To be honest, I had no idea what to expect when interviewing Arshad Warsi. Would he be funny, would he be energetic and give great answers, or would he be an one-sentence answer man? Well, it turns out he was fab! The interview got off to a great start with him saying, “I have never spoken so much in my life, but just pretend that I am the only one you are talking too and I will pretend you are the only one I have talked too”, and it just kept going better from there! He was wonderful, funny, nice and totally excited about talking about his film, Hum Tum Aur Ghost. This is the first film for Arshad as a producer, the first film for his production company, and his first as a screenwriter. Oh and yeah, he plays the leading role, too. Sit back and enjoy as Arshad talks acting, producing, and going shopping for his crew!
Why did you decide to get into the production side of films?
The kind of script that I wrote has a different sensibility, so it required a production house who would understand that sensibility. In the end, I thought that I would be the best person to do that. That’s about it – it is just another step.
Tell us the story of Hum Tum Aur Ghost.
Where shall I start off? The character that I play is a medium between the dead and the living. He is actually just a regular guy, a photographer. One day he realizes that he can see and hear dead people. He has a job that he needs to do, and that is that he has to help out the dead people cross over. All the dead people that he helps, the 3-4 of them, they have problems in their lives, which are very, very genuine and are serious problems. They are not funny but the treatment of the film is funny; until the time he realizes these problems, it is all fun and jokes. On the other hand, he has his girlfriend who is madly in love with him and now she is really worried about the fact that this guy is going cuckoo, because he thinks he sees dead people. There is a whole lot of comedy, and romance. There is a funny fight, funny make-ups, they love each other and they are angry with each other – all these things happen. This is what the base of the film is, but there is something deeper inside which I am fond of – it’s probably the value system it gives you. Apart from the fact that each person who is not crossing over has a genuine problem. There is a mother who is looking for her four year old son and she refuses to go to the other side until she sees her son safe and sound. There is a husband who wants to see his wife happy, because after he passed away their son has turned out to be not too good. He did not think that would happen and he wants to fix that. So, these are the reasons. The thing is that it teaches you, and when you walk out of the theater I want the film to touch you somewhere in your heart, and I think it will. It will tell you to go out and help people selflessly. It will tell you or remind you of the power of true love and that when you really, really truly love somebody how powerful that love can be. It teaches you all those things. So yes, it has a whole lot of values and I have, kind-of without preaching, managed to put this in the script and yes, subconsciously, it will remain in your mind when you walk out. I personally like humor, I like romance, so there is also lots of humor and lots of romance and all these cute things.
So, it seems this character has both a dramatic side and a comedic side. Was it hard to balance those two parts of him?
You know what, I am going to sound really bad by saying this, but somehow I think God has been really kind to me, and he has gifted me with this beautiful ability to pretend. I can pretend really well, so I act really well. I can really pretend to be the character that I am given to play with ease. It doesn’t matter whether it is comedy, action, drama, crying, laughing, whatever it is, it somehow comes naturally to me. When I go to work every morning or when I go to the shoot I am never ever pressurized. I am never thinking, “Oh my God, today is such a dramatic scene, how am I going to do this” or “oh, today is a tough comedy scene…” I never think that. I just go and walk in, I do blah, blah, blah, blah – I do my scene, I come out comfortably. As I said, God has been nice to me.
How was it working with Dia Mirza?
She is a doll. I am totally in love with her. She is absolutely adorable. She is the most sweetest person I have met: warm, friendly helpful, and above all that a FAB actor. I really think she is a stunning actor who actually has not got her due, and people have not really utilized her potential. I think she is a stunning actor and a stunning looker. It was awesome working with her and beyond any of that, she is not just a co-actor for me, she is a dear friend. She is lovely.
How about Boman Irani?
A man I am totally fond of. He has fallen from heaven – he was made especially and was dropped. He is an angel. He is such a doll. He is such a nice man. There is so much positivity in him and he just exudes it. It is so nice to work with people like that. Great actor, great human being – that is a beautiful combination and I think that is how it should be. So, yes it was a pleasure. I want these people in every film I do!! Really! They are like family to me.
How was it working with director Kabeer Kaushik?
It was all right. He is a serious guy, he does not have a sense of humor, but I needed someone who could deliver the serious part of the film. I needed somebody who was a serious person who could direct that very well, and he did it. He is good at that. He is good at these tricky relationships – to show it properly, by not spoiling it or destroying it and so yes, yes, he was right. As far as the humor goes, it was already written, and with Boman and me there and Sandhya Mridul, it was not a problem and we could pull that out easily. So, humor got its due and drama got its due. Let’s hope that people will like the film.
Did you find it hard to be both actor and producer?
