Purab Kohli is one of THE up and coming actors who has impressed audiences and critics with his outstanding performances. You have seen him in a dramatic role in My Brother Nikhil, taking on a comedic role in Rock On!! and even a negative role in Awarapan. With each performance, he gets so into the character and you do not see Purab, but Nigel, KD and Munna. For his next role he wanted to try something different and decided to jump into the thriller genre with Hide & Seek. Directed by Shawn Arranha and produced by Apoorva Lakhia, the film follows the story of six friends who are kidnapped and taken to a mall and have to play Hide & Seek; all the while a killer is among them. Purab took time out of his busy schedule, while riding from one meeting to another late at night, and talked to Stacey about his role in the film, how it was to shoot all nights, and why he loves being an actor. Read on to find out the answer to these things and much more!
What was it about Hide & Seek that made you say yes to the film and the role?
Well, for starters, after doing a film like Rock On!! where the part was a comic role, the films that were coming to me were, well, very true to the industry, meaning that the minute you do something and it is good, you just get offered the same thing over and over again. So, all the roles that were coming to me were comedies and I, in fact, shot two films in comic roles even after Rock On!!, which are due to release much later this year. This was the only one that came and was not funny. It was more of a thriller with a very gripping story line. Also it’s a murder mystery and a tough one to tell. I think with all those elements together, I said okay, this is something that I haven’t done before. Why not jump in and take a look at it.
What is the story of the film from your character’s point of view?
Well, the film involves six characters and you can’t tell the story from one character’s point of view, because it really revolves around an incident that takes place in these six characters’ lives when they were teenagers, 16 and 17 years old. Something goes terribly wrong at a party that they’re all at. The film starts off with them coming together again, or being brought together again, after about 15 or 16 years, and they are made to deal with the incident that happened in the past. Added to that is the pressure of someone trying bump them off, as well as putting them all into one enclosed space. You see a lot of ugliness that comes out within the characters themselves. So, it’s about putting these six characters into a situation where they don’t like being in – dealing with that, then dealing with what happened in the past, and then trying to find out who the killer is.
How do you prepare for this kind of role and make it believable that you are scared or angry?
Once you are in tune with the script you usually know what you’re supposed to be feeling in each scene. So, things sometimes add, sometimes don’t add, and you have to work it. Like for example, the technique that they were trying to use in the mall was to blast it with a lot of light and then really dip it down on the post production, so it has a look of really dark places, with a high contrast level. So, you blast certain areas with a lot of light and then you tone it down to a certain extent so the dark becomes darker and the over lit parts look normal. I mean honestly, while in the mall, besides it being empty because we shot all nights and the fact that it’s a huge, huge space – that was the only scariness about it. Otherwise, with so much light, one was not that frightened, but you had to be because the movie demanded that. Once you have a script and know what you’re doing, you know what you’re supposed to feel, you kind detach from your surroundings and you’re just there following what is being directed to you by the director for the script.
So were you able to relate to your character? How did you prepare to be him?
I think the only major preparation that went into playing Om Jaiswal was really understanding where he is coming from. I can’t tell you much about the preparation, because then it also starts revealing a little bit about the script, because all six characters are the way they are because of what happened in the past and that is one of the mysteries of the film. Understanding the incident, understanding what they felt for each other before that incident and how that incident changed them is what really defines these characters. I think all six actors had to really go back and tap that incident and see if you were put into that situation and you had to deal with it, then how you would come out of it. Then you see how the director and writers have written the script and want their characters to come out from that situation. It is really understanding that and then playing them how you feel they would come out in those spaces. That was the major preparation – there were a lot of meetings with the actors. There was another group of actors playing the young kids, so there is also understanding your younger self and seeing how he acts and what he’s doing.
How was it working with debutant director Shawn Arranha?
Yes, it was his first film. He’s a very, very excited, young, talented director. He has a flare for thrilling, exciting films. He knew from day one what he wanted to do with the film. I saw the film the other day and it really looks good, so I think he’ll come out shining!
How was it working with the cast?
Well, the cast — there’s a whole bunch of people. The good thing about the cast is that all of them are not really known people. We’re all in a phase where we’re trying to make a name for ourselves, but all the people involved in the film are really good talent. It’s easier to work with people who do their job well, because for me, as an actor, I always take from other actors in acting. If you’re working on a scene you are trying to give your best and if someone is giving it with you, then the scene just gets better. You take from them and they take from you and it’s always bouncing off. There’s beautiful scene between Samir Kochhar and me, which one really takes from the other actor. He’s a superb actor and if you see his work, you can see it! There’s Ayaz Khan, who is also very good, and Arjan Bajwa, who is a great actor. There’s Mrinalini Sharma and Amruta Patki. Mrinalini’s just done one or two films so she’s not out there yet. But Amruta Patki is brand new and everyone’s really taken aback by her performance for her first film.
Any memorable moments from the sets?
