- ‘Gehraiyaan’ streams on Amazon Prime from February 11
- The film has been directed by Shakun Batra
- The film has been produced by Karan Johar
New film Gehraiyaan is an intense ride through the complexity of relationships, romantic and otherwise. Making the film, however, was a blast for its cast – Deepika Padukone, Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Dhairya Karwa. In this interview, they open up on who the “bully” of the group is (ahem, Deepika), Ananya’s inability to say no to film scripts, the MC Sher skill Siddhant can’t shake off, and the truth about how tall Dhairya really is. Holding it all together is director Shakun Batra. Read the transcript of the interview here.
NDTV: Hello and welcome to NDTV, I was wondering what is the first signal, the first message that something like your trailer has gone viral, Deepika you can tell us.
Deepika Padukone: Siddy (Siddhant Chaturvedi) just posted something on our group, the 5 of us have a group where I think the BMC (Brihanmumbai Corporation) has posted a meme about the garbage scene from our trailer and you know your film has gone viral when they’ve picked up something and made a meme out of it so I think that’s a great start for us today. So kudos to us!
Shakun Batra: There’s a tandoori momo reel on Gehraiyaan.
Ananya Panday: Yeah , that’s what I was gonna say.
Shakun Batra: It’s a BMC post. So I think between BMC and tandoori momos…
Ananya Panday: …We are sorted.
NDTV: So Shakun you can tell me, whenever there’s a group of friends, there’s one person who’s a bully and one who gets bullied. Here on the screen when we are watching, if I was to guess it is Deepika, but you can correct me.
Shakun Batra: I don’t think Deepika was a bully. I think we all had our different days. We all took turns and to be honest nobody in this group is lesser than the other. We’ve all pulled pranks. We’ve all had our days. And everyone has been bullied at some point.
NDTV: Okay, is it? Deepika, I said that because I watched the trailer launch where you asked Siddhant to join him in the water, clearly that was not his scene.
Deepika Padukone: Yeah. I mean excuse me, I wasn’t bullying you, Sid. I meant it in a nice way like ‘come on Siddy, we’ll all hold hands and we’ll do this together’ because we’ve literally done everything together, right from all of us reaching Goa on the same day to doing our prep together, having our meals together, doing yoga together. Literally, you know and there were days when some of the actors weren’t required but we would show up, be on set, so we have literally done everything together. So no, I’m not a bully. In fact, I get bullied by the three of them very often.
Ananya Panday: Never ever happened.
Siddhant Chaturvedi: Never happened, yeah.
Deepika Padukone: There’s is enough BTS footage that will be put out at some point.
Siddhant Chaturvedi: We are scared right now. We are scared to say that she’s the bully of the group. Look at her.
Deepika Padukone: Guys. But I’m glad you said that you wanted to start this interview by keeping it light and fun because that’s really who we are. We slightly by default made a heavier intense film maybe, but I mean, we’re just constantly laughing and giggling and pulling each other’s leg.
NDTV: Ananya, you know what, it’s a dream for a lot of actors to work with Deepika. At the trailer launch she said something very sweet, she said that you’re like her younger baby sister and you’re younger than her sister (Anisha Padukone) as well. What is she like on the sets?
Ananya Panday: I think you call your sister also Annie (to Deepika) and that’s why she used to call me also Annie and she used to always say that I’m like her lovely younger sister and that’s why she used to always kiss me and hug me. In Deepika, the first thing you always notice is that she’s warm and she’s affectionate and she shows that she’s affectionate, you know. She’ll always hug everyone. She’ll kiss them on their cheek. She’ll hold their hand. So in that way, she’s extremely warm and I think just as an actor there was a lot of me to play off, just in terms of reacting to her in scenes. I think for me, even though I’ve loved every performance of her before this, this is probably my favourite character of hers because you’re seeing Deepika in a completely raw, real, vulnerable, and fragile way and I think she looks beautiful in that so I’m really excited for people to see her as Alisha.
NDTV: Great. Siddhant you tell us, how was this film set different?
