Vishal Bhardwaj is known for casting popular actors in unconventional roles. After getting the suave Saif Ali Khan to play the rustic Langda Tyagi in Omkara (2006), the filmmaker has attempted an unusual casting yet again. His Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM) will see Imran Khan, known for his urban romances, play a Haryanvi from rural India. We chat with the filmmaker who seems to be rather impressed by his lead actor.
One would never have imagined Imran in such a role. What made you cast him?
Firstly, I love playing with actors’ images. And secondly, I saw potential in Imran after Delhi Belly (2011). We were both scared when I narrated the script. He asked me if I was sure about casting him. I said if I can direct a film without any training, then anybody can do anything. I have learnt everything on the job. But I loved his honesty. Only when you know your weaknesses can you work on them. He’s earnest and wants to prove himself. I have worked with many actors — Ajay (Devgn), Saif (Ali Khan) and Shahid (Kapoor) — but I had the best time with Imran.
Do you mean he was a better actor?
That is a subjective term and I leave it to the audience. I am referring to the working experience. He didn’t come with preconceived notions, and he left everything to me. I could mould him the way I wanted. It’s the best thing an actor can do. And working with Pankaj Kapur isn’t easy. None of the others could have played Matru better than Imran. Taking on MKBKM is a big step for Imran. The film might be a turning point in his career.
Do you feel the responsibility?
I hope Matru takes him into a different league. People used to tell me that I had made a mistake by casting Imran, but he has proved everyone wrong. He has not only spoken like a true Haryanvi, but adapted the body language as well.
How is it working with young actors like Anushka Sharma?
I mature as a director when I work with young actors. They are eager to learn and experiment.