Mere Brother Ki Dulhan – Interview
Hi guys I know you all had a late night and early morning, I know you flew in from the UAE this morning. Let’s start with you first Ali, how was last night? How was the UAE?
Ali Abbas Zafar: Good afternoon everyone, thanks a lot for coming here, UAE was madness, this is the first time an Indian film has premiered in Abu Dhabi and it went really well and there were a lot of people.
Imran let’s talk to you, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan releases tomorrow, tell us a little bit about the film?
Imran Khan: I think I caught the tail end of the trailer that you were just watching so that should have given you a fair idea about what goes on. A man lives in London, sends me off on this crazy mission to find the perfect bride and I find a girl who seems to be the perfect bride, there are a few twists and turns along the way and long story short, it turns into a situation where we both have feelings for one another, but obviously we can’t just run off because you know, it’s just not done.
It’s just not done! But there is an attempt made, I don’t want to give away too much. Katrina welcome home, as I’d like to say here in London. Now, this film sees you as well as the last couple that you’ve done as a very kind of brash, independent kind of out there young lady, Dimple Dixit, what made you take the film? What made you accept the film?
Katrina Kaif: Well the director Ali Abbas is a friend of mine and has been a friend for the last three, four years and I guess in him getting to know me or you know spending kind of time in getting to know each other, I think he’s come up with this character and which he says he’s written for me so I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, ‘cause when I read the script, I think the word to describe her was a little bit mad and slightly crazy, so I’m not quite sure if that I should be happy about the fact that it’s written for me or not but I think it was a chance to break away from what can sometimes be or what we can sometimes face slightly stereo types in Hindi film heroines, the kind of roles which you do a lot of “the damsel in distress”, so I think this was an opportunity for me to be the damsel causing distress as oppose to the damsel in distress and I think I just kind of wanted to take it up and have a lot of fun.
Fantastic, it looks like you guys had a lot of fun. Ali, this is your first kind of venture in to commercial cinema, obviously Tere Bin Laden was a fantastic film, I saw it and I loved your performance in it. Why did you choose this film to kind of break in to the commercial Hindi cinema? How did you get involved?
Ali Zafar: Well I think for me it’s not about whether the film is commercial or whatever. If the script is good then I go with it. How this came about was that, Shanoo Sharma, who is the casting director for Yash Raj, was also the casting director for Tere Bin Laden, so she gave me a call one day and said that you know, there is this film being made and this is the cast for the film and then we skyped, Ali narrated the script for me on skype and I liked the script and that’s how it took off.
That’s quite an interesting angle actually, because obviously you’re based in Pakistan, I mean Ali Abbas, not to get confused, they’re both called Ali Zafar, so thankfully he’s got a defining middle name Ali Abbas. Like with Ali being in Pakistan I mean Narrations, songs, obviously Ali sang some of the songs in the film as well, I mean wasn’t that a logistic nightmare at all?
Ali Abbas Zafar: Well actually once he came on board then everything was fine, it was just the initial thing that we faced a little bit of a problem because he was not here and his film just got released and the film did really well at the box office and got a lot of critical acclaim, but once he came on board and we chatted about the role, everything fell in place, and the only deal is because he at heart is a singer, he’s a rockstar, so his first thing was that you know, I have to sing my own songs and that he told me, he told Adi who is the producer of the film and we got a good song.
A great song as well as fantastically picturised with people being a little bit off their nuts on bhang, like I said I’m not going to keep telling you too much about the film, but lots of great moments to look out for in the film, both kind of tragic and comedic as well. You’ve worked for Yash Raj under the banner for the last sort of five years or so as an assistant director for New York, Tashan and a couple of other films, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. You didn’t just walk into the office of Yash Raj and say “right I’ve written this film and I’m going to make this” I mean was it a struggle? Was it a kind of tangle with the elusive Aditya Chopra?
Ali Abbas Zafar: Well, yes it was, but, I think over those four and a half years that Ispent with Yash Raj, he and I developed a kind of reputation, he trusted me with a lot of big films, but the key for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan is the script. When I gave the script to him and he read it he said “wow, it’s a good script, we can make it in to a film, the characters are new, yet it is a typical Yash Raj film, it has songs, it has values and it’s a family film”. And all those things came together and the final stamp of getting it made was when Imran, Katrina and Ali came on board and everyone I think reacted to the script more than who was sending them the script and once that happens we were rock and rolling, we were shooting.
And how long was that process?
Ali Abbas Zafar: I think I am fortunate enough by the grace of my ama’s prayers, I think it took just a month and a half, so that was really quick.
