Interview By: Team Super Cinema

The ‘1920’ franchise is back with its third installment, with an all-new cast in the form of Sharman Joshi and Meera Chopra. Both these actors recently visited our office and we got chatting to them all about the film amidst other things. Take a look!

“You have to be true to the script. The script is the guiding force” ~ Sharman Joshi

“I visualize myself doing everything” ~ Meera Chopra

The first two installments of this film were huge hits. So when this film came to you, what made you to be part of it?

Sharman – I was very happy since this was a franchise that was being offered to me and it’s a successful one which makes the job of the actor lot easier. The film has a loyal fan following which ensures a certain number turning up at the theatres. The fact that it’s a supernatural thriller and yet the film has a strong intense love-story is interesting. The character which I play is very complex and it has many shades for me to portray as an actor. I hope I saw the way it’s written and I have performed accordingly. It has many layers to it which makes it very rich in its content. Then of course the production value of the film as we had seen in the earlier two films. We have taken up the production content. It’s a rich horror film and staged on a much richer canvas for the viewers to see.

Meera – The moment I was offered this film it was a no-brainer that I have to say ‘yes’ for it because the script was good and Tinu is a wonderful director. My role is very strong and it’s not something that I’m doing something small despite the fact that there are many characters in the movie. The female character is very strong and for me it was the first movie that I had signed and to get a first movie like that I was very excited about. The entire journey has been wonderful. At the end of the day it’s a horror movie. People would go and see it because the horror element is strong and the undercurrent love-story is very beautiful.

In the last few years, horror as a genre has really evolved in Hindi cinema. Do you think this film will raise the bar?

Meera – It’s definitely one of the best good looking horror films in India.

Sharman – I find this genre very exciting and I feel it’s a territory that has not been treaded upon too much and hence it should be. With the advancement of technology, special effects and the kind of technical support that we have which is again not costly so it becomes more feasible and possible to make these kinds of films. That’s a big plus as compared to the earlier makers who were dabbling in this genre. Technical challenges were sometimes looked a little tacky so instead of scaring people, people would laugh at it. Now the bars have been raised because of the technical support.

You started out with theatre and now a lot of theatre actors sometimes say that when they come to films they have to tone it down a little bit….

Sharman – Modern theatres don’t have the challenges that yesteryears theatres used to have. The sound systems were not good. So the early days’ actors had to project their voices to reach to the audience seated in the last row. Now times have changed. Since the time I have come in, the sound system is great, we are using lapel mics and even the softest whispers reaches the last rows in the theatres. It’s only when you have to project louder that your expressions also turn out to be louder in softer moments. So these were technical challenges more than anything else. But thankfully by the time I came to theatres those challenges were no longer there. I was fortunate to work with all the directors who wanted to keep things real. So transition for me in terms of any platform whether its films, television or theatres, my acting remains the same and I do not know any other way or any other transition or I’m not knowledgeable about those technical things. I do what I know irrespective of the genre.

“I like to work with different kinds of directors and different kind of genres. It keeps the whole exercise of going to shoot every day and that’s so much fun”

Whenever you are doing a horror film, what is your biggest challenge as an actor?

Sharman – You have to be true to the script. The script is the guiding force, then the director’s convictions and of course your instincts. The material is such that as an actor you would be asked to perform in a particular way. But the point is that even its comedy it has to be kept real only then it can touch and sometimes I find it tougher to perform a comic role than the dramatic ones because sometimes you can get away with an intense face as opposed to a comedy role. There would be a farcical where it has to be a little louder because the material again demands that and then you play it up a little more. I try to balance it keeping it realistic so that it becomes more acceptable and it has little more depth. Because even if in a farce you keep it all up and high in terms of your emotions and facial expressions sometimes it gets a little boring for me personally. As an actor I try to bring it down to real.

Coming from few south films, how do you see this film as an actor? Does your process differ?

Meera – Working in any other language is all same because it’s the same medium. In Bollywood I feel warm because I’m working with my own people. I’m a typical north Indian Punjabi girl. Working in South was difficult at times I was working with a unit of 200 people who would not speak my language. That was something which was not very comfortable. Working in bollywood feels like home because I can speak Hindi! That’s a huge comforting factor. Otherwise I feel working in any language is the same thing. At the end of the day you are doing the same thing – acting, its common everywhere. There is not much difference. But I feel much more happy and comfortable here and I would like to stay (laughs).

As an actor, you have been widely appreciated in all the films that you have done so far. There must have been a conscious decision to not limit yourself?

