“IHLS is a cheeky take on romantic comedies” – Imran Khan

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It is almost July and it seems with that comes a new Imran Khan movie! His first film, Jaane Tu Ya… Jaane Na released on July 4th, 2008, and then last year Luck released in July as well. This year it is the highly, highly, did I say highly, anticipated I Hate Luv Storys (IHLS), directed by Punit Malhotra. One of the things that fans have gotten the most excited about in I Hate Luv Storys is Imran’s performance as Jay. In every promo, Imran shines as the boy who does not believe in love and just from those little sneak peaks, fans and we here at BollySpice cannot wait to see him for a full two hours. Not only is it his fab performance in the film, it is also the new jodi of Imran and Sonam Kapoor that has audiences impatiently waiting for the film to open this week. Imran is one of my absolute favorite people to interview and when the talented actor was recently in London to promote the film, and even though he was ill, he took extra time to talk with me about all things I Hate Luv Storys.

What was it about the role in IHLS that made you say yes?

It’s just how much fun he is, you know? The guy is like a shameless flirt; he is a player, he is a womanizer, he is a guy who will say or do anything to get a girl. Just everything about him is very entertaining. Whenever he was on the page while I was reading the script he was entertaining, and I knew that whenever he is onscreen he is fun to watch. He is just entertaining. You feel the same way when you are playing it. It was great fun.

How would you describe IHLS?

It is a cheeky take on romantic comedies.

You said he is a player, but does he go through a change throughout the film?

Yeah, he does and you know what I like about it is that while he starts from one perspective and Sonam starts from the classic romantic perspective, both of them kind-of end up meeting in the middle. You realize that her ideas on love were not actually correct and you realize that his ideas that love does not exist are also not correct. It ends with a nice kind-of compromise between the two of them.

So, how was it working with Sonam?

I really liked her. I liked the fact that she is a very prepared, very sorted actor. She is the kind of person who would walk on the set knowing her lines and knowing what she wants to do with the scene and once you have got that set, she holds on to it. You know anyone can do a good take just by chance, where the acting part really comes in is where you can do the same thing again and again and again on demand. And she would do that, she would hold it and every single take she would hit the same notes.

How was it working on the film?

I really had a good working relationship with everyone on this film. This film had an extremely young crew; it is probably the youngest team I have worked with to date. I think the average age on set was about 24 or 25, so there was this constant feeling of positive energy – the feeling of that everyone feels personally responsible for the film. Everyone is feeling like: man I’ve got to make this happen, I’ve got to make this happen.

Yeah, when I talked to Punit, he said the same thing, that you all were working together to make a good film and worked to do that every day on set.

Absolutely, that really came through.

What about Punit; how do you think he did as a first time director?

He really surprised me with his confidence. I had this fear in my mind when I first signed on to the film, that being a first time director he would be kind of over awed by having established stars in his film and that he would just okay whatever we would do. He would say, ‘okay sir, very good, very good take sir’. I was worried that it was going to be something like that but, right from the first day he would hold me to a standard. If I was not delivering what he wanted he would make me go again and again and again. He would keep making me do takes until he got what he wanted. So, right from that point I thought okay, fine he is not going to let anything slide, he is not going to be satisfied with just okay. Whoever it is, who ever they are, he is going to hold us up to that standard of his.

Tell us about filming the montage tribute to Hindi film scenes.

It actually pops up twice, once during the ‘Bahara’ song. The picturisation for that song is while we are filming one of our songs in the movie that is in the film. In the film we are making a film called Pyaar Pyaar Pyaar – a horrible title (laughs). That first poster that came out when I am standing with my arms crossed, you can see I am holding a clapboard and when you look at the clapboard you can see Pyaar Pyaar Pyaar. ‘Bahara’ comes up just as we have started filming and we are shooting this song and you will notice a lot of famous sets in that. I think it is a little early to name what they are exactly, but when you see it you will recognize the sets from some very big films. You will spot them, it is very easy. So, during ‘Bahara’ and then during ‘Sadka’, which is where we go full on into overdrive with the filminess…

Ah, that is the one where you are standing on the mountain, arms out in the classic pose.

Yeah, exactly, the shirt flying open, singing to the sun, arms spread wide. Sonam is wearing these chiffon Manish Malhotra sarees.

The music has really been a hit with fans. I think you said ‘Bin Tere’ was your favorite song.

Yeah, but you know what it is a funny thing, the final album version of ‘Bin Tere’ has a lot more stuff put in it and there is a lot more production put into it than the original scratch version. I kind-of like the scratch version better.

