They are young, dynamic, talented, and the modern faces of the Indian film industry! In Chandigarh to promote their upcoming film, actors Alia Bhatt, Fawad Khan and Sidharth Malhotra talk about their Punjab experience and more.
‘Ignorance is bliss, in my case’
Fawad Khan is a popular face on Pakistani television. But many Indian TV addicts will swear by his roles in serials like Humsafar (with Mahira Khan) and Zindagi Gulzar Hai. So it’s no surprise that the Pakistani heart-throb, who made his Bollywood debut in Khoobsurat (2014) alongside Sonam Kapoor, commands a huge fan following this side of the border too. He’s back with his next Hindi flick. Excerpts from the interview:
Q. You spoke about your visit to the north of India always being special. What makes them so?
A. The people and the warmth here. I was here with Sonam (Kapoor) to promote Khoobsurat. Chandigarh is so peaceful and I adore the hospitality here. I remember driving down to the border when we were in Amritsar and the landscape is beautiful, on both sides. It feels as though there’s no difference.
Q. Speaking of the stark similarities between the two countries, there has been huge uproar over Indo-Pak security issues, after a T20 match was shifted to Kolkata from its original venue in Dharamsala. As an artist from Pakistan, how has the journey in India been so far?
A. It’s been a lovely experience and I am grateful for having been accepted so well here. You know when you travel all over - be it London, New York, etc, you do feel like an outsider as a Pakistani, but when you come to India, it feels like home. I feel it’s the same for Indians who visit us in Pakistan. There is a sense of familiarity.
Q. What is your taken on the intolerance debate? Recently, the Shiv Sena also said they would not let Pakistanis enter Maharashtra.
A. I wasn’t at the receiving end of these protests, although one tries to ignore such things. As for the intolerance debate and the match that you mentioned, ignorance is bliss in my case. I don’t read much about these things and keep myself away from too much information. I don’t know if that’s good.
Q. Is that why you’re very active (besides Instagram) on social media?
A. It was a particular incident that made me deviate from social media. I remember seeing some images of the Syrian refugee crisis and I was really disturbed. At one moment people do that, the next there are jokes on it. I think I am too sensitive to deal with all of it. I don’t like it when people remain glued to their phones while talking, so I have no apps on mine. We are losing out on the larger things in life. Everything is just a click away.
Q. With so many feathers already in your hat- singer, model, actor, business man- is there any thing else you plan to pursue?
A. I wish to direct someday.
Alia loves to ‘chull’ in Chandigarh
All of 22, Alia Bhatt is on a roll. With a film with Shah Rukh Khan in the wings, the bubbly actor seems like she could be the next big thing to watch out for. Having proved her acting prowess in Highway (2014), Alia is all set for her next release. Excerpts from the interview:
Q. You’ve been a frequent visitor of Chandigarh? Any fond memories in the city?
A. I’ve been here several times and I love every single thing about this city; the food, the hospitality, the people and, especially, the red-brick buildings. Every time I come here or anywhere in Punjab for that matter, I feel there is an immediate sense of belonging. Most of the songs in my films are from Punjab. Badshah, whose music has done wonders for my films, is also from here. So, the reasons to love this place are aplenty.
Q. You even tweeted: ‘Time to chull in Chandigarh...’ and you’re quite active on social media but mostly for promoting your films. Do you deliberately refrain from commenting on other things?
A. Yes. I feel if it doesn’t add to anything or help change anything, then why comment? Not like I don’t have an opinion. I have strong opinions. I watched Kanhaiya’s speech but if you say something, it’s analysed and something else is made of it. Freedom of speech is important but I don’t feel the need to add to the drama by saying something which might not even be taken in the right spirit.
Q. You also spent some time with Diljit Dosanjh during the shoot of Udta Punjab in Amritsar?
A. Oh yes, he’s really sweet. But very subdued and sober. I found that very interesting because his on-screen avatar is quite the opposite. We had a good time shooting for the film.
Q. Since you love Punjab so much and your father has always reiterated the importance of regional cinema to you, will we see Alia in a Punjabi film?
A. Yes, if there is a great script. Why not? My dad keeps telling me to explore all forms. We are all hungry for growth and can’t limit our success or fame to one city. One wants to be known the world over and I feel Punjabi cinema has a great reach in Canada and US.
‘Visited Chandigarh as a child’
Actor Sidharth Malhotra comes across as quiet and reserved. But there’s a lot of talk about his ‘friendship’ with actor Alia Bhatt. With films like Ek Villain (2014) and Brothers (2015) in his kitty, Sidharth wants to break away from his ‘chocolate boy image’. Excerpts from the interview:
Q. Sidharth Malhotra’s name is associated with good looks before good acting. Does that bother you, at times?
A. (Smiles) Well yes, the idea is to move out of that domain and prove yourself. After Hasee Toh Phasee (2014), I started getting such offers and I was taken aback that I could be offered a role like I was in Ek Villain (2014) or Brothers (2015) for that matter. So, I am making that effort to break the ‘chocolate boy’ image and take up more diverse roles.
Q. Your take on intolerance at the backdrop of the recent uproar in JNU since you, too, studied from Delhi.
A. I feel if I am not in a position to control things then why comment or pass judgment? Although, I wish I was. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a right to an opinion. Freedom of speech is of utmost important and when that’s taken away, it’s sad.
Q. How was it for a Delhi boy to be in the City Beautiful?
A. It’s quite satisfying. I would travel here often with my family as a kid. I still remember my trip to the famous Rose Garden because apparently that was ‘the’ thing in Chandigarh back then. The city has changed a lot.
THE RAPID FIRE ROUND
Most favourite thing about Punjab
Alia: People, hospitality and food
Sid: Food and the milk here tastes nicer
Fawad: Love the food especially the non-vegetarian fare. Butter Chicken and Chicken Biryani are my favourites
Favourite Punjabi song
Alia: ‘Oho oho Ishq’ by Sukhbir
Sidharth: ‘Gur nalon ishq mitha’. I just danced to the song at my sister’s wedding recently. I’ve always loved it .
Favourite Punjabi actor
Alia: Ayushmann Khurrana since he’s from Chandigarh
Sidharth: Gurdaas Mann