The Art of Balance

I want everyone who works with me make a profit,says Imran Khan.

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha | Published: February 3, 2012 6:58 pm

I have never been comfortable tooting my own horn and going to town,talking about my success

Many people marry themselves to a particular type of movie but for me it’s about striking a balance between the creative and commercial. I want everyone who works with me —producer,exhibitor,distributor,everyone— to turn a profit. And then there are films that should satisfy me as a creative person. So you do a film like ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’,which increases your market value and gives you a strong footing to experiment with a film like ‘Delhi Belly’

Imran Khan sporting a beard is an unusual sight. One is better accustomed to his clean good looks but then there are more purposeful things for an actor than merely looking good. Getting into the skin of the character is one such and Imran is certainly persevering. And true to his word.

Khan is in character for Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola’,which is set in rural Haryana. Ergo,the beard. He is also working on the accent and the dialect by playing out scenes with assistants from those parts who naturally speak like that. “I heard the script and I was like,‘Wow!’ I asked Vishal sir,if he was sure of me being the guy for the film. I told him that I liked his films and if he wanted me for this part,I would do whatever it takes.”

A first of sorts for Khan in that he is stepping away from the urbane characters he has played so far. But one that he is excited about. “I think it’s good to have a balance. Many people marry themselves to a particular type of movie but for me it’s about striking a balance between the creative and commercial. I want everyone who works with me —producer,exhibitor,distributor,everyone—to turn a profit. And then there are films that should satisfy me as a creative person. So you do a film like ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’,which increases your market value and gives you a strong footing to experiment with a film like ‘Delhi Belly’. All of us took a chance and we had no idea how it would work out.”

The actor as it turns out,chooses his experiments wisely—Delhi Belly,despite an A certificate reaped a healthy box-office profit. The film also won an impressive number of nominations (19 to be precise) at the 18th Annual Colors Screen Awards. However,Khan is unmoved by the award tally. He has since pretty early in his career,thrown his weight behind the creative process than chasing the results that eventually follow. He cites uncle Aamir’s example to make a point.

“Aamir’s success is so huge that people can no longer ignore it. In the last 10 years he has only had success. Even ‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’,which was written off as a flop,earned more than some of the hits that year. “

Speaking of which,Imran’s success ratio has not been too bad either — of his seven films,four have been successful,making him an extremely desirable option for the industry in dire need of young stars. Khan,however,is rather bashful.

“I have never been comfortable tooting my own horn and going to town talking about my success but Avantika sat me down and told me,‘Do you realise,what your success to failure ratio is? Three very big hits,one average film and two failures.’ So I sat back and thought to myself,‘Yes,I am in a good place,so I am not going to be so apologetic about it.’”

Well,more of that candour in the freewheeling conversation that followed. Excerpts.

Is a successful actor more likely to experiment or play it safe?

Success does give you opportunities and options but it does not ensure that you will take them up. It opens up doors.

Someone who wants to try out different things,will do it. If you don’t want to then no matter how much success you see,you are never going to take risks.

Let’s hear something about ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’ that has got the industry and the auds excited.

‘Ek Main…’ is a romantic movie but more than that,it’s a coming-of-age film. The story of a guy who has never done anything by himself. From the day he was born,his parents decided everything for him including his job,his hobbies,everything. He’s gone through life like a robot as per his parents’ wishes,and never questioned it. And then he meets this one girl who shows him what he’s been missing out on. This girl,when he meets her,is at a dead end without a job or money but very cheerful and optimistic that things will eventually work out. During the course of them spending time together,she changes his perspective.

We just spoke about your preparations for ‘Matru Ki Bijli…’ What was the process like for this one?

There’s no real difference in the process when you shoot a masala film as opposed to let’s say a more eclectic one,but a lot depends on the director and the script. I am someone who likes to do prep work and rehearsals with my director.

‘Ek Main…’ is a romantic film but it is not a love story. There is a very strong emotional ground. He is a guy who does not realise his life is empty. He does not say what he is thinking. A guy who will not smile,who will not tell you that he is angry or upset. Everything is tightly held inside him so how do you convey all this to the audience?

Tricky! So how did you go about trying to convey it?

There are a lot of tricks that help you,but so much depends on the team that you are working with—from the production design—the colours that they surround you with to the costume design—this guy is always in blues and grays or blacks,shades that drag you down. I told my costume designer to make my clothes one size small because this guy is actually not comfortable with himself. I wanted to bring his discomfort to fore. It gives you a certain body language,a certain movement. And I played the scene in a way that the lines that I say and my actions,appear conflicted.

And you got to act opposite the powerhouse performer Kareena Kapoor! How was that?

As an actor I have always admired her. There’s something about her when you watch her on screen — you can’t take your eyes off her. It’s like,I want to know what she’s doing and to see that first-hand in life,before you,is amazing. When you are shooting,saying the lines,you know how the scene is going . And then you start having fun with it. With Kareena that feeling would come very early on and very often. It’s a bit like playing tennis —she hits the ball and then I hit the ball and both of us keep it going.

Reportedly,your dancing skills stand much improved. Comment.

In ‘I Hate Luv Storys’,I got better at it. From the time that I shot the ‘Madhubala’ song in ‘Mere Brother…’ I know that with each song I have got better. I know it in the amount of rehearsals that it takes me. Earlier on,it would take me a week,now hardly a day or two. It’s also evident when I watch it on screen.

Would you say that dancing skills are a must for a Hindi film hero?

Eventually dance is a natural part of our core cinema. We should not be in a hurry to do away with it. It is what makes Indian films Indian.

What about the ongoing debate on what is a quintessential Hindi film?

To a lot of filmmakers,moving ahead means Hollywood,which has developed its own language of cinema,unique to their culture. You don’t see Russian or Japanese filmmakers rushing to change their cinema. Why should we? Indian films are unique to our culture with their own cinematic grammar. Also movies like ‘Dabangg’ and ‘3 Idiots’ are the ones rewriting box-office history rather than those acting all fancy and Hollywood and going in different directions.

At a technical level-cinematography,post-production— we are reaching pretty close to international standards,something that I am in favour of. But if we are making films for Indians,then our stories have to be Indian stories even if they are niche films like ‘Dhobi Ghat’ or ‘Delhi Belly’. For that matter,even ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’ is not a single-screen film but one that caters to Indians in metros but ultimately,it is for Indians. We must not lose out on those audiences.

Any new films that you have signed on?

So far there is only Vishal sir’s film and ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’. A couple of films a year is good because it takes a lot of time and effort to make those two movies. I can’t do more than that.

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