Imran Khan is on time. It's 9.30 am at Shree Ashtavinayak's office. The nation's press is eager to meet him and quiz him on his second film Kidnap. It's a step away from the usual cute boy-next-door role that Imran has cornered the market in, ever since he became an instant star with Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na. He is sporting a beard and long hair for his next film Delhi Belly. But it's Kidnap which is giving him the shivers at the moment. He sits on the sofa folding his legs, gets comfortable and recalls his days with me in London while he came for Jaane Tu promotions. The same smile, the same personality, the same style but a very different Imran Khan this time - bold, matured and fearless and ready to take on the Press. In this exclusive tete-a-tete, we met the teenage Khan and asked him - Khan you do it one more time?
So what rules are you going to set for us while we watch Kidnap?
What rules do I set? You'll have to wait and see this one man! This is a really tricky film. In that I have to be very careful with every question that I answer because I might give something away. So much of the film relies on mystery and the audiences not knowing what's going on. It's like a minefield. Every single question you ask has to be analysed.
Is the battle inevitable? Drona v/s Kidnap and Abhishek Bachchan v/s Imran Khan?
Every single Friday a film releases. There are many Friday's where three to four films are released. This comparison business is inevitable. There are more films than the weekends in the year. There are going to be clashes, there will be films releasing on the same day, you make your film and promote it the best that you can and make sure that it is the best you can possibly make and hope for the best. That is what is going to happen when two biggies meet on October 2.
Kidnap's scripting has been in the making since five years. Don't you think that Kidnap is releasing a bit late or do you take it as a bonus after your JTYJN success?
Two things. Firstly, it's a tremendous bonus for me. It gives me a chance and a challenge to stretch myself to the limit. Nothing like it. Secondly, when it comes to late, I don't think so. Jaane Tu also took a long time coming together. We had a lot of problem while we were making that film. The project got stuck and then it got restarted. But in spite of that the film touched success only because the product was good. We all feel the same way about Kidnap. Certainly you have to update a few things. Now say from 2003 to 2005, few things changed. Technology changes a little bit and you have to update those little things. But the base story of the film never changes.
Studio 18's last film in the U.K grossed over a million pounds. Will its Midas touch work on Kidnap too?
Studio 18 has got a killer line up this year. They got Singh is Kinng and Kidnap. They've got Ghajini too and I bet they're going to be very happy by the end of this year.
Why go for a tanned look in Kidnap?
Thanks to Vicky, my make up artist, I looked perfectly tanned. My director Sanjay Gadhvi had a particular look in mind. He wanted me to look harder and meaner. You can see my hair cut. It's buzzed on the sides. That made my face look different. It made my face look sharper. The darker skin colour gave me a tougher look.
Is Kidnap a hard core action flick?
No its not. There are a few action pieces but it's not an action film. It's a kind of a drama thriller with two or three action sequences.
What did you learn from the father figure like co-star Sanjay Dutt?
I didn't learn anything from him. He doesn't preach. If you know him at all and have tracked his career, you'll come to the conclusion that he is a guy who has walked his own path. He is very much the rebel, very much the rock star. He does it his way and the way he wants to do it. Sanju baba is not the one who is going to go around telling people how to live their lives.
Tell me something interesting about Sanjay Dutt.
Ok. Here you go. We are doing a scene together and I'll sit with my dialogues for 45 minutes before I get ready. I'll march up and down the stairs doing rehearsals and reciting my lines this way - that way, taking a pause here and there. Sanju baba will walk on the sets and the assistant director will hand over the dialogues to him. He will sit and read through it once. We then do the scene where I say my lines and he'll say his line and look at me with sheer intensity that I forget the rest of my lines. Such is the weight of this actor. The gravity he brings with him shocks you.
The cute Minissha Lamba is out and the sexy Minissha Lamba is in. What say?
Definitely she is sexy. But having said that, she is not a damsel in distress. There is a major confrontation scene between me and Minissha. She is not a girl who is kidnapped. She is very much Sanjay Dutt's daughter. She is fearless and fights back with a vengeance. Sanjay Dutt's character is like a very tough and a fearless guy. Like father like daughter. She doesn't submit that easily and looks for a way out to escape, she looks for a way to hurt the kidnapper, etc. Yes, a tough and a sexy Minissha for the first time on screen.
