Ranbir was nice, warm and supportive. It’s always good when your co-stars are warm and just easygoing around you. He let me work in my own way and didn’t pile on-Ileana D’Cruz
With Metro, I could close my eyes and visualise the film. It was the same with Barfi! in the sense that I cannot really put my finger on any one single point of inspiration-Anurag Basu
I think Ranbir’s booked lock, stock and barrel for a while now but yes, we will be happy to sign him on when we find a script that we both love—Siddharth Roy Kapur
Ranbir Kapoor strode in, looking every inch the star, in shades, casual cool and with a jaunty step. Ileana D’Cruz took her place next to him, impish smile in place while Siddharth Roy Kapur — Managing Director — Studios, Disney UTV — settled in as well. They got right into the film, before being joined shortly by the film’s director Anurag Basu. So, over to the stars.
Well, guys Barfi! has a very hatke feel to it. So, give us a sneak peek into the film and its characters
Ranbir Kapoor: Well, Barfi is a big flirt and his name is Barfi because in the 1970s every pregnant mother apparently wanted their child to look like the kid in the Murphy advertisement. But because he was deaf, he couldn’t really make out the difference betweeb ‘b’ and ‘m’. So, when he was asked what his name was, he would say ‘Barfi!’ Also, I feel it matched the mood of the film. It’s that sunshine element, that happy element that matches the mood of the film. And Ileana is the candy of the film. Sugar-free candy!
Ileana D’Cruz: I’m not so sure about being the candy in the film, but when Barfi walks into her life, he changes her. He brings that ‘sunshiney’ element into her own life. It’s all about his philosophy in life touching the lives of other people positively and he doesn’t let anyone come in the way of him or anyone close to him being happy.
RK: I started this film after Rockstar, which was very intense. So this film was great for me to get back to.
Anurag dada told me to just come on set and have fun. We wanted this character to be very believeable. So everything isn’t all sign language and technical. Our inspirations were Chaplin, Buster Keaton and so on but it was also like playing dumb charades. We didn’t follow a tight script as such! (laughs) Dada has this organic way of working. Usually the feeling is, dialogue hona chahiye, romance hona chahiye. This film really taught me simplicity. There was no shoulder, so to speak, to lean on. So it was a little frustrating for me, but Anurag slowly and sensitively got us into the world of this film.
Ranbir, you sported a moustache for the film which must have been a learning?
RK: Yes, it is the first time that I am sporting a moustache in a film and the lesson is that if you ever want to sport a moustache in a film, then grow it! Because the glue that they use for sticking on the fake one is so strong that it really sticks. And at the break when you remove it, it tears your lip! At that time, most Bengali gentlemen had this really thin moustache.
Siddharth, was UTV shaky in greenlighting a project like this because Barfi! isn’t a typical formula film.
Siddharth Roy Kapur: We have worked with Anurag before on Life In A ..Metro. We are aware of his talent and the fact is that he is a very, very special director. And we have also worked with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra after Aks in Rang De Basantiand with Anurag Kashyap (Dev. D) after he made No Smoking. As Ranbir said, you’re never really going to have a bound script with him. But just working with him and interacting with him, you get the sense of what kind of films he wants to make because he has already visualised all of it. It’s a very immersive experience. We found that in Life In A... Metro! which I think is one of the most beautiful films we made and at no point of time were we shaky about his talent. When you see the film today, it’s exactly how he narrated it to us. Nothing was regimented.
He was sure about it from the word go. For any actor, what’s really important is the script and the director to start with. After that, they need the confidence to know that the producer is going to back the film and support the director’s vision.
So, will UTV be working with Ranbir again?
SRK: I think Ranbir’s booked lock, stock and barrel for a while now but yes, we will be happy to sign him on when we find a script that we both love.
Anurag, why did you choose these three actors for the film?
AB: Casting comes only after the characters are already in your head. It was clear to me that Ranbir was to play his part. Then, Ileana walked into my office and all I knew was that she was a South actress and we have some common friends. But I hadn’t seen any of her movies. I didn’t give her a screen test. I just had the handycam going and started talking to her. With Priyanka, the only concern I had was that people might see a little bit of ‘Priyanka Chopra - The Star’ in Jhilmil, which wouldn’t work for the character as it might look hammy. But it all worked out.
