Tanu Weds Manu is your big Hindi release exactly a year after Teen Patti which released on Feb 26 last year. Are you nervous, excited, happy or anxious?
I think for the first time I am very happy yaar. I am feeling sure about what we have done with Tanu Weds Manu. I have had such a lovely time shooting for this film and grown so fond of Aanand and Kangana that I don't think anything wrong can happen to the film.
In the film, you play Manu Sharma an NRI who comes from abroad to his hometown Kanpur to look out for a suitable bride. Considering that you spent a considerable part of your life in Jamshedpur, was it easier for you to get into the skin of the character.
To be honest, when I first heard the script I realised that there are a lot of similarities between Manu and me. Like Manu, I too was born and brought up in a small town in North India. I too had stayed abroad in UK and US for quite some time during my growing up years and despite being abroad, I too like Manu never lost my Indian values. So when I saw these similarities, I thought playing Manu Sharma would be a piece of cake for me. But believe me, when I started shooting for the film, "Meri Band Baj Gayee". It's by far the toughest role I have done till date.
Why do you say that?
Manu is the kind of guy who is silent from outside yet strong from inside. He is someone who everyone wants to be friends with yet he is one of those guys whom you don't want to fool around with. I had to play the character subtle yet intense which was really tough to do. But now when I see the film, I am very happy with what Aanand has managed to get out of me in this film.
You've been pretty choosy especially when it comes to selecting your Hindi films. What made you say YES to Tanu Weds Manu?
There were 2 things. One being Aanand Rai clearly told me that he cannot make this film without me. He had a lot of other actors willing to do this role but he was hell-bent on having me play Manu. I thought he is just kidding and it's something which every director tells his actor. But after narrating the entire script, Aanand actually took out his personal cheque book and handed me a Rs.20 lakh cheque from his personal account. He told me, "I don't know who else is going to be a part of this film but I want you in the film so please accept this cheque." I didn't deposit that cheque till the film went on floors but was very impressed by his conviction about the film. Secondly, I found the story of this film very real and identifiable. Many of our Hindi films depict NRIs in a typical way with a Yo-accent and cool-dude persona. However, the truth is not every Indian who returns from abroad comes back this way. Manu had his Indian values intact despite spending a substantial part of his life abroad and that really struck me about the character. In fact after hearing out the whole story from Himanshu (the writer) and Aanand, I jumped off my seat and hugged them and said I am on.
Your on-screen chemistry with Kangana looks fabulous in the promos. You have always been saying that you've had a wonderful time working with Kangana. Yet there has been a story in the newspapers that 'All Izz Not Well' between the two of you. How and where do you think such stories originate from?
You know when I did 3 Idiots also there were stories about me being upset with Aamir hogging all the limelight. I really don't know where these stories originate from. I think it's at times the PR machinery which feels it's an exciting way to create buzz around the film. However, the truth of the matter is Kangana and I are best of friends. I am totally in awe of her as an actress. Very few actresses would have been able to pull of this role as convincingly as Kangana. In fact we are seriously contemplating of doing another film together. Besides the reason why you don't see her here promoting the film today with me is because Kangana's been shooting in Bangkok for Rascals and hence she did her bit of interviews first and then left. She will once again return to promote the film together with me in the week of release.
The promos of Tanu Weds Manu reminds you of Jab We Met which also had a simple sober boy falling in love with a loud, moophat girl. Besides the whole north Indian setting, the train journeys, the big fat Indian wedding also seem quite common to both the films. Is the film anyway similar to Jab We Met?
I see your point completely but unlike Jab We Met it's not set in Punjab. We just have a couple of scenes in Punjab. Moreover, it's not a film about weddings, its just about one wedding. Besides unlike Jab We Met, you don't have songs and dances which are lip-sync. It's a hard-core love story and not a comedy. There is humour in the film but it's all very real. You will be pleasantly surprised when you watch the film.
The film also features Jimmy Sheirgill. So is there a love triangle on the cards?
Hey…I can't reveal all that at this point of time (laughs). You will have to watch the film.
How has been the experience working with Aanand Rai?
I've had the experience of working with some very renowned directors such as Mani Ratnam, Rajkumar Hirani, Rakeysh Mehra etc. in my career. And whenever we actors are working with a relatively new / less experienced director, we are at our cautious best. But when I reported on sets on the first day, I realised that Aanand knows exactly what he wants and I then felt no hesitation in completely surrendering to his vision.
The music of Tanu Weds Manu is fast gaining popularity especially tracks such as 'Sadi Galli' and 'Jugni.' How do you rate the music of the film?
I think the music is exceptional. My favourite songs are 'Rangrez', 'Sadi Galli' and of course 'Manu Bhaiyya'. When I first heard the story, the first song which I heard was 'Manu Bhaiyya', all the songs came much later. After hearing 'Manu Bhaiyya', I was bowled over by our new music director Krsna's talent. He is simply amazing and has also given a fabulous background score.
Recently you received a lot of praise for your performance in the Tamil film Manmadhan Ambu. How was it working with the legendary Kamal Haasan?
I am very grateful to Kamal Sir for giving me the opportunity of sharing screen space with him. I was like a puppy on the sets. It was a comedy film and I had to play a drunkard. But he convinced me and I am happy that I did the part. I've received a lot of good feedback for the role.
Films set in small towns of North India seem to be the flavour of the season. Most of tem such as Phas Gaye Re Obama, Udaan, and Peepli [Live] have worked. Do you see the same effect rubbing off on Tanu Weds Manu as well?
A film has to hold water in terms of the story, screenplay and the world that it creates. Big budget or small budget, small town story or metro based film these things honestly don't really matter. In fact there is no such thing as flavour of the season when it comes to cinema. With Tanu Weds Manu, we are promising exactly what the promo depicts. It's just a sheer coincidence that it's also a medium budget film and is set in a small town but more importantly it's a story that's comprehensive and truly entertaining. You have to live up to your promise of entertaining your audience. If you promise to entertain the audience but end up irritating them, they won't ever watch your film again.
The film is releasing when the Cricket fever is at an all time high with the World Cup frenzy. Do you think it will affect the B.O. prospects of the film?
When Bollywood Hungama had done a video interview with Raju, Sharman and I during 3 Idiots, I had looked in to the camera and told, "Mark my words…Raju and Sharman are being very modest. This will be the biggest hit in the history of Indian cinema". Now that you are asking me about Tanu Weds Manu, let me tell you in clear terms, that the World Cup will have no bearing whatsoever on the box office prospects of our film. First of all there is only match of India in the week of release, besides I believe anybody who wants to watch a film will go and watch it whether there is World Cup or not.
Finally what are your future projects in Hindi and Tamil?
I've always worked on only one film at a time. I am trying to assimilate two scripts which I have really liked for this year. But an official announcement will be made in a few days from now.