I really like the reprise version.

The reprise version is beautiful and I have really started liking the chill version of ‘Bahara’. That has very beautiful lyrics actually. The opening verse is ‘neendein neendein rehti hai aaj kal uske khaabon ke libaas mein’, which means essentially when I am asleep I am always thinking about her. ‘Jaane kab tham gaye yeh kadam uske hi ghar ke paas mein’ – I don’t know how while walking my feet just stop near her house. Then the next line is ‘bhoola mein apna rasta’ – and I forgot where I was going. So, it is a really beautiful line: I don’t know why my feet have stopped by her house and then I forgot where I was going. Rahat sings it with this mischievousness in his voice. Yeah, that is actually what it is, there is so much mischief to it, it is really sweet. I am really starting to like that one a lot now.

The reaction to the promos has been outstanding, are you excited about that and does it give you a good sign for the film?

I am excited, but you know of late the buzz has been growing a lot and now I am starting to hear really scary things, like NDTV said the film was now the most awaited film of the year, and Subhash Ghai gave an interview saying our chemistry reminds him of Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit. When you start hearing stuff like this then I start panicking because I start to wonder whether we can live up to that hype. I have seen the film and I am happy with it. I think it is a good film, but I don’t know if it is that good. I don’t know if we have made a legendary film – if we have made an all-time great of cinema, you know! (laughs)

So, the dancing in the title track, very well done! How do you think it went?

Finally, it went all right. The first time they ever showed me the choreography, it was while we were doing the photo-shoot for all the poster shots that you see. We booked a studio and we were doing that photo-shoot and they told me that Bosco was calling his guys over to show us the choreography. We took a break and we headed off the set and they said, ‘okay fine, let’s do this thing’. They put the song on and did the whole thing beginning to end and I just flipped out. I was standing there watching it and my jaw dropped down. I was like, ‘Oh man, I am in so much trouble’, because I had always known that there was going to be a heavy choreography song and I also always had known that I wasn’t go to ask them to change anything – whatever it is I am going to do it. Whatever it takes, however much I have to rehearse, I’ll have to do it, but I have to perform it at that level. I saw that first look at the dance and thought, oh man I am in TROUBLE. We put a lot of rehearsal into it; I think it must have been 10 or 12 days of rehearsals.

Have you noticed, there is this really cool moment in the song where I do a glide… Do you know how that was done? That was my touch that I wanted to put in the song. One of Bosco’s choreography assistants had told me about this video of Usher’s where Usher uses Heelys [a lightweight athletic shoe with a single wheel hidden in each heel – ed.] as part of the choreography and he said it would be a really cool idea. So, I Youtubed it and saw what he was talking about, but Usher had done it in a very different way, where he just kind of used it to enter, it wasn’t incorporated into the song. I said, let’s use this thing, and the reference I had given him was in the video for ‘Smooth Criminal’, when Michael Jackson and all those guys do that lean, they do that anti-gravity lean. They do it just once in the song, the rest of the song they are just dancing, dancing, but there is just one moment where they lean and they go a little further than is physically possible and they come back. They never do it again, so you never get the chance to catch how they have done it. You know it is just a moment where you are like, did that happen or did it not, was that just a camera angle, I am not sure how they did that, was it trick or it wasn’t? I told Punit, let’s do a moment like that in the song where we do something just like this, just a moment of flare, where you are not sure what just happened: did I just see that did I not? So, yeah we used those shoes and I do a step out and I sing a line, I glide and I stop… so you are not sure whether I have slid or whether I have done a skid or whether I have done a jump or what is it. That came out really cool. I am really happy with the way that turned out.

Yeah, so cool. Everyone has loved that promo.

You know it actually looks better in the film. I wasn’t happy with the two-minute edit. In the two minute edit, which runs on television, I feel the cuts are too quick; you don’t get to see any of the shots properly. I wasn’t too happy with that, but when you do the TV promos they have to cut them that quickly, so it is inevitable, but it looks a lot better in the film.

What do you think is special about IHLS?

More than anything is the humor. There is this tendency in Hindi films to go the slapstick way, you have this very broad stroke comedy and when in doubt you get a bunch of people to slap each other. The humor in this is much sharper. There is a lot of deadpan humor; I am a big fan of it and Punit is as well. He has actually put bits in the film where I will be saying something and I will be mocking someone directly to their face and they won’t realize it. You just give the audience a hint of it with like a little twitch of my eyebrow, a little expression change that I will do and that is the only hint to the audience.