Some days were bad and some days were good. What used to happen is that the actor would work all day on the shoot and the writer would also be helping out with the script, then I would come back to my apartment and I would like to relax and, you know, just unwind, listen to some music, and I would get a call and they would say, sir, there is a little production problem you need to sort out. That is where I would be like, “OH MY GOD!” It was not very easy, but I have my ways of making things better, like, I would go out grocery shopping for all my crew. Everybody, my cameraman Ashok Mehta, Boman, Dia, Sandhya, the director, the steady cam operator, everybody. After pack up, a good thing for me would be to go to the market and buy for them what they need: eggs, coffee, milk, all the stuff like that. I would be like this good housewife and pickup everything for all of them. That was a nice thing to do. I really enjoyed doing that.
What surprised you about being a producer?
It was a whole new thing for me. It is not a very easy job; it definitely is not an easy job. Saying that, I would say I would do it again. The fact is, when you hire the right people and you have got the right people with you, everything works perfectly fine. I mean, I learned a lot in this first film; I really, really, really learned a lot. There were many, many hurdles that I had to cross because somehow everything went a little haywire. The recession happened, the weather was a problem, the film industry went on strike. I would say in this one film I have gotten the experience of at least 20 films, so for my next film I will be a rock star producer! I will tell you another thing, which I got from my lovely beautiful co-star. Dia kept telling me, you know, the way you are spending money on this film, you are going to be holding a bowl and begging somewhere, she said that to me. She said, you will be stuck in Newcastle hoping that somebody donates some money to you, so you can buy yourself a ticket and go back home. I kept telling her, you know Dia, I am a terrible businessman and I am not a great producer because I spend on my film. My logic to all that is money can be earned, but friendship and respect, once you make it you can break it, and it takes you a long time to earn that back again. That is how I look at it – it doesn’t matter.
Why did you choose to shoot the film in Newcastle?
I just love the city. I wanted a good-looking place. I wanted fresh locations because it is a different kind of script. We have never had a character like the one I am playing in the film: a medium – we have never ever had a character like this in any film. It is a brand new character, it has a brand new mindset in it. I have never written a film before so it has a brand new thought process. Everything is so fresh about it, so I thought, why not have a place that nobody has ever shot before? Let’s find the place absolutely new, so when you are looking at the film the visuals are new, the style of acting is different, the characters are different and yet it is real. I looked at Newcastle and it turned out to be a gorgeous place. I got super support from the counsel. They helped me out, they gave me the city and, oh my God, it was really, really nice. The city looks stunning in the final cut of the picture. I could tell anybody it is Budapest and you will probably believe me. It is a beautiful looking place.
Why do you think audiences are going to love Hum Tum Aur Ghost?
Various reasons, many reasons. At the end of the day, I always feel that we are all emotional people, we are all heart, and what you see in my film is something that you have and that everyone has felt or experienced sometime in their life. The fact that you could love somebody madly, just help somebody selflessly, a father who realized that his son has gone wrong, a mother who is just dying to meet her son, things like that. Relationships about mothers, sons, fathers, husband-wife, all these things, it has got all these values. I always believe that whatever film you do, whichever genre it comes in, it has to touch your heart. It must touch you somewhere, and this film has that in abundance. It makes you cry, it makes you smile, it makes you laugh, it makes you fall in love, it teaches you so many things. There is a lot of warmth in the film. There are many, many, many, many reasons. Of course, you have great music and vagairaha, vagairaha (etc.).
You have been a producer and actor. Can you see yourself as a director one day as well?
I will! Yes, I will, I will. I want to. I think that there is a director inside of me that is DYING to come out. Let’s see, maybe next year or the year after that, but yes, I will.
What will we see you in next?
I finish this release, and then there is another film I am doing, and then Golmaal. Hopefully next year we will start Munnabhai. Then I will direct. I will keep going and one day you will get fed up with me and say, I don’t want to talk to this guy or see him anymore! (Laughs)
In London, Abhishek Bachchan revealed to BollySpice he had been your driver prior to entering the film industry. How was he at that job?
(Laughs) Oh My God! Abhishek is a doll – he is completely nuts. Yes, yes we were doing the first film for ABCL and Abhishek used to drive us around. I think he likes listening to loud music. He was a great driver, he was very good, he would stick to his lanes. He is a good driver and he is turning out to be a great actor as well.
Arshad Warsi is another great actor and one of our favorites. He can play it all and does it with ease. From the first promo I really wanted to see this film, and now after talking with him I want to see it even more. I wish him the best of luck. You can see Arshad, Dia, Boman, and a cast of other characters when Hum Tum Aur Ghost opens this Friday, March 26th!