Firstly, because it was a mall we were shooting in, we would get in there at 10 o’clock at night and end at 10:30 in the morning – those strange timings can really, completely disorientate you. You’re coming back at 10 o’clock in the morning and getting up at six or seven in the evening and going back to work. I mean if it’s one or two nights it’s fine, but we’re doing it over 30 days and when you come back home you just suddenly feel so jet lagged. You feel like okay, have I been in the same country or the same time zone or what have I been doing?! Also, because we were six actors and we were mostly working together every single day, we would go back to the hotel and we would have these sports sessions where all of us would get together and play a game of badminton or play a game of table tennis or swim — there was a pool so we would all jump into the pool. It became a group/collective activity that we shared. I think when you shoot an outdoor location, that usually starts happening and you just have better bonding with your actors; you get to know them better.
So, you said you’ve seen the film and you thought it turned out very well?
Yeah, I’ve seen the first cut and it looks great. In fact, when I read the script, I didn’t think it would be scary. I was thinking more of a murder mystery and that’s it. I didn’t realize it’s a thriller, it’s a bit scary, and it’s got its spooky moments, so it’s exciting.
If you had to describe the film in five words what would it be?
I would say it’s a thrilling murder mystery that’ll keep you guessing! (Laughs) That is more than five words!
What do you think people are going to love about the film?
The film is just two hours, and in fact when you watch it you don’t realize it’s two hours because it’s so engrossing and there’s constantly something going on, like a constant chase. I mean, there are some down times in the film, which really reveal what happened in the past — stories are revealed slowly in that aspect but the film is very pace-y. And the guessing game — you are constantly trying to guess who the killer is. I think that’s what people should love because when I was watching the film that’s what was exciting me.
How would you persuade someone who’s hesitant about watching a scary film or a thriller to go see Hide & Seek?
Surprisingly, it’s not a scary film. It’s not like one of those films “oh, I’m so scared and I can’t watch it anymore”. It’s not a scary film, it’s a murder mystery and it’s a thriller. In fact, the promos are out and whoever has seen the trailers really seems intrigued by the film and says okay, we want to check this out, what’s this film about? Ideally, it should have been a Christmas film because it has a whole Christmas Eve effect, but they’ve chosen to release it a little later.
What do you love about being an actor?
You know, just this morning while I was driving; I was thinking what do I love about being an actor. I am a bit of a dreamer and I like to see myself being different people. I was honestly thinking about this in the morning. I was driving and I was like, what are the roles I want to play and what are the things I want to do? An action film? Or maybe I want to do this role? That’s what really makes me want to be an actor. I want to act like someone else, and when you are an actor you are allowed to do that in every film.
Can you see yourself ever being a director?
Well, being behind the camera has always interested me. I have done some production in my life. I have tried to write, but have not gotten far. But directing, I don’t know. Maybe sometime in the future but not right now. Right now, I want to stay focused on acting.
So what roles do you want to attempt in the future?
Definitely action, I’m dying to do some action. I still hope at times that directors look at me for some serious action. But an out-and-out romantic love story – I think we all love that. I would enjoy that. Some more comedy. I enjoy comedy, and people like to watch comedy, so that’s what I would like to do more of.
What do you think of Hindi cinema today?
I think it’s in a state of evolution. You have this burst of multiplexes, which allows filmmakers to make different kinds of films. You’ve seen them in the last five or six years. Hindi cinema has seen so much more diversity than it ever has in the past. Suddenly, we have so much going on and different kinds of films releasing. The audiences as well as the medium are finding themselves, and it’s a great space to be in because there is so much going on. At the same time it’s hard, because you’re trying to make a difference with as little as you have. I think the Hindi cinema of Bollywood is being redefined or the definition is definitely becoming more diverse.
Of course, Rock On!! changed things and even Hide & Seek wouldn’t have been made in the past.
Actually, Hide & Seek, I don’t think the Indian cinema has ever seen a film like that. To put it in a genre with international films, I think I Know What You Did Last Summer is a film this fits closely with. You can put Hide & Seek into that space, but I don’t see any Indian film that has been made to this effect: a slasher, a thriller, and a murder mystery. I can’t think of any.
So after Hide & Seek what can we expect to see you in next?
After Hide & Seek there should be a film called Mocktail, but that’s a working title, Stacey, not a confirmed title. That should be the next film. Then, Ek Tho Chance but there is still some time, because Ek Tho Chance is a part of three films produced by Rajat Kapoor for PNC. And Raat Gayi Baat Gayi is the first one that just released … so now Ek Tho Chance is supposed to release sometime in April; I’m not sure. Then after that there is another one again which I’ve done for them; it’s called A Rectangular Love Story. So, before both of those there will be Mocktail, which is an adaptation of Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s beautiful, and in fact, I have not seen the film but whoever has seen it, all the engineers and technicians who have worked on it, are all saying it’s looking really fab, so I’m really excited to see it. In fact, the production manager for the film I was at the meeting for just now is the same production manager who worked on Mocktail, and he just told me the film is looking fabulous. I’m looking forward to seeing that one.
We know we are certainly looking forward to seeing all of Purab’s upcoming performances. Keep your eye out on this fine actor because we predict he is going to go far and we will be applauding all the way! Get ready to sit on the edge of your seat while watching Hide & Seek in theaters on March 12th.