'I didn't expect much from him when he came on set.'
'But he was just jumping and flying around and I couldn't tell that this was his first action film!'
Anirudh Iyer has been waiting for 10 years to direct a film, working 18 years a day, and through holidays.
On Friday, December 2, Anirudh's first film An Action Hero with Ayushmann Khurrana in the lead opens in theatres.
But before his direction dream came true, he says, he had to convince his lead actor to feature in his film.
"Ayushmann is someone who doesn't say yes immediately. He read the script 10-20 times. He has to sleep with the script, he has to wake up and read again. So he took a month to say yes. That was a worst month of my life!" Anirudh exclaims to Patcy N/Rediff.com.
Why did you pick Ayushmann for an action film?
I feel Ayushmann is the bravest actor in our country.
He's someone who keeps going for things that are not the norm.
This is not a mindless action film. It has a story, and that story excited Ayushmann more than the action.
Why do you call Ayushmann brave?
I have watched his films for many years, but after meeting him, I realised that he's a better and braver human being than an actor.
The amount of faith he puts in you, I have not seen anyone do that.
He goes all out for you.
He's got blind faith in the person he falls in love with.
There's a saying that you should never meet your idols because the image breaks.
I have had many opportunities to meet people I have idolised and I have always said, 'No, it's okay. I like the image. I don't want to break it.'
But he's one guy, who made it bigger and better for me.
Were you sure he would say yes to the film?
I had no idea.
He heard the script and he said he loved it.
But he's someone who doesn't say yes immediately. He read the script 10-20 times.
He has to sleep with the script, he has to wake up and read again.
So he took a month to say yes.
I remember narrating it to him on Valentine's Day.
I had no backup; I was just waiting for him to say yes.
That was a worst month of my life! I was just waiting.
Then, he called me on March 13 and said let's do it.
He said, 'It's my debut, your debut and Aanand sir's debut; no one has done an action film.'
Was Ayushmann an obedient actor or did he ask a lot of questions?
Ayushmann questions till he comes on board.
So the first month before we went on shoot, there was a lot of conversation because he doesn't like confusion.
He doesn't like to go on set without knowing things.
He wants to make sure that we are on the same page.
But once he comes on set, he is completely yours. Whatever you say, he will do.
How difficult was it for Ayushmann to shoot the action sequences?
I think he's secretly been training behind my back because I didn't expect much from him when he came on set.
But he was just jumping and flying around and I couldn't tell that this was his first action film! He put a lot of effort.
For a director, it's easy to say 'I want this' and 'I want that', but ultimately, he has to do all the hard work.
What made you decide on Jaideep Alhawat?
We wanted an authentic actor, who could pull off the Haryanvi character beautifully.
I think Jaideep Alhawat is the most authentic, true to himself.
If you see his eyes, they are always moist. He is always carrying his emotion.
Plus, he's a fabulous actor, so why not?
An Action Hero is based on an actor who gets trapped in a crime. Is it inspired by a true event?
No. But it's an extraordinary situation in an extraordinary man's life.
I always thought, what will you do when something happens on the street?
There is a line that I love: 'Chota aadmi kare toh galti, badaa aadmi kare toh missal'.
If an influential person makes the same mistake as me, the repercussions are very different.
That person becomes an example for everyone. For me, it's just a slap on the wrist.
My film is based on that idea.
Tell us about yourself.
I come from a humble, middle-class, family in Mulund (north east Mumbai).
I don't have a film background.
My mom worked at a bank, my dad worked at a cement company.
They were very scared when they came to know that I wanted to be in the movies.
I used to watch Hindi films which would be telecast every Sunday.
I have seen the making of films like DDLJ.
I was always fascinated by directors and would read about them. So I knew I want to do this.
But coming from a south Indian family, the only option was either I become an engineer or a doctor.
I started engineering, but could not focus. So I begged to my parents and finally, my dad agreed.
My parents took a loan for me to go to the MetFilm School in London.
When I came back, I assisted Aanand L Rai for 10 years.
What do your parents think of you now?
They still don't know what I do.
I keep trying to explain to them that this is what a director does.
My dad calls me and asks, 'Are you at the site?'
I have to explain that it's called a set. He has worked in the construction business all his life, so he calls it 'a site'.
He came on the sets once and got very bored because on shoots, we do the same thing again and again.
How did your association with Aanand L Rai start?
Aanand sir was looking for an AD (assistant director) for Tanu Weds Manu Returns.I happened to meet him through a mutual contact.
I walked into his office with a CV. He put it aside and started asking me questions like 'Ghar mein kaun-kaun hai? Kahan rehta hai? Tujhe khane mein kya pasand hain?'. Food was a 40-minute part of the conversation!
His manager walks in and we were talking about rasgullas!
In the end, he asked me to come from the next day.
I think he hires people, not professionals.
What have you learned from him?
A lot of things.
On a set, there are 200 people who work on one film.
How do you get 200 people to work for one vision? That is something beautiful that he does.
He knows how to bring everyone together.
I am in awe of how he does that so beautiful, I am trying to master it.
He didn't give me any guidance for the film; he gives freedom.
He gave me advice as a human being, like how to keep calm, to eat my food on time...
Wasn't the 10-year wait long?
Nobody can come in this industry and become a director. It takes a decade easily, working for 18 hours, working on Diwali and Christmas...
I was always preparing myself.
By the time Zero came, a lot of people were telling me, you are next. So people also prepare you.
When the time comes to direct, there is so much of preparation that it becomes a seamless transition.
Which film-makers have influenced you?
Growing up, I was the biggest fan of Mani Ratnam.
I couldn't understand how he could make you cry, even after watching the same film for the fifth time.
I don't think anyone can pull drama off that well.
I was always curious about how he goes about his cinema.