Vidya Balan’s career catapulted with the success of Kahaani (2012). For the second film in the franchise, also directed by Sujoy Ghosh, she teams up with Arjun Rampal. The duo visited the Hindustan Times office for a chat during which they were totally at ease. They kept ribbing each other and at times, even completed each other’s sentences. With their evident camaraderie, they spoke about the implications of box-office collections on a film, among many other topics.
Vidya, post Kahaani’s success, are you feeling the pressure to deliver with this film? Arjun, you are playing a cop in the film, which was earlier played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Does that add pressure?
Vidya: It’s not a sequel, so that takes half the pressure off. If we had come up with the film right after Kahaani, there would have been a lot more pressure. Also, honestly, after Kahaani, all my films haven’t worked (laughs), so, I feel no pressure. We are hoping for the best and I’m not feeling any pressure as of now. Also with non-stop promotions, there’s no time to think.
Arjun: When Sujoy narrated this project, he never told me it was Kahaani 2. He didn’t even tell me who was acting in it. We finished, I gave him a hug and said, “It’s the best film you have ever written”. I have seen Kahaani. And I genuinely believe that this is a more mature film. I asked him what the title of the film was and I hoped that he wouldn’t say Kahaani 2. But he did, and I asked whether Vidya was going to be in this film, because I could only visualise her in that part. He said yes. Even though it is a new product, comparisons will be drawn. But at least I’ll know that we were a part of a very special movie.
How important are box-office numbers to an actor?
Vidya: I think after Kahaani (2012), it (success) has become about numbers. Now, people are telling me you are the female hero. I don’t understand that. Let me do what I enjoy doing, which is acting, so I stick to that. I promote the film but after the release, I switch off mentally.
Are you worried about the effect of demonetisation on the film’s collections?
Vidya: I think, initially, there was a worry. But we are being positive and hoping that it won’t affect our movie as the situation is looking better. I think people do want to see a film.
Arjun: I am very scared as I don’t want a repeat of Rock On 2. I was told that everything was under control but I saw a long queue outside an ATM (recently), so I am like, “Are we really under control?”
Vidya, you have worked with Sujoy (Ghosh; director), but Arjun was new to the unit. How was it working together?
Vidya: Arjun has known Sujoy longer than I have. They have an equation. Sujoy and I were the only imports from Kahaani, so it wasn’t totally unfamiliar. Arjun and I had met socially, but we didn’t know each other. But on the first day of the shoot, he gave me a warm hug when he met me, and that broke the ice. We had a sense of comfort from the word go.
Arjun: I was a bit nervous, as I had seen her works. I thought she would be a serious actor with her own methods. But she is the biggest child on the set — she’s a complete prankster and has a great sense of humour. She makes things easy for everyone on the set. She is a serious actor who has her own manner of working.
Vidya, people say that you have slowed down in terms of work and what you are doing. Does that bother you?
Vidya: Not at all. I did take a six- to eight-month break last year. I had time to make some serious lifestyle changes, mainly with regard to sleep, and I worked on that. There was a time when I used to sleep at 3 or 4 in the morning. Now I can actually sleep by 10.30-11pm, and that’s a huge change. This year, I have already done two films — Kahaani 2 and Begum Jaan.I will start working on the third film next month. So, I’m surprised that people think I have slowed down, as it’s the opposite now.
Watch: Trailer of Kahaani 2
Arjun, you have been quite low-key lately. Is that a conscious decision?
Arjun: I prefer it this way. I like my private space. When it is ‘my time’, I go into the real world; I travel or go see something new, or take inspiration from somewhere. It is not like I am not doing anything. But when I have to say something, I have social media. If I don’t have anything to communicate, then why even say something?
Celebrities are under constant scrutiny from the media, and now, with the popularity of social media, that has increased. Do you think actors have to be thick-skinned?
Vidya: I think, to each his own. I am a reluctant tweeter, as I don’t have much to say. I don’t have opinions on things that don’t concern me. I don’t read what is written [about me], which is my defense mechanism. A few years ago, I was thick-skinned. Not now.
Arjun: One of the main reasons why I don’t have a PR is that I have seen a huge transformation in journalism and the way films are reviewed, and I’ve seen the rise of social media. We are exposing ourselves constantly. It has its pros, but when you have a PR, you are constantly building an image, and you start believing in that image. It is not real. So, in a way, social media actually helped me cut away from that. Otherwise, you hire a publicist, who is constantly telling you to say this or that. But these are my reasons for not opting for one.