An acclaimed actress in the Southern film industries, Ileana D’Cruz made a splash in her Hindi film debut Barfi! garnering rave reviews. For her next Hindi film, Happy Ending, she is taking on something completely different. She plays Aanchal, a modern girl who does not believe in love and even less a happy ending. Directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. of Go Goa Gone fame, the comedy about romance, which is set to hit theaters on November 21st, also stars Saif Ali Khan.
See what the actress had to say about working with Saif, getting into character and more when we chatted with her about Happy Ending!
Why did you decide to take on this role and this film?
Well, to be completely honest, when my manager told me that there’s an offer that is from Illuminati Films and it is a film opposite Saif, I said, ‘I really think we should just sign. Do we really need to meet?’ I’ve loved the films they’ve done. I’ve loved the way Illuminati have presented their films. They’ve always had lovely films. For somebody who does not watch a lot of Bollywood films I realized I’ve always like watching mostly their films. So I was quite excited actually. I had heard a little of the story so I was quite keen. I said let’s go listen to the narration of the film. When I heard the script I literally told them I don’t think I’ve ever said yes to a film so quickly. I normally say, ‘oh I will get back to you, let me talk to my manager about it.’ But I pretty much said, ‘I love it. When do we start?!’
It is a romantic film no doubt, but the characters are something that really stands out. I think for me it is really great because I am playing somebody I’ve never played before. She is this author and she writes romantic novels. Really sappy romantic novels…her book is called “Crazy Hearts” and it doesn’t get sappier than that. (Laughs) The book is doing brilliantly well, she’s hit the bestseller list and it is incredibly popular, but she doesn’t believe in any of it. She doesn’t believe in love and doesn’t believe in happily ever afters. She meets this guy who is pretty much exactly the same. He’s quite a surprise because it even gets to a point where they are really conformable and they are about to make out and she says, ‘Well, hang on you are not going to fall in love with me and go all, you know, I love you, on me right? Because I don’t think I can handle that.’ And he’s quite stumped and he’s like, ‘seriously that’s actually my line!” (Laughs) I love the sassiness and the spunk that she’s got. She’s really comfortable with him, she has a good time with him, she’s an independent girl, and she says what’s on her mind. She doesn’t need a guy to complete her. She’s really gutsy I would say. She’s more of a guy. She is comfortable making fun of herself. I like that. I like how their relationship has been shown in the film. I think it is very rare that you get to see stories like this. And there isn’t a single scene where I am emotional in the film so I found that really cool. No use of glycerin thank you! It was quite liberating, actually, playing something like that.
You would have to get into a different mind set and kind of let yourself go a little bit more to do a part like this…
Yes, definitely. You have to let yourself go a little bit. You have to be quite spontaneous. The fact is that it was such a welcome break from playing the damsel in distress. She is the kind of girl who is not really going to be pining over a broken heart because she is fine. She is absolutely cool being the way she is. It did, I think, take me a little bit of time to understand the character completely because I was so afraid of it bordering on the edge of being cynical or kind of negative. It was a bit tricky.
Now directors Raj and DK are know for their slightly off (in a good way) story lines, what do you think makes this a Raj and DK film?
I think this is the first film that they are venturing into proper mainstream commercial films. I think they have come up with a really lovely story that would appeal and would fit in that sort of typical commercial Bollywood film space. At the same time they have stayed true to themselves. They have intelligent humor in the film. It is very deadpan humor. It is very conversational. Raj and DK both told me very clearly that our films are such that we want the lines to flow through naturally. It should sound like conversation it shouldn’t sound like lines. It really should be very easy. It is almost sort of throwaway. It was bit of improvising and spur of the moment, I liked that. I loved the way they have written this. I loved the unusual scenes they have come up with. I have never done a hitchhiking scene and I think it is really cool the way they have shot theirs, it certainly is not the typical thing. I love the way they have showed the romance in the film. It is very quirky. The songs really reflect the sort of films they like to make.
I really like it. I think these kinds of films are really more up my alley. I am just really quite excited because, for me, it is venturing into new territory and I really hope people like it. It always is a big risk that you take because it is something new.
How was it to work with them?
I think Raj and DK are brilliant directors and they work so well together. I initially thought two directors… it is going to be bloody chaos on set, but it wasn’t. It was really great. They are incredibly in tune with what they do. It was really great. It was a lot of fun!
Tell us about working with Saif Ali Khan.
