After much hype and preparation, Girish Kumar, son of producer Kumar Taurani, will finally make his debut in the upcoming Ramaiya Vastavaiya. In conversation with team Box Office India, the film’s director Prabhudheva and lead actors Girish Kumar and Shruti Haasan reflect on the high points of their journey together
Prabhudheva: Girish’s (Kumar) father told me he wanted to make a film with me. I agreed but asked him to wait for a year. But Girish was new to the craft and needed to open up before he actually faced the camera. I told him Girish should learn to dance, Bollywood style. I also said that if we cast Girish, he would be the only newcomer and the rest of the cast would comprise established actors.
BOI: Girish, how did you feel when you learnt that Prabhudheva would be launching you?
Girish Kumar (GK): I had mixed feelings. My dream of becoming an actor was finally coming true. I knew that with him, I would get a good start. It’s very important for an actor to have a good start these days. I am very lucky.
BOI: What about you, Shruti? What was it like to be part of this film?
Prabhudheva: (Cuts in) I think Shruti fit the role very well and looks apt for it too. We were really excited to have her on board because we are all big fans of Kamal sir (Haasan). He is like a God for us. We were, like, if we can’t work with God himself, we would have to make do with God’s daughter. (Laughs)
Shruti Haasan (SH): But you have worked with my father.
Prabhudheva: Yes I worked with him on my first film as his choreographer and we connected very well. He works very differently from everyone else. But Shruti doesn’t want to be looked at as her father’s daughter. She wants to be seen as an independent actor. But I tell her it can’t be helped. ‘You have a father who is a God for us and the country.’ So we see her like that.
I didn’t say this during the shoot or even after that. Now that people are asking me about the actors, I want to talk about it. Everyone is saying that Shruti is looking fantastic in the film and Girish has also done well. I have told both of them that they don’t need to hear this from me. The audience will tell you this. Everyone else has watched only the trailer but I have watched the whole film. Considering the way people have reacted to the trailer, I am sure they will like the film too. I have to say that Shruti looks tremendous in the film.
Prabhudheva: Everyone thinks she looks beautiful in the film. Girish has also done a fabulous job. But what Kumarji and I say about Girish should not matter at all. Since he is newcomer, he should wait for the audiences’ reaction.
BOI: Shruti, why don’t you tell us about Girish?
SH: I feel an instant connection to him since both of us hail from film families. Everyone says we have it easy. But I have watched Girish work very hard. We have both worked hard. I don’t think he took anything for granted. Even after shooting, he used to work out. He also brings a very positive and calm attitude to the sets. That’s something people usually learn over time but he already has it.
Prabhudheva: (Cuts in) That is because his father is rich. (Laughs)
GK: My father is rich but I am not rich. I still have to ask him, ‘Dad, when will you give me my cheque?’
Prabhudheva: The lead character is an NRI in the film and since Girish looks like a foreigner, he fit the role. Shruti’s look was a bigger challenge since she had to play a villager. I told my ADs to give her clothes that look worn and simple. But no matter what she wore, she looked beautiful in them. So I asked them to give her some dull clothes and that’s how we solved the problem.
Prabhudheva: This was my film. After Wanted, everyone wanted me to do an action film. So I was very surprised that a producer wanted me to make a romantic film. I was very grateful since someone wanted me to do something different.
BOI: How much in the film has changed from the original?
Prabhudheva: I didn’t want to change anything in the film because I don’t work to show off my talent.
BOI: But given the market and the language, did you make any changes to the film based on that?
Prabhudheva: The boy and the girl are different, and the actors are different. And the dialogue is different.
BOI: So the story is pretty much the same.
Prabhudheva: Yes, because the emotion had to be the same. All of us thought about it many times and eventually decided to keep the story the same.
Prabhudheva: More than anyone, I want Girish and Shruti to get the accolades.
BOI: Both Wanted and Rowdy Rathore are action films. Was it risky to attempt something that wasn’t action-based and that too, with debutants?
Prabhudheva: No, I didn’t think of it that way. When I made Wanted and Rowdy Rathore too, I was asked why I wasn’t remaking my first film in Hindi. I told them I have no idea but I would do it one day. This film is very close to my heart because it was my first film as a director. Now I am very happy. And this film needed newcomers. This film couldn’t have been made without newcomers.
SH: On the one hand, we know him as a Hindi film director but if you watch the original film, the scenes are choreographed so beautifully that they fall right into place. We know him as someone who is good at this. When I stepped into the film, I didn’t think of him as a blockbuster director. You will know what I mean when you watch the film. We also know him to be very adept at this in both Tamil and Telugu. So it’s an added advantage that he is making this now in Hindi.
BOI: Girish, have you watched the original film? And what preparation did you do for this film?
