'When you are sitting in a small city like Chandigarh, you think it is tough to make it in Bollywood.'
'Sometimes when you see actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Varun Dhawan on screen, you think these things are beyond your reach.'
Rajkummar Rao, Aparshakti Khurana and Abhishek Banerjee look like real friends in Stree. Their chemistry is so good.
But the truth is they barely knew each other before the shoot started.
"People are getting famous on Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime... earlier, there were just one or two platforms, now there are so many," the scene stealers tell Rediff.com's Patcy N.
Dangal, Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya and now Stree. Aparshakti, your choice of films are interesting. What makes you sign a film?
Aparshakti: Definitely not the length (of the role).
I would rather work on a film where I get to learn from my co-actors, the director and the team.
In this film, I had people like Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi and Abhishek Banerjee who have worked in theatre more than I have.
Pankajji has done 17 years of theatre.
Abhishek has done theatre for 12 years.
Rajbhai has done theatre for 10 to 12 years.
I have done theatre for five years only, so I have to learn a lot.
Abhishek: He is very humble.
It is difficult to match his spontaneity, so he taught us spontaneity and some very good jokes.
This is my first Bollywood film.
If I enjoy the character, I would like to do the film.
The length of the role doesn't matter.
Abhishek, you are a casting director. Did you do the casting for Stree?
Aparshakti: I should answer this. People would point fingers at him if he had done the casting, but he did not.
He has done the casting for quite a few films of Dharma Productions, Excel Entertainment and Maddock Films -- big projects -- but not this film.
The director (Amar Kaushik) knows Abhishek.
Abhishek: I have known Amar Kaushik ever since I was a casting assistant and he was Rajkumar Gupta's associate director.
I asked him if there was any role in his film.
He knows I am an actor, as I had done a small role in Go Goa Gone.
He asked me to try the character. He liked it, and gave me the role. I was lucky.
Your camaraderie on screen looks good.
Aparshakti: If you see the onscreen chemistry of the three friends (Aparshakti, Abhishek and Rajkummar Rao), you will think we are actually friends.
We had so much fun. It didn't feel that we were not friends.
Abhishek: We knew each other a bit, but after we met on the sets, we got to know each other better.
Abhishek, what was your shooting experience like, since this is your first film?
Aparshakti: Raj, Abhishek and I would go to the kitchen and cook.
Abhishek: He would make besan ki barfi.
It felt like you were living in a college hostel, it was that much fun!
What's it like working with Rajkummar?
Aparshakti: Raj is very creative. He has the knack of storytelling and acting.
I did not read the script; the moment I knew Raj was in the film, I signed up because I wanted to work with him.
Abhishek: Like some people live to eat, Raj lives for acting.
He enjoys the process and lives the character.
As a co-actor, he's the sweetest and will give you so much support.
Even in a scene where the camera is not him, he will go and stand, giving cues.
He will do that without the umbrella, without his boy... he will do it so that the scene comes out well.
Who is your inspiration?
Aparshakti: Ayush bhaiyya (his elder brother Ayushmann Khurrana), definitely.
When you are sitting in a small city like Chandigarh, you think it is tough to make it in Bollywood.
Sometimes when you see actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Varun Dhawan on screen, you think these things are beyond your reach.
But when a person who has shared a room with you for 22 years of your life makes it in this industry, you know it is achievable.
I have always looked up to him.
I was in Standard 8 when I saw him perform on stage for the first time. He was in Standard 10 then.
I was shocked because we used to sing and dance at home, all in fun, but when he performed on stage, it was professional.
My father also has creative juices in him. I got to learn from him as well.
My grandmother was a good mimic -- she would mimic Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar, and entertain the neighbours.
How different are you from Ayushmann?
Aparshakti: I am a typical, loud Punjabi who wears bright colours. But he is not like that.
Abhishek: Chanderi (where Stree was shot) is three or four hours away from Bhopal.
Whenever we would wait at a dhabba, he would talk to the owner.
He would shout loudly, 'Samose lekar aao' or 'Yeh mithai kaise banai?' or 'Kitna time lagate ho banana mein?'
Then, he would tell us, 'Agar Ayushmann bhaiyya hote to mujhe yeh sab karne nahi dete (If Ayushmann bhaiyya was here, he would not allow me to do all this).'
Aparshakti: Ayushmann bhaiyya is like my mother. She is subtle.
I am like my father. He's a total Punjabi; he would do the bhangra!
Plus, I have lived in Chandigarh longer than Ayush bhaiyya.
He left the moment he got the chance.
After a year in Delhi, he moved to Mumbai.
This city makes you sober.
I lived in Delhi for seven or eight years before moving to Mumbai.
Was Dangal was a game-changer for you?
Aparshakti: Of course! Everyone has a film that changes their life.
I was doing good acting before Dangal too, but I got recognition because of that.
People started working with me.
When a film releases, what's the scariest thing?
Abhishek: If you don't get a role, it's fine.
But if you get a role and work hard in it, and then it gets chopped at the editing table, that is the biggest horror story.
Do you feel bad doing the hero's friend roles, and not the lead roles?
Aparshakti: I had a couple of solo hero releases, but they did not work.
You are talking to me nicely now, but if you watch those films, you will probably talk to me with disrespect.
Abhishek: Typecasting becomes an issue when the audience enjoys a new actor or character and they want to see that character again and again for a few years until they get bored.
That's why producers try to cast actors in the same roles again and again.
Swades is a cult film, but it did not do well because Veer-Zaara had released just a month before and was a huge hit.
Before that, Shah Rukh Khan had done some romantic films and they were all hits.
So if such a huge star can get typecast, what can you say about character actors?
It is an actor's duty to bring out the different shades in similar characters, so that directors feel that the actor is capable of much more.
Isn't Rajkummar an example?
Aparshakti: 200 percent!
He is the perfect example to every good thing that has happened to cinema.
A boy from Gurgaon performing really well in a city like Mumbai.
Four years ago, people told him he did not have a commercial face.
Now, he plays the hero in commercial cinema.
Abhishek: We also learned from Raj that if you are a good actor and you do a small film, or if you do small roles in big films, people will want to cast you as the lead.
Aparshakti: I will also give credit to the audience that they have become more accepting towards real films.
Times have changed.
Nowadays, actors don't get typecast. Somebody has to go wrong to get typecast.
Today, there are so many platforms.
People are getting famous on Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime... earlier, there were just one or two platforms, now there are so many.
Even if he does the same thing or the same type of roles on different platforms, the audience on every platform is different.