I think I say this every time I talk to him: Imran Khan is one of my all time favorite stars to interview. He is always passionate about his films, his role, and always, always gives me more rather than less when it comes to answering my questions. This time our chat was about his upcoming film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, which sees Imran paired opposite Kareena Kapoor for the first time (much to the delight of the audience). A Dharma and UTV Motion Pictures production, the film was directed by newcomer Shakun Batra, who also wrote the screenplay with Kareena and Imran in mind. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu is set and was filmed partially in Las Vegas. It tells the tale of two completely opposite people – Kareena’s Riana is a bit mad, fun, lighthearted girl while Imran’s Rahul is a very controlled guy. Through some interesting circumstances the two meet, have a little too much fun one night where the drinks are flowing, and wake up the next morning married. On the way to an annulment, do they fall in love? Well, we will find out on February 10th and audiences cannot wait. While on his whirlwind promotional tour in New York, Imran took some extra time out and talked with me exclusively about Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. Want to know what went into creating his character, what it is like to work with Kareena, what I guessed right and what other cool things Imran revealed? Read on!
What was it about this film that made you want to say ‘yes’ to the role?
You know, I was actually fairly involved in the development of the film. Shakun who has written and directed the film was an AD [Assistant Director] on Jaane Tu…, so we have been friends since then. He’s co-written it with Ayesha, who is actually has been my hairstylist since Jaane Tu… and also she’s a very, very old friend of Avantika’s. So Shakun and Ayesha kind of came together and put together this story idea and I’m talking about 2 – 3 years ago. They kind of ran the idea by me and I said, ‘Okay, yeah that sounds interesting. Let’s see what happens’. I was reading various drafts of the screenplay from the first draft, which was pretty bad, and they kind of polished it and developed it and worked on it some more and here we are. So I was always on the film.
So the character was developed with you in mind then?
Yeah! Shakun has really, really shaped the character around me.
Tell us about who he is then.
Rahul is actually quite a sad character. Rahul has lived his entire life according to what his parents want. They decided the big things for him – what school he should go to, what college he should go to, what his job should be. They’ve decided the little things for him – the way he eats, the way he dresses, the way his hair is styled, they’ve chosen his hobbies for him. So he’s actually a guy who has never really made a decision for himself. And he’s a guy who’s coasting through life thinking that this is what life is supposed to be, but actually it is not. The actual realization comes when he meets Riana, who is played by Kareena. Here’s what I find really interesting, right, if you look at the promos and you look at these people you would think that Rahul was the mature one and she’s the immature one. But actually this is a guy who is 25 and doesn’t know who he is or what he is, and this is a girl who seems so flighty and immature, but is actually completely grounded. She’s smart and savvy and she knows who she is and what she is. So she’s actually the one who teaches him, who shows him what he’s missing out on, who shows him what he could be.
It seems with him, you changed your body language to make him stiffer, tell us about how you created this character for yourself.
Ahhh…you know you are the first person to notice this?
Yeah, I’ll fill you in on this. Rahul is a guy that because he’s actually not living his life he’s actually not comfortable in it and in his own skin. Okay? He is a person who is physically uncomfortable in the skin that he’s in. I wanted to kind of portray that, I wanted for that to be visibly noticeable. So I actually worked with the costumer designers. The first major thing we did is we made his entire wardrobe in monotone colors it’s all grays and blues and blacks. The second thing was that all of the clothes where tailor made suits and stuff so I asked them to make everything a little bit too tight. So the collars when I button them up are a little bit too tight so they were actually choking me so I could never drop my head. My head was always had to be held straight up. The waist of the pants, the fit of the shirts were so tight that I couldn’t slouch comfortably I had to stand straight up. So you’re always physically uncomfortable and that really helped with the body language.
Yeah, I noticed in some of the stills and some of the earlier scenes he is so stiff, but then later it looks like he does seem to relax a bit.
Yes! If you see the ‘Gubbare’ song or ‘Aunty Ji’ that is where he’s starting to open up. You know he’ll unbutton the top collar of his shirt, the jacket will be open and he’s starting to be kind a little free-er with his movements.