That is really quick! Imran, Ali has been a Assistant director for Yash Raj for many years. In the film did you feel any of Ali’s own experiences in your characters?
Imran Khan: I have done a fair amount of work with first time directors the majority of films I have done have actually been with first time directors, and there is a trend where they tend to put a lot of themselves in to the characters. They do put themselves and a lot of friends and family members in to each character. For instance the character I play is Khush, he is very heavily inspired by him. Ali is from Dehradun, Khush is from Dehradun, he moves to Mumbai to be an assistant director to work in the film industry. The way that Ali dresses has a certain sense of humour that he has which you will get to see more of in the film.
His dressing? Or just his own sense of humour?
Imran Khan: Both actually. Check shirts and sneakers is what he dresses in most of the time, but he has a very extremist sense of humour which works for some people, we hope it works for you.
Katrina, we’ve seen you in big blockbuster films, one thing I have spotted about you is that the roles you have played have a real simplicity and look, is that something you are moving towards more? As in the natural beauty, rather than the overly made up heroines of Bollywood films?
Katrina: It’s just started to get really tiring from doing all that hair and make-up, so I have just started looking for roles where I can you know, wear my hair simpler, wear less make-up, but besides that fact that I think it’s just a coincidence and were the kind of films that were being offered to me and I guess I just followed my heart and what draws you to a film, these were the kind of films which interested me whether it was Rajneeti or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or something like that, they were different films but somehow I felt I connect with them, same with this film.
Do you think you find more solace playing characters that are closer to realism as oppose to sometimes the over dramatic, emotive Bollywood heroines?
Katrina: I think both are fun, I think the ideal thing is to find the character which can appeal to the masses of our country and to larger audiences because I think nobody wants to make a film to a empty cinema hall, so I think the right thing for me are ideal film situations like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara which are appealing to a huge sector of the audience but I think we can still personally relate to them.
Right Ali, we know you and love you as being a fantastic singer and talented musician, how do you feel about having to make the change from making three minute music videos to performing characters.
Ali Zafar: Its a really thrilling, exciting and lovely process where you get to learn a lot. Although few know that I have done theatre in the past and some TV also, and in my music videos I always like playing characters, so I have always been in touch with that side of myself. I also feel that acting helps a singer and singing can help your acting because when you’re speaking a dialogue its almost in a certain kind of a scale or pitch and that’s where Ali used to tell us that “ek sur uppar, do sur uppar, three notches higher” so I think it just helps and the transition is very natural and smooth for me.
Ali Abbas Zafar: I’ll just add to that, one of the main reasons why I casted Ali is because every time I watched his music videos, I think the most important thing for an actor is to be convincing while he’s singing and if it’s a traditional Indian film where the hero has to sing, he has to emote while singing those lines, and all his music videos if you see he commands the stream so strongly that it feels like he is such a polished actor and that actually translates, and acting is all about rhythm, because he’s a singer when he says a dialogue there’s a certain tone to it and a certain flavour to it which just lightens up the screen.
The chemistry between you al l is so great, seeing you all having so much fun, are there any memories from the set of any pranks? Anyone of you played a prank on the other?
Ali Zafar: Do I look like the naughty type?
He said that with a big smile on his face. But are there any memories you can bring back especially from the song Madhubala that song really really brought the feeling in together, I really loved the visuals of that.
Ali Zafar: Ali decided that now that we have shot the film, so how do I kill my actors before saying goodbye? So he decided to choose June as the month which is the hottest month and it took four days of shoot and it was outdoors.
The film release is tomorrow, what is going to make the people come and swarm the box office and watch this film?
Ali Abbas Zafar: I think the most important thing about Mere Brother Ki Dulhan is that it is very very simple, everyone will be able to understand the story, it’s simple if you love traditional Indian cinema where there is a hero, a heroine, a few love songs and if you love comedy it is a very good package. On top of that, when you walk in to watch the film, I think whatever expectations you have of the film you will get a little bit more than that.
Do you think this film may perhaps help in building the relationships between the three countries you come from, mainly India and Pakistan? And do you think Bollywood and Lollywood should work together to make films?
Imran Khan: I do believe that our countries have already very strong relationships; the UK market has been very good and supportive to Indian films and is growing every few months, for those of us who are in the business the growth is quite surprising. Similarly Indian films have always had a very strong bond with Pakistan as well, so I think the problem has been that there are not a lot of co-productions between the three countries and they don’t work together which is sad.
Ali Abbas Zafar: Also because we are from a creative industry I think we just need to value talent irrespective of which countries we come from and I think it’s such a universal platform and if we can just collage everything into one and make people smile and entertain them I think it will be good for everyone.
