‘Not only a rom-com but also a run-com’
Actors Abhay Deol, Ali Fazal and Diana Penty along with director Mudassar Aziz and producers Anand L Rai and Krishika Lulla opened up about their latest venture Happy Bhag Jayegi, which is not only a romantic-comedy but also a run comedy as Ali fazal describes it.
How did you prepare for your characters in the film?
Abhay Deol (AD): My character, Bilal, is the son of the ex governor of Lahore, he has been brought up in the city and had received education abroad. I have done the same in real life, the only difference is that Bilal speaks Urdu and I Hindi. I had studied Urdu earlier, so I did not have problems pronouncing the words but since my vocabulary is weak I was guided well by Mudassar. I was excited that I was going to use Urdu, and had a lot of fun with the depiction of humour in language, as there is a different effect of the humour in Urdu. I was also glad to be informed by Mudassar that I am the first Indian actor to play a Pakistani in the main lead.
I am just hoping that people across the border feel that aise log wakai exist kartein hain, as long as people feel ki aisa banda humne dekha hai, no matter whether they like or dislike him, you’re home, because you can relate to the character. That is what matters, nationality is not important here.
Ali Fazal (AF): I had to go through a bit of accent training, as I have never actually played a Punjabi character. I was always scared that I’ll be too loud, so I used to call Choocha (from Fukrey) all the time for reference.
The script and the costume really mattered since if you get into it literally is the skin of the character. More importantly I end up reading everybody’s dialogues, and I make sure that I know them better than mine, so it helps me a lot.
Diana Penty (DP): Happy is quite different from what I am in real life so it took me to work on a lot on it. I feel that it is not easy to be spontaneous and there was also that pressure thinking what if the audience doesn’t find it funny. I had to work on my Hindi, as it required that Punjabi touch, for which I was doing diction class every day.
Mudassar Aziz (MA): She might seem very sweet and docile here, but she is as robust a girl from within as is required to play Happy, she’s just being modest. I as a director feel so satisfied having cast the right Happy!
How was the experience shooting a part of the movie in Pakistan?
MA: People on both sides of the border are very welcoming. It is our job to respect the political stands of the countries as those in power of office have taken that stand on our behalf. We had a lovely experience. I loved the food and their hospitality. I would like to share a very surprising experience- while I was buying something at a pan ki dukan, the shopkeeper noticed some Indian notes in my wallet while I was paying him. He asked me, “Bhaijan aap Hindustan se hai?” Maine kahan “Ji”. Wahan paanch saath log aur khade the saath mein, to main thora ghabra gaya.
But he did not accept my money, even after insisting him to take the money he said a very sweet thing which made my eyes moist. He said, “Sir aap log ate hi kitna hai?”
You last film, Dulha Mil Gaya was also based on marriage. Why did you choose to make another film on marriage?
MA: This is a trial and error method! I guess we haven’t figured out marriage yet, hence the films are a way to understand the subject.
As a culture we are tied to relations... Our personality traits are created by the relationships which we are attached to, so eventually it all comes down to relations, be it marriage or friendship or the relation between siblings. And I can tell you ki aapko trailer se kai guna zyada hassi film dekh k ayegi!
How does it work out being both the director and the screenwriter?
MA: When as a writer I used to write films for other directors, what happened is that I often felt that I had interpreted a scene more beautifully, but when the scene was shot from the director’s point of view I did not like it much. On the other hand when you are just the director, seeing the writer’s perspective on a scene you may decide to make the scene even better with your personal inputs.
The problem with the writer-director is that there is no such filtering process, as it is coming from the same mind. So lots of times the fight is the objectivity to find out how much right you are. One of the advantages is that no one can shake your clarity, since you’d be sure of your perspective.
On what basis did you select your star cast?
MA: I chose them on the basis of who my Happy is the most, who my Bilal is the most, who my Guddu is the most...
Once when I had finished narrating to Diana, and was waiting at Anand ji’s compound with no reaction regarding our discussion, she was leaving. She stood with me for a couple of minutes on her way and told me, “You might think that my personality is far from your movie’s character but I am very hungry, and I am willing to give a 200%.” That is when I realised that what she told me was from Happy’s tongue! That’s how the decision was taken.
How did the topic of Happy Bhag Jayegi come to your mind?
MA: I was in Punjab once, when one day in the hotel room I was watching Henna, and suddenly I realised how beautifully the director had portrayed the strain of the relationship between the two nations through a socio political love saga, and I questioned myself that why hasn’t anyone thought of a humourous take on the relations between the two nations in all these years? The germ was set right then into my head and that is how the idea came to mind.
Who was the most fun person in the sets during the shoot?
DP: Jimmy and Ali (laughs)
AF: Jimmy has this poker face and he always used to play pranks on everyone He is always upto something, and I ended up being the bakhra usually. In fact there’s a scene in the film where they have taken the full liberty to stuff paranthas down my mouth!
Ali, we have seen you with ‘the guitar’ in 3 Idiots, Fukrey and now in Happy Bhag Jayegi. How much of musician are you in the real life?
AF: They’ve put in the poster with a guitar, I’ve only played it in one shot (laughs). Well, I love music, I appreciate it but you wouldn’t find me playing any instrument. But I guess I am cool that way (laughs)!
Diana, what characteristic of Happy would you like to have?
DP: Her impulsiveness. I think, like, 500 times before I do something, may be it would be more interesting to be sporty. I am very planned as a person quite different from what Happy is...
How was the overall experience shooting Happy Bhag Jayegi?
AF: You are going to walk out of the movie with something from it, you will leave with a Guddu, or a Bilal, or a Happy or a Bagga. That is what we loved while working, it does not happen during every film, as long as one connects with one of the characters it is good.
Anand ji would you like to make a biopic since the audience now is more inclined towards them?
Anand L Rai: I do not make a film thinking of what my audience wants now, but how I would reach the audience through my film. I look for an emotional connect and if I feel it then I might make a biopic one day. ‘Aisa nei hai ki mereko Batman banane ka mann nei karte, par banti nei mujhse.’
You were away from the silver screen for a few years, is this movie some sort of a come-back?
DP: I am really happy to be back with Happy Bhag Jayegi. It wasn’t a conscious decision to stay away but I was waiting for what I felt was right for me.
AD: It feels nice to be wanted... for the next 2-3 years I don’t want to stop, I’m looking forward to it and I’m keep my fingers crossed and putting my best efforts, Diana and I are on the same boat, it really feels great to be back.