It's really hard to get back out when you've got under the skin of the character. But on meeting Arshad Warsi you'd not expect that. He leaves his character inside his vanity van when he talks about it. Outside, he is a much relaxed and a calm guy, someone who doesn't take his work seriously. On the flip side, you wouldn't even know how serious he is. "Would you like some biryani or sandwich?" Arshad asks me kindly. Biryani with Warsi? You betcha. I watch him eat silently for a few moments, one occasionally offering each other appreciative smiles from our respective seats. It's 3pm at the actors new and an almost furnished Andheri office. His next film Hum Tum Aur Ghost has him playing the lead man who can see dead people. What's more, he has also turned producer with this film. It's a film that only a man with a spring in his step, hope in his heart and some biryani on his plate could carry off. Arshad Warsi has all of those things and more. This correspondent met the actor and found - good guys, bad guys, confused guys - when Arshad Warsi takes a role (as an actor and a producer and soon to be a director) he takes it seriously.
So...you're in demand again Arshad. Finally taken seriously by directors?
I try to do some serious work and I hope the directors take it seriously. Unfortunately, films like Ishqiya and Munnabhai come my way very rarely and I do not understand why. I fail to answer that question. Nobody wants to offer me a role even after I've proved myself over and over again. But I guess, that's my destiny and I quietly accept it.
Welcome to the domain of writers Arshad.
(Laughs) Thank you. I am a writer. I think sometimes things happen and writers are born. That's how I was born. When you sit down and try to think too hard for a name of a film or a story of your film and it doesn't come by, you should stop thinking. And then when you forget about the idea, it suddenly pops from nowhere. That's how Hum Tum Aur Ghost was born.
No inspiration from any Hollywood movie?
Oh yes. I'll tell you about it. My wife Maria was watching a film and I was trying to pack my stuff and go for a shoot when I happened to watch the film which had Robert Downey Jr. in it. He could see dead people. I thought the character was pretty cool. But at the end of the day, I thought if a proper Hindi film could be made with all the values intact, we can make it worth a watch.
Dia ain't a desi tamancha, is she?
(Laughs) No, not at all. She is too sweet to be a desi tamancha. She is completely opposite of it. She is a bouquet of flowers. She is a sweet little thing. She is very practical, sweet yet solid and she's the kind of girl with whom I'd go around with. She is my kind of a girl. She gets her act together. Her morals and principles are intact. She is one of the few sorted girls in our industry who ain't been used to her full potential in acting.
Is Hum Tum Aur Ghost a cliche Bollywood film?
I don't identify with the over doing mother and son relationships. When I see all the television serials, for me that is seriously regressive. I will never ever go into that zone. I think we are 'cool' to be like that. My writing totally reflects how I am, how I talk, how I meet people, what I do, how I party, etc. Hum Tum Aur Ghost isn't a cliche Bollywood film. It's going to surprise you.
And didn't you think of any other ghost than Boman?
Apart from Boman being a bully, sweet, nice, cute chap, what he brings on the table is dignity. I like that about it. Whichever movie he is a part of, he makes it look classy. That's very important. But I also had an angel in my first draft. The film back then was titled 'I believe in Angels'. I wanted Nasseruddin Shah to play the angel. It was pretty much a special appearance. I was very clear that if Naseer would not act in the film, I'll take the character out of my film and that's how the Ghost was born. Welcome Boman!
Can we now talk to Arshad the businessman?
Don't even try to. He is very bad. He sucks. Yes, I have turned producer and this is my first production. I have treated Hum Tum Aur Ghost as my baby. I have nurtured it to the fullest. Very honestly, I am really bad when it comes to production. I am good in writing, acting, etc. I can't get into this number game. I have invested a lot in this film. There was 'no worries' and 'ok, get that', etc on the sets. There was always a 'yes' for an answer and that I need to change if I want to be a good producer. But Arshad the person doesn't need to change, Arshad the producer needs to learn. I've given too much love to my cast and crew and I made sure that everyone got everything on and off the sets.
What day was it when you first put your thoughts on pen for Hum Tum Aur Ghost?
I wrote this film in the oddest manner. It beats the idea of writing (laughs). The whole concept of going to New York to write, London to write, etc is baseless. I don't write by locking myself in the room. I wrote this while I was shooting for Krazzy 4. I used to do the shot, come in my van and type on my laptop. This is my personal method but I like to work like this. I have this gut feeling that I am bang on. I want to know my climax of the film before I start writing the start scene. The rest isn't a problem.
But why opt for a genre like this in your debut production?
For me, any kind of story should have soul. I feel action films lack soul but can work sometimes. If it doesn't have soul, it is pointless making that film. Action films don't work for me. Comedy does, and if infused with a bit of tragedy and romance, it always works. In action, if you make a Krrish or a Mission Impossible, it's a different ball game. A film should touch your heart somewhere and you should be able to identify with it at some point while watching.
And what's the moral of the story?
The moral is what you take from a film. For me, Hum Tum Aur Ghost is about how powerful your true love can be. If you really love someone with true heart and honesty, it can do wonders or it probably makes you realise how bizarre it is sometimes.
Do you have anyone in mind before you write as far as the cast is concerned?
An actor's job is to play the character. I don't want to write a film for Tom Cruise or Shahrukh Khan. I want both of them to play that character. That's the difference. When I wrote the character of myself in Hum Tum Aur Ghost, I didn't decide that I'll write it for myself. After penning it down and after tracing the many dates of other actors and checking their availability, I came in.
Sum up Hum Tum Aur Ghost in one word?