“Teree Sang is about responsibility and love” – Ruslaan Mumtaz

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College romances have always been a favourite of mine be it the 90s classic Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander or the millennium blockbuster Ishq Vishk so naturally Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar (MP3) was right up my alley! I came out not only feeling refreshing but also feeling a sense of victory having discovered not one but two young talents to scream and shout about, Ruslaan Mumtaz being one of the two. Now two years later I sit here anticipating what he’s got to offer in his latest outing which director Satish Kaushik assures us is not a Hindi Juno! Teree Sang is at last ready to hit screens this Friday and as it happened with MP3, I am sure to that upon release Ruslaan will once again disappear into a crowd of screaming teens who’ve waited for a bit too long I’d say! So before he rushes off to his admirers, who’ll probably double in number this Friday, I decided to catch the talented youngster in an exclusive interview where he indulges in all details about life before and after MP3 and more importantly he gives BollySpice the exclusive scoop on Teree Sang!

How has life been after MP3, were you pleased with the outcome of your debut film?

After MP3 things have been interesting because I haven’t had a release for two years and I still had work. People that I met were always asking me ‘Are you okay?’ But I had films, which were good, big and interesting, and so the fact that I had no releases for 2 yrs didn’t bother me. Life has been interesting. For example, I once went to speak at one of the most reputable colleges here and it was packed auditorium and I simply couldn’t speak because for a good five mins they were just screaming ‘I love you Ruslaan’. I was shocked and thought ‘What is this?’ I thought to myself that MP3 definitely has done things for me. But, following week after this incident I went into another college and there was silence. (Laughs) So I was confused and didn’t know what was happening. MP3 at the box office didn’t do well so basically a flop. You see because at the box office it didn’t do well, the reach of the film wasn’t that wide. Somehow word of mouth made a lot of people watch it I guess on DVD.

Well personally I enjoyed it since it was quite a refreshing film.

Well that’s it you see. People you have seen it have liked it but sadly not many people saw it.

Despite having a parent, your mom, from the film line you received your first role on your own merit which is something your mother encouraged, how did you make you feel that your first role was given to you absolutely based on your merit as an actor and nothing else?

You know my mom never wanted me to act. So I had to do stuff myself. The first play I did I invited everyone to come watch. I think I was rather bad in it because when we were driving back from it there was silence in the car. Once we reached home I asked them and my mom’s reply was ‘Please don’t act. It’ll ruin your life’. I realised that I have to do this by myself. Not because of anything other than the fact that I had to prove to them that I can act because they wouldn’t take me seriously.

So I guess everything worked out for the best and your plan worked!

Yeah. I think that you really want something you should stay at it and you’ll definitely get it.

Do you feel your training in theatre, your modelling career and dancing training enhanced your performance onscreen?

You know you really have to train! In India there is no degree or course for acting. But you have to treat it seriously similarly like you have to go to college and medical school to become a doctor and like that acting is a profession even though in India we don’t look at it as a profession always. I have always been studious so I took the same approach for acting I studied it. I just kept doing it. It’s like a sport, you keep practicing and you’ll get better.

Your second releaseTeree Sang comes two whole years after you debut, so what has kept you away from the screen for so long?

Actually what happened was that the film didn’t release. By the time we completed Teree Sang Satish-ji [Satish Kaushik] had Karz to release which was a bigger release of course. By the time our film got ready to release the strike started. Now that it’s all over we are releasing immediately.

Tell us a bit about the film and more importantly your role?

Teree Sang is basically about a fifteen-year-old girl and seventeen-year-old guy. While they are friends they are experimenting and getting to know each other and the girl gets pregnant. Now after she falls pregnant everyone is obviously looking at the girl and being judgemental but the guy takes the view that he’ll stand by her no matter what decision she makes. So the film is about responsibility and love.

You’re working with a debutant once again in the film, how was the experience of working with Sheena Shahbadi?

You know Sheena is really young and small! When I saw her for the first time I thought ‘Oh My God the girl actually looks fifteen just like the character!’ She made me work hard because half her work was done by looking like the character and I looked older than her and I had to lose weight and match up because otherwise people would say she looks the part but this guy doesn’t! Because Sheena looked the part she just had to appear on screen because most of her work was done. That apart these younger actors are just so prepared! In fact one of my favourite scenes in the whole film is one of Sheena’s scenes where she’s simply talking on the phone with her father and apologising for what’s already been done and I love this scene for the way she’s done it.

How was it working with Satish Kaushik, did the fact that your director was an actor prove to be a bonus?

Oh yeah absolutely! He’s a great actor and such a big director. There was just this amount of comfort that made you feel that if you were doing anything wrong he’d tell you immediately. You didn’t have that feeling that you normally have before every take where you think that ‘Oh this could go wrong’. But with him you knew it was all going smoothly! He’s also very entertaining and keeps you calm. There were jokes and a lot of fun on the sets!

So speaking of on the set atmosphere, any memorable moments?