When we talked during Delhi Belly, you said that at first you were like, ‘Oh shit this is Kareena Kapoor’, did that get better and how was it to work with her?
(Laughs) It was something I was very worried about before I started. But when I got on to the set the cool thing about her is that she is not affected by her stardom. She’s doesn’t walk on to a set with any baggage you know? She’s got this air of ‘Listen, I am here to do work. Don’t waste time. Let’s do the work and let’s go home.’ She’s got this what I call like a working class mentality. She doesn’t waste time on drama and on ‘Listen my costumes should be this way’ or ‘Which angle are you shooting me from?’. She is so utterly comfortable and chilled out. It’s like ‘Listen, okay you guys know what you are doing and I know what I am doing’. So you very quickly forget about Kareena Kapoor the star and she becomes an actor.
Since this seems to be such a spontaneous character and she is a spontaneous actress how was it to do scenes with her?
It’s something that she does very well. She’s got this thing, which frankly is very annoying, which is in the moments before you roll camera she looks like she’s not paying attention to the director and she looks like her mind is somewhere else and you’re thinking ‘Dude, she has no idea what’s going on. She’s going to forget her line’. He has called ‘Roll Camera!’ and literally it’s like this light goes on inside her and she’ll do the take so well that I will forget my cue. I get caught up watching her and I am like ‘Man she’s doing this really nicely’ and I forget to say my line. And I don’t know how she does and I don’t know what it is but she just comes alive on camera.
Did you ever just crack up at her?
Oh yeah. Frequently. There’s a really nice scene right in the beginning when we are introduced to her character: she’s broke, she’s jobless, she’s homeless because she’s been kicked out for not playing the rent, and her boyfriend has cheated on her and dumped her. So early in the film there is a scene where she’s trying to sell me her scooter. You see the two of us riding around on a scooter in one of the songs. So there’s a scene where she’s trying to sell me her scooter and she’s done this really great bit: ‘It’s eco-friendly, it’s this and it comes with a variety of wonderful colors blah, blah, blah’ and she uses these big salesman tones which she’s done really well and that always cracked me up while shooting.
Karan Johar said that most of the scenes are shot Woody Allen like with the two of you walking down the street…
You know Shakun is really Woody Allen inspired. In terms of tone, Shakun’s directorial style it’s very Woody Allen. It’s very Wes Anderson. It’s kind of in that space.
So what is it like to work with a director like that?
There is a lot of prep. There is a lot of rehearsal and Shakun would tend to very often take longer takes where you’d have to run through a major section of the scene and the camera would keep rolling. So rather than working a lot of stuff out in cuts he likes the stuff to actually work by itself and for him to just have the camera there. Particularly, in the first half of the film when you’re seeing how sterile Rahul’s life is, the camera very often would just be placed and you have to take still static shots where the camera won’t move and you’d have these very angular frames almost architectural. So that again plays into who Rahul is. He’s got pretty bad case of OCD so everything has to be at the correct angle and this is kind of a running theme he has to keep fixing and adjusting things. But Shakun kind of showed that in his framing as well.
If you had to describe the film what would you say?
I would tell people it’s a coming of age film more than a rom-com. It’s not really a rom-com. It is a coming of age film. It is a story of a guy finding himself with the help of a friend.
Of course we must talk the music.
By now I’m sure you can guess which is my favourite song
Let me see probably… ‘Aahatein’?
‘Aahatein’…Yeah you’re right.
Yay! I love that song!
With each new role do you think you have learnt more about acting and cinema?
Of course. You know the majority of my work has been with first time directors and in fact all of my successes have been with first time directors. So it’s very often the case of the two of us figuring things out together. Me being an untrained actor and the first time director being first time director, it’s very often the two of us hold each other’s hand and wandering through the film trying to make things work. And that I think ultimately is the best way to learn something. You make mistakes, you do things wrong, but you do things right as well and by doing it is how you figure what’s working. I think that the biggest thing that I have really picked up is a sense of comfort on screen. I’ve never been camera conscious. I’ve never been shy in front of the camera, but in the past year I think the big thing that I’ve really picked up is a sense of being completely at easy and been completely confident in front of the camera where you feel like you’ve earned the right to be there.
