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Shaken & Stirred

Team ABCD 2 – Amrita Pandey, VP and Head, Marketing and Distribution, Studios, Disney India; directorRemo D’Souza; and leading pair Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor – in conversation with team Box Office India

Box Office India (BOI): Remo, this is your baby. Did you take this sequel to another level or did Disney want you to take it to another level?
Remo D’Souza (RD): No, actually it was the story that demanded that I go to that level. The film is based on the real life of Fictitious Dance Group. So it is a true story about these boys from Nallasopara, who went to Las Vegas. So we had to shoot in Vegas. That is why the scale looks so big.

BOI: You could have opted to cast new faces. Why Varun (Dhawan) and Shraddha (Kapoor)?
RD: Good question.
Shraddha Kapoor (SK): Everyone is asking this same question.
RD: In the first one, I had dancers and I made them act. So, for the second installment, I thought I would take actors and make them dance.
SK: And by that he means me. (Laughs)
Varun Dhawan (VD): He means both of us. The level of dancing you see in this film is something you have not seen in any Hindi film so far.
SK: Yes, you have seen Varun dance but never like this.
VD: And you have never seen me dance with her.
SK: And you have not seen me dance at all. (Laughs)
RD: Jokes apart, I wanted someone who could perform for the character Suresh that Varun plays. Acting-wise, it is a very strong role and it called for someone who was not only a good dancer but someone who could also perform. As there are a lot of emotions in the scenes, whether Suresh and his mother or Suresh and Vinnie or Suresh with his team and Suresh with Vishnu sir. There was so much happening in this character’s life, so many ups and downs, that I needed an actor who could emote the part.

BOI: In the first part, we saw the dance connection with Ganpati Bappa, and in this part we see the dance connection with the mother.
RD: Bappa is there in this part too. What can I say… I cannot complete my film without Bappa. But, yes, this one has a very strong mother-son emotion angle. Suresh sab kuch dekh sakta hai but apni maa ka sar sharam se jhuk jae ye nahi dekh sakta.

BOI: Did you add the mother-son element to the story or does that also mirror real-life?
RD: It was already there but we did dramatise it a bit. Suresh loves his mother a lot so we took inspiration from him. We did embellish the part for the big screen.

BOI: Varun, what was your reaction when he came to you with the film?
VD: I was very excited. Tusar Hiranandani, who has written the film, had told me about the film before they approached me. But Tushar played a game with me. He asked me to refuse the part, saying I would not be able to dance at that level. That made me very angry. So when Remo came to me with the film, he showed me a video of the group’s journey to Vegas. I was taken aback and asked if the film would look like that. The level of dance was not just filmy solo steps; it was a massive new canvas and the group Fictitious was involved. I said ‘yes’ without a second thought. He said he (Suresh) shares a very special relationship with his mother and after her, it was Sharaddha’s character Vinnie that he was close to. He said he gets very aggressive if anyone says anything about either Vinnie or his mother. He added that there is a way to express aggression and one of them is through dance. He said, ‘We dance to express,
not impress.’

BOI: We have seen Varun dance but not Sharddha. What made you approach her for the role?
RD: I had never seen her dance; only Varun had. It was he who said that Shraddha could dance and that we should give her a chance. I agreed and we met at a small dance rehearsal hall. She sure had a passion for dance, and I told her all she needed to do was maintain that level of passion. And she did.

SK: I couldn’t let this film slip away. When Varun told me about it, I made up my mind that I had to learn proper dance moves. It was a challenge that I had to pull off. I didn’t want to get in to something and later end up hiding. Also, actors don’t often get the chance to be a part of a dance-based film. You get to do filmy dance moves but not professional-level dance. Opportunities like these are rare.

BOI: Both of you had to match steps with professional dancers…
VD: (Cuts in) These boys are amazing. There is Dharmesh (Yelande), Punit (Pathak), Raghav (Juyal), and Sushant (Pujari) and they are all amazing. I have known them from television. Their videos on YouTube have so many hits and they have a massive fan following. In fact he (Remo) told us at the very outset that these guys were outstanding and could easily outshine us. And this is not a film where they had to dance in the background; they were actors. But I think Shraddha and I were up to the challenge. These boys have been amazing and they have taught us as well and helped us with our steps. As a team, it was very important to have all our steps in sync. I am very proud of our film and can’t wait for June 19. We launched the song Chunar earlier this week and I saw the song in 3D for the first time and it looked fabulous.

BOI: Disney stands for a certain kind of brands. How does ABCD 2 fit into the parameters of a Disney branded film?
AP: Brand Disney stands for certain kind of movies that highlight strong storytelling combined with the element of fun, heart and ABCD 2 is one of those movies, which has a story so inspiring that it’s almost magical. While residing on the premise of a certain value system, which is at the core of all Indian families, it showcases key themes like the amazing journey of an underdog dance troupe, the relationships between a teacher and his protégé, a mother and son and friendship. It is a very family friendly film, which caters to a vast cross section of audience, ranging from kids to adults. ABCD 2 is one such story, which is inspiring and will strike a chord with the audiences, which is why we are calling it a perfect Disney branded movie.

