You have been awfully quiet lately?
I have signed five films back-to-back. And I am shooting till April 2006. After that I will get busy writing my second directorial venture. I am embarrassed to say this...The funding is in place, but no script yet. My first directorial venture, "Everybody Says I'm Fine!", was ready on 9/11, 2001. My acting appetite took over thereafter. The five films on the floors are part of the process of satiation.
Can we talk about some of them?
"The Whisperers" is clearly a genre-specific film. It is a psychological thriller. Working with Manoj Bajpai was clearly one of the most intense and rewarding experiences of my life. He knows his chops.
What's interesting about this project is that I have written but not directed it. Rajiv Virani has. I had to rewrite almost every day, keeping in mind the changing chemistry between the characters played by Manoj and me. We play two extremely wealthy guys. It is in English.
Do you enjoy the reputation of being an actor who does English language films that are seen in the multiplexes?
I think one has to see Buddhadeb Dasgupta's "Kaalpurush" to smash that myth. I don't see what else one can do. As long as I don't get to do senseless 'masala' films filled with innuendos, I am happy to live with the multiplex label.
How was it working with Mallika Sherawat in Saket Chowdhary's "Pyar Ke Side Effects"?
Mallika and I come from different worlds and schools. But that has never been an obstacle in working with anyone. We shared a very comfortable chemistry. What was really wonderful was the cast.
The film is narrated from my point of view. Actors like Ranvir Shorey who play my best friends, Aamir Bashir who plays my brother-in-law, Sharad Saxena who's my father-in-law provided a very strong supporting cast. Mallika plays a very strong 'jatni'.
It is one of the few scripts I've read that has wit as opposed to just broad comedy. I had a ball shooting this film because of the director. Saket was fun. You could be doing the best script in the world and have a shitty time. Saket is intelligent, funny and easy-going.
And you've just completed a second Bengali film?
Yes, it is a small film. It's got Raima Sen, Rituparna Sengupta and Rajit Kapur. We are halfway through. The Bengali here is more literate and urban than in Buddahdeb Dasgputa's "Kaalpurush" where the Bengali was more lower-middle class. The director is Tony Raichowdhary. His real name is Anniruddha.
How was it working with Aparna Sen again in "15 Park Avenue"?
Many things were the same as "Mr & Mrs Iyer" while many things were different. Aparna Sen's command over the language of creativity, her demands on actors, and her clear idea of what her cinema ought to be were still the same.
So what changed?
The comfort level. If she saw me giving a bad shot she said so loudly. And if she thought I was right on the button she didn't make a noise about it. Between the two films we have become really good friends. And I have the most enormous respect for her as a human being and director. During "15 Park Avenue", we never hesitated to argue or fight. People who like each other often do.
Your first with Shabana Azmi...
Yes, I call her the empress. It is mind boggling to watch the array of skills a Naseer or a Shabana brings to a character. When you combine those qualities with their humility before a shot, you realise that's the essence of any actor.
Did you enjoy this film more than "Mr & Mrs Iyer"?
Can you imagine me doing a film with such a gorgeous gallery of women... Waheedaji, Shabana, Konkona and Shefali Chhaya, who in my opinion is the best thing in the movie. She plays my wife. All these women have an opinion and a sense of humour. I was in the seventh heaven. It was nirvana.
But personally I am fonder of the content in "Mr & Mrs Iyer"... and let me tell you, I am far less central to the drama in "15 Park Avenue".
Rahul, are you still single?
I have to go for a shot.
Answer me please, are you seeing anyone?
No. I haven't been seeing anyone for four years. Not even casual dating.
Is that normal?
I don't feel motivated to spend that much time on another human being right now.
Or aren't you able to find the right partner?
Could be because I am short and ugly.