Siddhant Chaturvedi: I think this was one of the best set experiences and the process was, I’ve never experienced something like that and I’ve never heard of something like that happen in any film which I’ve followed from the years. It was an incredible experience, you know, for a lifetime and I wish that actors get to prep the way they should. Give them their comfort zone and understand that ease will actually extract the best performance and I think Shakun is very sensitive to that. So it’s been different and I’m hoping that I get something like this very soon but I’m gonna cherish it for a life time.
NDTV: Lovely. Dhairya, you must have seen their performances in different films. When we watch them on screen we feel like we know all of them. Were they everything you expected? You can talk about each one.
Dhairya Karwa: It’s more. Everything that I expected is more. You know they are all fabulous actors and unanimously loved by everyone. You’ve seen their performances and I’m a big fan of their work as well. But when you meet them what surprises is that, this is a common trend that I’ve been seeing or at least experienced in my career, that all the great actors – and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a couple of them from Uri to 83 and now this – all the great actors from my experience or from what I’ve learnt are great human beings as well. They’re so generous and warm and kind and are aware and sensitive. This is my learning and I want to keep it this way. That’s how I want my outlook to be, that for a good actor you have to be a good human as well. So, that’s a check for me to keep in mind for the future as well. And I might like to believe it as well.
NDTV: Shakun, you get the credit to get all these people together and do a beautiful film with them. Do you write with actors in mind when you’re working on a story? Do you always have a actor in mind or there’s some juggling – is there scope for that?
Shakun Batra: Not right in the beginning but at some point, once I’m 30% in, then I start seeing people, I start seeing faces and on this one, Deepika came pretty early in my head. Also, Deepika and I’ve been hanging out as friends, we’ve met a bunch of times and I had started to see her early but I just wanted to write a little more to see where things go and as I wrote, things started to become concrete. I started to see her more and more in it and from there, it just followed. Obviously Sid, I only got to see when I saw MC Sher (Siddhant’s character in Gully Boy) and Sid was relatively younger for the part. I originally needed a slightly older person but I met him for dinner, just coincidentally bumping into him, and we had a conversation and I was like, he didn’t feel like MC Sher on the dinner table. So I was like, if he can play MC Sher and then I saw some of the Inside Edges (the web-series Siddhant appeared in) and I saw that he can transform, he can really change, and that he really has that control on the graph that can transform. That made me feel a lot more comfortable. Dhairya of course I saw in one audition. And Ananya and I met and we spoke and I knew she was very close to what the character was and then it was just a little more of re-writing to make sure that everyone paired organically to the story. So it’s a little bit of both. You imagine someone in the story and once you meet them, you change your writing style a little bit so you work with your writers to take it through who they are.
NDTV: Shakun, when Deepika took two days what were you thinking? Two days I think is fair, right?
Shakun Batra: As Karan (Johar, producer of Gehraiyaan) said, I’m anyways a nervous person. I panic very easily so I was thinking that she’s hated it enough and she has probably switched off her phone and she’s never gonna see me again. That’s what I was thinking. I think Karan has better experience with these things so he was like, you’re just overreacting, calm down. And then two days later, Deepika and I spoke and it really made my day that day. I felt good about the fact that we’re on the same page and we spoke about what we were seeing, how we’re seeing the film. So yeah, it was a good day. I remember that day when we spoke.
NDTV: Deepika, do you want to express the process of those two days so that filmmakers in the future don’t get these jitters?
Deepika Padukone: No, you can ask any filmmaker or writer who has come to me and have narrated the story, I have this disclaimer right at the start that I will not react. You know, you’re not going to get this instant reaction from me, I do take a couple of days to just live with it. Even if my instinct could be one of two things, it could be an instant ‘yes,’ it could also be an instant ‘no.’ But either way, I’ve developed this process of not reacting there and then or making a decision in the spur of the moment. I think this is something I’ve learned from my father. He has always taught me not to be impulsive so that’s just my process of just living with it and seeing whether if it’s a story I’ve not liked. You know, even two days later, three days later, is it still something that I don’t like, is there something I’m missing? Because I feel like, your career is really those choices that you make eventually and it was the same with this. You know, I’ve liked it, I’ve loved it and in fact this was one of those rare narrations where he had come fully prepared with background music and every scene had some kind of music playing to give me a sense to better visualize about what this film was going to be. So he did everything that he could on his part but I just needed that time. Maybe he wasn’t ready for that but I just needed that time to say, okay, am I ready for this?