Tell us a bit about the tattoo you sport in the film.
That's a permanent tattoo. I got it when I was seventeen. I've had it for years. It's just that in Jaane Tu, it didn't suit my character. We tried to cover it with make up and my costumes. That's why I was seen wearing lots of collared t-shirts in the film. The shot where you see my tattoo in the trailer was in fact the last scene we shot for the film. It was the last day of the shooting and we shot it in the middle of the night. After that shot, it was pack up. The film was over. Sanjay Gadhvi decided to use the tattoo because he knew that it was covered and hidden in Jaane Tu. He liked the look of the tattoo and he thought that it would add to the character of the kidnapper.
A few weeks back we also saw another thriller drama release in the form of 'A Wednesday' which was well received by the public. Do you think people are now willing to experiment with different genres and Kidnap will see the same results?
Kidnap is not that different from I'd say A Wednesday. It's still a very commercial film though. Sanjay Gadhvi is in that space and likes to make commercial blockbusters and he is very clear about that. Kidnap is different in way as there is less concessions to the audiences. There is always an idea that we are making a serious film or a thriller or an action flick then you have to put in the romance and comedy element to give the audience a break. It is very demeaning and Kidnap is not that.
Then what about songs?
There are songs in the film but I don't sing or dance. 'Mit Jaaye' is not a part of the film because it comes in the end credits. But there are two songs with Sanjay Dutt. One is shown in the flashback and the other is a situational number. Then there is Minissha's introduction song. There is no place for 'Mit Jaaye' in the film because the theme and the tune of that song is used as the theme of Kidnap. So it's there throughout in the background music.
Were you hesitant to play a kidnapper knowing your chocolate boy looks?
I was a little hesitant to play a kidnapper. I mean, I loved the character but was a bit unsure. But at the same time I really wanted to do it. It was a tricky role and was tough too because I couldn't find a common ground with this guy. In Jaane Tu, the guy was so much like me. I understood him very well. In Kidnap, I was fumbling and trying to hold things together. In this tough time, Sanjay Gadhvi helped me through this. I wouldn't have been able to do this role without his support and backing.
Any research work went into your character for Kidnap?
There was no research which I could do for this character. There was a closed room on the fifth floor of the Ashtavinayak office where Minissha, Gadhvi and myself thrashed out our characters. For my own part to find the aggression with my character, I changed the music I was listening to in my I-Pod. About a year, I was only listening to metal and rock to get the darkness and the aggression.
Tell us about the time when you thought that Kidnap was not going to be made?
The entire film took about 12 months of shooting time. It took a year because Sanju went in the jail mid way. We thought the film was not going to be made now. We had shot for about five months and we were in middle of one major shoot with Minissha and me when we got the news that the judgement had come out and that Sanju was jailed. Suddenly everything stops. We didn't know what was going to happen. I am panicking as it was just my second film. It was Minissha's big film too and it was Sanjay Gadhvi's dream project. Plus the producers made a huge investment too. So all of us were sitting there and went mute. We asked each other, What do we do? What next? The worst thing was that there was no body who could take Sanju's place. There were no options available. The only thing you could do was just sit and pray and hope that he comes out.
Is Kidnap a lot of burden on your shoulders than Jaane Tu?
I wasn't nervous during Jaane Tu at all. This time I am very nervous because I don't know how I have done my role. I have not seen the film and have only seen my parts during dubbing. I don't know if it's good and I don't know if people will think it's good.
Why are you growing your beard then?
Oh! This look while you are interviewing me is for Delhi Belly. I am growing my beard and growing my hair for the role. I have to keep growing it until I hear back from my director. So everyday I go to my director and say whether it's enough and he says, 'No'.
Any message for your fans in the U.K who loved Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na and are eagerly awaiting to see you in Kidnap?
You know Jaane Tu didn't fare well in the U.K? It wasn't well accepted there. So here's a message for them. It's hard to give a good reason why one should go and watch Kidnap because it's quite subjective. This time around I'd ask them to be kind because I'm really nervous about Kidnap. Hope Kidnap does fare well than Jaane Tu in the U.K.