Right now I'm enjoying myself to the hilt. Shooting for Shaad Ali is a picnic. "Bunty Aur Babli" will have a bit of everything. But "Naach"? Ahhh! To be very honest, "Naach" seems very unconventional, but it isn't. Varma's forte is realism.
He's a gritty and real director. I think "Naach" is to the romantic genre what "Satya" was to underworld cinema. I must admit it was a great pleasure to be part of "Naach". As an actor I wasn't used to that kind of cinema.
The majority of mainstream films are escapist. Here was Ramu being very real while portraying the relationship between a man and a woman, and how their contrasting ideologies come in the way of their friendship.
How has Ramu helped you evolve?
Immensely. Ramu is quite addictive. He really pushes his actors. He has immense faith in his actors and his action on the sets proves it. During "Naach", he continuously said to me, "You're the actor. You do the acting. I'm the director. Let me do the direction". He let me do what I instinctively felt like doing in each shot.
He never wanted anything extra, only what the scene required. He gave so much freedom to me as an actor that it scared me. I once felt I was being indulgent in a shot. He told me to do what I wanted and that he'd take care of it. Such confidence from the director is a great boost for the actor.
You seem full of admiration.
Ramu involves the junior-most actor in every department of the film, from costumes to music and editing. He takes everyone's advice and incorporates it if he likes it, otherwise tells one so on his face. Another thing that I learnt from Ramu was to never leave a shot. He never said 'cut' during "Naach". So an actor continues into the next scene even when the camera is switched off. These small-small things go a long way and you learn a lot.
Ramu thinks you're as good an actor as your father, Amitabh Bachchan.
He's just being sweet. I don't believe it. "Naach" is a very important film for what it has taught me. He has a great reputation to live up to. And as far as I'm concerned he has lived up to that reputation in "Naach".
During the film, I'd tell him that he has to work with me again. One day he came up with the idea of doing his own take on "The Godfather" and casting me and dad in it. I think "Sarkar" will be fantastic. I saw the rushes. Dad hasn't been projected so well in years. Ramu is a very big fan of my father. He spent a lot of time deciphering my father's powers as an actor. People should watch out for what Ramu has done with my dad in "Sarkar".
And how important is Antara Mali to your performance?
Very important. Because the film is basically about two people. Antara is immensely talented. She has a different take on what most of us take for granted. Her approach and style are unique and refreshing.
What do you think of "Naach" being released along with "Veer-Zaara", "Aitraaz" and "Mughal-e-Azam"?
"Naach" doesn't intend to take on these films. It's got its own raison d'etre, unmotivated by competitive factors. Ramu and his distributors felt this was the right time to release "Naach". I feel it's by far Ramu's most personal film. It touches on his ideals and principles as a creative person.
"Naach" isn't an expensive film. But it reflects its director's beliefs. Whoever comes to see it...great! Those who prefer the other three releases...still great! I don't think "Naach" is in competition with the others. The genre and style are different.
2004 is a year when you came into your own.
No, I think you come into your own every day. But yes, it's been a great year. It makes me want to keep working harder. After "Naach", next year I have Anubhav Sinha's "Dus", then there's Rituparno Ghosh's "Antar Mahal", then probably "Bunty Aur Babli" and "Sarkar".