How do you define love?

I have been giving this answer so much, this answer I have got down pat. (laughs) To me, love is when you make someone else’s happiness of prime importance in your life. When whatever it is that you are doing you factor in that person and you factor in their happiness and how they feel about it.

What advice would you give Jay if he came to you for advice?

I have a friend who is like Jay actually.

Do you?

I do – he is hopeless, there is nothing I can do about him. He is a guy who literally has come to me every four months and says, Dude I am in love. She is amazing man, she is perfect, she is this… and literally a month after that either he will have forgotten about her or he’ll be dumping her or he’ll be cheating on her. He is hopeless.

Tell him to watch the movie and maybe he will learn something na? (laughs)

(laughs) Let’s hope…

I have asked you this 2 times before and so once again since it seems to be a tradition what is the hardest thing about acting?

What is the hardest thing about acting…. Hmm…currently the hardest thing that I am finding about acting is keeping the energy alive in scenes. We shoot very, very long hours. On ‘I Hate’ we have shot 18-20 hour days, and particularly for this character: he is meant to be a guy who is just alive and crackling at all times. To keep that up when you have woken up at 4:30 in the morning and you have been on set since six and it is now 10 o’clock at night, I mean, make-up makes you look fresh, it makes your face look good but it can’t lift your performance. To get that thing happening that is really tough.

I know you love t-shirts, do you have a favorite t-shirt you wore in the film?

There are a couple of really nice ones. There is a really nice black Johnny Cash t-shirt. It has a black and white image of Johnny Cash playing the guitar and he is obviously leaning in towards the camera and he is giving the camera the finger and it says Cash. It is a classic image of his.

How do you feel you have grown as an actor?

I’ll tell you one thing, this is first time honestly that I have watched myself on screen and been happy. It actually is. From Jaane Tu through Kidnap and Luck this is actually the first time I have watched myself on screen and not cringed and not said, oh, that is terrible. I still can’t watch Jaane Tu…

You can’t?

I mean, I know it is a nice film and it did well and people liked it, people liked me in it, but I can’t watch it because all I do when I watch is I am like, aww man what was I thinking, what was I thinking? This is actually the first time I have looked at it and said, okay I am happy. I am happy with the work I have done. I think the biggest thing that I have learned is what we in the industry call thahrav…which is derived from thehro which means to wait. It essentially means that you don’t rush through a scene, which I generally had the tendency to do – just quickly rush through and get it over with. Now I feel like I have reached a point when I can hold on to moments, let the moment mature, let it breathe, give each dialogue its breathing space and not be afraid. Let the camera roll, I can hold it.

It must be hard to get to that place where you can wait and let that moment happen…

It is all about confidence. The entire thing hinges on you being confident enough to say yes, I can hold it and you will. You must have heard very early on the stories coming out about me basing the character on Akshay Kumar. It really was taken out of context. What I was trying to say is, see, Akshay, whatever he does, if it is scene, if it a song, whatever he is doing he is always projecting this massive confidence, you know? You can tell this guy is supremely confident about himself and I was trying to get that. It is not that the character is like him in any way or that he stands like him or he talks like him – I was trying to capture that confidence that he has. Whatever it is he is doing he does it with the utmost confidence and I wanted to capture that.

Up next is Break Ke Baad?

Yeah, we are almost finished with that I think I have about 10 days left to shoot and they are looking at a November, December release.

Then you have Delhi Belly next year sometime?

I think sometime around February, March, April. Aamir has Peepli Live, which comes out on I think August 13th, and then he has Dhobi Ghat and then Delhi Belly. What happened with Delhi Belly is that Abhinay Deol had to go straight into pre-pod for his film Game, which was called Crooked, the Abhishek Bachchan film. He had to start that to keep Abhishek’s dates. So, now that has almost wrapped I think and as soon as Aamir finishes with Peepli, they can sit down and work on Delhi Belly.

As always, it was wonderful to talk with Imran Khan, he truly is one of the best. We here at BollySpice are very excited to see I Hate Luv Storys and cannot wait to see Imran as Jay and see him fall in love with Sonam’s Simran. From what we can tell, it is going to be a very fab and, yes, romantic night at the movies. Be sure and check out our interviews with Sonam here and Punit here, as well. IHLS releases in the US on Wednesday June 30th and you can be sure we will be there first show, so stay tuned for our review!

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