Happy Go Lucky
Sonakshi Sinha and Jimmy Sheirgill talk to BOI about their comedy film Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi.
Box Office India: When you made the first film, did you have a second part in mind?
Jimmy Sheirgill (JS): When we made the first film, we didn't have a sequel in mind. I don't think anybody had a sequel in mind. It is just that the first one got a very good response, and after that, Mudassar (Aziz) was writing something else, as far as I remember. Then, one day, while he was sitting with us, he came up with this one-line thing, saying what if there is another Happy… and the whole thing of running away happens in China. Everybody thought it was a great idea. He started working on it. After that, everyone told him to set the other thing aside and concentrate on this.
BOI: Both of you have been part of sequels. As actors, how do you approach your roles?
Sonakshi Sinha (SS): As an actor, I treat every film as a separate film, even a sequel. If you have been in a film before and you are taking the story forward, you still to have to play the character to the best of your ability. Like, for this one, I am the new entrant. Everyone else has been a part of this before. So, for me, it was a completely new film. It was a completely new experience. I had the liberty to play it the way I wanted to, without it having any references from the past. So, I think you approach every film differently, every sequel also differently. For me, it was a different experience.
JS: Mere paas toh koi option hi nahin tha. Somebody says Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster ka next part ban raha hai, I have to play Saheb. You can't say, no, take somebody else. And in this one, I am playing Bagga. In Tanu Weds Manu, it was Raja.
BOI: Jimmy, in the first part, the character had already been established. How did you add to it in the second part?
JS: I think it will be established in this part; Bagga was barely established in the last one. For a film that was shot for over 60 days, I shot for just 15-20 days. In this one, everyone is running from the beginning to the end, you end up shooting more. Aur aapko yeh pata nahin chal raha hai, kaun kiske aage bhag raha aur kiske peehce bhaag raha hai. Kya ho raha hai? It is a mad chase. So, in terms of my character, this film is far better than the first one.
BOI: Sonakshi, the character of 'Happy' was established in the first film and you are reinventing it in this film. What kind of nuances did you introduce to make it stand out?
SS: I am just playing it as I am supposed to as I am not that Happy (Diana Penty). She is also there in this film. It is just as if I were playing someone whose name was something else. So I could very well be a 'Lovely' too. But, no, the whole thing is because of the mistaken identity, because of their names. They are both Harpreet Kaur, they are both Happy. That is where the confusion begins. So I am not referring to that character at all. She is a different girl, I am a different girl. I have been given certain personality traits, certain ways to follow, and that is exactly what I did.
Mudassar said this is the new Happy, she is so-and-so. She has certain goals in mind. She loves her family. She is a professor, actually. So she is not brash and loud. She is not like the previous Happy, who was always spoiling for a fight. This one thinks before she acts. They are very different personalities.
BOI: Sonakshi, going back to when you were offered this part… what went through your mind before you said yes to it?
SS: I loved it from the word 'go'. The minute he (Mudassar) started narrating the role to me, I enjoyed it. I loved the story and I loved the way they were bringing all these characters from the first part into the second one. That was the essence of the first film. The characters made the film what it was. Everyone had their individual importance in the film. The way they were brought into this part and woven into the story was amazing. That's the only reason I said 'yes'. I have seen the first part and I really liked it, so why not?
BOI: While doing a comedy, what extra preparations do you need to take care of because people keep saying that comedy is the toughest genre?
SS: It varies from film to film, not the genre per se. We are given a character and if the character requires certain preparation… For example, for Akira, I had to train in action before doing that film, here not so much. Mudassar is a wonderful writer. Honestly, I feel comedy is more than half the writer's job. If it's not written correctly, we won't be able to translate it as well. Everything was written so well for this film, the punch lines, the funny dialogue, the funny things that are happening in the scene… it was all etched so well that it made life for us really easy.
BOI: Sonakshi, people say comedy is a genre that actresses cannot pull off. With films like Son Of Sardaar, Welcome To New York and now Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, do you think comic roles are being written for women? And what does it feel like to be a part of it?
SS: I enjoy it because I love to laugh and make people laugh. For me, possibly it's the best genre to be part of. It also depends on the individual. I don't find comedy as tough as I find crime. Right from the beginning of my career, even in films like Dabangg, Rowdy Rathore, Son Of Sardaar, comedy has been woven into these films. I started with films that had romance, drama, comedy, action, everything and then expanded to doing a lot more. I enjoy it, so I hope people are able to write more funny roles for women.
BOI: Does the method of acting change with the director you work with?
JS: It does. I feel that if the director has also written the script, it is easier because he has visualised everything the way he wants it. So no matter how much you say, Mudassar, what are you making me do, once he tells you, you do it. You go with the story, you have to listen to the director. You can't be stubborn and say I am not going to do this. So you do it and three months later, when you watch it and people are reacting to it, you say that I followed what he said and this is what happened.
SS: It is the same for me too. My method is that I have no method. I reach the set and I ask, aaj kya kar rahe hain. That is when I get my lines and my scene. That is when I switch on, basically. It is very important for me to understand what the director's vision is as that is what we as actors are trying to execute.
BOI: Do the box office numbers of your previous films affect your subsequent film choices?
SS: Everybody who is involved with a film – whether it is a technician, a director, a producer, the actors – wants a film to do well. Nobody wants to make a flop film. Today, the benchmark of a good film is not how much it made. There are a lot of amazing, beautiful and meaningful films that get out of theatres in 3-4 days because they are not making good numbers while the biggest films, whose quality may not be up to the mark, are raking in huge numbers.
JS: Also, there is a huge difference between a film being genuinely good and its circulation on social media as a brilliant film or a masterpiece or the best film of 2018.