The relatively new cast of Ek Paheli Leela — Sunny Leone, Rajniesh Duggall and Jay Bhanushali — is a mixed bag of emotions, leading up to the film’s April 10 release. While Sunny admits to being scared, the two men seem more confident.
During a visit to the HT — Fever 104 FM office, the three actors spoke to us about working together, their individual careers, the censorship issue, and more.
In Bollywood, there’s usually a mega star that drives the film. However, in this case, you all are relatively new, so is there a lot more pressure?
Rajniesh: The script is amazing. Along with that, we have T-Series backing us, plus the music is topping the charts. That makes a huge difference. Then, of course, it depends on how well-defined your characters are.
Sunny: I feel that there definitely is a lot of pressure. Rajniesh seems a lot more confident than I am. I’m scared (laughs).
Jay: Kisi se darr nahi lagta, par sirf critics se darr lagta hai (I am not scared of anybody, but the critics).
Sunny: Everybody’s a critic, and everyone is going to judge you. I’m a numbers person, and numbers never lie. So if they’re there, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the critics have to say.
How was the experience of working on this film?
Sunny: Working with these guys was amazing. They are professional and fun to work with. They would joke all the time.
Jay: We would have arguments about who gets to pack up early. Most of the time, I would be the first person to leave the set. But on the last day of my shoot, although my work was done, Ahmed (Khan; producer) told me to wait and told Sunny that she could pack up. But when she took a lot of time to change, he told me I could leave. When I reached the parking space, I saw that my car was blocked by hers.
Sunny: I did tell my driver to park right behind his, so that he wouldn’t be able to move. But, somehow, he managed to take his car out (laughs).
Jay: Yes, so when I saw her coming out of her vanity van, I waved at her.
Sunny: In Rajasthan, Rajniesh and I had to shoot in 45-50 degrees. We both would sit there being tortured as we were artificially tanned.
The film looks different, and the trailer has garnered a lot of buzz. It looks like a reincarnation story.
Sunny: It is, but we don’t want to give away much as we want the audience to enjoy the film from start to finish. There are parallel storylines in the film.
Jay: My story starts in Mumbai, while Sunny’s story begins in London. And Rajniesh’s story begins when we go into the past.
There was a phase when many actors made the transition from TV to films. The trend seems to have resurfaced again…
Jay: Right now, I’m happy that some TV actors have proved their mettle, so directors have more confidence in us now. Every three to six months, you’ll find one TV actor doing a film. And TV actors already come with a fan-following, so it’s easy for producers to take them on as heroes.
How comfortable were you dancing in this film since you came across as somewhat stiff in ‘Baby doll’ (Ragini MMS 2; 2014)?
Sunny: It’s not something I was born with. I played a lot of sports. The first time I learnt to dance is here (films). You have been watching my videos, so you can judge if I am getting better.
Are you comfortable with Hindi now?
Sunny: Yes, and my staff doesn’t speak a lot of English, so that helps too.
You sported a long plait in the movie. How easy or difficult was it to handle?
Sunny: It was very difficult to handle it in 45-50 degrees, where everything was melting.
You have spoken openly about the censorship issue in India…
Sunny: I wasn’t born here. I come from a culture where you can say anything and everything. In the US, there are censorship laws that regulate what can be seen, but mostly, it’s about free speech. But here, there are so many factors that need to be taken into account when making a film. I’m an outsider, but I respect the culture here, and I am not going to break any laws.
Where do you see your Bollywood career heading in the next five years?
Sunny: I have no idea. I started acting only a few years ago, and I have so much to learn. Every single day is an acting workshop for me. I didn’t know where I would be when I entered Bigg Boss in 2011. I thought I would last on the show for a week or two, at the most.
Given that your upcoming movie is based on reincarnation, if you could return as someone else, who would that be?
Sunny: I would like to come back as Salman Khan. He is one of the biggest stars in India; nobody messes with him. People are scared of him, but they also love him at the same time. He does so much charity work too. He is a very nice man.
Rajniesh, do you have a game plan as far as your movie career is concerned?
Rajniesh: After 1920 (2008), I did a few films, which were not up to the mark even from my angle. I also realised that I needed to work on myself, as I wasn’t from an acting background. So, I worked on myself for over a year and realised that I needed to do different kinds of roles push the boundaries.
Jay, you were one of the biggest names on TV, but in movies you are still finding your ground. How does that feel?
Jay: With TV, I started from scratch and had my share of struggle. Now, with films, I want to see if I can get people to come out of their homes to watch me on the big screen. On TV, whatever show I starred in, has been in the top five. With films, I’m trying to be different. So, my role in Ek Paheli Leela is different from Hate Story 2 (2014). Following the latter’s release, I got a lot of similar offers, but I didn’t want to get typecast.