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Imran Khan is a content man. The year 2011 has been generous beyond his expectations -- which, for the record, are always minimal, or, as he would like us to believe, none.
His wedding last year was followed by two successful films, Delhi Belly and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.
Clad in brown trousers, a white tee, a fancy hat and brown-coloured beard, he looks like a tourist from foreign shores. When this is pointed out to him, he replies, "At Salman's (Khan) bash at his farmhouse, he called his bouncers to enquire who I was!"
The look is for Vishal Bhardwaj's Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, which the actor says is the answer to Ranbir Kapoor's Rockstar.
Imran's next film, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, produced by Karan Johar, opens in theatres worldwide on February 10.
The actor talks to Ankur Pathak about his films, his impressionable years and friend/rival Ranbir Kapoor.
What do two successful films in one year mean to you?
As an actor, a hit is your ultimate high because that is what you work for. You want to work with people you like and you want people to like your films. It gives me tremendous self-assurance.
Three years ago, when I had Luck and Kidnap, it was undoubtedly depressing. After that, I'm glad things have been moving steadily uphill.
Is this phase of happiness momentary? Immediately after, you get anxious with another film awaiting release.
It is. You have to take happiness as it comes. I'm a person who is very easily pleased and easily surprised. Because I don't have expectations. I got married early by choice, and had two film releases, both of which went on to become huge hits.
In our business, you always have your fingers crossed because you never know what is going to happen. It is so unpredictable that you can only go with the best of intentions and highest of hopes. It can go either way.
But it was easy to predict the fortunes of Delhi Belly.
Trust me when I say this, I could not even imagine in my wildest dreams that Delhi Belly would go on to make the kind of money that it eventually did.
I knew it would be a success; I didn't know that it would be a success worth Rs 65-crore. I mean it was an adult film which narrows the audience.
The other point was it had a drastically urban appeal, which I never really felt would go beyond Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
What are your thoughts on your new film, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu?
It's a film I am very happy with because it really is a very credible film. Although largely a multiplex film, it's not as soppy a rom-com as people are expecting it to be. It really is a very coming-of-age film.
It is about this guy who has lived his life exactly according to his parents. Right from wearing the clothes they wanted him to wear to having his hair styled accordingly to the job that he does, even his hobbies have been decided by his parents!
He is walking through life pretty abnormally. He is consuming food and breathing oxygen but he is not really alive. He bumps into this girl who changes his life upside-down and gives him a new perspective.
Telling you a lot of things that you were missing in life?
She does exactly that. And that is what makes the movie a very character and relationship-driven film and not a very plot-driven film.
The film looks similar to What Happens in Vegas and one particular clip from the trailer is an entire Mr and Mrs Smith rip-off.
The marriage in Vegas is a common concept used in films like The Hangover, Two to a Tango, and there was even a Friends (the TV sitcom) episode like that.
The similarity with Ek Main... ends there. There is no winning of a jackpot and conning each other for the money. Our film is about this guy discovering himself, so it can be said it's more a Garden State than I Hate Luv Stories.
I think the major part of it is the kind of role that you get offered. When I do the films that I've been doing, people slot me in a certain bracket and it takes someone really out of the box to visualise me as somebody different.
Which is not to say that I don't get offered other types of roles, but nothing really good.
Does 'nothing really good' mean you are too afraid to take risks after experimental debacles like Luck and Kidnap?
No, what it really means is nothing worth taking the risk for at all. I was lucky that (director) Abhinay Deo could visualise his character keeping me in mind, and even Vishal Bhardwaj, who saw in me his lead for Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, which should hopefully release this year.
I could never see myself in that role. So part of it is in the director's vision.
You get married to Kareena Kapoor in the film while drunk. In real life, what is the craziest thing you've done in an intoxicated state?
I'm not a very spontaneous person. I wouldn't do anything wacky at a point when I'm so vulnerable. I own up for my acts and wouldn't indulge carelessly just for the fun of it.
Now that sounds uncannily similar to the character you portray in Ek Main...
(Smiles) Actually, it is very similar to me as a person. In fact, it is written around me as a person. The director, Shakun Batra, is a very old friend and he knows what I am like. He has borrowed elements from not just me but himself too, and then the common things that bind us together since we know each other for the longest time.
Does that imply you wouldn't undo your decision of choosing two bad films -- Luck and Kidnap?
Even today, people ask what was I thinking when I decided to work on these films, but I take full responsibility for my choices and, no, I wouldn't want to undo these because I learnt a lot doing these films.
You learn how not to do things, you learn what can go wrong and to what extent. You learn more from failure than you do from success. Success is hard, and it's a lot of fun but it teaches you absolutely nothing.
