In conversation: Neil Nitin Mukesh and Deepika Padukone

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As Yash Raj Films Lafangey Parindey prepares to hit the box office August 20th, its leading actors Neil Nitin Mukesh and Deepika Padukone look back on making the film, giving Bollywood fans an insight into everything from Neil’s baggy floral pants to why Deepika made her own tea on set. In a freewheeling chat, the star duo talk about their favorite song from the soundtrack, the experience of working with each other, and what made them sign on for this project. Read on to get to lowdown from Deepika and Neil.

Why should all the Lafangeys and Parindeys watch this film?

Neil: Because it’s a film made simply from the heart. It’s a film for people who strongly have a nice, strong heart. It’s a beautiful story, with a lot of depth, and a lot of emotion. Most importantly, it’s got a lot of love.

Deepika: I am not going to just say go and watch the film. I think if you found the theatrical and the promos interesting, if you feel that this film will entertain you for a good 2 hours and take your mind off everything else you should go and watch it. I would definitely go and watch it!

Deepika, we heard that the unit made you work very hard. You made tea for everybody?

Deepika: Actually, I decided for myself that I would make tea for everyone because I like making tea. Very honestly, I wasn’t liking the chai that was being made on the set so finally towards the end of the schedule I decided to make the tea myself! Most of the times after that I started making my own tea.

Neil: I think the tea was really nice! Personally I never cribbed because for me tea is tea! But after drinking the tea she made I saw that there was definitely a difference! And then she got us hooked on to it and she started making tea for us!

Deepika: Personally, I prefer coffee to tea.

Neil: Ya, even I prefer coffee to tea. I make good coffee!

Deepika: Oh! He made coffee for all of us! And it’s not like he just takes coffee and water and makes the coffee. He makes sure it’s served at the right temperature, with the correct amount of froth and sprinkles on top. He makes sure the presentation is perfect. And he does it all himself!

Neil: Well, once you’ve mastered the taste, you have to make sure the presentation is right!

Deepika: It was awesome coffee!

Neil, you love flowers. But wearing baggy, floral pants in the film!?

Neil: It was only to make everyone smile. But it’s part of the film too!

Deepika, how was your experience working with Neil?

Neil: I think it’s a good idea if I answer this for her. And then she should answer for me.

Deepika: Haha ok.

Neil: Working with Neil was a brilliant experience. I think he is a nice, caring man who takes care of everyone on the set. He believes that filmmaking is like a family reunion, he takes interest in everyone’s togetherness. I personally loved working with Neil.

Deepika: I am glad that you think like this about yourself Neil. I wanted to say that working with Neil was torturous. He is so rude and selfish, always wanting to take his shots first. He’s a pain! Ok joking. Honestly, I think Neil is the most giving actor I have worked with. I can definitely say that he is most supportive. He puts me before himself. There are days when it’s an important scene for him too, but he would be there to support me and worry about my performance. Also, sometimes he wasn’t even shooting, but he would be there on set, helping around and be there to support me. There is a scene in the film, for which I needed different type of make up. He is trained in different types of make up and actually did my make up that day. So I can say that both professionally and personally, Neil has been there for me. I think I have a friend for life!

Neil: That’s so sweet!

Deepika: Wwwww moment! Don’t cry Neil, don’t cry!

Neil: Haha. For her, I would ditto that.

Deepika: Except that I made chai and he made coffee. And didn’t turn up on days when I was not shooting!

Neil: She is one person who gets a certain amount of energy when she’s around you. Her smile is just awesome! With the loveliest dimples! Her one smile puts everything straight. It’s such an honour to work with such a beautiful human being and a great friend.

Neil, how was the experience of doing those stunts yourself?

Neil: Extremely entertaining to be honest! I have seen the Mumbai bike culture myself. I stay in a part of Mumbai, the town side, where bikers are prevalent. The chowpati area where you will see biker boys are doing their stunts, doing their wheelies, zipping across, showing off not realizing they are risking their lives. I had an experience last year and now I am doing a film on this! So it was quite interesting to recall that experience of mine and put it on screen. It was rather safe because of the action director. But now that I’ve seen it on screen, I won’t do it again. You’re in a different frame of mind when you’re in front of the screen and ready to try out new things. Plus you know you have a good action team behind you, people around you who will take care of you if needed. But never in my life will I do it again.

Deepika, Dada (the director) has been making women oriented films, whether it is Parineeta or Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. Now this movie has this character of a blind skater, how do you feel about playing this character?

Deepika: Pinky’s character is a girl who is very modern. The way she thinks, the kind of ambitions and her personality is like the girls today. Pinky wants so much from life, she wants to get out of the world she lives in. So it was very similar to the girls of today. But I have to say that playing blind and being a skater was definitely the most challenging part. For a director and an actor, from the day you start shooting, you start wondering how you’re going to do it. I will trust my director and say that he will make me perform. But I was definitely nervous.