Sharman – I’ve never been afraid of being categorised or being put into a particular genre and people having a particular perception about me. The journey is more about me. It’s for me, my happiness and my excitement. And I do whatever brings me satisfaction and hopefully for the audience but it has to be an inside and outside process. I have to enjoy the journey first and then hopefully the audience will enjoy it. For that I have to keep doing different things because that’s my nature. I like to work with different kinds of directors and different kind of genres. It keeps the whole exercise of going to shoot everyday and that’s so much fun.

So there has never been any apprehensions about making certain choices?

Sharman – Whenever I pick a movie I’m 100% confident that this will be accepted by the audience. But it’s a different thing – it works out sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. The point is that I am here to do commercial cinema. I understand that money is involved and it has to be recovered and hopefully more. What might look experimental to people, actually I feel it has tremendous commercial potential and with that intention I set out. Like filmmaking has so many people involved, some of us have failed despite of our best intentions.

How has been working on this film as one team?

Meera – I think that’s the challenge of a director and that’s why he is called the captain of the ship. I think everybody has to see the script from his perspective and once you do that you sail it smoothly.

Sharman – I agree to that. He inspires everyone to be on the same page in spite of different sensibilities and approaches bring them all to make them homogeneous. That’s the director’s job.

Being here for a few years now, do you think about numbers or budget?

Sharman – Numbers and budgets are very important now. Whether I like it or not I have to concentrate over there. But the point is that I just feel that it’s about time now either you back a film which falls into your budget or you can make a fine film out of it irrespective of the limited budget that you might have; especially with actors with my commercial standing the budget is not as healthy as the leading stars would have. So either I choose to be part of subjects which the budgets will justify and if I end up doing a film which requires a certain amount of money which is beyond the arithmetic so I hope to work with creative producers who have their own conviction and they back the script and eventually not go by the arithmetic but go by the passion because this field is about passion and sometimes even for a 10 crore film you end up spending 20 crores because you believe in it, that’s what I call a true producer and he makes a success out of it.

I think the best example would be ‘Hate Story 3’ in recent times.
Sharman – ‘Hate story 3’ was again within budget, it was planned within budget. We need creative producers basically. Apart from the basic arithmetic and what value an actor brings on board there should be creative producers who believe in the subjects they are producing and they put the money and back those projects and make it ‘theirs’. They should find extreme pride in producing those films. If they only make it from a business point of view then the quality of the film will only be that much; when you put in love and passion it turns out good.

But there is a certain credibility that you enjoy as an actor…

Sharman – Yes, I have no doubt about that and I believe I’m incredible and I’m more valuable than many leading actors in the business right now in that I have no doubt. I’m just saying the actual fact of the matter today, I stand where I stand. There are certain budgets in which, a producer can make a film. Why do we have only three or four producers when we know he is producing a film and we feel there will be some good content in the movie because they are coming from their own convention they are not just making films with the existing stars; they are picking up new boys and girls, so they are backing themselves basically. We need to have at least 50 producers then we will get to see great cinema.

As a newcomer what do you have to say about the opportunities in Hindi cinema at this point?

Meera – I genuinely think it’s a golden period for at least new comers because the audience has changed. They are accepting movies which are not necessarily all the time with big star-cast. They are accepting new people; they are accepting different things, different scripts, real scripts. So I think for actors it’s a very good time.

And what are the kinds of roles you see yourself doing?

Meera – I visualize myself doing everything. There’s nothing particular that I dream of doing. I want to do everything.

What do you think about it Sharman?

Sharman – Yes it’s a great time. Thanks to the advent of multiplexes and the niche audiences are emerging. People now can make subjects only for a particular audience and yet recover the money which is good; and that’s why we are doing interesting subjects which are out of the box and we don’t have to make films which have a pan India appeal anymore and it’s good because of that content, the actors get to play great interesting roles.

When you talk about roles, from where does that sense of security come from in you to be able to pick up films which are multi-starrer and yet shine out?
Sharman – Because I’ve never looked at shinning out in a multi-starrer film. I’ve always thought that I’ll just do my job.

As long as it’s a good role?

Sharman –In a multi-starrer all of us had good roles, we all did those films and some characters are liked more than the others, but there is no plan when I sit down and read the script. I know that this particular role, this particular scene is damn good but after that I just do it as a team member and not as an individual performer. I’m working for the film and not only for my performance. And I think because that has been the approach so maybe there is a certain quality, endearing quality that the audiences find, maybe that’s what makes the character dearer because I think when you do such things without any selfish motive or insecurity that’s when it works out well.

So which is that one character has been closest to your heart?