BOI: The first part was a hit and had the advantage of zero expectations. This one has pedigree and it features stars. Is there much more pressure attached to its release?
RD: I see little kids who recite lines from the first film.
VD: (Cuts in) I am one of them.
RD: They know the first part and they are going to see whether the second installment outshines the first one. Is film ko kitna upar leke gaye hai hum, this is what the audience will see. And now you have Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor. No one knows that I signed Varun right after Student Of The Year. So, yes, there is pressure.

BOI: Do you think it is a big responsibility for both of you?
SK: They are too nice.
VD: Collectively, it is our biggest budget film. Technically, neither Shraddha nor I have gone to America to shoot a film. On a serious note, it is the biggest film either of us has done. I am just glad it is with people who are chilled out because some directors can be difficult whereas Remo is very accessible.

SK: Oh God!
VD: No, I mean there are many types of people here. In this industry, everyone is in such a hurry, to either start a film, complete a film, release a film or to promote a film. They are always chasing deadlines and I wonder why. We don’t know what will happen in life but everyone is still in such a rush. Remo is a very calm person and that had a calming effect on me too. I have never subscribed to the philosophy that good things come to good people. But Dinoo (Dinesh Vijan) used to say this to me when I would ask him to make sure the release of the film is executed properly. And he would say, ‘No I will spoil it on purpose. I am the producer and I want my film to flop.’ (Laughs)
He would say, stop thinking so much, we all want good things for our film. I have always had trust issues. After working with Dinoo in Badlapur, and after working with a guy like Remo, I have built trust and have started surrendering myself way more than I usually would to producers, directors to people who are involved in the film. There are lots of good people in this industry and by rushing, we spoil things. Successful people are the ones who don’t rush.

BOI: You have three open weeks after the film’s release as there is no big release till Eid.
AP: The best timing after the summer vacations. This is the time when colleges are just opening; some people are still in holiday mode, youngsters are coming out, children’s schools are opening. It’s an amazing time because of that but also the fact that it’s an anticipated film. So we wanted to get the right time. We got enough dates to promote our film. She will be seen after a kickass performance in Haider, while his last film was Badlapur, again a mind-blowing performance. So it’s not only the pressure of ABCD; it’s also about their last releases.
VD: I want to make a confession… I didn’t realize how big a star she was before working with her. I don’t think anyone else has had their songs do as well as hers in recent times. The love she has got for Tum hi ho continues even now. So all eyes were on Shraddha. The audience loves you for the characters you play. Her presence in the film will definitely have a big impact.

BOI: From the technical point of view, it’s the first 3D film you have acted in together. Did that demand changes in your approach to the way you perform?
VD: I would actually copy Remo sir. So, for instance, he would narrate the script and I would ask him how to do. I would then try and copy the way he used to enact the scenes.
RD: It took time when we were shooting the first part because it was the first time we were experiencing 3D technology. The guys from Los Angeles used to say ‘one minute’, which used to invariably turn into one hour. My cinematographer (Vijay Kumar Arora) and I used to wonder what was happening… there were so many cameras and so many cables. For eight days, we were clueless to what was happening. On the ninth day, I decided I couldn’t shoot like this. And we realised 3D required more time and also two-three takes and more technology. So we approached ABCD 2 like champs… me, my cinematographer and my team knew everything and we shot in our Indian way. So we shot the way one shoots a regular film.

BOI: How does 3D help a film like ABCD 2?
RD: In many ways. After you watch ABCD 2 in 2D and then in 3D, you will realise what it adds to a film like this. It adds a lot of emotion and a lot of depth.
SK: (Cuts in) It brings out Varun’s eight-pack.
RD: It’s like the Grand Canyon has come alive. It looks out of this world, and while watching it you feel you’re actually there. In 2D, you don’t get that feeling; it’s flat.
VD: I remember when we started shooting she (Shraddha) gave the first shot, a 3D shot where she opens the door. I was so jealous!
SK: (Laughs) You were jealous?
VD: That was the only thing I was jealous about.
SK: (Cuts in) But that was just a normal shot.
VD: I know, you just open the door, but it was the first 3D shot. That scene is of her hand reaching out for the door so you can actually see these two hands coming towards you. It’s that 3D effect. There was this 3D village close to the sets where you can watch 3D shots. While shooting, I thought it was a normal scene, where she just opens the door. But when I saw it in 3D, I was so jealous because in 3D, we actors can’t judge our performances. Even in a small scene, you don’t know how it has come out. A scene where you are offering a cake looks so amazing in 3D because it’s in your face.

BOI: Ticket rates will also be typically higher?
AP: Yes, but that is to cover the 3D glasses. And we would love the family audience to watch our film, we want youngsters and children to watch our film. 

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