What were your expectations of this role, Ranbir?
RK: To be honest, I’m very arrogant about my own talent and nothing else. I have huge expectations out of myself. However, dada brought out great performances from all of us. He made us think that we were doing it, but actually, it was him all along. With my last film, they called me ‘rockstar’ because the character really was popular with the people. So, I hope that after watching this film, people start calling me ‘barfi’. I would really like to be known as ‘the character from my film’. Ileana, this is your big Bollywood debut. How do you feel about being a part of this film which is not about being glamorous?
RK: Actually, she thought she was coming in Dhoom 6!
ID: (laughs) I had these hang ups, I mean, I thought that with Bollywood, people want to see glamour and us dancing around trees and so on. I never expected to get into Bollywood with a film like this, which is so different. This character was challenging but Anurag had a tremendous amount of faith in me. That was very flattering and Sid’s been so amazingly supportive from the beginning.
And how was Ranbir as a co-star?
ID: Ranbir was nice, warm and supportive. It’s always good when your co-stars are warm and just easygoing around you. He let me work in my own way and didn’t pile on. That’s something that can happen, but Ranbir was nice throughout and incredibly helpful.
RK: Jhilmil is an autistic girl. She’s the sunshine in the film, like a puppy. The relationship between them is like that of an eight-year-old boy and a puppy dog. We don’t really have many dialogues in the film and you won’t miss it because Anurag has created fresh moments and fresh scenes and taught us how to express ourselves without dialogues. Also, I thought it was tough with PC because when you play a character that is autistic, there is a very fine line between becoming the part and hamming. I think Priyanka really became the part. Also, there’s an item number called ‘Videshi girl’ which rolls during the end credits. So please stay for that, when you watch the film! Yeh masaledaar barfi hai!
AB: Infact, I spent three days with Priyanka, we worked on her part and had a workshop on the same. It was very important that we did that because there was a danger that even if a small part of ‘Priyanka Chopra’ showed in her character, it wouldn’t work. To her credit, she shed all the trappings of Priyanka Chopra.
What was challenging when you were making the film?
RK:The challenge was in being simple — just to let go of trying to show off as an actor and to surrender to the moment. Even though I was playing a challenging character, I didn’t feel it as a challenge. Anurag made it happy. Well, I don’t want to speak too much about it as kal mera mooh bandh ho jayega if the audience doesn’t like it.
ID: The entire film has me playing someone so different from the kind of person I am. But there was a danger of getting carried away and not playing the role effectively. Anurag wanted something that was natural. He just told me to stop overthinking it and understand Shruti as a person. We didn’t have a bound script, so there wasn’t anything to fall back on. But may I just say, that I wear a cotton saree for the first time EVER in this film!
Who/ what were your inspiration for this film?
RK: Well, Chaplin is the father of silent films and yes, he was inspiring, but it was really Anurag who very sensitively and happily created it on the sets day by day. There was no fixed reference point like hum isko copy karenge. You will see glimpses of my grandfather, maybe because of the thin moustache, but also because he is my grandfather.
AB: With Metro.., I could close my eyes and visualise the film. It was the same with Barfi! in the sense that I cannot really put my finger on any one single point of inspiration. Even with Kites, I just wrote about two pages of a script and then fell in love with the idea.
RK:I think Anurag was inspired by his parents...
AB: Well, all my references for this film did come from my parents. But my parents never really wore floral shirts and flares (laughs). Most people think of the 70s as flower power and so on, but I didn’t draw inspiration from that.
Siddharth, how involved were you with the film as producer?
SRK: As regards to our involvement in the film, we are involved in the initial stages, during the pre-production when we figure out what kind of film we are making. After that, it’s left to the director because it’s his vision and we have to support that vision. Then when it comes to post production, marketing and distribution you obviously have to get involved again because you have to get the film ready for release.
Ileana, you received a lot of praise for looking like an authentic Bengali. How did that feel?
ID: I think the biggest compliment that I got was that I look like a Bengali! A lot of people, including Bengalis, have come up to me and told me that I look so authentic.
Ranbir, did you take encouragement from movies like The Artist, Wall E, Amelie which are silent films?
