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RANI + FARHAN = FUN!

What happened when t2 met Rani Mukerji, Talaash producer Farhan Akhtar and director Reema Kagti for a chat in the business centre of Taj Bengal on Monday afternoon? Read on...

Priyanka Roy: Talaash releases this Friday. Are the nerves tingling?

Reema Kagti: I am feeling surprisingly calm, ya.

Farhan Akhtar: Possibly from the lack of sleep!

Reema: (Laughs) Possibly… possibly. I have become comfortably numb at this point.

Priyanka: You haven’t really been very aggressive in promoting the film. Do you think talking too much will lessen the curiosity around Talaash?

Reema: Well, we have been promoting the film as much as we wanted to. In fact, this is the last stage of promotions….

Rani Mukerji: Ab hamari film last stage pe hai! (Laughs out loud)

Farhan: See, we started promotions a little late because there were two big releases (Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardaar) this Diwali. It was important to give them their space. Attention spans have become very less now and it was important for us to time the promotions correctly.

Priyanka: Looks like the promotions have really worked because everyone wants to watch the film, possibly in the first weekend itself.

Reema: There’s been a tremendous response. Also, Aamir going back to the small towns with the film after Satyamev Jayate (his TV show) has really worked well. But we will have to wait and see what happens this Friday.

Farhan: In a very unbiased way (laughs), I would like to say that people can’t wait to watch Talaash!

Shradha Agarwal: The story sounds very interesting…

Rani: You know the story?!

Shradha: Actually, (fashion designer) Manish Malhotra knows the story and I had asked him, but he refused to say...

Farhan: What, he’s giving out the story for free?! (Laughs)

Reema: But who told Manish the story?

Farhan: Must be Kareena (Kapoor), na?

Priyanka: So many rumours about the plot have been doing the rounds. Does that faze you guys?

Reema: Not really, because at least it tells me that people are interested. And honestly, I would be worried if the rumours were anywhere close to what the actual story is (laughs).

Farhan: Except one.

Reema: Farhaaaaaan!

Farhan: But I am not telling them which one, na? (Laughs)

Rani: Some of the stories are actually very entertaining. I was telling Farhan that these people who are floating these rumours could actually write an original script.

Reema: In fact, Aamir, Ritesh (Sidhwani, co-producer of Talaash) and I were discussing on a flight yesterday that some of the stories doing the rounds are actually very good and could be made into films!

Priyanka: So they can just go and approach Farhan!

Farhan: Absolutely! Now we will just announce the release dates of our films and the audience can do the rest.

Rani: Farhan, you can get them to write Talaash 2!

Reema: Hopefully, there won’t be a rival fake Talaash!

Samhita Chakraborty: The anticipation for your film is huge. We just got a letter from a reader saying we should print all Jab Tak Hai Jaan stories this week because from next week it’s going to be all Talaash!

Farhan: I don’t know… I don’t think one can really base it on one fan letter (smiles). But in all fairness, there is a lot of curiosity because Aamir hasn’t had a release in three years… plus Aamir and Rani are coming together after (turns to Rani) Ghulam?

Rani: We had (Mangal Pandey) Rising in between….

Farhan: Ya, so that is creating a lot of excitement. Everyone wants to know what the search is about. For any film on the brink of release to be talked about so much is always healthy.

Priyanka:Will it make 100 crore?’ is the pressure every big film now faces. But since Talaash is a thriller, the repeat value isn’t that much. Does that worry you?

Farhan: You should ask Rani because she has a strong point of view regarding this (laughs).

Rani: Well, I think 100, 50, 150… are just numbers. What numbers your film notches up depends on the number of eyes watching it. I feel we should not count the numbers but should derive satisfaction from the fact that people have liked the film and will remember it for years to come. We always wanted to make a good film, not a Rs 100-crore earner. If, in the process, it gets to that figure, then well and good. But then again, there are so many films that one wouldn’t necessarily term as good films, earning 100 crore and more.

Farhan: See, I told you she had a good answer! But honestly, it feels good to see actors like Rani, Aamir and Kareena associating with a film like Talaash that isn’t purely mainstream. It’s not about being part of a ‘project’, it’s being involved with something that has a lot more substance.

Priyanka: Farhan, what did you think when Reema and Zoya (Akhtar) came to you with the script of Talaash?