I think that’s shown in your dancing too.
Yeah I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on ‘Aunty Ji’ actually.
I could really tell that in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan…
Man I worked my ass off for that film! Because it was such a big dance film there were so many songs and you know, actually we shot three of the songs back to back. There’s a song called ‘Madhubala’ which was being shot over a few days and actually you know what’s really funny is ‘Madhubala’ is the first thing we shot, immediately after that we went into night shoots for a song called ‘Do Dhaari Talwar’. Now we are shooting ‘Do Dhaari Talwar’ during the nights and during the day I was shooting the songs of Delhi Belly. So I’d shoot ‘Do Dhaari Talwar’ all night. In the morning I’d go home, shower, get to set and shoot ‘Bhaag DK Bose’ finish that go back in the evening and shoot ‘Do Dhaari Talwar’, ‘Bhaag DK Bose’ was shot in 1 day, so I finished ‘Do Dhaari Talwar’ that night and next morning I arrived on set to shoot ‘Switty Switty Switty’. So again the three Delhi Belly songs were shot on three consecutive days and during the nights I was shooting ‘Do Dhaari Talwar’.
You must have been going mad.
I was dead. So I would sleep a couple of hours in the evening and a couple of hours in the morning just before shoot.
People have really responded well to your and Kareena’s pairing. What do you think they love so much about the two of you in this film?
It’s hard for me to take any credit here. It really is about the characters. When people watch a pair together you know an actor an actress and they say, ‘Oh my God, they are so great together!’ Of course it is because the actors are doing well, but it’s also because the characters suit the actors and that the characters work well together. There have been so many films were you have two good actors in the film, but maybe the script hasn’t backed them up. So over here the characters suit us and I think we’ve both play the characters well and they are very, very likable characters. So it’s the characters that people are liking.
Are you enjoying doing the Video blogs/Travelogues?
It’s been lot of fun. You know what I’m actually on the video blog right now. I’ve had another guy with the camera recording stuff through the day – all the interviews – so at some point you are going to see, if you follow the video blogs, you are going to see me on the phone with you.
You certainly are on a whirlwind promotional tour. Do you like doing these?
You know it feels like battle. You are always sleepy, you are always hungry, you are always, always, always really, really tired. But somewhere there’s a sense of pride and you know it’s somewhat of an adrenaline rush. It’s like an endurance test like how much can you take, how much can you dish out. But yeah I do enjoy it.
Next up is Vishal Bhardwaj’s project, can you tell us about that and your role?
It’s really early. I can’t talk much about the film. It is a film and it is a role that I would not have seen myself in. I mean I asked Vishal when he narrated the script to me; I came out and the first thing I said ‘Sir, I love the script! But are you sure you want me?’ And he asked me one question; he said ‘Will you work hard?’ I said, ‘Yes of course I’ll work hard.’ he said, ‘If you’ve work hard you’ll do it. I have faith in you.’ So I actually said, ‘Ok, if you think I can do it.’
You got your ears pierced and the beard, is that for the Bhardwaj film?
Yeah that was for this film. The beard too, which I have to keep dying because my beard grows this really weird light brown color. If you actually find some pictures of me from an event about a month ago or even a couple of weeks ago you’ll notice that my beard is this light brown almost orangish color which is really weird. So I have to dye it black to match my hair. It’s horrible. My hairstylist can’t figure it out she’s like if your hair is black how is your beard brown? So now every 10-12 days I have to touch up my beard and dye it black.
Looking back so far how would say your journey has gone?
It’s not a very long one. I’m still very new. It’s been a little over three years that I’ve been in the business. So I think I’m at a stage where I’m happy with what I’ve done as I look back, I look at the hits and the misses, I look at how far I’ve come, and I can say that I’m happy but not satisfied. If that makes sense to you. I mean there’s a long way to go.
There are lot more parts to do…
Yeah. But I’m happy that I’ve managed to do what I have done so far.
We are too and can’t wait to see him as Rahul in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and watch the story unfold! From the response and the promos we have seen so far we think this is going to be the perfect Valentine’s date movie! Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu hits theaters on February 10th.