'Dancing with Shah Rukh Khan to our songs from our film was a priceless memory.'
'The King hugging me and calling me 'beta' and giving me acting tips was unbelievable.'
Aaliyah Qureishi, who is also known by her artist name Jhalli, is thrilled about even being a small part of the blockbuster, Jawan.
She plays Janhvi Gaikwad, one of the six girls, in Shah Rukh Khan's 'gang'.
"I moved back to India right before the pandemic. Since then, I have been auditioning, and it's hard when you are not from the film industry. But I got lucky with Jawan. It is like catching a big fish for the first time you go fishing," Aaliyah tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
How have your family and friends reacted to you being a part of Jawan?
It has been really an overwhelming experience.
People are really excited because it has been my debut film and it is like catching a big fish for the first time you go fishing, you know.
My friends and family, even people who don't know I am in the movie have been messaging me like, 'Did I just see you in Jawan?'
So it has just been really exciting and overwhelming. I am grateful for the all the love.
How did Jawan happen for you?
It happened basically around 2021, a month or two before the production started.
I was looking for work because I had just done a show and had really liked my experience on set.
Before that, I had not thought about acting professionally because it is a hard career with a lot of rejections.
I am a musician and face a lot of rejection.
One day, I got a call from someone in from Mukesh Chhabra's casting company and he asked me if I could audition for a part.
He told me it was for a film and there would be a group of six girls and that the project was being made under Red Chillies Entertainment.
I auditioned for it.
Within a week, I got a call saying that the director wanted to meet me.
I went to Red Chillies and met Atlee sir and his wife Priya. We spoke and then within another week, I got a call confirming my casting.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a Mumbai girl. I have lived here my whole life, except for five years when I was studying in California.
I studied music as well as psychology.
I did a lot of theatre classes also.
As I said, I never thought I wanted to pursue theatre, but I just loved acting from a young age so I did it for fun. I moved back to India right before the pandemic.
Since then, I am auditioning, and it's hard when you are not from the film industry.
But I got lucky with this film.
Now that you have a blockbuster under your belt, will music take a back seat?
I will be focusing on both.
So, for example, my character Janhvi in Jawan is a musician. She is a composer.
There is a scene in the film where I am playing the guitar with Shah Rukh Khan. It worked out for me because I was a musician.
Atlee sir even asked me when he met me before casting, 'Do you play any music?'
Even in my next project, I play a musician.
The more I act, the more comfortable I get on screen and on stage.
It helps my live shows and my music career. So I feel they go hand-in-hand.
When you were selected for the role, did you have any idea that it's going to star Shah Rukh Khan?
I had an idea, but did not get my hopes up.
It so happened that they were very close to the end of pre-production.
They were looking for the last two girls and I happened to come right at that time.
How was it meeting Shah Rukh Khan for the first time?
It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
It was really nice because he immediately made me feel really comfortable and, you know, came up to me and gave me a hug. And we had a nice chat.
He would always make his staff pull (our) chairs next to him.
We would sit next to him and talk.
He just exudes warmth and love.
What, according to you, makes Shah Rukh Khan so special?
He has this infinite potential for love.
Recently at the Jawan press meet, there was a moment where all of us couldn't fit into the group picture and so some of the actors and the director crouched down and I could tell you, he was feeling bad.
He waited for a few seconds and then crouched down too on the floor just to make everyone feel comfortable.
Apart from Shah Rukh Khan, the film also has Deepika Padukone and Nayanthara. How was your interaction with them?
Nayanthara and I had quite a few scenes. It was great to learn from such a celebrated actor, to see how she prepares for a scene and does it.
She was also sweet. She would sit by in between takes and I would ask her questions.
She also gave recommendations about where to eat in Chennai, if we went there.
She was really sweet.
Deepika and I, unfortunately, did not have any scenes together, so I didn't meet her until the screening of the film. But there, she was so kind and it was so nice to kind of party with her.
What has been your fondest memory of being a part of Jawan?
There are so many.
One is being invited to (Shah Rukh Khan's home) Mannat to celebrate the success of Jawan.
Shah Rukh Khan called us and I actually left the movie halfway to go to Mannat to party with him, on September 7.
I think dancing with Shah Rukh Khan to our songs from our film was a priceless memory.
The King hugging me and calling me 'beta' and kind of explaining certain things and giving me acting tips was unbelievable.
Just getting to be around him is the fondest memory for me.