Excerpts from the conversation:
Your first remake. How comfortable have you been with the idea of remakes because you haven’t done it before?
I never thought it would be a problem, but I eventually realised that making a remake with the same director who has made the original film is very challenging. Sandeep has already made it once and Arjun Reddy as a film was so loved. It was in his language and the world he has grown up in. It was his first film and had newcomers, so those people became those characters. So, of course, it was very challenging because when you are doing it with the same filmmaker the next time, it is not as if there is a massive change in the interpretation. When a new filmmaker remakes a film, he would obviously have a different take on it, but with the same guy, he obviously wants to retain many elements of the film.
As an actor, I definitely don’t want to do a copy-paste job of someone else. I did the film because I loved it. I played the character because I loved it. Vijay Deverakonda did an amazing job with Arjun Reddy, and there were certain things that we wanted to retain. But there were also things we needed to discover in Kabir Singh. If it is just a copy-paste job, then there is no soul to it, and I am not interested in that as an actor. So, within the same universe and sometimes even similar frames, we needed to find something new.
Sandeep Reddy Vanga has openly said that he was more convinced about doing Kabir Singh because it was you he would get to direct.
It was very kind of him to think like that. He has seen some of my work, so he felt that it would provide him with an opportunity to have a different interpretation. It was great that he wanted to do a film with me, because when I saw Arjun Reddy I fell in love with it, and my initial response was, ‘Why should we redo it ya? It is so nice!’ But then I also wanted to take it up, however challenging it was because I think great things come with challenges. Most of the Hindi audience hasn’t see Arjun Reddy, so if they have to experience that journey, then I am happy to be that vehicle who takes them through it.
Maybe four-five years back I wouldn’t take it up because I wouldn’t have the confidence to take it up. But now that I have done a substantial amount of work, I felt like this is a different kind of challenge for me to do.
Being second at something is the worst because the surprise value is gone. Whoever is going to see the film has already had an association and connect with that character. Vijay was a newcomer, and the character has become that guy. So I knew that this was going to be difficult. But today, after the film is done and releasing, I feel very happy and proud of the fact that Kabir Singh has happened. It has been an intense journey. It has been challenging. We have had difficult days when we have tried very hard to understand how to get it right. But now when I look at this journey, I think we have found Kabir Singh.
Kabir Singh has a very massy appeal. From the movies you have done, you have carved a niche identity for yourself. Tell us about your balancing act.
There is nothing like doing a balancing act. These are terms that outside people tend to give. There is nothing like massy or classy. I don’t think there is a definition of mass or class. These are just words and I don’t see any merit in them. We just need to make good content. The wider the appeal of the content, the better the quality of the product and more people will want to see it.
Some of the films where people have really liked me have been a little restricted because of the subject matter. People have liked me in complex, dark and intense kind of characters, and the films that I have done are films that not everybody can watch. A film like Udta Punjab dealt with rape and drug addiction to another level, so it was too dark for people to come and watch it. Everybody doesn’t want to watch something like that.
The good thing about Kabir Singh is that I was getting to play a type of character that had a lot to do as an actor, and I was getting to do it in a film that I think is pretty wide in its appeal. The love story in it is also so different. So I didn’t think much. I wanted to take up this as a challenge. I didn’t want to ruin it, that’s all.
Kabir Singh is the remake of a Telugu film. More and more south Indian films are attracting a pan India audience. We are not able to do that with our Hindi films. We are still trying to penetrate the south audience.
I think the complement is for all the Hindi going audience. They are very open-minded and accepting of different content. We are not territorial or we don’t have any preconceived notions. What you are saying is not just about films coming from down south, whether it is Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada or Telugu films, I think the Hindi going audience is also consuming a lot of international content. We are watching different stuff in different languages, not just English. We are consuming a lot of Mexican and Spanish content also or any language for that matter.
I think the Hindi audience is ever evolving and they want to watch good material and that’s very encouraging. Other people should learn from that.