Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

Saqib Saleem is this fun, filmy, happy-go-lucky guy and he also finally gets to explore that side on-screen with ‘Dil Junglee’. Also, this is refreshing change from his previous few outings in terms of the genre. Saleem being his honest, casual, candid self gets talking to us about this film and more…

‘Dil Junglee’ is quite a change from your previous outing, ‘Dobara’….
I’m so happy that there’s a change in genre because people think of me as a very serious actor, but I’m not a serious actor. I enjoy doing these serious things, jumping around, having fun, doing some comedy, so for me when the script came to me, I thought it would be a great way to shift genres in a fun space. I get to play a Dilliwala which I am, and haven’t really got an opportunity to play that. Besides the fact that I played a Punjabi guy in ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’, I’ve never gotten a chance to explore that space. And when I read it, I totally related to the guy because I’ve been that guy at some point in my life. I have grown up in Lajpat Nagar, that’s where the character is from. I’m obsessed about going to the gym, the guy is a gym trainer. This guy wants to become an actor, I am an actor. I felt a lot of relatability to the character and it’s a fun film. It’s not pretentious or melodramatic. We term it as a joy ride.

Like you said, people think of you as a serious actor – that’s quite interesting considering you started out with ‘Mujhse Fraandship Karoge’, and ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’, isn’t it?
I don’t know. I think people think of me as a good actor but I enjoy doing stuff like this. I enjoy running around trees and all, I have grown up on those kind of films so I will be lying if I say I don’t like it. I love it. It’s only now that we’ve seen international cinema and all, so there’s that inclination towards content driven films which is great, and I want to do that, but I want to do stuff like this also where I just out there and have fun.

Lately, we’re not seeing many romcoms. The industry is slowly moving towards either a very serious zone in cinema or larger-than-life movies…
So, hope that this film comes across as a breath of fresh air. They say, change is the only constant, so one has to keep changing and evolving. But I’d still like to add that our film is not just a romcom. It talks about the class politics as well, but we never get into that zone because if you start spelling these things, the humour of the film goes. You have to address things but in a fun, humourous way. The film is probably in the space of ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na…’ where it’s essentially a love story but it’s surrounded by people and our decisions in life are also dependent on people which is what happens in real life. If you are dating someone, your best friend’s approval is very important. Your best friend has to like that person. So, I think, we deal with those things also in the film but in no point do you feel the film gets serious.

Also, as opposed to the popular notion, that romcoms are simple and frivolous, don’t they have their own set of challenges? For instance, being more natural.
Yes, but that’s the fun in it – to make this sort of film also real and relatable. This is a different world from ‘Dobara’. The characters are so rooted, yet so filmy. What this film very nicely explores is that your definition of love keeps changing as you grow up. When you are 20, that innocence of first love is something else and you think that’s love. By the time you are 27, 28, you have a different definition of love, which you believe in now which may change when you are 35. So, the film takes us on a journey where these two characters are exploring love. They happen to meet, separate – it has a lot to do with destiny, or the fact that the first love never dies away. It addresses those things but we never get into a melodramatic space, we never get into a soppy space. We talk like real people, that’s what I enjoy.

When you do films which can be put into the ‘slice-of-life’ category, does it help further when you’ve had many experiences in life to learn from?
Yes, because it’s true right that your definition of love or everything in life changes once you experience things in life. First you have a rigid system which is influenced by your parents and family, but again it’s a process of self-discovery, which I’ve had. I’ve had the good fortune of discovering those things all by myself. I’ve been in Mumbai all by myself so all my struggles, rejections have taught me a lot. One has to put their real life experiences in every film. If you don’t then you would come across as very detached from the character when people see you. You have to bring in your own element into a character, every time, whatever film it may be. Whether it is a ‘Dobara’ or ‘Bombay Talkies’ or ‘Dil Junglee’, you have to bring in your own experiences, otherwise it doesn’t work.

When you’ve had films like ‘Hawaa Hawaai’, or ‘Bombay Talkies’ or now ‘Dil Junglee’, do they add to your belief in your own capabilities or the kind of work you want to do?
My faith in myself is not related to what people think of me. Being a part of this industry, opinions of people change every Friday, so if my faith in myself would be changing every Friday then I shouldn’t be in this business. The first day when I entered this industry, I decided that the only way it’s going to work is if I unabashedly have faith in myself. Even if nobody has faith in me, I need to have that faith in myself otherwise no producer will put money on me. My faith in myself has been there from the moment I started and it’s still there. Films work or don’t work, that doesn’t change the belief I have in myself. Of course, when there’s appreciation, there’s that added bit of confidence that I was right all this while. But I never let success and failure deter me. I learn from all my failures. In all fairness, I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded so I think I’ve learnt a lot. And I hope that every time I move on to a new film, I hope I never repeat them. So, yes, failures have taught me a lot. There’s been a time where I sat at home for six months, not wanting to do anything because I wasn’t liking what was being offered to me. So, yes, it was difficult to have the faith but one has to have the faith otherwise it just doesn’t work.

Talking of love stories, which is your all-time favourite Hindi love story?
‘DDLJ’, ‘DDLJ’, ‘DDLJ’!! It’s such a charming film. It’s so filmy, yet it’s such a real film. You see how the characters evolve in the film. I have seen that film atleast hundred times.

Were you influenced by Hindi love stories while growing up?
Hundred percent. I have grown up on ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!’, ‘DDLJ’ and the last good romcom which I really enjoyed was ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, which was a breath of fresh air. I wasn’t expecting anything out of it, but then I thought, there’s so much energy in the film. So, these films work purely on the basis that does the film have the right energy, if the actors in the film are in sync. In that sense, we’ve won half the battle because as a cast, we’ve gelled really well. And it’s not been like we’ve put pressure on ourselves to gel, it just happened very organically.

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