateful that they are well-loved. “The process of filmmaking is temporary but the reaction isn’t. It makes us immortal as a character and that’s the best thing,” he said.
Ask them about the pressures of being on social media and they seem unfazed. Unlike older actors who have a difficult relationship with showing a glimpse of their personal selves to the world, the younger lot takes it in their stride. “I handle my account myself. There is no agency handling it for me. I think I’m quite frequent updater of my profile and I visit it frequently. I don’t believe in what others would think. It’s my profile, if I don’t tell people what to post you can’t tell me either. So, I let myself free which is why I can come up with something fun to post in the first place. I post about what I am truly. Otherwise, it would be a dead profile,” said Pannu. While Kaushal says, it’s all subjective. “Sometimes I’ll just make a video out of my bedroom and post it, if I feel that’s right and making sense. I don’t think a lot about it,” he said.
Pannu will be seen romancing both, Abhishek and Vicky. So, when asked who’s the more fun co-actor among the two, she said both are “boring” and “Ramji types.” “Abhishek is a conventional prankster. I love his sense of humour. Vicky is the perfect good boy you want to take home to meet your mom. Nobody is buzzing with crazy energy or doing some crazy stuff. Both have a good sense of humour but they’re not naughty or bad boys. They’re not edgy,” she said. Asked if she’s a prankster too, she added, “I’m not a prankster, I’m a little bit of a bully. That’s what I did to Anurag, shamelessly, every day on the set. I do it even now.”
Writer: Asmita Sarkar
Courtesy: The Pioneer