Neil, what motivated you to take up Lafangey Parindey?

Deepika: I was in it!

Neil: Yes, that’s true! But also, if you see the films I have done uptil now, all of them have been very strong characters. Parag Dixit (Jail), Omar in New York, to Johnny Gaddhar. Very few times, an actor gets an opportunity to portray such characters. How could I say no!? Also there are such creative people handling your character like Mr. Pradeep Sarkar, Mr. Aditya Chopra, and the one who has created it Mr. Gopi Putran. He is a genius I would say. One Shot Nandu is a very strong character.

Deepika: You know, the fact that I get to play such a strong character so early in my career, is a huge challenge. I remember Adi (Aditya Chopra) called me up and said I would like to meet you for a movie. I went and met him and he explained that the girl is blind and everything else that had to follow. I was surprised that he offered me such a film so early in my career. And he said that he thought that I had the potential to pull it off. So it was more like a challenge that was thrown at me. And also the offer came at such a time in my career that I was ready to take that challenge. It was also a very different kind of film. The character was very interesting, the world that the film is set in as compared to the other films I had done. So it was a challenge I had to accept.

Neil: A challenge very well lived upto. I have to tell her 20000 times that she is brilliant in the film. She doesn’t realize that she had set a benchmark for herself. People are definitely going to say that after seeing the film.

Deepika: I also want to give a lot of credit to Gopi, the writer. There was so much clarity in the characters right from the start. Right from the very first narration every character has a graph. That normally happens when the actors come in and the whole team decide together as you get closer to shoot and do readings. But in this case, Gopi was already so sure, for not only me but all the characters.

Neil: A writer to have such strong visual sense is incredible, and to have words to explain to your artists and the entire technical dept of the film is extremely commendable. Not only the language that he is familiar with, but every small nuance. Every hand gesture, even the way the character sits. He would know how Nandu would sit, how Pinky would sit, how Chaddi would sit, how Gulkand and Tina would sit.

Neil, you always use one of your grandfather’s belongings in each film. What did you use in this one?

In Johnny Gaddhar I used his jacket for a train sequence. But I was so scared that it would tear. In Lafangey Parindey also I used one of his belongings but I think nobody will even come to know. I used one of his rings in a song sequence. The character One Shot Nandu wears a lot of thumb rings. My grandfather’s ring was not a thumb ring but my fingers are so thin so I wore it in the thumb.

Which is your favorite track?

Neil: ‘Mann Lafanga’. I play the piano, the keyboard. I compose. I wish I had composed this song it is such a beautiful track.

Deepika: Same! It’s a beautiful number.

Deepika, how long did you train for your skating sequences?

Deepika: I trained for almost 6 months. At first, I trained locally, in Mumbai, with a local trainer. And then closer to shoot, Adi and dada flew down professional skaters from Italy; one of them has been world number 1 for many years and is now the coach for the current number 1 figure skater. Dada and Adi wanted to make sure that whatever I do looks exactly like we see on television and looks professional.

Neil: I think it was the only choice and the best choice we had!

Deepika: I think hopefully this film will set a trend. I come from a sports family and am very passionate for all types of sports. So if this picks up, it will be cool to see youngsters skating around!

Neil: I love skating myself, and know how to skate and blade as well!

Deepika: Show-off!

Pradeep Sarkar’s son, Ronit Sarkar, has sung the title song. What do you have to say about that?

Neil: Ronit is like a kid brother to me. He is as old as my younger brother. He’s got this great vocal quality. His voice is so raw, there is so much energy and so much honesty; I think he has done full justice to it. I feel this song was just meant for him, he was just meant to sing it!

Deepika: And also the inspiration for the kind of music dada wanted for the film came from Ronit! Dada wanted some young, rock space songs and the inspiration came from his son.

Neil: He himself composes, he’s a true rockstar! I hope he gets all the awards this year!

How was it working with YRF?

Neil: I have always maintained this. YRF is like home to me. I have learnt a lot from them since childhood. I was an assistant director here at YRF. I got my first big hit New York, Kabir Khan and his team. I have worked with the best team in New York. They groomed me, moulded me and embedded a certain culture in me.

Deepika: For me, while I was growing up, the one or two Yashraj Films that were released were the films that my family and me used to look forward to. I have grown up watching Yashji’s films, Adi’s films. And now to be part of the YRF family starting with Bachna Ae Haseeno. It was really a dream come true. I remember the day Bachna released Adi came up to me and said “I owe you one”. He said that because he really liked my work in that film. And for a long time I never heard from him. And I was a little disheartened. And then like I said he called me and Lafangey happened.

It’s just been a fun experience!

Catch Lafangey Parindey in theatres 20th August 2010

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