Team Alone lead actors Bipasha Basu and Karan Singh Grover, along with producer Abhishek Pathak, in conversation with team Box Office India
Bipasha Basu (BB): You have got the rundown on the six films we have done before. Well, I had worked with Abhishek on Aatma too. It is he who drives everything now because Kumarji has his able son doing everything for him. I mean, I don’t know how they share their work but I don’t meet him very often although we connect on Whatsapp all the time. We even had a Whatsapp group for the film!
Abhishek Pathak (AP): Bipasha and I actually first worked together on Omkara. It was the first time I walked onto the sets to understand filmmaking.
BOI: So Abhishek, you began to learn the ropes of filmmaking with Omkara?
AP: Yes. It was the first film where I learnt production, and now Bipasha and I are working again. (Smiles)
BB: I am a good artist. I just ask too many questions. But once I get my answers, we are all on the same page.
Karan Singh Grover (KSG): And I am the one sending hearts on the Whatsapp group chat.
BB: Yeah, we have this group chat where we discuss important professional stuff about the shoot. So if something is delayed or postponed, we discuss it on chat. Sometimes, the chat can go to a different level. And when everyone is chatting about important stuff, Karan sends a heart, a bomb and once even a pot! When he sent a pot, everyone was, like, let’s get off this group chat and revert to individual chat! (Laughs)
KSG: Why did you do that, Karan?
BB: He was just lightening up the moment. He is called ‘comic relief’ on the set. He got that nickname from Abhishek and Bhushan (Patel). One day, Bhushan called him for a shot which was very intense. It wasn’t his shot but Bhushan said, ‘Come on the set, we are all quite bored.’
KSG: It was excellent. I didn’t feel like I was working with them for the first time. They were like family. They didn’t make me feel like an outsider at all. I made mutton for them and brought it to the sets. It was fun.
BOI: Even though this was a horror film, the shoot seems to have been fun.
AP: Oh yes! It was a fun ride.
BOI: What was it about Alone that attracted you all to the film?
KSG: For me, it was the script. It’s the kind that grabs your attention from beginning to end.
BOI: What about you, Bipasha?
BB: Yeah, it’s definitely the story, the screenplay and the character. The way it has been adapted from the original Thai film is superlative. And the Thai film is also very good. The core for the film is the love story, so the emotions are very strong, the characters very deep. The twin girls, Sanjana and Anjana, are very different and both of them love this guy in very different ways. They whole film takes place because of love – the love that the sisters share, and their love for Kabir’s character.
It was a very interesting triangular love story and I have not done a passionate love story for a very long time. The character was fantastic and the story, the screenplay… everything. Honestly, I didn’t know that Bhushan had delivered two hits earlier. I came like this strict person with my 12 questions and told him these were a few questions that had to be signed. So he went through the list and after reading it, he asked me if I could sign it for him. After we finished the film, he told me he still had the paper with my 12 questions, signed! It was such a lot of fun from the second day itself. I remember I sat with my manager Tanuja (Mehra) and said that the director was fab!
It is such a relief when you like the character, you like the story and everything about the film and then a new director you are working with is also in sync with you. That makes the journey of the film incredible. So whether it was Kumarji, Abhishek, Bhushan, Karan, me, or even our DoP Prakashji, we were all in sync with each other. Everyone loved the film so much that they brought in their energies. I guess that’s what is attractive about Alone, whether it is the trade or the masses, people on the road or the classes. The classes, especially the Mumbai audience, are usually very snooty about horror films but they have all accepted the trailer with open arms. Every single person has told me that the trailer and the songs are really nice and that they love me and Karan in the film. We have given our best and that’s what is working for us.
BOI: Abhishek, why did you buy the rights to the Thai film?
AP: I had watched the trailer of the film online and it seemed like a brilliant film to make. So we got in touch with the producers. There was something about the conjoined sisters and both of them falling for the same guy that was very unique. It was a tremendous love story. Then Bhushanji came on board and we found fabulous writers in Sheershak and Shantanu, who wrote an amazing screenplay.
