Actor Imran Khan, who's just taken his shirt off for Karan Johar's next I Hate Luv Storys, says he can't get time off to get married to his fianceé Avantika Malik this year. Khan needs a two-month break for a long honeymoon, something his current, three-movies back-to-back schedule, does not permit...
Do you hate love stories?
I could never bring myself to read those Mills & Boon romances. But I did read Eric Segal’s Love Story. I liked it. The film was good too.
Have you seen Mallika Sherawat’s Khwaish? It was the ‘desi’ version of Love Story.
No, I haven’t.
So, tell us about I Hate Luv Storys, your next movie?
It’s a classic romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the film industry. Sammir (Dattani) is a famous director, Sonam is a production designer and I’m an assistant director. We’ve shot on actual sets in Film City that are shown as sets in the film. The director, Punit (Malhotra), has worked as an assistant director (AD) to different directors for a long time. And I think a lot of the film is based on real experiences.
I’ve never worked as an AD in India. So my experiences don’t match his. I have little in common with my character apart from our sense of humour. Like him, I too crack jokes with a straight face. That connected with both Punit and me.
The last time you spoke, you didn’t care for the title and admitted that you were looking for a new one. But the film is close to release, and you’re going ahead with I Hate Luv Storys.
I was pushing Karan (producer Karan Johar) and Punit to go for a Hindi title. Every day, someone or the other would come up with a title. But none of them captured the spirit of the film as well as this one. It also fitted in because my character is against the idea of love.
You’re working on three films at the moment — I Hate Luv Storys, Break Ke Baad and Delhi Belly — and all three are being helmed by first-time directors, Punit Malhotra, Danish Aslam and Abhinay Deo. Was it a conscious decision to work with young directors who speak the same lingo?
No, it wasn’t a deliberate move but it does help when your director and you are on the same page. There’s no shortage of classic romantic comedies in India but rather than take the genre seriously, Punit pokes fun at it. And that makes I Hate Luv Stories cool.
Delhi Belly is a film about three guys, there’s no romantic track. It’s the kind of cinema you haven’t seen in India before. For one, it’s in English. That alone makes it different because only a minority speaks the language in our country and that makes it a niche film.
I fell madly in love with the script when I read it. I’d have done anything to be a part of this film. It’s turned out exactly the way I had visualised.
And Break Ke Baad?
It’s too early to talk about Break Ke Baad since we’ve only shot for it for two weeks. But it’s another interesting film. It doesn’t begin with the boy and girl meeting and falling in love. This couple has already been in a long-term relationship and has just decided to break up.
Avantika Malik and you have also been in a long-term relationship, did that help?
Not really because this character is very different from me. But the film is an honest, true-to-life depiction of a modern-day relationship. It’s a different equation with Avantika and me but I can connect with certain aspects of the relationship.
What was the experience like working with Dharma Productions that every actor aspires to be a part of?
I’m impressed with the way Karan works. He’s one of the most powerful producers in the country, yet his approach is that of a newcomer. You never hear him saying, “Fine, I’m the Karan Johar” and letting anything slide by. He takes on each movie as if it were his first and his life depended on it.
I’ve worked with Aamir (Khan) too on two production and I’m equally amazed by his attention to details. That’s something he has in common with Karan, though the kind of films they make are dramatically different.
What did you think of Karan’s My Name is Khan?
It was a step forward for Karan Johar the director. For someone who’s known for his classic candy floss films, it was brave of him attempt a film on something as sensitive as racism and terrorism. I liked it.
And Aamir’s 3 Idiots?
As you grow as an actor, you are apt to do things in a certain way. Success brings with it an aura of star power that makes it hard for someone like Aamir to convincingly play a young, innocent boy. That he did, makes 3 Idiots an incredible performance.
I love the scene where Aamir, Sharman (Joshi) and Madhavan are sitting in the hostel room and he’s explaining the concept of ‘all is well’ to them. It’s easy to do a dramatic scene but a casual conversation is the hardest to pull off because you have no crutches. Aamir got it right!
Could you have played Rancho given that he’s closer in age to you?
