Coming from a family that has a French lineage and are devotees of Shri Aurobindo what is your take on life, religion and current affairs?
My parents believe in Shri Aurobindo and his philosophy, however for me, even though I have grown up listening to the same, haven't really been much of a follower though I like his point of view. To me he is not a God. While for religion I am still searching for one that will ground me firmly, as I have seen, heard and know a lot of things about various religions.
You call your self a Tamilian in white skin... why?
I was born in a small village in Pondicherry and Tamil was the first language that I learnt, and later came in English, as for French I obviously know that language as my parents are French. However, when I go to France I feel out of place, and people ask me where I come from as I speak perfect French.
After that you moved to the University of London to study theatre... why this jump? Were you always interested in art and theatre?
While I was studying in Ooty my parents realized that I was good in studies so later it was my mom who pressurized me to go to university for a higher education. But I wasn't too keen on this so I chose theatre as this is something I enjoyed immensely when I was in school. Besides this was the only three year course that I could study with my whole heart and soul and not get bored of it. After that my love for theatre just grew...
Most of us already know what Dev D is all about, but what is the film to you?
For me Dev D first of all is a film full of surprises, yes it is loosely based on Devdas but there is a difference... this film is not like the earlier films which are about the past like what most people are saying, instead it is a contemporary take on the same. The characters in Dev D are much younger, it is about real life. The main aspect of the film I feel is that it is not about an apology or self pity for people who are lost, like Chanda- her character isn't an apology. She is who she is and balances life between her two avatars. The film has a clash of sorts that the youth face; on one hand they have the traditions they have grown up with and on the other there is the ever present western influence.
You character 'Chanda', what is she like? How did you prepare for this role?
She is some what a person with a dual personality, one being her glamorous sexual persona when she is with her and the other is her normal avatar during the day when she is studying wearing a pair of jeans and tee-shirts. To tell you frankly I found it harder to play the Chanda in the day rather than the night. This I know sounds funny but when you are given a character like that it is easy to be over the top, as compared to be honest and real which is really very hard.
Preparation for the role was obviously big for me... first I started off with Hindi. I don't speak the language quite well so I had a two months that consisted of basic practice for pronunciations. Later I watched a lot of films about women, not exactly films about prostitutes but films that have strong women characters in different situations.
Have you read the original Devdas? Have you seen the earlier films made on this story?
(Laughs) No I have not read the book but, I did see the SRK version of Devdas much before I auditioned for the role. However it was fun, as when I went for the audition I was told not to watch and read any film about Devdas as they wanted me to be original and fresh and not imitate any thing that was played or done earlier.
What was it like first being selected in an audition to play this character?
I think it was daunting but exciting really. Obviously I was nervous, like on the first day I was chatting with Abhay on the set when he was suddenly told that there was a shoot he had to do... all he said was 'hang on will be back in a minute.' He went for the shot, gave the same and was back saying 'as I was saying...' I was stunned he was in and out of character just like that. He was just so natural and really good that I kept thinking I can't act. But once I started and was in front of camera I had so much to concentrate on that I just gave my shot.
How do you think the film will fare, considering that Anurag's earlier film didn't go down too well?
There is a big difference when making a film commercially and when making it for an art feel, Dev D is a commercial film as it is a love story, and everyone can relate to it. Besides, it is musically inclined and has an amazing sound track. As for Anurag he is a brilliant director, yes he is stubborn at times, but he has this thing that some times he will not call cut so the actors just continue to do what they have to and this produces something really fresh and new thus giving the film a very nice feel.
How important is creativity while making a film? Do you think that it has to be curtailed to a certain extent for commercial success?
Yes to a certain extent creativity is very important, but it also has to be curtailed. You can't always make everything you want the way you think, as not everyone thinks the way you do. With this in mind you must include things people want like entertainment, after a hard day's work people just want some thing that will help relieve them, while at the same time if it make you think, it's simply fabulous.
