The romantic comedy Ajab Gazabb Love may not have got endorsement from most critics, but in a crowded week of three Hindi releases, family audiences have clearly voted for the wholesome entertainer as their pick over the other two darker films.
Based on the Telugu hit Seema Tapakai, it introduces seven-film-old Kannada star Nidhi Subbaiah in Hindi films, opposite two-film-old Jackky Bhagnani. The chemistry on screen is as good as their obvious real-life friendship when we meet up with the two.
Jackky ribs Nidhi about her shifting to Mumbai and yet wanting to work, not only back home, but also in other languages. “If she has her way, she will do Bhojpuri and French films too,” he says, teasingly, as she counters, “I would like to balance different cinemas. Yes, I am okay with world cinema too, and why not, if the role is challenging? Wouldn’t you do that too, Jackky?
“Ahh!” says her co-star. “I would only do a film if I can speak or learn to speak the language. That’s very important for me,” he laughs and adds, “Maybe I could just manage a Marathi film, but not one in my mother tongue Sindhi. My Sindhi is so bad that my mom and grandma cringe when I attempt to speak it!”
However, he admires Nidhi for her calming effect on him. “You see, there are two kinds of hardworking people,” he says, glancing at Nidhi, “One is her type of hard worker, who does not think too much, and one is my kind — paranoid about hard work. My kind is not really good for health or in any way, for that matter.”
What is Nidhi’s take on him then? “He’s completely mad, keeps pulling my leg, but without being politically correct in any way. He is really dedicated and has inspired me to take to the gym,” she reciprocates.
Jackky smiles, “In these days of fierce competition, it is always important to be physically fit. I was a fat boy who lost 65 kilos because I wanted to become an actor — that was my only agenda even though my father is a big name among builders too, besides films! But I was very sure that I had to work hard, which is why I am still here even after being written off after my first film, Kal Kissne Dekha, which was a washout. F.A.L.T.U., my second film, did well, and with Ajab Gazabb Love, I feel that I have fared better than my second film. But I admit that a fitness regime, complete with seven hours of minimum sleep and diet and exercise, takes the charm out of normal life. In the last year, I must have gone out with friends only twice.”
Nidhi came to know about Ajab Gazabb Love and auditioned for the film. She was given a sequence as a chat-show host with Jackky as her audience. “They liked our chemistry!” she says about her producer Vashu Bhagnani, Jackky’s father, and director Sanjay Gadhvi.
Nidhi admits that down South, she has mostly done “crazy characters just like me,” but on the other hand, she has managed to win the prestigious SIMA trophy for Krishnan Marriage Story, as well as another popular award. Not bad for someone who never planned on being an actress, we say, and she smiles, “My father is a coffee planter and mom is a lawyer. I was studying Engineering, went into modelling when offered a chance, and from there, films happened. My first film was in Telugu, Sweet Heart, and my first Kannada film was Abhimaani in the same year, 2009.”
The Hindi chapter was not on the agenda either. “I was offered Oh My God! and I loved the message it sent out,” says the actress. “It was a decent role of a television announcer. I do not know how my role has shaped up because I have not yet watched the film, but I am very happy that the film is a superhit.”
Ajab Gazabb Love too has a message, apart from being a clean family entertainer. “There is no double meaning or anything you cannot watch with your family,” she smiles, and her ‘hero’ adds, “At the same time, it is not a no-brainer and even has a message.”
Both the actors rave about their director, Sanjay Gadhvi of Dhoom and Dhoom:2 fame. Nidhi calls him “Captain Cool” and loves him for making the atmosphere very comfortable. Jackky endorses this and calls him a life-changing director. “For the first time I was working with a veteran of 12 years who had directed superstars like John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. And yet, his films are so young and stylish,” Jackky elaborates.
Like the generation to which they belong, and the characters they essay in their film, both Jackky and Nidhi concur on the maxim that they would prefer to be fearless and take risks and even make mistakes rather than not take chances at all. Says Nidhi, “I would go to any extent, just like Jackky’s character, for anything or anyone I believe in. Jackky, in this film, falls in love with me. My character hates rich people, so he and his entire multi-karodpati family pretend to be poor so that he can win me over. But he never thinks of what will happen when he is caught. And even my character has a secret that is revealed only midway.”
While Nidhi has yet to confirm her next Hindi film (she has School Days and Vara in Kannada on hand), Jackky is working on his father’s next Rangrezz, an action drama with Priyadarshan that sees him play a lower middle-class boy. Why is he not doing other films? “The roles should be good enough,” smiles Jackky. “Funnily, I got many offers after my flop debut, but I had to be very careful about my next move then. Today, perhaps being a producer’s son creates an impression that I may not work outside. But that will happen too.”