BB: The funny thing is that Kumarji came to me with the film and I was, like, ‘Kumarji you are offering me a horror film again. Do you know that I will have to answer this question to the media too?’ So I thought, let me not talk to Kumarji because kya hoga na mujhe acchi lag jaegi and I will end up doing another supernatural film.
AP: That’s why she didn’t respond, initially, when we called her. She kept dilly dallying for a month and a half. (Laughs)
BB: Yes. They kept calling me and I didn’t respond. I knew that Kumarji kahenge toh I will have to do it. So I tried to stall. And then I told Tanuja that since it was Kumarji who was offering us the film, we would listen to the narration and then pyaar se mana kar denge. Once we heard the film, I liked it and looked at Tanuja and told her, ‘It’s really nice. What do I do now?’ Tanuja and I decided that we would tell the media that I did a comedy in between, which happened to be my biggest horror film, by the way. That I learnt only after I finished the film that it was the biggest horror film of my life. So after Aatma, I thought there would be a supernatural film that I would be a part of, and then a comedy and then Creature, which was not exactly horror, it was a creature feature, and then this film. I was actually thinking up weird reasons like that. But, no, it was too good a story for me to pass up.
BB: Yes, I have to take the credit for the names of my character and Karan’s. His character did not suit the name in the script. So I suggested Kabir and my twin characters are Sanjana and Anjana. Earlier, the names wee Rajat, Sia and Nia.
BOI: And you are fighting with yourself in this film.
BB: It’s one thing to get scared but to scare is very scary. I have never played a ghost but I was scared in Raaz 3, which was very dark and intimidating. It was a very scary experience. So to scare was very tough because there is no benchmark to play a ghost. How do you behave? What will your face look like? As for being a woman… You are used to looking good as an actress, and now you have to really mess up your face and talk demonically and behave crazy. On the sets, Bhushan would be, like, ‘Turn and snarl!’ And I would say, ‘How do I do that?’ Everyone is looking at you and you are intimidated because you don’t know whether people will laugh or be scared.
AP: In fact, that was one of her questions on the 12-point list she gave Bhushan. How would she play a ghost?
BB: Haan, that was very important. I had told him that I was going to be very nice and not difficult at all and if you tell me to put on scary make-up and play my part, I wouldn’t do it because I would scar myself in my head. I said they could use any kind of special effects but I would not put on make-up and act scary. So he shot me with simple and clean make-up. I would always turn to Bhushan and ask if I was doing OK. And he would say, ‘Relax, you are doing fine.’ Karan and I have some very emotional scenes in the film since we play a married couple who have gone through so much. These scenes were tough to dub and Bhushan helped and encouraged us a lot. I give full credit to Bhushan.
BOI: Karan, you have a certain ‘lover boy’ image on TV. What made you choose a horror film to make your big-screen debut?
KSG: I have retained that image in the film too. Also, I don’t look at a genre when I am doing a film. I looked at whether the story was fascinating and whether I felt like being a part of it. So I simply liked the story and agreed to be a part of it. Now Abhishek and I will be doing three films together.
BOI: How different was it to work on the big screen vis-a-vis the small screen?
KSG: Much easier than television. With TV, we work longer hours; and there is a lot of stress on the sets because we have to deliver a certain amount of footage every single day. There s a lot more pressure. While shooting this film, we often packed up at 9 pm and I used to think, ‘Hamare do shots aur baaki hain corridor mein.’ When I would tell Bhushan this, he would reply, ‘Kal ka telecast hai kya?’ Our schedule lasted 55 days and I used to tell him if we work for a little longer every day, we could complete the film in 50 days. He used to be, like, ‘Why would I want to finish it in 50 days?’
BB: (Cuts in) Kumarji will love you.
KSG: So, there is much less stress than there is when you’re shooting for television. You get to concentrate more on your art than chasing the clock.
