Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Ishaan Khatter is well, this bundle of talent who received a lot of appreciation for his debut film ‘Beyond The Clouds’ and now there’s ‘Dhadak’ which sees him in a different avatar all together. Everyone’s praise for this new boy, but what really is striking about him is his confidence and a natural in-depth know-how about the craft. We catch up with the actor at Dharma’s office to chat all about ‘Dhadak’. Excerpts:

How happy are you to have ‘Beyond The Clouds’ and ‘Dhadak’ as your initial films – both being so drastically different from each other in every way?
Yes, like you said, I’m very happy to be a part of two films that are so drastically different from each other and allow me to expose so many dimensions of myself as a performer. But, at the same time, what I’m most grateful for, is the fact that both these films have a very positive energy. There was a lot of positive energy while making both these films and I was able to grow during each of these experiences. But what I enjoyed the most about working on ‘Dhadak’ after ‘Beyond The Clouds’ was that it felt almost as if you were being on the set with your best friends. It was very collaborative and of course, it was a little pre-meditated since I was meant to do this film first. It really felt like there were a lot of firsts, here even and just the entire process of finding the character, the preparation for this film; the approach which Shashank had was very different from what I’ve experienced before with Majidi sir. Majidi sir wanted the characters to be discovered on the set, he would like to surprise the actors very often, he wanted a very organic way of working whereas, Shashank also loves spontaneity in his scenes but he loves to rehearse and do retakes. His approach is such that he wants his actors to be very well-prepared so that once we are on set, no matter what kind of day we are experiencing, his actors should be prepared. So, doing that was interesting and it was a very different approach. The discoveries and improvisations were in the rehearsals before we went on the sets at all. And then I have been fortunate enough to travel with my directors on the recces of these films. Especially this film, we spent seven days each through two trips in Rajasthan. So, the preparation process was very interesting in this one even. Both the films have been enriching.

You’ve been such a cinema lover and been learning so much by watching films – in that sense, how much did you bring in from your own influences or sensibility into ‘Dhadak’?
First and foremost, it’s very important to understand the film in its entirety and the role you play in it. Due credit to Shashank, he had a well-defined character on paper, so there’s a lot of indication of the personality within the script, within the dialogues he is speaking. But then to find that and bring it on screen is the most exciting part of acting. The things I understood of this character were that, he is unambitious, naïve, he has not seen a lot in life and lives in his little bubble, a fantasy world of his own. He is smart but has a certain small town innocence. Those kind of things were important to define and understand. Then of course, the physical traits, the spoken language added a lot of dimensions to the character. A lot of dimensions were directly proportional to the fact that Shashank wanted to base the film in Rajasthan. So, that gave us a lot of characteristics and creative choices. To have a Rajasthani flavor and yet not forget the fact that we are making a Hindi film, not making it a colloquial film. We went to Rajasthan and got to observe a lot of locals there. We decided to have the hair a little lighter, making it look sun-kissed. I wore contact lens because they have lighter eyes, I got my ears pierced, and that’s a very colloquial thing. Sashank wanted me to put on some weight because he wanted me to look like a healthy mewadi boy. And some things you add spontaneously, they all add.

How much did you enjoy the dancing bit here? And perhaps did you also find this more relatable?
Infact, as a character, Aamir was more relatable for me than Madhu. Madhu is very different from me. The fact that he falls head over heels in love and that dictates his life from there on. And he has to grow up. Whereas, Aamir found a certain sense of individuality from a very young age. There were certain elements to the character which I could relate to, also the fact that he was born and bought up in Mumbai. I found that Madhu is different – I am not born and raised in Rajasthan so my perspective and cultural influence is not the same but I found that both were equally enjoyable. I was able to learn a lot in both these experiences. For this one, of course, the location was beautiful. It was much more enjoyable, that I can say for sure. Udaipur is so beautiful and it’s a very important character in itself in the film. It plays a larger role in their identities than perhaps the location did in Parshia and Archie’s life in ‘Sairat’.

Did you watch ‘Sairat’, how much did you use it as a reference point?
I saw it twice. But Shashank’s brief to us was that, let’s not watch it anymore once we started readings from the film because he didn’t want us to get influenced by those performances in any way. The idea was to always just take the story and show that two people in Maharashtra and two people in Rajasthan, the story being as relevant irrespective of the place. As different as these people might be, the story is as relevant. The idea is to make it as honest as it could be, inspired from ‘Sairat’ but not a scene to scene copy.

You mentioned last time about your love for learning new languages, so you must have enjoyed getting the dialect right for this one?
Yes, I come from a family of linguistics so I have a fascination for it. But I’ve definitely not had the chance to explore languages as much as I’d like to. I was so excited to learn the dialect and language, perhaps, I wanted to go all into it but Shashank had to tell me to remember this is a Hindi film. Don’t overdo it. His vision is very strong and he knows what he wants so I respect that but at the same time I met this gentleman from Rajasthan, learnt things from him and then I take it to Shashank, and he’d be like use this, use that, don’t use it. So, it’s all about your collaborative equation. An actor’s prerogative is to always offer more and that’s the exciting part – to bring more to the table – what the director wants is his prerogative.

You have this confident vibe, like, you know what you are talking and there’s an in-depth know how. Where does that bit of confidence for a newcomer really come from?
I think, to a certain degree maybe it’s to do with my personality but I think it’s also  a lot because of my perspective and outlook. For me, I look for inspiration constantly. I am well aware that this is something I am very passionate about. Maybe it’s the fact that I watch a lot of movies, I’m deeply involved and I’m very eager to do a lot, explore new things. I’ve also been fortunate that I got opportunities from a very young age. I just love this job, let’s just say that.

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