When a film releases in a theatre, there’s a completely different vibe to the pre-release promotions. Both Raj (Rajkummar Rao) and I have been wondering what this new vibe is going to be. But the response to the trailer and the songs has been so phenomenal that it almost makes us forget that we aren’t releasing our film in the theatres. It seems like the audience is just out there,” Nushrratt Bharuccha, who has quite a few letters now added to her name, tells us when we connect over a Zoom call. The Pyaar Ka Punchnama actor — who had a huge hit in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety early last year and followed it up with the box-office winner Dream Girl — is now gearing up for Chhalaang.
Directed by Hansal Mehta, Chhalaang is set in small-town India and reunites Nushrratt with her Love Sex Aur Dhokha co-star Rajkummar Rao, and will stream on Amazon Prime Video from November 13. A t2 chat with Nushrratt.
You’ve played the small-town, spunky girl before. But Chhalaang seems to be in a different space and has a different vibe...
The world that Hansal sir (Mehta) comes from, the films that he makes, are very different. Chhalaang belongs to that world, coupled with Luv sir’s (Ranjan, co-producer and the director of Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and the Pyaar Ka Punchnama films) unique brand of comedy. This film is a sports film but is set in the comic space, which is also very interesting. This is also a rare film for children. And yet this is a film that will be enjoyed by parents, teachers, grandparents... the film seamlessly cuts across age groups and has a large demographic reach.
Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao have worked on many films before and one would expect them to have a shorthand on set. What was it like getting into that work dynamic?
Honestly, they never made any of us feel like they have a shorthand on set. The fact that they understand each other so well, in fact, made it easier for the other actors, especially me. So when Raj had a scene with me, he would tell me beforehand that this is what Hansal sir would like or not like in a take. Those inputs came in very useful for me. Even Hansal sir would tell me, ‘Raj aisa karega and then you can do this’. So I could pick up in seconds or minutes what I otherwise would have taken a few scenes or even a few days to grasp.
So the understanding and familiarity between the two of them actually became accessible and helpful for the rest of us to tap into. They opened themselves up to us and I opened myself up to them.
Honestly, I am a very chilled-out person on set. If you chit-chat with me, I will probably end up telling you my life story (laughs). Being on this set was pretty effortless.
Did you and Raj take off from where you had left in Love Sex Aur Dhokha a decade ago?
Raj is just the same person he was so many years ago. It seemed like time never went by. Yet, at the same time, he came in as an actor with more experience and with more knowledge about his craft. He’s just so much more enriched as a performer now, and watching him as an actor would always make me ask, ‘How does he do this? How does he make it seem so normal?’ And when you watch the same scene on screen, you will be like, ‘Outstanding! What has he done?!’ (Laughs) He brings in such nuances to his acting that it inspires you as an actor and makes you realise that you still have a long way to go. So the fun part was that he was the same person and yet I had so much to learn from him.
EYES ON YOU: Nushrratt Bharuccha with Rajkummar Rao in Chhalaang, streaming on Amazon Prime Video from November 13
What’s your process as an actor like?
I need to be prepared and I like knowing my lines to the T. I don’t like being lost on set and wondering whether I have said the right line or given the correct cue or the scene has gone somewhere else from what it was intended to be. Once that preparation is embedded in my soul, I do like going out there and playing with a scene... the idea is that I have done all that a scene requires, now let’s switch a few things here and there and see what we get. When you are fully prepared, your spontaneity could end up a little wayward and lost. So I try and keep it to a mix of both.
Ten years in films and coming off two box-office winners, what would you count as the big ‘chhalaang’ of your career so far?
I think the whole decision of becoming an actor and the process of realising that dream was the biggest chhalaang of my life. I would sit in my living room and watch films on TV and I always wondered if one day, I would make it to that TV set. It took a while, it took years, but it happened.
I know a lot of people would like to say, and honestly even I would, that Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety was the game changer for me. The offers did open up after that and they did get better, but everything I did before that was also a chhalaang because I was never prepared for what to expect. I did one film at a time and let destiny take its course. I took the decisions of doing the films I did with a leap of faith.
Was there a moment of epiphany that made you believe you were meant to be an actor?
LSD (Love Sex Aur Dhokha). I remember telling this to Dibakar (Banerjee, the film’s director) also, that before LSD, I don’t think I fully understood the joy of performing honestly, truly and sincerely. I think I just did them as an act because it was called ‘acting’. It was LSD where I was able to break down who I was as Nushrratt, become Shruti (her character in the film), take on alien emotions which I wouldn’t take on in my life and in any situation, and to put them out there in such an unadulterated manner.
None of us knew where the camera was... that was the whole point of LSD as a film. And 24 hours on set, we had to be that character... we couldn’t step out of it because we didn’t know which part Dibakar was filming or not filming. That really made me enjoy what I did and also fall in love with it. And that’s when I knew that this is my space and this is what I want to do every single day of my life.
You’ve also said that this year has changed you as a person. In what way?
I always thought I was a little too stuck-up... I didn’t like changing the way I did things, or the way in which I saw some things. But the last few months have forced me to adapt and to change. I’ve learnt a new way of life which is all about being adaptive. I have learnt to adjust my expectations and still be happy with who I am and where I am.