BB: I have a rule for myself that I don’t work more than 12 hours a day. I always tell them to never slot a shot of mine for 8:45 pm because I will not stay beyond 9 pm. I make that clear to everybody. Otherwise, one doesn’t have a life. During the first 3-4 years of my career, I used to frequently fall sick because I overexerted. So, during this film, they were scared to ask me, ‘how long will you stay?’ There were some scenes that should be shot then and there when you’re in that zone. So for this film, I often told the assistant directors, ‘Finish it, I am here’. The scenes were so intense that I felt I would not be able to get the same emotion the next day. But that was an exception. I grew very attached to the film.
BOI: Being positive is the key to success…
BB: (Cuts in) Absolutely! I have done 60 films and I have realised that if everyone approaches a film with positive energy, it gives the film a certain positive vibe.
BOI: That’s what happened with this film, from the first look to the songs. Everyone is praising the film.
KSG: Thoo thoo thoo… (Spits)
BB: That’s Karan Singh Grover who always does that. He is like my mother!
KSG: I am like my mother.
BB: But touch wood! Yes!!
AP: We have great music and a great emotional connect. It’s basically a love story and Jeet Ganguli, Raghav Sachchar, Mithoon and Ankit Tiwari have provided us great music, which is already topping the charts. Also the story around which the film revolves is about the emotional bond between two conjoined twins and the love story between three people. I don’t think it has been explored in Hindi films before. We have seen love triangles and love angles but two people joined together for life suddenly having a man in their lives, and a conflict… That’s very strong emotion and we are banking on it.
BB: No! Everyone was saying positive things about the film. Every single person loved it and many even said to me… ‘We don’t want to meet you ‘alone’, ever!’ (Laughs)
BOI: Shah Rukh Khan said that?
BB: Yes, Shah Rukh said it, Farah (Khan) said it, and after that, many others said, ‘I don’t want to meet you ‘alone’. And I was, like, after the release, I am going to be the loneliest person on earth! I happened to meet Hrithik Roshan on a flight and he said he was crazy about the trailer. Then Sonu (Sood) and Malaika (Arora Khan) watched it and everybody loved it. You can tell when they really love your movie or are just being polite about it.
BOI: Was it challenging to shoot for a double role, like, one character is a ghost and the other a victim?
BB: We had to shoot the conjoined scenes at the same time and it was very difficult. We were shooting both parts, one after another. We had a body double exactly of my height and posture as far as possible. We shot Sanjana first and then changed the make-up and hair and shot Anjana from the same angle and location. We had to measure a lot of distances and everything had to be done in exactly the same way as it was done when shooting Sanjana. It was all very technical. Shooting the conjoined twins was very tough. They are two different girls; they are conjoined but get separated; and when that happens, one is a real person and the other is a ghost. Having to shoot as a victim and a ghost was different but shooting the conjoined part was a first for me. It was very technical to get the close-ups right and to avoid using a body double. Getting the expressions and reactions exactly the same for both twins was very tough.
AP: It was very tricky. It was not exactly a double role because in a double role, you can shoot one person and then the other. These people are stuck to each other, the eye line, height etc has to be perfect and it took a lot of time to shoot those scenes. It was difficult but we achieved what we wanted to.
BB: Yeah! It was fun. Every time you do something new, you enjoy the process.
BOI: Bipasha, did you go back to the monitor to check the shots while shooting?
BB: I did but not for the scary scenes. I left them to Bhushan.
KSG: She didn’t even watch the scary scene when we’re watching the film.
BB: Tanuja, Karan and I watched the film together and I closed my eyes during the horror scenes. Let him tell you how I watched the film.
KSG: After every horror scene, she would ask ‘Woh gayi, kya?’ And I would be, like, it’s not ‘woh’, it’s ‘you’! (Laughs)
BB: We had this body double who loved to dabble in make-up. She was a total brat and enjoyed scaring people on the sets. One day, I was walking onto the sets in the evening, eating a biscuit, when she suddenly looked at me and smiled. I almost got a heart attack! After that, I made sure she was in her van every time I was on the sets.
KSG: She is a sweet girl and smiled politely when you were walking by.