Do you think political forces will come in between and try to intervene?
Ali Abbas Zafar: We hope not. I think cricket and cinema are two things which we really want to happen without any politics.
How do you define your character ‘Chutki mein Bipasha aur chutki mein Madhubala’ and ‘Bhabhi bahut frank hai’ How frank were you?
Katrina: I think these two definitions of my character is immense. I think that is the male point of view of my character in the movie which is one of the reasons why I was really drawn towards this role because the girl is very bold, she’s not shy, she’s not afraid and someone you can push around, so I thought it was nice for a man to write a character that was so strong.
Are you running any charities for humanitarian cause?
Katrina: Actually I think I am one of the really fortunate people who don’t have to necessarily look too hard to struggle find something to be associated with because I do feel that people in our position have a responsibility to help society and I am really privileged that my mum for the last forty years has dedicated her life to charity and she lives in Southern India where she runs an orphanage, the organization is called Relief Projects India and she has been running that orphanage for the last two years and now she has been able to expand that into a school, she has brought a very large property so she’s building a school, a hospital, so she has amazing work going on there and we recently went on a show called KBC where say we can win twenty lakhs and we donate that to a place where I can actually see immediately the results of that money. So, yes that’s my involvement.
How well and quick did you bond whilst working toether?
Ali Zafar: It was a very good experience, we all work as friends and if I were to speak for myself then I couldn’t have asked for better co-stars, they were very helpful, very fun, very supportive, very entertaining and they guided me also in various ways and I am very thankful to them from the bottom of my heart and Ali also for giving me the oppourtunity.
Ali Abbas Zafar: and after working with Ali our spiritual side just evolved.
What was the inspiration behind the story?
Ali Abbas Zafar: I wrote the script in three months and the time between finishing the script and start making the film was a month and a half because everyone came on board quite quickly. But yes there has been an inspiration behind the film and that inspiration was the matrimonial ads that people put in the newspapers if they can’t find a bride, and if you see those ads across the religion, across the cast they’re exactly the same and I felt that that represents true India and if anyone can write a story about a guy finding an ideal Indian bride that revolves around these matrimonial ads it will definitely entertain India.
Did you, Ali Zafar think that you would become an actor after establishing your dream as a singer?
Ali Zafar: It’s been a long journey and I have always believed in dreaming big and believing in it and having faith in it and at that time I remember when I wanted to be a singer, a big star and I wanted to make a song which would be a bigger song than our biggest artist who then was Abrar Ul Haq and Billo Ke Ghar Mein, so I made Chano ki Ankh Mein, so when the dream became a reality, I gave myself another dream, a bigger dream and since films are the biggest thing in the sub-continent in our area and Bollywood being next door and being the biggest film industry in the world. So I thought let’s give it a try and so Tere Bin Laden happened, my first film took off and then this film came along, so I feel very blessed and here I am with the most beautiful girl in the industry and one of the best guys and the great banner, Yash Raj.
Imran Khan, how comfortable are you to do comedy films?
Imran Khan: It is honestly something I find tremendously enjoyable as an actor and as a viewer, there is something about comedy, it’s hard to do comedy, so anyone who writes, who directs or who acts will tell you this that it’s hard to do good comedy, so when I watch something that is really funny, I appreciate that and I find it really inspiring and as an actor to do stuff like that it gets me very excited and it pushes you to try harder on how to make it work better because it’s such a fine line, either it works or it doesn’t, you can’t push it over the edge. So yes it’s something I love dong.
There is a song in the opening sequence the title track Mere Brother Ki Dulhan that sees Imran searching for the dulhan for his brother and there’s lots of kind of memorable moments of past films that stars the Khans. Why did you go about doing that? Was it just a homage to the Khans or was it just because of the filmy connection of the character in the film.
Ali Abbas Zafar: It’s to do with if you see the film Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and see the poster, the film is a celebration, so if you like traditional Indian film which celebrates cinema then there is a certain tone that you need to make the film with and if you watch this film, this film carries the tone from the beginning to the end and because all these three Khans have huge fan followings and plus he is an assistant director in the film it’s like a dream, it’s like when you watch the film it’s like a dream of how he imagines to be one of those Khans.
How is this film different from other comedy films in the Indian cinema?
Ali Abbas Zafar:Most of the films will link and sound close to each other. You need to innovate and write new characters. I think the strength of Mere Brither Ki Dulhan is that the three characters are new characters, all three of them have a voice and because you see your film through them characters journey you will find that because of these new characters the situations that they are in are fresh, new and entertaining.
And what a beautiful way to round off the release which is tomorrow of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.