Memorable moment…. [Thinks]. Well we were shooting for 60 to 65 days straight at times. We had all gone to Delhi for the shoot and of course I am from Mumbai. We were there for about 70 days. So Satish-ji had his wife throughout the trip and Sheena of course had her mom. So I was the only person on the sets who was all-alone. So in the beginning I was fine and concentrating on the work but when we got to the 60 day mark with only 10 days to go than I realised it was getting tough. Then I realised that it’s my profession and all but one thing is for sure that being away from friends and family for 70 days straight is very tough! So last days were tough!

Sounds like you were a getting a bit homesick towards the end.

Yeah, yeah definitely! I was just wanted to go back home!

The film is deals with the issue of teen pregnancy, so would you say that it’s a purely entertainment or does it carry a message as well?

You know when I read the script I was rather confused. I myself can’t make out what message the film is trying to send. The film is a story about these two people and looks at the issue from different views like the society, the parents and of course the couple themselves. So I don’t know what the overall message is but it’ll definitely give each person a different message. If you’re a young person you’ll get a different message to what parents with kids will and then they’ll be those who fit into neither one of these categories but they too will decipher another message. So I myself don’t know what the message is but there is definitely something there for everyone.

So you could say that it caters for everyone in the audience?

Yeah. It’s not preachy and doesn’t choose a side and say that ‘Teen pregnancy is wrong’ or ‘Teen pregnancy is right’.

Well, from what you tell us it definitely feels like a film with a lot of emotions packed into it. So did you get to experiment a lot with you acting because of this?

Yes, well quite obviously you can say that it’s a much more emotionally enhanced film that MP3. The issue itself is quite complex I mean, teen pregnancy. But it gets more complicated actually. You see I play a guy who doesn’t come from a wealthy family, essentially who’s poor. So the fact that a poor guy gets a rich girl pregnant just complicates the whole matter even more! Usually if they’re both rich or they’re both poor they would decide that they can get married and everything would be fine but for this situation it’s not that simple to decide that.

Now Teree Sang will be your second youthful release, were you apprehensive that you’d be typecast in a certain ‘look’ or ‘character’?

Well I didn’t think of it that way. I knew I was playing two seventeen-year-olds back to back and so I took it up as a challenge to make Kabir as different to Rohan from MP3 and thought to myself that it’s the difference between the two seventeen year olds and their portrayals that people would notice. And they complete opposite like chalk and cheese! So I think I’ve done my job in that sense.

So apart from Teree Sang what will be your other releases to look out for in the near future?

My next film will be Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai it’s produced Nikhil Advani and directed Milap Saveri[renowned screenplay and dialogue writer of many films including blockbusters Heyy Babby and Masti] and co-starring me is Riteish Deshmukh and Jacqueline Fernandes [soon to debut in the character of Jasmine for Sujoy Ghosh’s Aladin]

Oh that sounds really interesting, so are you getting a chance to try something new with this film?

Yes definitely. It’s a romantic comedy and a very ‘Ritiesh Deshmukh’ style of film. I’ve just dubbed for it and seen parts of it too and it is funny!

So did you find the comedy genre to be a challenge?

Well actually my part isn’t that part that does most the comedy. Ritiesh has that role so the film is definitely a lot of fun!

Speaking of roles and the style of characters that you portray, you’ve been reading a lot of scripts you’ve said in the past two yrs so what is it that you look for in your character and scripts when trying to decide what project to sign?

Well, firstly for me the film as to be an interesting concept. Then comes my character’s importance. Not necessarily length wise though. I want my characters to bring something to the film. I don’t want my character to be the character whose portions the editors thinks is not needed in the film and thus gets chucked away on the editing table. My basic approach to my films is that I don’t look at it and think ‘oh yes this film will be a hit and I’ll be a star after it’;. No, I think more about my character and it should be character that works even if the film doesn’t work.

So speaking about future films and roles, who are some filmmakers you’d love to work with?

Oh there are many! Farhan Akhtar definitely because I loved Dil Chahta Hai and then there’s Raj Kumar Santoshi. Also a lot of the new directors that I’d love to work with. Although at the moment none are looking my way.

I’m sure the time will come!

Yeah let’s hope so.

Any words to your fans!

Well since Teree Sang is coming out I’d say to teenagers to please be responsible and don’t think that you know everything which you tend to do at that age. Because you do tend to get into trouble and all sorts of problems and believe me you won’t be able to handle it. I mean I know when I was 17, I would usually drive without a license and with alcohol and thankfully nothing happened but I know countless incidents and kids who weren’t so lucky. So I just want to tell kids to please be careful because you might not be so lucky and get away with it.

Lastly, Teree Sang hits screens this Friday the 8th of August so can you tell us in a couple of words why you think BS readers should watch Teree Sang?

Many reasons! First, please watch for me just to see the difference between MP3 and this. Secondly, watch it for Satish Kaushik who’s such a big director. Thirdly, watch it for this girl who actually a lead actress in a film and she looks like she’s the youngest actress in the industry and of course watch it for 15-year-old lead actress who’s playing a pregnant teen. It’s just all fantastic!

Well guys there you go. Not one, not two but three reasons why you all should be rushing to a cinema near you to catch Teree Sang this Friday!

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