On the other hand, failure teaches you a lot of things about yourself and your work and, most importantly, it makes you aware who is wearing a facade by the way they treat you and who is the real person who will stand by you.
You are talking about Karan Johar.
When Luck and Kidnap failed, my phone was ringing less and I was getting fewer offers. At that point, for a person like Karan Johar to step in and offer me a solo lead in a very great project (I Hate Luv Storys) and put me back on the map, that says a lot about Karan Johar, the person.
He is a guy who is ready to put his money where his mouth is. If he sees the potential in you, he will back you. And for him to especially do that at a point where I was at my lowest, it means a lot.
I will be eternally grateful to Karan Johar for calling me up at that time and showing that kind of faith.
Does that mean you will think twice before doing a Sanjay Gadhvi film?
(Long pause) That is interesting. But I don't think so. Sanjay has made two blockbusters (Dhoom and Dhoom 2) and then he made Kidnap.
I think it is not fair to hold that against him. Which director today hasn't made a bad film? Only Rajkumar Hirani. Which actor hasn't acted in a dozen really bad films?
Probably someone who hasn't acted in 12 films at all.
There you go. Which is why I say what happened with Gadhvi is very unfortunate. He is a great director so let us not think of writing him off just like that.
That said, I don't think he made a bad film. It was sold at a lucrative price and that happened because Jaane Tu ... released before and did exceedingly well.
Right, so how do you think your career would have shaped up had the two films released before Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.
That's a very interesting thought. I don't think I could have got another chance had I started my career with two flops.
You clearly are forgetting who produced Jaane Tu... (it was an Aamir Khan Production).
Oh, right. So, yes (pause), I would have got Jaane Tu... But I think the growth would have been slower and the pick up slightly edgy and fluctuating.
You promoted your film on Bigg Boss. Did you follow the show at all?
No. I find television intrusive. I'm sitting peacefully in my home, minding my own business and suddenly someone screeches at me, 'What bland bleach are you using, why don't you use this superior one', 'Why don't you use this mobile phone, it has blah... blah...blah...' I'm like, I didn't invite you to my home, why are you shouting at me?
You don't have a television at your place?
Now I do. I didn't have it for the longest time. When Avantika moved in after we got married, I was forced to buy one.
So what did you grow up on?
I used to read a lot. I still do. Watched a lot of movies on my computer. But we never subscribed to cable television.
What were your teenage years like?
I couldn't fit into a regular school with our education system. The Indian education system is badly damaged. It is broken and it is beyond repair. And I'm not saying this without experience.
What was the experience?
I went to Bombay Scottish School. My parents took me out because I was losing my mind. In our time, they used to cane us. I couldn't deal with this very well and it made me develop a very bad stammer.
My grades fell and from being a bright student, it all went haywire going into a strong decline. "You forgot to bring your book?" Phaat! The cane hit me like anything. I couldn't process such actions. I had a nervous personality and my expressions became twitchy.
My parents stepped in and decided this needed some serious thinking. They always treated me like an adult. I was used to rational discourse, and things were told to me without mincing of words.
What did your parents do then?
My mother pulled me out of that school and put me in this boarding school (Blue Mountain School, Coonoor). Later, when the principal left to start his own school, there were a few like me who strongly believed in him, so we followed.
It was a phenomenal experience as it was more focused on self-learning. Everything I learnt there, has stayed with me. And every bit of information that was followed by a whack by a wooden ruler, I have forgotten.
How different was the learning process there?
Very unusual. It wasn't a regular school but the one like Gurukool in the jungles of Ooty. I went there at the age of 11 and spent around five years there. It was a small school on a farm with no electricity. We used traditional lamps, and for water we would go to a nearby stream to bathe and wash our clothes. We planted our own vegetables to grow our food.
Coming back to your movies, you choose very safe, sort of polished rom-coms, quite unlike say what Ranbir Kapoor is up to these days.
Well, Ranbir is doing pretty good work. I haven't seen Rockstar, but we are more or less picking the same sort of films. Say, if I did a Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, he too has done Ajab Prem... If I did a I Hate Luv Storys, he has done an Anjaan Anjaani.
He gave a mind-boggling performance in Rockstar.
Wait for Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola.
What are the films that you are totally kicked about this year, apart from your own?
I'm never excited about my own films. I never even watch my own films. All I see is the flaws and I'm cribbing all the time how it could have been better performed.
I saw Jaane Tu ..Ya Jaane Na for the first time on DVD when my friend from abroad came to town and was curious to see the film. Although I like the movie, I didn't like myself so much in it.
Okay, so which film then?
I'm excited about Salman Khan's Ek Tha Tiger. More than him doing a first film for Yash Raj, that too directed by Kabir Khan, I have a lot of friends working on the project as ADs, and the little bits of information that have been coming out have got me really excited.
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