From auditioning for Anurag to being directed by him and now directing him what was it like?
(Laughs) Yes since of late I have taken over the directing role, and like I said earlier Anurag can be very a very stubborn character at times. Like after shooting the film he was adamant and pretty persistent on meeting up and taking me to dinner. At that time I was a bit reluctant telling him that he was my director and is ten years older. However, we get along well as we are both similar personalities and now we are very happy together. Anurag is brilliant, he is very spontaneous and impulsive so he would come up with things that normally we wouldn't think of and yes he would give us a lot of room to be creative with what we have as well.
You're on Facebook, have there been any changes since getting the film?
Yes I am on Facebook, but I have had to alter the private setting as people are now curious about who I am and I have to segregate personal friends from the fans.
You have tried your hand at theatre in India, with Casanova... unfortunately that didn't go through... why?
Casanova I guess didn't do too well as there were certain things that I wouldn't want to talk about that were not up to mark, but all the same it was a joy doing it.
Who in the industry would you like to work with?
The Bollywood industry is so big but there are a few people who are on my wish list, like I would love to work with director Vishal Bhardwaj, as I love the way he made Maqbool and Omkara, his interpretation of Shakespeare was wonderful. While in terms of actors there is Irrfan Khan, Tabu, and John Abraham that I would like to work with.
So what's coming next, any films in hand?
None I have auditioned for a few but am still awaiting a reply, so for now it's just Dev D and my theatre. I have a play coming up titled Skeleton Woman.
What is the play all about?
Skeleton Woman is an original play adapted from a folk tale. The story is about a writer and his wife and their deteriorating relationship. The audience sees this relationship go through various stages and at the end you see that she is really dead. Hence it is a metaphor for who she is, and how the writer lives this entire sequence in his head.
Will you be participating in Thespo again?
Thespo... yes definitely I will participate in it, but that provided there is a good intelligent script.
The film Dev D is still said to have a lot of sexual content, especially your role...
Sexual content in the film isn't that much really; there are no explicit scenes, though the film does talk about the sexuality of two women Paro and Chanda. However this so called sexuality comes out more as it is not just Dev but also these women who know what they want and are exploring their sexual side. So in a way this is really a very radical film.
What about the audience, will they take to the film?
The film will definitely be accepted by the youth. You may wonder why I say this, when there have been mixed reviews but the thing is this is actually what is going on and the youth are going through this right now, they are discovering things, about themselves and things about the opposite sex as well. Besides the women are also progressing and can now make conscious intelligent choices without having to rely on someone.
You spoke about the film being musically inclined, so what is the sound track like, and which is your favourite song?
The music of the film is really very interesting you have such a varied diasporas of genres right from the brass band to Punjabi to some really trippy tracks. It's this contrast that builds up the story and the film, and it also helps bring out the contrast between the traditional and the modernity of things.
As for my favourite track it has to be 'Nayan Tarase', though 'Emosanal Aatyachaar' is a great track too. When I first heard it I was thinking, 'what is this genius track, I simply fell in love with it
What made you come back from London to do theatre in India?
Many things made me come back the first and main reason has to be my family here at home, then there is the weather, London is simply dull and grey, it seems to rain all the time which depresses me a lot, I need sunshine. Besides it is really expensive there and theatre doesn't make money, you have to have another job, which gets really hard. On the other hand I also missed the dal chawal roti which we have here as well as my favourite dish butter chicken.
And finally how did you get a call to audition for the film Dev D?
When I got back from London, I was doing theatre, but there is hardly any money in it, so I sent in my resume and some images in a portfolio to a multitude of production houses for ad films, and later UTV called me and said that they were looking for some one. I had no idea for what so when I got there I was told that it was for a Hindi film. I was a bit shocked as I couldn't speak Hindi, so they let me render the part in English and asked me to come back again after I had learnt some Hindi and that's exactly what I did.