However talented a young actor may be, he’s far less talented than a senior. With experience you only get better. So I’d say Aamir was the right choice!
I went down on my knee and proposed to Avantika:
My advice to anyone who’s planning to propose is to make a big deal of it. Go down on one knee in the traditional way when you pop the question. If you don’t, your fiancée will never let you forget it for the rest of your life. I did. I had no choice. If I didn’t do it with all the expected drama, Avantika would have never forgiven me.
I even got her a gift, a Beetle. It was a car she had always wanted. It hadn’t come to India at the time. I pulled in a lot of favours to get it for her. And surprised her with it on the day of our engagement. She laughed and screamed with joy.Sure, we’ve gone out on drives in it. But most of the time, the little car is parked in her compound. She’s afraid of going into traffic and getting it scratched.
The engagement happened in a bit of a rush. I was in the middle of shooting I Hate Luv Storys and could only take five days off. I did get the ring made for her though. In fact, I designed it myself. I knew exactly what she and I wanted. But that apart, I didn’t have the time to be a part of everything that was being planned. And I hated missing out on it. That’s why I have decided that I’ll plan my marriage more carefully.
Avantika and I are now officially engaged. And it hasn’t changed our relationship in any way. It’s just that both of us now wear rings.
No marriage this year for sure: Imran on his 'shaadi' plans
I need to figure out my schedule carefully so I can take time off to get married and go for a long honeymoon. I’ll need about two months off. I Hate Luv Storys will come out first, followed by Break Ke Baad in November-December and Delhi Belly next year. There are a couple of other projects I’m considering. Once I have worked out my dates, I will fix my marriage date. It won’t happen this year for sure. I don’t want to get married in the middle of a shoot. I can wait.
On his co-stars, Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone
Sonam is someone I’ve wanted to work with since I saw Saawariya. Actors tend to be selfish in that they want to work with directors and co-stars who will push them into giving their best and make them look good on screen. We got a couple of offers before I Hate Luv Storys but either she didn’t like the script or I gave it the thumbs down. After these false starts, we finally agreed on a project both of us instantly liked and since the first day of the shoot, it’s been an enjoyable experience.
Deepika is the hardest worker I know. She is completely focussed and dedicated to the job on hand. For Break Ke Baad, she’d wake up at 4 am, go into make-up at 5 am, and be ready for the shoot by 6 am. Since I’m like that too, I’d walk into the set at 6 am sharp, see her ready and smile back thinking, “Ha, good!”
On Luck and Kidnap
I’d signed both films before Jaane Tu… Yaa Jaane Na. Kidnap came when no one even knew I existed. The director (Sanjay Gadhvi) had two blockbusters. I was pitted against Sanjay Dutt. The script was sound but wasn’t executed well. Still, I have no regrets.
With Luck too, the character didn’t turn out the way he was supposed to. What do you do under the circumstances? You can’t rant on camera, can you?
On Ranbir Kapoor
Ranbir and I are not planning to get into production together. But we do want to do a film together. We have an understanding that if he comes across a script he likes, he will recommend it to me and vice versa. But so far we’ve both been busy. He has his hands full and so do I with three films. May be some day…
On his column in HT Cafe
I don’t know if it has helped me as an actor, but writing a column has helped me as an person. People have opened up to me and this gives me a better insight into their minds.I got a good response to Caste Away, on the relationship between caste and religion. People also reacted well to the war of the sexes between Priyanka (Chopra) and me.
Then, I wrote on drunk driving, followed by another a week later after I lost a friend in a car accident. I was flooded with e-mails from people who had lost family and friends to drunk driving saying I’d helped them cope.
There wasn’t much of a response to my engagement and the two-week break except for a “welcome back, we missed you.” I guess the media build-up to my engagement had been so huge that people had Od-ed on it. I don’t blame them.
On HT’s Mumbai First campaign
The fundamental problem with our city is the unplanned infrastructure and the fact that when something happens, you can’t pin the blame on any one person. You need someone who’s responsible for everything. Give him all the power, money and facilities he requires, but at the end of the day, ensure that he is answerable for any mess-up. Once that happens, things will change for the better.