Candyfloss entertainment is back in vogue as director Ken Ghosh makes his debut May 9 with the college caper Ishq Vishk under the Tips banner.
After the hit Raaz (Bipasha Basu, Dino Morea), Tips was unable to sustain its success with Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai (Aftab Shivdasani, Amisha Patel) and Dil Hai Tumhaara (Preity Zinta, Mahima Chaudhry, Arjun Rampal, Jimmy Shergill, Rekha). Dil Ka Rishta (Aishwarya Rai, Arjun) proved a damp squib. Even The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (Ajay Devgan, Amrita Rao) failed to excite the masses.
But Tips believes an urban musical with lots of fun and cheer -- the story of a year in the life of a 19-year-old college boy -- will set everything right. Rajiv Vijayakar caught up with the cast for a tête-à-tête.
I did not want my dad to launch me: Shahid
Confident. Energetic. That's Shahid Kapoor.
Like his director Ken Ghosh, Shahid began tempting fame with music videos (Aankhon mein by Aryans).
"I did get a lot of film offers, but kept turning them down because I felt I wasn't sufficiently prepared. So I began assisting my father Pankaj [Karamchand] Kapoor with direction. Out of the blue, Ken Ghosh called me in to audition. After that, things just fell into place. I did not want my dad to launch me, so it feels good to have my first break on merit."
Shahid plays Rajiv Mathur, a 19-year-old in his first year in senior college. The film is basically about the emotional mistakes he makes and how he goes about rectifying them. "In that sense," Shahid says, "it is a grey role. I liked the fact that I was not starting out as a typical teen hero. Having finished college only two years ago, I could relate to Rajiv."
Shahid's stint as his father's assistant during the making of television serials Mohandas LLB and Drishtaant helped him understand the technical aspects of cinema. This, he believes, has helped him as an actor as well. He now wants to play varied characters and not 'bore audiences' by playing stereotypical roles.
Did he ever feel handicapped by the fact that, unlike most newcomers, he is kick-starting his career with a director who is himself making his debut? "I look at it positively," he says. "If Ken could pick me up as a newcomer and be sure he was going to make me act, then I must have the same kind of confidence in him and think this man is going to make a good film!"
Ken's homework was perfect: Amrita Rao
Both her earlier films Ab Ke Baras (Arya Babbar) and The Legend Of Bhagat Singh sank at the box office. But critics did not write off Amrita Rao, who is hoping to get third time lucky with Ishq Vishk.
"You can never predict what kind of film clicks and what does not," says Amrita. "Nobody said I needed acting lessons after watching Ab Ke Baras, and they all told me that, though the role was small, I made an impact in The Legend Of Bhagat Singh."
How different was the Ishq Vishk experience? "The film's USP is its treatment and crisp length [135 minutes]. It maintains a high interest level throughout. Yet, it is not a frivolous, 'time-pass', masala film. It has a lot of soul. You will feel for each of the three characters. Ken's homework was perfect, his script absolutely fine-tuned. Naturally I connected with this character better."
Amrita entered films quite by accident. "I did commercials for a fairness cream, Close-up [toothpaste] and Perk [chocolate]. That's how I was noticed. Actually, Ken had approached me before Raj Kanwar [Ab Ke Baras] and Rajkumar Santoshi [The Legend Of Bhagat Singh], but work on the script was on."
Had films not happened, Amrita had planned on studying clinical psychology. In a contemplative mood, she says, "As an actor, you certainly need to know the basics of psychology to understand the character and make the right impact on the audience.
"Besides, if you want to be famous in India, you should be an actor, cricketer or politician!" she jokes.
But now that she's in films, Amrita wants to excel. "I want people to remember me as an actor, not just as someone who can dance well or look nice."
In her kitty are Farha Khan's directorial debut Main Hoon Na (Shah Rukh Khan, Sushmita Sen, Zayed Khan) and Milan Luthria's Deewaar (Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Akshaye Khanna), where she has replaced current box-office goddess Bipasha Basu.
I prefer the Preity Zinta kind of roles: Shenaz
Shenaz Treasurywala did not plan on a Bollywood career either. Thirty months into MTV, this daughter of a ship captain and a schoolteacher left television for a year in New York.
"The main idea was to take a break," she says. "I joined the acting course at the Lee Strasberg Academy and the scriptwriting course at New York University. I was also planning on settling there. I just came down for a holiday and lost all my baggage in transit and was kind of stuck. I knew I could not approach MTV again -- after all, I had asked for a three-month break and stayed on in NY for a year!"
Depressed, she reluctantly accompanied her sister to a party at a Mumbai pub. Giggles Shenaz, "There was this man who kept staring at me and, after a while, came over and told me to come to his office the next day." The man was Ken Ghosh. "Honestly, I did not even dream that this was about a movie break!" she grins.
How easy or difficult has the change from anchoring to histrionics been? Another broad smile, and she says, "My stint as anchor has helped me a lot -- I am very comfortable in front of the camera because of the MTV experience and my commercials.
"But there was a flip side too. In the beginning, I looked too much into the camera, the way anchors are supposed to, all the time!"
That blip apart, Shenaz loves acting. "As a Cancerian, I am extremely moody. So I would hate those days when I was off-mood and still had to get my anchoring act right. But what I love about acting is that I can get to portray different, even extreme emotions, without actually being in that situation like playing a sad scene when I am in a great mood! And I love forgetting all about myself and being someone else for a while!"
Did the idea of making her debut with a debutant director make her apprehensive? "I know for sure I could not have got a better director!" she says. "Because it was his first film, Ken, like me, put his life and soul and passion into it. For one year, it was only the film for him. It rubbed off on all of us. I was Alisha Sahai for a year. Besides, Ken is very open to discussions and suggestions."
What kind of role does she think she can do best? "I would prefer to do the Preity Zinta kind of roles," says the bubbly ex-VJ. "I would love doing a role like Kajol's in Gupt [Bobby Deol, Manisha Koirala], innocent first and menacing later. But I would not be comfortable doing Bipasha Basu's act in Jism; I lack the panache she showed in that role. Besides, my parents aren't thrilled with me doing Bollywood films [laughs], so skin exposure is out anyway! My parents' dream for me was that I'd be an investment banker or something more substantial!"