BB: No, she was very scary! We were shooting a scene where I had to turn and she would suddenly appear. I was mustering the courage to come face-to-face with her. This was before the shot and no one on the sets knew how scared I was. They used to think aise hi bolti hai, itni saari horror filmein kee hai. I was ready for my shot and Bhushan said ‘Action!’ I did my scene and Bhushan said ‘Cut!’ He repeated ‘Cut!’ assuming I was acting. I was crying, I was hysterical. Everyone had walked away and left me in the room alone. Then my team came in and sent in the ‘comic relief’ (KSG) to make me laugh.
AP: Even during the narration, she used to close her ears when a horror scene was being narrated. Then she would ask, ‘Khatam hua?’
BB: (Cuts in) What rubbish! Okay, I once asked them to show me a reference from The Exorcist. I kept asking the team to show me how they were planning to shoot the scene and when they showed me the reference scene, I couldn’t watch it! They said, ‘It was you who asked to see the reference.’
KSG: I am very nervous and I am not trying to think beyond that. The countdown has begun and I have to focus all my energy now and not expect anything.
BOI: What about you, Bipasha?
BB: I expect the film to do well for all of us. I have seen the film, it’s entertaining, it’s got the right mix of everything… emotion, passion, love, thrills, scares, music. Our DoP is fantastic and it is a beautiful film visually. Also, the film is not lengthy. It holds your attention because the narrative is very very intriguing. It is a very watchable films and the buzz we have created is quite positive. So I am expecting a lot from the film.
BOI: What do you think, Abhishek?
AP: I am pretty confident about the film and it’s been a long time since I have not been nervous before a release of mine. Also, I know people like the trailer and are sure they want to watch the film. It’s about Monday now. I am pretty confident of the opening due to the buzz we have created. The audience response will determine Monday’s outcome. I know we have made a good film. Now let’s hope people will keep going to watch film in cinemas again and again.
BB: Yaay! Keep saying things like these.
BOI: Can we expect Alone 2?
BB: It’s a good film and it’s an entertainer. Sometimes, a film doesn’t turn out as the narration had promised or it is less exciting than it seemed on the storyboard. But this film has turned out much better than I had imagined and that is why I am happy.
BOI: Bhushan is a very good director.
KSG: He is brilliant.
BB: Yes, he is technically very stylish and he handled the horror sequences as deftly as he did the emotional depth in the scenes.
AP: We shot at many locations, including Kerala.
BB: We shot at the backwaters in Kerala for the song Katra. Bhushan pointed out that a location like that would look good on screen. If the aesthetics of a song are not shot right, it can look very tacky on screen. So I have to hand it to Prakash (Kutty) and even Howard (Rosemeyer). When I watched the Katra song on the big screen, I was in awe because it was very hot while shooting but you can’t see that on the screen.
KSG: Howard knows what has to be done. Once, we were shooting on a raft and people were watching. We were supposed to be grooving to the beats of the song.
BB: I was very angry as the temperature was very high. It was undoubtedly very beautiful but we were left on that raft for hours, with no make-up touch-ups as no one could reach us on the raft. And I get psychotic in the heat. And in the middle of all that, he was screaming at us to kiss. I was so agitated that I said if this guy says ‘kiss’ one more time, I am going to throw him in the water. (Laughs)
KSG: Yes, he kept screaming, ‘Contact, contact, contact, kiss, kiss, kiss!’ (Laughs)
AP: When people make horror films in India, they don’t spend money on technicalities as they do in Hollywood. This genre demands good technicians. I think it is the most underrated genre in India. Of the big league actors, only Bipasha, Emraan (Hashmi) and Ajay (Devgn) have done horror films. When you talk about commercial success, this is the most important genre and I think more actors should take it up.
BB: (Cuts in) Don’t encourage anyone else to do it because then I won’t be the ‘horror queen’. (Laughs)
AP: But no one does it.
BB: I really don’t understand what actresses fear about this genre. If Alone works, the credibility of horror films will improve. We are taking baby steps in this genre.
AP: Actors too are shying away from the genre because they believe horror films don’t look ‘nice’.
BB: I am really sorry to discuss this at a forum like Box Office India but only a handful of our films look nice. And I mean across genres; not just horror. There are many big films which didn’t look nice.