RK: Well, it’s not entirely a silent film. I don’t speak because I cannnot hear but I do have a few words.
Priyanka’s character can speak but she chooses not to. Ileana has a speaking character and all the others are speaking characters. But yes, films like The Artist and Wall E are amazing films. It’s just testimony to the fact of how amazing the visual medium is. It’s also about the connect with the character, and all these films had that.
Was it difficult recreating the look of Kolkata of the 70s, Anurag?
AB: It wasn’t that difficult because a lot of Kolkata is frozen in the 70s. There’s a lot of candid and unplanned shots as well. Like during the time when we had packed up one evening but then I saw an open maidan, which presented a good shot. So, we shot some more.
Any memorable scenes from the film that you could talk about?
RK: There’s a scene in the film with an inspector who is always after Barfi. It’s a child-like hide and seek game they play with each other. So there is a comic element that underscores even a tense scene. Everything in the film has a comedic undercurrent. I think that’s again the brilliance of Anurag dada.
And what was the most difficult to shoot?
AB: The first schedule was the toughest because this genre was new for me. It was like entering a dark tunnel without a torch. It was the first scenes with all of them. The hardest was when Barfi kidnaps PC.
Why the Sachin Tendulkar look for Priyanka Chopra in the film?
AB: There was a lot of thought that went into Jhilmil’s outfits. There were some nice touches to what she wore. We went to great lengths to make everything look authentic.
Cities and locations are important parts of the narrative structure of films these days. Your comment?
RK: Right now, when I see the promos, I think ‘Wow! Were we part of a world like that? For us, the film was a 360-degree vision. Indeed, we shot it in Kolkata, Darjeeling and so on. I think the most was done in Chandivali! Seriously, we felt like as if we were in a different world. And it went with the nature of the film because as regards to the innocence of it all, I feel that at that time, love had a bit of a fantasy,
idealistic element to it. I don’t think that’s the case today.
What’s the best thing about Barfi!?
RK: I think the best thing about this film is the friendship that I’ve struck with Anuragda. And the fact that I learnt simplicity; to be simple and not insecure as an actor.
ID: I haven’t even watched the film but what I’ve taken back from this film is that there’s no ‘moral at the end of the story’, but it takes you on such an amazing journey that it makes you re-examine your life. We stress about the smallest things but it’s the simple things in life which make you happy...
RK: ...Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Universe 2013!!
SK: I think it’s one of the movies we’re proudest of. And I feel the whole team feels that way.
When you shoot a film over a long period of time, isn’t it hard to sustain the character’s intensity?
RK: It’s hard to do. It anyways takes a few days to get into the vibe, of the character and get comfortable with the role. But I really don’t think an actor is great in the film. It’s the story that’s great. So all you can do is believe in the director. I’ve been good when the director is good. And I’ve not been good when the director’s not been good. I’m sorry to say that, but that’s the truth, in my case.
ID: I was doing a couple of South films as well along with Barfi! and it was difficult to switch between roles. I mean, I play a cab driver in one of those and here, I am wearing a cotton saree! But the best part was the patience Anurag had with me.
RK: All in all, it was a great experience. And I hope you all go and watch it because I really need a hit film! (laughs).
Ranbir Kapoor was at his mischevious best, perhaps staying true to his character in Barfi! After a particularly lengthy praise of his producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, there was a brief pause, perhaps to catch his breath. And then, not missing a beat, he turned to Kapur and said, “Chal, paisa nikaal!”
When one gets into the flow of conversation at a Screen Preview, so comfortable does the atmosphere get for the stars, that it’s easy to forget that the cameras and recorders are rolling. So when Ranbir was heaping praise on UTV, saying that it’s only them who have the ‘balls’ to back up films like
Barfi!, he then naughtily giggled and said, “Can I say ‘balls’? Er... ok then not. ‘Had the ‘gumption’!”
Ileana D’Cruz had an oops moment. But get your mind out of the gutter! Far from anything naughty, she simply spilled a little coffee on her white top and although a cleanup job was done quickly and promptly, she fretted a bit about whether it would show up in the pictures! We are happy to say, that they didn’t. Safedi ki chamkaar!
Transcribed by Reagan Gavin Rasquinha
Edited by Priyanko Sarkar
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