Farhan: I actually remember reading the script roughly around the time I was making Lakshya in 2004-05 and even then, I found the story very involving. What really appealed to me is the emotional payoff at the end of the film, which people will discover when they watch it. It’s a very simple and moving idea that you will take back more than the suspense. That will stay with you after the film.

Priyanka: Were Aamir, Rani and Kareena always your first choices?

Farhan: They were all dying to work with Reema (laughs).

Reema: There’s actually a very funny story related to this. At the time we signed Aamir, we weren’t really talking about it, but then one of our own PR people actually leaked it out! I was getting calls from all over asking whether Aamir was in the film and I didn’t know what to say because we weren’t supposed to speak about it. Then one day, when I got a call, Zoya was sitting next to me and she said: ‘Tell them that Aamir is using your name for publicity!’ (Laughs out loud)

But seriously, we always had Aamir in mind but when we went to him with the offer, he wasn’t reading scripts. A year after that, we had exhausted all our options and we didn’t have anyone for the role. Then Ritesh, in a last-ditch effort, decided to ask Aamir and luckily for us, he was reading scripts then. Aamir green-lit the project.

Then, I made the wishlist for the two female leads and believe me, Rani was on top of the list for Roshni and Kareena for Rosy. They initially gave me a really hard time. But then, Rani and Aamir are very similar in the way they approach a film… they have a similar set of questions. Aamir, Rani and Kareena actually transcended the characters they play in Talaash… they got into their characters like even I wouldn’t have expected them to.

Farhan: The one problem with Rani is that she likes all her narrations via satellite — even when all of us are in Bombay! (Laughs)

Priyanka: Rani, why did you keep them waiting?

Rani: I didn’t take time at all. The truth is that whenever a project comes to me, I always have it at the back of my mind that if I say ‘yes’, I will have to spend the next 100 days with the unit and I am a little sensitive on that front. I had known Reema socially, but it’s always different when it comes to the workspace. Also, while signing a film, I always need to know the importance of my role vis-a-vis the film. I also need a director who is open to suggestions and Reema, fortunately, was always very receptive to our ideas and feedback.

Priyanka: So, what were those 100 days like?

Reema: Initially, I was on my best behaviour (laughs), but then you know I started showing all my spots!

Rani: We actors are like children who constantly need to be loved. Reema isn’t one to spoon-feed her actors, but she gave us all a lot of space. I just loved her.

Reema: You loved! So, she doesn’t love me anymore (laughs).

Rani: Everything else was great apart from the fact that Zoya called me a cow! (Laughs out loud)

Samhita: Rani, in the promos, you look like a middle-class police officer’s wife and not really Rani the glamorous actress…

Farhan: Let me tell you that it’s actually very easy to be over-the-top, but being restrained is very tough. In our films, everyone likes to ‘perform’ (laughs).

Rani: Give me the stage and I will perform! (Laughs)

Farhan: In a film, you will get those two or three moments where your character has to be in the forefront, but to hold yourself back when the scene belongs to someone else comes only with a certain amount of maturity. It’s important for most of our actors to realise that it’s okay not to do anything in a scene! (Laughs) I have seen people acting in scenes even where they are supposed to just listen.

Reema: There is no concept of less is more here.

Shradha: Rani, you have always said that Calcutta is extra special for you because of Sabyasachi (Mukherjee)....

Rani: What can I say about him that I haven’t said before? I think I am the biggest endorser of his work. I love him as a designer, but I also love him as a person.

Shradha: He says that he’s still known as Rani Mukerji’s tailor!

Rani: (Laughs) It’s very humble of him to say that, but I feel he is that one designer who projects Indian garments very well internationally. He’s a very close friend… there is this Bong-ness that the two of us share. I connect with him on a very personal level. I just wear him all the time!

Shradha: Even your nail polish today (almost black) is very unlike you… it’s very gothic.

Rani: Yes, I wanted to do something different today.

Shradha: Farhan, can you decipher your brand of cool for us because you are the coolest Bolly star around…

Farhan: (Rolls his eyes) Now, where do I begin? (Grins sheepishly)

Samhita: You are the sex symbol for women from 16 to 60!

Farhan: (Turns red) I don’t know how to answer this… (smiles)

Rani: It started from Maneckji Cooper…

Farhan: Maneckji ‘Cool’per!