NDTV: Ananya, signing, sitting back and thinking, not being impulsive – can you tell us about your process? You said at the trailer launch that you were very excited because you got this but what is your process of signing it?
Ananya Panday: I’m the opposite. I’m very impulsive as a person and I get very excited as well. If I like something, I’m like ‘yes yes yes’ without even thinking about anything in that sense, and I usually like most things. My mom had to actually buy me a book called ‘The Art Of Saying No‘ because I just didn’t know and I still don’t know how to say a ‘no’ sometimes. I really have to make up these stories and kahanis up to say a ‘no.’ I’m a very impulsive person but I’m trying, I’ve learned a lot from this film actually about just letting go a little bit, being patient and usually the good things come in your life when you wait, so.
NDTV: Dhairya, you know if you were planning to tell any other producer that you’re 6’2″… Karan has obviously (interrupted by Ananya Panday)
Ananya Panday: He’s 6’4″
Dhairya Karwa: My secret is out, sir.
Deepika Padukone: Most actors are lying about their height and they want to seem taller and then when you actually see them, you’re like, oh you’re really not that tall. And you have an actor here who’s done the complete opposite. He’s lied about being shorter, you know.
Ananya Panday: We had to actually change the door frame for Dhairya to fit in there.
Shakun Batra: Yeah, I’ll give future advice to all the filmmakers who’ll sign him up. Just tell your production designer to increase the height of the door.
Dhairya Karwa: But also in regard to production designer and director, I would say fairly below average height.
NDTV: You can say that about everyone actually.
Ananya Panday: Yeah, for you everyone’s short.
Shakun Batra: We had a joke on the set on day 1 that if it wasn’t for Covid and we hadn’t had to keep it so small, I was about to call for a crane not to put the camera but myself in it so I could go up and down, to different heights to talk to these actors because it was really tough as I was saying earlier. It was very hard to come across when every actor is 10 inches taller than you. I mean I’m not even joking, I stood upon a sofa and I was still half an inch shorter than them so yeah.
NDTV: So Siddhant, every interview we’ve done, you’ve clarified that you’re not a rapper. Today, I’ve heard that line in the trailer launch also. Does this still stay with you? People tell you to sing and rap.
Siddhant Chaturvedi: Yeah, yeah they do that a lot. I’ve acquired this skill now, it’ll remain for lifetime. But yeah, maybe I’m not a rapper. People will like to believe obviously because the character (MC Sher in Gully Boy) is liked by a lot of people.
NDTV: Deepika, Ananya said lovely things about you, you can tell me about her. What is she like? When you see her work, when you meet her and see her acting in front of the camera. What is she like?
Deepika Padukone: I think I didn’t know her at all before we started working on this film and I guess I knew as much about her as anyone else via social media and just meeting at events and things like that. And when I started working with her, I’ve realized that she’s, and I don’t mean this in fun or joking way, but she extremely intelligent for her age. And I think that side of her, either she hasn’t shown it enough or people just don’t give her enough credit for that but she’s extremely intelligent and also very observant. She’s constantly observing what other actors are doing. She’s an observant girl, She’s an intelligent girl, and she’s constantly wanting to get better and improve. I was just saying this a while ago that a lot of the younger lot I feel, not just actors but just generally, there’s a sense of that thing in regard with ‘we know everything, we know better.’ I didn’t see that in the three of them at all. This sort of curiosity and keenness to be okay to make mistakes. And I think that for me was the interesting part, to discover them as people because I didn’t know any of them. I don’t think any of us knew each other. But just discovering each other as people and I’ve always seen their growth in the last, I won’t even say two years. I’d say in the one, one-and-a-half months we were in Goa for filming. So from the day we landed and the day we started our prep to the time we finished an entire schedule and we came back, I had seen growth and I had seen an evolution in all three of them. They have become more confident, they’ve matured. It was beautiful to see that and I think Shakun agrees with me. From where we started and to where we are today. Just to see that journey. So yeah about Ananya, I feel that she’s extremely intelligent, she’s extremely talented, someone I’ll always, always be there for her if she ever feels like she needs me.
Ananya Panday: So sweet.
Gehraiyaan streams on Amazon Prime from February 11.