Producer, writer, actor… How did you manage to don so many hats for Chutney?
Since I was a child, I used to bite off more than I could chew. Acting is a passion, my true love. Writing is a natural skill. And becoming a producer is born out of desperation because the kind of stories I want to tell are just not being made. Our company The Eastern Way has just started producing commercials with actors, content for the web and features. We’re looking at producing cutting edge material.
What’s the film about?
Chutney is such a common food item. It’s in everyone’s fridge and is the most taken for granted element in Indian food. Yet, if it’s missing it takes something away from the meal. Likewise, the most seemingly innocuous people can have hidden depths. Don’t judge a book by its cover. On the surface most chutneys look alike. But you can’t tell how spicy a chutney is till you taste it.
Share something about your role. Heard you have a very different look in it…
Driving around, I always look at people in autos, in cars and catch little vignettes of their lives. I sense an insatiable curiosity about what their stories could be like. As a writer, I can weave any story I want. We judge people by the way they look. But what if they’re not what we think them to be? Vanita, my character in Chutney, is an ordinary woman. You would never notice her. But, how she thinks and what she does may surprise or even shock you. Being ‘pretty’ is such a boring thing. With a little Photoshop and filters anyone can look good. I’m not interested in just looking good. I’m interested in looking right for the part. People will be surprised by my look in Chutney.
Why did you choose to shoot the movie in Chandni Chowk in Delhi?
Chandni Chowk is a character in itself. And the story demanded that we delve into the lives of people who have known each other practically all their lives. If one house makes chole, the other house makes the puri. That’s the feel we wanted. Paswan House, where we shot, has a structure that was necessary to the story. It holds within its enclosed walls a shocking secret. There is a sense of claustrophobia there that was essential for the story.
What’s unique about this short film?
For those who have liked watching Breaking Bad or Fargo and are fans of Edgar Allen Poe or Roald Dahl… Chutney is a story on those lines but with an Indian soul and spirit. It’s what I call ‘deliciously dark’ with a twisted ending.
How was it working with Adil Hussain?
Adil is one of the most fantastic and giving actors. He brings such a warm energy to the set. He has been a part of some amazing films like Life Of Pi, Hotel Salvation, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and of course English Vinglish. He has trained me in certain aspects of acting and is a dear friend. He was delighted with the script of Chutney.
It’s going to be screened at Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) 2016. Excited?
What better than to have your film premiere at the land of Dalai Lama? I wanted to go but Jyothi Kapur Das, the director will be attending. I am waiting with bated breath for the online release.
Are you co-producing a web series with Balaji?
We might be. Ekta Kapoor has liked a concept and we’re close to sealing that. Ekta gave me my first break (Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii) when no one was casting me. So she will always be close to my heart. Plus she is an involved producer with a sharp vision.
What’s your take on this new medium of web series’?
Right now it is like the Gold Rush in the Wild Wild West. No one knows what will fly and what will sink. Everyone is rushing in and making more and more content for the web. Ultimately, the web watching audience will decide. A few key players will emerge. The good thing is different stories will be told, not just the hero-centric recycled stuff that we see in the movies.
Recently, we saw you handling a marriage proposal on Twitter like a pro. Pretty sure that has inspired many women around… how does it feel?
That was just an off the cuff fun remark that went viral. Frankly, I was surprised. I say crazier things in person and my friends don’t even bat an eyelid. I guess people are used to seeing the super serious actor. So they don’t know my funny and sarcastic side. I hope I can do a mad comedy soon because that will be so much closer to my personality. I’ve had to work hard to make people cry. Making them laugh seems easier.
Your take on the following:
Casting Couch – The last respite of the untalented.
Marriage – A huge clash between biology and civilisation.
Love – A hormonal reaction that accelerates your heart beat and dilates your pupils.
Feminism – Another name for humanism. Because 50 per cent of humans are females. You want to save humanity? Then you gotta look out for the women.
What are the songs you have on loop in your current playlist?
Bulleya (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil) and Patakha guddi (Highway) is my theme song. Also, I am addicted to Adele.
If you had a time machine, which era and city would you prefer to time travel?
The Victorian Age. What smashing fashion, parties and galas they had! And, I love waltz.
Your 4am friend in the industry?
I’d like it to be Johnny Depp or Ryan Gosling. But they haven’t sent their numbers yet. Also, time wise it would work out well as it would be 4 pm in Los Angeles when it’s 4 am here.
Describe yourself in five words.
Don’t need five words, one is enough – passionate.