Rani: So, his coolness started from there. I can vouch for that because we were in the same school and he was about five years my senior, but he used to break dance like no one else. We used to go mad seeing him break dance! Farhan, come on, show it to them!

Farhan: (Blushes even more) Next time, next time! It will give you something to look forward to then (laughs). Next time, I promise you girls a break dance performance on the house!

Shradha: So, when did you first feel ‘Yes, I am cool!’?

Farhan: Never! I’ll put it into perspective for you guys. A very close friend of mine has a 15-year-old daughter and one day her friends saw me dropping my own daughters to school and they were like, ‘Oh my god, Farhan Akhtar is so hot’. And she came home and told Zoya, ‘You know all my friends were saying all this and I was like’… (makes a retching gesture). So you see, I am not really cool (laughs).

Reema: Even I have to say that Zoya and I get very amused when girls go all weak-kneed around him. We are always like: ‘Farhan?! Really?!’ (Laughs)

Farhan: I am very happy with the way I am.

Reema: I think what really makes him cool is the way he thinks. He’s one of the coolest guys we know.

Rani: I think these Bong girls like him because he’s a thinking woman’s sex symbol and Bengali girls like intelligent men.

Farhan: Thank you, thank you!

Priyanka: Farhan, is this your Milkha Singh look? [For Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag where he plays the legendary athlete]

Farhan: Kind of, but I have changed it a little from then, courtesy the world-class expert I have at home (wife Adhuna is a celebrity hairstylist).

Priyanka: You’re very lucky!

Farhan: Yes... and for a lot more reasons apart from that!

Reema: He’s never had a bad hair day!

Farhan: You know before Ad and I met, I had just a buzz haircut because I didn’t really know what to do with my hair. She then introduced me to a lot of possibilities (smiles).

Jamie White (mass communication student, t2 reader and a Farhan fan): As a student, I wanted some tips from you guys on directing and acting…

Farhan: From whatever experience I have gathered, I feel that it’s always important to remain a student. If the attitude seeps in that ‘I know all I have to know about the business’, then you will stop growing. You have to always be willing to learn, always be willing to interact with young people.

Reema: I feel that if you are making a film, you must have something to say, apart from just the desire to direct a film. Zoya and I have always felt that any story that we are trying to force out always has less energy than something that comes to us organically. If you are passionate about a story, tell it and don’t worry about the crores.

Rani: I think what’s important is a genuine love for the craft. Today, too many people get swayed by the glam and gloss of the film industry that they see in magazines or on TV. The life of an actor is different from that of a star. Stars do films and move on, but actors make sure they leave their footprints behind.

TOLLY boys ask RANI via t2

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury: What will prompt you to do a Bengali film?
For me, a film is not about language. I would never do a film just because it’s in Bengali and I have to prove a point to my fans or my family. Whether it’s a Marathi, Hindi, Bengali or English film, I have to love the script and my character in it. The day I get an offer from Bengal that I really like, I will do it.

Saheb Bhattacherjee: How has the experience of working with Aamir Khan been, from Ghulam to Talaash?

I was hardly 17 when I did Ghulam. I had a huge crush on Aamir after Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. I was so overawed by him that during the shoot, I used to look down at his shoes… I could never look him in the eye! He was always like: ‘Look into my eyes, look into my eyes’. And I would be: ‘Ya, ya, let them say ‘action’’! When I had to shoot Aankhon se tune yeh kya keh diya, I was so nervous! I didn’t know what was happening to me. Immediately after that, I started working with Shah Rukh (Khan) and even with him, I was totally overawed because both of them are such focused actors. They were such huge stars but they were so concerned about each and every shot. And because I was at such an impressionable age, both of them had a huge impact on me professionally. And then when I worked with Aamir in Talaash, I still saw that focus and dedication and a single-minded love for the craft. No other actor prepares for a role as much as Aamir. As a friend, I am on back-slapping terms with him, but in Talaash I had to constantly remind myself: ‘Rani, you are not working with Aamir your friend, but Aamir Khan the superstar’. With him, I always have a teacher-student relationship, as also with Shah Rukh. On set with them, I become that 17-year-old Rani again.

Is Rani right when she says Bong girls find intelligent men hot and does Farhan fit the bill? Tell t2@abp.in