Sharman – Closest to my heart are none because I keep nothing close to my heart.

Are you that detached?

Sharman – Immediately. There was one theatre director in the beginning of my career, he had told me that ‘Every piece of work you do, before you start the next piece of work you should forget the earlier one, so that you work on a clean slate every time; and don’t carry any baggage of your performance of that success of that past work or whatever it is.’ So I think that has been my approach and those were some golden words he shared with me and a good advice he gave me which I look forward.

Meera – Yeah, even I switch on and switch off like this; even I don’t get attached to my character easily it’s never happened with me.

Isn’t that sort of detachment difficult though?

Sharman – It is so much about the mind. You can cut way in a second if you like to. But the character of ‘3 Idiots’ has been very dear not because it’s close to my heart but because the character was written so beautifully and eventually the film in totality worked so beautifully that it became special. And even today the love and appreciation I get for that film for that character it’s beautiful, it’s really satisfying. I’ve been fortunate; god has been kind to me for ‘3 idiots’ ‘Rang De Basanti’ ‘Golmaal’ – three mile stones which I was a part of; I just want a few more. I’m not that greedy.

Don’t such films also set a high benchmark in terms of your expectations from yourself?

Sharman – Yeah I like that, I like the fact that the benchmark has been set high and I have to push myself harder I have to keep running that much faster. It makes the whole journey exciting otherwise it will be boring.

Do you still feel that there is still lot of potential that has been untapped or do you think that there is something which is still difficult for you to do?

Sharman – I’m hoping to find some more exciting scripts and I believe there are many more interesting, complex characters that I can play out I hope that they come my way.

You’ve never thought of writing?

Sharman – I can’t write to save my life.

Meera – But now he is directing (laughs).

Sharman – I can produce, direct all that I can do but I can’t write.

But a lot of directors, a lot of people who are so involved in and creative they feel if they can write their own films, they know the characters better.

Sharman – Yeah, because the shear paucity of good writers is the reason why these guys have to pick up the pen. The problem is again our producers and industry are to be blamed; so we have to back these writers they have to be paid the biggest amount, bigger than even the producers I would say who’s producing the film; forget the lead actors because you give three or four great pieces of writing in your life time as a writer I would imagine. So they should be taking well care of because rest of the life they are at peace. They should be given a percentage of the profit; either so that you know they have to prove the value and then they get the money for it. But we have to start giving them those deals then there will be young talent which is around and wanting or considering writing; because they are passionate about it. Will then they think of it, because they will see the money; otherwise they will see that the survival is also unsure. Firstly the respect was an issue, now at least the writers are getting much more respect than earlier. Now the money has to be upped big time for the writers then will have some great hope. Most of the Hollywood films now a days are adapted from the books from novels because there are so many layers that a book can offer, a writer has spend so much time a two three years in writing; depending on the book. So effectively a film maker has a choice to pick out chapters from it and put it all together, which a good film maker has that skill to but the material, there is so much material out there to pull out from to make it special. ‘Gone Girl’ what a film! How well written it was. I read the book and saw the film; so obviously now two hours films they have to pick up the best moments out of it but yet it works out beautifully. It was a really well written book and a well made film too.

Tell us about the direction part, how did that come along?

– There’s this play I’m directing. Cinema and all is very difficult for me so I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. In terms of play specially the direction, I’m doing there is very limited scope to direct; there have been plays which have been very well directed but this particular play doesn’t demand that much. And I just wanted to be in charge of the aesthetics and didn’t want to go through this whole trauma of getting my point of view across a director; so I thought I might as well direct it, makes life easier. But film direction is something I cannot do. I’m not capable of writing; I’m not capable of directing a film. I can produce a film, and I’ll be like a creative producer.

Before we wrap up, last words on your film and what are your expectations from the film? How are you hoping it to receive from the audience?

Meera – I think ‘1920 London’ is an exceptionally beautiful film. If you compare it to other two sequels everything is much grander here; it’s much bigger. The music is beautiful. Both the songs that have come out have been received extremely well. The rest of the songs are very good too. So my expectations are super high; really super high, sky high (laughs) because good performances, good music, very good story, good direction, beautiful locations. I don’t see anything which is not working for the film; everything is working for the film and top of that it’s a hit franchise. So yeah! Please guys go watch it (laughs).

Sharman – Even I loved the way it’s worked out. I’m very happy, very excited and I’m really looking forward to see the audience’s reaction. Other than that it has a great story and Tinu has done a great job as a director and all of us as actors have done our part well. So 6th May it will be dhoodh ka dhoodh, paani ka paani (laughs).

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