Heart to heart...

on-screen love

Heart to heart...
They are both ‘outsiders’ in the industry, who have made good. But nepotism is a word they do not dread. Kriti Sanon reminds us that film kids have it easy because they are always in the radar when casting is done, because it is practical to search within rather than look outside for a newcomer. “But three or more films down the line, it is only talent and the connection with the audiences that score,” she points out. Sushant Singh Rajput nods in agreement and says, “I was told that I stood no chance in films even after I made it big on television. They told me I was mad to leave a successful field and try my luck in cinema, where the last successful name from television was Shah Rukh Khan, 21 years ago.”


Journey to Bollywood

However, it was their driving self-confidence and passion that won the day. Now cast together in Raabta, and both in dual roles (it is a reincarnation story), Sushant and Kriti have carved their own niches in films, the former with five films, of which M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story was his only solo hit, and the latter with just two films, Heropanti (in which she made her debut with Tiger Shroff) and Dilwale, Shah Rukh Khan’s home production.

Says Sushant, “When I decided to chuck my degree in Engineering, a college course that I hated but was very good at, just eight months prior to the qualifying degree examination, people thought that this lower middle-class boy was a madman. But I enjoyed doing theatre and even dancing on stage with the Shiamak Davar troupe. I then got opportunities on TV, and at the peak, did one more crazy act and shifted to movies. All these were risks, but now, with five films behind me and six to come, I am in the happiest space.”

They both have come to recognise the importance of box-office success over time. Declares Sushant, decisively and without any false modesty, “In my head, I considered myself a superstar the day I dropped out of college. I took that information, locked it in my brain and threw away the key, as that is non-negotiable! But people began to think of me as a star only after the Dhoni biopic.”

Adds Kriti, “Though Heropanti was a hit, and was designed as a launch for two new actors — Tiger Shroff and me — it was with Dilwale that I got a huge reach with the audiences. This was because in my second film, I had legends like Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and a director like Rohit Shetty, besides a star like Varun Dhawan.”

With stardom (Sushant, who began with Kai Po Che, later did Shuddh Desi Romance, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy and PK as well), they also discovered the flipside — being criticised or gossiped about. Says Kriti, “I always get fascinated by the painstaking way in which stories are cooked up about a celebrity, down to the minutest detail. But I have learnt to ignore them and treat them as if I am watching a soap.”

Sushant says, “I barely watch television, but on a day I switched on a news channel, I happened to watch 30 minutes of a story that, since it was about me, I knew did not have a grain of truth in it,” he says.

Sushant lets on that the biggest flak he receives is for throwing attitude. He recalls with a grin a popular news channel reporter asking him his views on a film at a premiere. When he refused to say anything without watching the film first, the reporter said on TV, “See how this man is showing attitude just after one hit in M.S. Dhoni…!”

The two also laugh at all the romantic link-ups concocted about them since they started working together. “It’s almost as if someone from the channel — I know the source that started it — is accompanying us everywhere, quoting what and why we said to each other, like how I was angry with him and he pacified me,” laughs Kriti.

Having said that, she does agree that there is a terrific chemistry between them on screen. “I think reel chemistry is about how a film is written and shot and does not depend only on us actors,” she feels. “In both Heropanti and Raabta, you will notice that the chemistry is palpable even in the scenes where we are not together on screen. A good example is in the song ‘Ik Vaari Aa’, where we are in different parts of the world, and yet the chemistry is there.”


Dual roles, dual effort

Both Sushant and Kriti have found their roles here very demanding. Admitting to doing an intense role(s) for the first time, Kriti states, “I had to create two opposite characters. There was no reference point to my character of a warrior princess in the earlier part of the film, as she was from a place and an era no one was familiar with. From her looks to her body language and demeanour, everything had to be worked on from scratch.”

On the other hand, her present-day character of a slightly eccentric yet endearing Indian girl living in Budapest and making chocolates was very relatable. “To look believable in both roles, I had to learn a lot of things. Like it was fun to make different kinds of chocolates and even eat them, and I also learnt riding, fighting hand-to-hand and martial arts to essay the earlier role,” she says.
Sushant has a unique take on his roles and has followed this principle all through. “I have done 54 characters so far — across theatre, television and cinema. My characters in Raabta are my 55th and 56th. I thought that I could do them, but I did not know if I could convincingly pull off two diametrically opposite characters in two hours and 10 minutes,” he says.

“I have never worked for money, even when I needed it, and now I do not need it!” says Sushant with a smile. “After M.S. Dhoni…, I was offered many films, two of them with great directors, and I could have quoted and got any price. But I chose to do a play that is yet to get off, and for which I have yet to receive any money.”

And why is that? “For me, the role should be exciting enough to lose sleep on, to have self-doubts about whether I will be able to do it successfully, and convince the audience of my character,” he explains. “And I will not compromise that excitement by thinking of the box-office potential of my film in the first three days, since I put in the same kind of effort for six months on every character.”

Sushant’s forthcoming films include Kedarnath, which unites him with his first film’s director, Abhishek Kapoor, and introduces Saif Ali Khan’s and Amrita Singh’s daughter Sara Ali Khan, Chandamama Door Ke, a space saga, Tarun Mansukhani’s action drama Drive, Homi Adajania’s Takadum, and the spy drama Romeo Akbar Walter.

Kriti, on the other hand, is into performance-oriented roles in stories that she would like to watch herself, and is doing the Nitesh ‘Dangal’ Tiwari-written Bareilly Ki Barfi, directed by his wife Ashwini Iyer Tiwari. “I play a typical young girl from a small town in Uttar Pradesh,” she says.

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