Eye of the tiger
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- Published 28.06.11
Aamir Khan said you had fought hard to win the part in Delhi Belly, even auditioning for the film, despite it being a home production...
I gave five auditions, in fact.
Okay! So why this desperation? Was it the script?
Yes. I have always been a huge fan of filmmakers like Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino. I remember watching Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels when I was 15 years old and it was kind of a landmark film for me. It was for the first time that I saw the film and went, oh s**t, movies can be like this. And since then I have always had this in my head that I want to be part of a movie like this...
There have been directors who have tried to remake Snatch and Lock, Stock... here in India. But what they have done is they have just ripped off the story and tried to remake it. A major charm of Pulp Fiction or even of Lock, Stock... is that they are deeply rooted in the culture of those countries. Pulp Fiction is essentially American... you can’t make it anywhere else. And Lock, Stock... is relevant to the UK, it’s very British in its humour.
In Delhi Belly, for the first time, someone — that is Akshat Verma — has written a script which is in that same world of Pulp Fiction and Lock, Stock... but its context is relevant to India. The characters are Indian, the idiosyncrasies and oddities are very Indian. It’s not a wannabe, it’s not a me too. It’s very much an Indian voice... an Indian story.
But the promotion and marketing of Delhi Belly doesn’t seem to suggest that. It comes across as a film by adults, for adults, of adults...
When I first heard that Delhi Belly was going to be marketed like this, I figured that made sense. Because in India moviegoing is usually a family experience and we didn’t want people to go with their kids... “Chalo Delhi Belly dekh ke aate hain”... and then be embarrassed in the theatres. That will anger people.
We wanted people to be aware right from day one that this is not the kind of film you can watch with your family or with your parents. It’s something that you should go with guys your age. Of course, if your parents are cool, then it’s fine. Like I can watch Delhi Belly with my mom. We wanted to kind of put that out there... wanted people to know that it’s an adult film.
The original language of the film is English. Aamir had once said that he thinks in English and hence doing a film in English would be more natural for him. Do you feel likewise, having shot for Delhi Belly?
The language doesn’t matter, really. But yes I have always been extremely comfortable in English. Hindi has been a tougher challenge for me. It’s something I have had to work on and I am still working on it. Something very odd happened with Delhi Belly. We did about two weeks of workshop before production began. And on the first day of the workshop, all of us got together and we started reading the script and we all sounded like we were auditioning for a Kenneth Branagh film, for one of his Shakespeare adaptations! We were like: “Good morning? How are you? How have you been?” [Imran says it with a typical British accent.] And suddenly, we stopped and looked at each other and were like: “Why are we talking like this?” (Director) Abhinay (Deo) was flabbergasted... “What’s wrong with you guys?” But all of us were doing it unconsciously.
Then it kind of hit us that none of us are used to acting in English. We are all used to acting in Hindi. We converse in English but we act in Hindi! The moment you give us English dialogues, we start performing. It needed a couple of days for us to sort ourselves out and start reading normally. It was one of the weirdest things.
|Imran Khan with “the family gang” in Delhi Belly|
Even Kenneth Branagh’s now done a Thor...
That’s also true!
Besides Ashutosh Gowariker, Abhinay Deo is the first director of Aamir Khan Productions who is not making his debut and whose first film was a major dud (Game). Do you think Abhinay is as good as the material he is handling?
I would like to think so. Delhi Belly was actually made before Game. He finished shooting Delhi Belly and then moved on to Game and came back after finishing Game for the post-production of Delhi Belly. So it’s difficult to say which one’s his first film. Of course, Game released first. I think he has done a very good job with Delhi Belly. He has taken Akshat’s script, which was really good, and made it even better on screen.
Was it frustrating waiting endlessly for Delhi Belly to get ready for release, given that you had shot for it so long ago?
I am used to it by now. I had to wait for a similarly long period for Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na to release. And that was my first film. And Delhi Belly was always such a different project, an experimental project, that I knew it may take time to reach the theatres.
You seem most happy featuring in these smart urban comedies like Jaane Tu... and Delhi Belly. Have you ever contemplated a career only from such films?
Of course I have. But I have not yet been able to do that. My good friend Abhay Deol has been able to do that. He has made an entire career out of doing sensible, off-beat films. I am still trying to strike a balance. With a Delhi Belly, I am doing a Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (Yash Raj Films production opposite Katrina Kaif).
You finally appeared in the same frame with your Aamir Mamu, even if it was just for a trailer. How was the experience?
It was not as I had expected it to be. I thought he would be an extremely intense man on the sets and really serious. But he was the most chilled out guy around and that really made things easy for me and the rest of the guys.
Imran picks five of his favourite films in the Delhi Belly genre
Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino’s breakthrough film comprising intersecting stories about gangsters.
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels: The Guy Ritchie cult film about four friends trying to make money through gambling.
Layer Cake: Matthew Vaughn directed this Daniel Craig-starrer about a London-based ‘clean’ drug dealer Mr X.
Pineapple Express: Directed by David Gordon Green, this is a stoner action comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.
Running Scared: Wayne Kramer made this crime thriller about a small-time thug caught in a roller-coaster ride.