'I've got good offers after Mere Brother Ki Dulhan'
With a successful film comes a grin that is hard to hide. Musician-actor Ali Zafar, who held his own against Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan in last week's release Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, couldn't have asked for a better time to promote his next film London, Paris, New York, produced by Fox Star and Rose Movies.
The launch was at a suburban hotel in Mumbai, and Ali was there with co-star Aditi Rao Hydari. The unusually refreshing pair is touted by the producers as the "Valentine couple" of 2012, when the film is due for release. Right now, the camaraderie between them is palpable.
Brimming with confidence and wit, Ali Zafar speaks to Ankur Pathak.
Your role was appreciated in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD) and the film is doing well too. Has the success sunk in yet?
Yes, of course. Now I have become extremely proud and arrogant (laughs loudly).
To be honest, it really hasn't. For the past few days we were aggressively promoting the film, touring multiple cities, talking to the press.
I hardly got time to sleep. Now that the film has released, the response is overwhelming and it is sinking in, in fragments, and I like it that way. I am being cautious. I'm not letting the success go to my head. That is the last frame of mind I want to be locked in.
Image: Ali Zafar
'Response to Mere Brother... is terrfic in Pakistan'
By constantly reminding myself that, ultimately, it was a good script that worked and not my sole presence. I am grateful to the public for having liked MBKD, and I try my best to focus on the artistic part of filmmaking rather than get deluded by the glamour.
A film is team work and there are many other people like technicians, spot boys etc involved who work harder than actors, but we get the credit when a film is a success.
What reaction has there been from the people of Pakistan? Any word from Rahat Fateh Ali Khan or Aatif Aslam -- the latter has also had a good release (the much acclaimed Bol).
I have not spoken to the people you mentioned. But these are very nice people who I really respect and they have always wished me good. So, hopefully, they will have words of appreciation for MKBD too.
The film has been released there and the response is terrific. From what I last heard, the shows were running full and in fact they had to increase the number. People have loved the film and I pray it also plays a small part in improving the relationship between the two countries.
Image: Ali Zafar in India's Got Talent
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'I believe in dreaming big'
Are there any big offers after the success of MBKD?
Yes, there have been very good ones, although things are at very early stages right now. MBKD will always be a significant film in my career since it has added a lot to my portfolio.
However, more than the end result of a film, I keenly enjoy the making of it. That is where I get my ultimate kick. I hope I continue to get good work and explore different roles that come my way.
As a new actor, are you self-conscious while performing? How do you prepare?
I was slightly conscious initially, when my first film came out. Not so much any more. As for preparing for any role, I start by brushing my teeth in the morning because sometimes we are doing intimate scenes and I cannot afford to have bad breath! (laughs). My next film is a feel good, romantic film set across three cities.
We have tried to keep it as real as possible because the characters are everyday guys. So, for this role, I actually prepared myself by not preparing so as to maintain the spontaneity and keep it authentic.
Image: A still from Mere Brother Ki Dulhan
'I was lucky to meet the right people in Bollywood'
You are highly regarded as a musician. Isn't acting in Bollywood films a barrier to making music?
I used to think so, but actually it is not. Bollywood films always have many songs and that is where I come in. I write and compose songs, and sing them as well. So, I have clubbed the two, and I am managing both very well. It's incredibly cool for me.
In fact, with my next film, London, Paris, New York, audiences will get me in the film and a music album of the film consisting of six songs by me. Music and I are never apart. On the sets, I am constantly humming and composing tunes on my Iphone.
Starting with the low-budget Tere Bin Laden, did you anticipate that within a year you would be working with mammoth production houses like Yash Raj and Fox Star?
I strongly believe in dreaming big. Even when I was cutting my albums, I wanted it to be a record-breaking one whenever it came out.
Here in Bollywood, I was lucky to meet the right people who recognised my talent. More than that, I think I made some really good friends here, right from the Tere Bin Laden team of Pooja Shetty (producer) and Abhishek Sharma (director), to Aditya Chopra. Everybody has been very warm and kind.
Image: A still from Tere Bin Laden
'I miss Lahore a lot'
You were hunting for Bin Laden in your first film and a bride in MBKD. What will we see you searching for in your next film?
I think I am searching for myself in the next film. When I say it is an intimate love story between two people set across three cities, everybody gets the feeling that it will be another romantic saga filled with cliches.
That is a wrong perception because a person in love goes through a number of emotions in the process of love which are beautiful. In the quest to find a soul mate, you end up discovering a lot about yourself through that person. I think that is exactly what my character is looking for in London, Paris, New York.
You are touring three global cities in London, Paris, New York. How much do you really miss your own city, Lahore?
Bahut zyada yaad aati hai. (I miss it terribly) As much as Lahore is my home, India is my home too. My profession is such that it takes me to different cities all over the world, but whichever exotic location you shoot and stay in, it is only natural to miss your own home. So, I miss Lahore a lot. The same way I'd miss India if I was shooting abroad since this is where I belong now.
Image: Ali Zafar in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan
'Initmate scenes are no big deal'
What prompted you to sign London, Paris, New York?
First of all, I thought it had a great title. Then, when I read the script while on a flight, I fell in love with it instantly. The romantic undercurrents are so strong in the film between its two central characters that you too will fall for the characters and even with the film as a whole.
I'm glad that I was considered charming enough for the part by Anu Menon (the director).
You are paired with Aditi Rao Hydari (Yeh Saali Zindagi). How well do you hit it off, also keeping in mind the intimate scenes?
Aditi is a great, fun-loving girl who sleeps a lot and I have to drag her out to jog with me. We fight and crib a lot on the sets, that too about little things, but it's all very cool in the end. In fact, if we don't fight, it looks unnatural (laughs). As for the intimate scenes, there is no big deal about it.
We are very comfortable with it, as it is for the film. We were a small unit, and everybody bonded like family. There are still two schedules left -- Paris and New York -- and after the success of MBKD, I am even more kicked about it.
Image: Ali Zafar
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar