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Ever since the trailer of Akarsh Khurana's Karwaan dropped, there has been a buzzing anticipation for the film for many reasons. One of them being that the filmmaker has almost pulled off a casting coup of sorts by bringing together three amazing and diverse performers - Irrfan Khan, Dulquer Salmaan and Mithila Palkar in a frame. Karwaan also forays Dulquer's entry into Bollywood.
In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Filmibeat, Akarsh gets candid about directing Dulquer Salmaan in his first Hindi film, working with an acting stalwart like Irrfan Khan, box office numbers and much more.
'It Was Irrfan Khan And Dulquer Salmaan Who Chose Us'
Q. Road trips and dead bodies sound a very unlikely combination. So, how did the idea for Karwaan germinate?
A. The story idea belongs to Bejoy Nambiar. I was acting in one of his films called David and Adhir Bhatt who has written the screenplay for this film with me was also in the film. Bejoy suggested this idea to us about this situation where somebody got the wrong body and finds out that he has to travel a certain distance to get the right body back. It's a very bizarre but funny idea which appealed to both of us. So, we wanted to flesh it out. So, the idea for Karwaan actually came from Bejoy.
Q. How did you manage to pull off this casting coup of three extremely talents actors- Irrfan Khan, Dulquer Salmaan and Mithila Palkar?
A. To be honest, we are quite lucky to get Irrfan Khan and Dulquer Salmaan. It was they who chose us. When we had first written the script, we never thought that we would get somebody of that stature. Eventually when Priti Gupta and Ronnie Screwvala worked together and decided to make this film, the suggestion came that we should approach Irrfan and it's the kind of film which he might like. We went and narrated him the script when he was shooting for Hindi Medium in Delhi. He liked the script and immediately agreed to be a part of the film.
Similarly, Dulquer's name was suggested by my associate producer. She thought he would make an interesting casting. I had seen some of his work and knew that he had a wide range. We met him and it was a lovely meeting. He got the script and then took a week to respond as a 'yes'. Mithila Palkar went through an audition process. I had known her before but she went through two months of auditions. We are fortunate that three people with such different background and audience came into the film.
Q. You mentioned earlier that Karwaan is a road trip with a twist and some black humour. The genre of black comedy is rarely being explored in Bollywood though things are slowly changing. What's your take on it?
A. I think, things are changing. Even Irrfan's previous film Blackmail was a black comedy. There are some actors who relate to that genre better or are willingly to take those kind of risks. I think dark humour has existed for a very long time maybe not across a full film. Like say for example, Sriram Raghavan's work has a lot of dark humour. I think people are slowly accepting this genre. Perhaps, Karwaan is not as dark as a black comedy as some of the others. It's a light, fun film. To be honest, now with all the platforms available, even things like this which weren't done earlier, a lot more people will now start taking risks.
'Dulquer Salmaan Seems To Have Got A Lot Of Female Attention'
Q. Last time when we met for Hijack and briefly spoke about Karwaan, you told us that Bollywood doesn't have an opinion about Dulquer Salmaan yet and are aware of him as a Malayalam star. Do you think that's an advantage for you as a filmmaker?
A. It's becoming quite clear now after the trailer that there's a lot of curiosity about him. People are aware that he is an established actor in another industry. So, there's some sort of credibility. He's not just ranked newcomer. People are really curious to know about him. He seems to have got a lot of female attention. They think of him as cute. Also, it's evident from the trailer that he's a good performer. So, he's a perfect combination of credibility and curiosity.
'The Fact That Dulquer Chose To Do A Film Like Karwaan Was A Very Refreshing Approach'
Q. There will be a lot of people out there who would be watching Dulquer for the first time on screen. Did that bring in a certain amount of pressure on you as to how you would present him on screen?
A. Not on me. It may be on him. I don't know. Maybe, that's something what he thinks about. For me, he agreed to do the part of the protagonist and it's important to present him in the most true way to the film. That's the only justice that I can do to him. I think the fact that he chose to do a film like this was a very refreshing approach and I have been honest to the script that he liked. I don't think there was a pressure while making the film. Now, we just hope that people like him.
'It Feels Like A Great Achievement To Have Someone Like Irrfan Khan In Your Film'
Q. You are also working with Irrfan Khan for the first time. How has that experience been for you?
A. It was a privilege to work with him. Not many people get the chance to work with an actor like him so early in their career. Initially, I was a little intimated but, then I found out that he's very accessible, easy to work with person. He was very open to suggestions. It was a comfortable working relationship that we had. It feels like a great achievement to have someone like him in your film.
'Irrfan Doesn't Have Any Baggage About Being In Character'
Q. During the entire shooting process with him, did you discover any aspect about him as an actor which took you by surprise?
A. I always knew that he was a serious and committed actor who did his homework beforehand. What really took me by surprise was that unlike a lot of people who get into there character and stay in it, Irrfan on the other hand was a very normal person who would be chatting about films and politics when he wasn't shooting. But the moment you said 'Action', he would just become another person. He would just switch on and off, which I think is his greatest talent. He doesn't have any baggage about being in character.
Q. Your last film Hijack failed to do well at the box office inspite of its quirky content. How did you take that failure?
A. I still maintain that Hijack is a very enjoyable film. I feel that because its release got delayed, it didn't get showcased in the best manner possible. There are some people who loved it and then there were some who didn't connect with it. I wish more people had seen it. I still believe that when it comes online on any kind of platform, it will find its audience. I take this as a learning experience. Of course, I was disappointed and was wishing that more people had seen it.
'It's Unfortunate That Box Office Numbers Have Become A Measure Of Success'
Q. Finally, how much does box office numbers matter to you at this point?
A. We cannot hide from the fact that box office numbers matter. It's unfortunate that they have become a measure of success. Eventually, it's all about economics. I don't pretend to understand the business very well. For me, it's important to make the best possible film we can. Of course, box office numbers are important, but it's not something which plays on my mind all the time. I don't know how these things function. I don't understand the number game much. So, fingers crossed.