GK: My father always had this film at the back of his mind and so he asked me to watch it too. I knew he was planning to work out a script to launch me. So I watched the movie and loved its essence.
When we bought the rights to the film, we also had Prabhu sir on board. Both things happened separately. The script was locked and Prabhu sir was signed separately. So my father told Prabhu sir that he had a script with him that he wanted to remake. When we told him the story, Prabhu sir said, ‘Sir, that’s my film and I made my debut as a director with it!’ My father was astonished and I guess it was destined to happen.
As for the second part of your question… Prabhu sir said acting would not be a problem but I needed to practice dancing. Since my character in the film is of an extrovert, dancing would help me loosen up in front of the camera. I trained in dance for eight to ten months while he was shooting Rowdy Rathore. I just kept dancing and dancing, and he sent me DVDs and I would dance to all of them one after another. That’s how I mastered the songs.
BOI: What about you Shruti? Did you do any preparation?
SH: I have always been a director’s actor. There’s only so much prep you can do, and in this case he was extremely clear about what he wanted. And there is a very clear line about what the director wants from the actor. For me, the basic difference is that in the South, I have done characters that are from a rural background but I have never done that in Hindi. But he was very clear about the look that he wanted so I did not have any problems with that.
SH: The general buzz is very positive. The music has done well, so it’s very positive.
BOI: Two of your films, Ramaiya Vastavaiya and D-Day, are releasing on the same day. So it’s Shruti Versus Shruti.
SH: (Laughs) Yeah.
GK: Why versus? It should be Shruti Haasan and Shruti Haasan.
SH: Yeah, but they are completely different roles, so there is no point comparing them. There’s no question of ‘versus’.
BOI: What is it like shooting different genres?
Prabhudheva: For me, shooting every film is a different experience. Every film is different. Even one action film is different from another action film because the actors are different and the story is different.
BOI: Now that the film is on celluloid, how satisfied are you with the final product?
Prabhudheva: I am very nervous right now.
SH: I am very happy about the kind of director we have. That there will be certain positives but you can’t predict how things will turn out. It would also not be appropriate for me to say, this is best scene or that is the best scene. You put in your best – and I know the energy around this film – and you know there is that positive energy around your film.
GK: I come from a film background. I have been critiquing films since I was a kid and I have grown up among cameras and lights and sets. We have a take on every film but with my film, I have lost objectivity. I can’t judge the scenes that include me but among those that don’t, like Sonu Sood’s and Shruti’s scenes, I can tell you, they are all great. We have all been true to the script.
BOI: How satisfied is the producer Kumar Taurani?
GK: He is very happy with Prabhu sir, Shruti and Sonu Sood. He cannot say anything about me and would rather I gauge that from the audience’s reaction. I think the feedback is good and people like the songs too.
Prabhudheva: He is happy. The son is saying so, and I so believe him. (Laughs)
BOI: What kind of promotion is lined up?
Prabhudheva: I am just praying and going to the temple! That’s the biggest promotion.
GK: I am also going to the gurudwara every day.
BOI: What is the kind of attention you are getting from your fans especially the women?
Prabhudheva: (Cuts in) They are calling him a cute boy! (Laughs)
GK: I just want people to see me. I think, nowadays, despite the fact that people see you on TV, they should also see you in person. I am thinking in terms of how newcomers are perceived. So if I want them to watch my film, I should be able to create the pull that says, ‘Look, I am here.’
SH: I am very active on Twitter. Initially, there were talking about me and Prabhu sir and suddenly they were tagging me and saying that we are the ‘Girish Kumar fan club and we love Girish!’ I was, like, what happened suddenly? Where are my fans! Suddenly, there’s a buzz about him!
BOI: How happy are you Girish with so much attention on you?
GK: I am waiting for people to be happy with the final result. It doesn’t matter how happy I am.
BOI: Can you share some anecdotes from the sets?
SH: I think Girish is Dr Doolittle now because we had so many animals on the sets. He has become an animal expert.
GK: I was, like, let’s get it over with. Because there were too many animals like bulls with horns so I was very scared they might hit me.
SH: I guess the character was a big challenege because it was out of my personality zone since I have never played anything like that before. It’s an actor’s job to mould oneself to the role.
GK: There weren’t many challenges but the tough part was acting with animals. It was hard to gauge how the cow felt about me acting with it. But I knew what I was getting into, so I was prepared.
BOI: Since Prabhudheva is one of the best dancers in the country, how tough were the dance sequences?
Prabhudheva: Actually, in this film, there isn’t much dancing because it’s not a dance film.
SH: Yeah, but even that little bit was very tough, sir! (Laughs)
Prabhudheva: Every song has a story behind it. Songs are integral to the story and there is dance in the film but not hardcore dancing. We had what it took to do those sequences.
BOI: What is the one USP of the film?
Prabhudheva: No, hard work is the USP of the film.