It was great! Initially, I didn’t really know him very well and I was foolishly expecting him to be exactly the way he is in the films that I have seen him in. Even coming from the film industry and working in films I clearly know he is playing a character so I don’t know why I had this notion of him being the same old goofy guy I have seen him in his films. Of course, when I met him he was completely normal. He was kind of quiet and very polite and lovely but very sort of reserved initially because we didn’t know each other. I think it was this initial formal kind of demeanor between the both of us. Then he came up to me one night, we were having a sort of crew party with everyone hanging out and I think he thought it would be a little more relaxed there and the perfect opportunity to talk. He said, ‘Why are you so defensive?’ And I, very ironically, got defensive and said, ‘I’m not defensive!’ (Laughs) He said, ‘You kind of are. What’s up? You are quite guarded.’ And I said, ‘Well I am as a person.’ And he said, ‘Well you can and need to loosen up on set. Let’s be friends you know? You don’t need to be guarded around us. Let’s just be friends.’ So I though okay let’s see how it goes and I think I just sort of let the guard down a little bit and I relaxed on set. It really helped because we got so comfortable and you need that when you are on a film set. You need to be completely relaxed and completely easy with each other to get a really good performance out. It really helped, I think, for our characters to look good together because there was a lot of physical proximity, it’s not intimacy like love making or anything, but they have got to be comfortable with each other. And you have to see it in the way they look at each other, the way they sit with each other, the way they talk to each other and even the way they just touch each other. So I think it was really, really great. I think he made a really big effort in making me comfortable working on set. I had a massive, massive amazing time. It didn’t feel like work half the time. I had a lot of fun. I completely forgot he was a producer. He was really easy going. It was really great working with him. I would love to do another film with him.
It was challenging but at the same time really fun. Saif and I had some really intelligent conversations. He is someone who is really nice to talk too. We all really got a long Saif, Me, Raj, DK. We would hang out and go for dinner after shoots. It was a really easy atmosphere on set. There wasn’t that thing that would of sort of hold you back from coming up with a suggestion on set; we were all sort of free with each other. We could just talk about anything. We would be like let’s try this and let’s see how this works. It was really great!
You can see in the trailer and songs that you are more of a comedienne and free-er in this character, would you say that to be true?
Yes! And I think more than anything it was because of the trust I had in Raj and DK. I mean this film is a tiny bit bold but they present these scenes in a different way. Some of these scenes could have come across as a bit sleazy and a tiny bit crass and tacky but they haven’t. They have shot it really well. There is this scene where we are playing strip poker! That was something that was a last minute entry I think. It wasn’t something that I was aware of. When they told me about it they sat me down and said ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘Well it sounds really interesting but wait I take my top off?’ He was like ‘Yeah… but we won’t shoot it badly.’ I thought about it a little bit and I slept on it for one night. I told them the next day yeah let’s do it! They were nice enough to say if you don’t like it or feel uncomfortable we will cut it off all together. I actually love how they shot it. I thought it was a really cool and a fun scene. I think the way with the story progresses and with how comfortable the two of them are together it doesn’t make sense for her not to be comfortable playing strip poker with him. I like the openness in the way they shoot. It is quite modern in the way they shoot their film and I love that!
Do you think you learned anything or that it changed you as an actress to play this role in this film?
I think I learn something from every film. From this one it was a different form of acting for me so I think I learned quite a bit. I think this type of humor is something I have never done before so initially it was quite tricky, but I think I did pretty all right. I hope so! I think everyone is really great in the film, I really do. Raj and DK have been amazing. They have been kind of teachers to me. And so has Saif. In fact, Saif told me a couple of things about me when I acted that I wasn’t aware of. One was that I tend to scrunch up my face quite a bit. He was really sweet and apologetic and he was like ‘Please don’t take this the wrong way, I may be completely wrong but you look so lovely normally but then when you act sometimes, when you are doing an irritated mood you look really irritated. Why don’t you try doing it without scrunching your face up so much?’ He told me really interesting stuff that you don’t realize. I think it was great coming from someone like Saif who has done films like these and he knows what he is doing.
It was really, really lovely working on this film. There was a lot that I learned. It was a lovely atmosphere. Like I said sometimes it didn’t even feel like work. It truly was a lovely experience to take back.
Tell us about filming ‘G Phaad Ke’ with Govinda.
(You can hear the smile) Yes, yes I did! We actually shot it in about a day and a half. That was how fast we shot it. It was so quick! Unbelievable right? But I think that is what you expect when you are shooting with Govinda, you just finish the song in half the time. It was really great. He was so humble. He was so easy going. He made it so easy and I completely forgot I was working with him. I think this is something I can look back on! I actually have a song with Govinda… that is SO cool! When I saw it on the monitor I was like, Oh My God, look at it, that is actually him! (Laughs) He completely transforms when the camera is on. I didn’t get to see that because I was busy doing the shot with him but then when I actually looked at the monitor I was like Oh My God he is so bloody good! It was really, really great! He was so much fun! I loved working with him.
What do you think audiences are going to love about Happy Ending?
I think they are going to love the fact that it has got a bit of everything. It does have a tiny, tiny bit of the 90s humor in it with Govinda of course. But, we are staying true to the kind of films Saif does. The really kind of modern cinema. It is a modern story because it is not the typical girl with the broken heart pining for her lover. No, she is really someone who does not really believe in love. This is not your typical love story! It is quite an unusual film I think. I loved the unpredictability. Like I said Raj and DK’s films are always unpredictable and I love that. I think it is a very unusual comedy on romantic comedies. I am excited. I am nervous but excited.
What is coming up next for you?
I haven’t confirmed anything yet. I want to wait and see what people think of Happy Ending. I am going to make a move after that film releases.