Kiara Advani on first major solo lead in Kabir Singh, breakthrough from Lust Stories, and upcoming projects
'Karan Johar saw it in me before anyone did and offered Lust Stories,' says Kiara Advani, who will next be seen opposite Shahid Kapoor in Kabir Singh.
Kiara Advani’s career seems to be getting stable. Her debut film Fugly (2014) fizzled out without any noise but she was noticed in the 2016 hit, Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. Then, the Abbas-Mustan-directed Time Machine fell flat but Karan Johar’s Lust Stories on Netflix became a turning point in her career. She also enjoyed the Telugu hit Bharat Ane Nenu with Mahesh Babu. This was followed by a special appearance in Dharma Productions' Kalank, including the chartbuster 'First Class' alongside Varun Dhawan, which definitely gave her more recognition.
Kiara is now busy with the promotions of Kabir Singh (Hindi remake of Sandeep Reddy Vanga's superhit Arjun Reddy), co-starring Shahid Kapoor, which can be called her first big film as the solo female lead. That is not all. Kiara has a busy year as she will be seen in Dharma Productions’ Good News, also starring Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh. In 2020, she is paired opposite Akshay in Laxmmi Bomb (Hindi adaptation of the hit Tamil horror comedy Kanchana). The biopic of late Indian Army captain Vikram Batra, titled Shershaah, with Sidharth Malhotra, and as a feisty girl in coming-of-age comedy Indoo Ki Jawani are some of her other releases next year. Excerpts from a chat with the ever smiling and driven actress below.
Your life seems to have changed drastically with so many back-to-back projects.What do you feel about this progression?
Yes, life has become really busy. I am working hard and I value these opportunities coming my way. Lust Stories was a stepping stone to strong performance-oriented roles and I feel that definitely made people realise, ‘Hey, she can act’. It opened many doors as lot of people appreciated and called me. It was an important career change in my life.
Talking about Kabir Singh, have you seen the original Arjun Reddy?
Of course, I saw the film before I was offered Kabir Singh and it was only after I signed the film, I decided not to watch it again because we wanted to add our own originality and perspective yet holding on to the core emotion that the film envisions. My character is very simple, demure and there is a lot of thehrav (stillness). It is very different from me the real person because I am very extroverted, very animated and expressive in my conversation. She belongs to an orthodox family who has probably been told to speak when spoken to. Kabir is her first boyfriend she has ever had. But in real life, my world is totally different because I have great equations with my parents, and I can tell them anything and everything. I had to forget Kiara and believe with conviction that Preeti exists.
The minute I got into this character, I internalised everything. I had to learn that body language as well. It was difficult with stronger silences. I had to convey a lot through my eyes. My performance is very subtle and nuanced. There is so much emotion that you almost start believing in it and it gets difficult to come out of it. When I finished the schedule and returned to Mumbai, it took me a few days to detach from Preeti.
Tell us about Shahid as a co-star?
For a role like this, I needed to feed off my co-star and with someone like Shahid, it made my work interesting and easy as well. Even after so many years in the industry he still has that childlike enthusiasm. He would even take my suggestions for his scenes. He is as vulnerable. We needed our kind of chemistry for this love story. When we had certain heavy intense scenes, we’d get straight into action and then communicate during the take. I feel Kabir is one of his best. He’s put his heart and soul into the film.
Don’t you think that the film kind of celebrates a man who goes on a self-destructive path?
Kabir loves selflessly and his anger destroys him, and the decisions that he makes affects the others. But as a lover, Kabir is very passionate, protective and to be in love with someone who is so pure, passionate... that is why Arjun Reddy was so loved because the way he loved Preeti. Unfortunately, he goes into self-destruction mode because of the heartbreak. When you are in a relationship, you can’t judge the person. You need to help them through things. In real life, it would be great if I was in a relationship with an overprotective person but I wouldn’t want them to harm themselves. Through this film, we are trying to say do not go on a self-destruction path as it is not good for you and your loved ones. We are not celebrating that or glamourising that in any way. The film also tells you that he is flawed. One should not do what Kabir is doing.
Is it different to work with directors from South?
Sandeep sir is very passionate about this story and I don’t think anyone else could have made this film. He is the original Kabir Singh. It is drawn from his own personal life so it is only him who can understand and tell the way he wants to. But I have worked in two South films with two renowned directors and my experience has been incredible. They are thorough professionals and disciplined.
You have two films coming up with Akshay Kumar – Good News and Laxmmi Bomb. How excited are you?
My life has come full circle because Akshay sir launched me with Fugly. While we had an incredible journey with Good News, I am looking forward to be on the sets of Laxmmi Bomb. We have done one schedule and we plan to start the second in August. I feel only Raghava Lawrence could have directed the film.
There is so much competition between star kids and talent from outside of the film industry. Does it bother you?
I am someone who gets inspired by the performance of peers or actors who push the envelope because on one hand, it is good for cinema and on the other, (it is) inspiration for you to try something out of your comfort zone. It is an interesting phase and audience, too, wants to see new faces, new energy, and there is enough content for all of us to co-exist. I have been lucky that all the films that I have done or have signed are all very different and not stereotyped. Nobody has put me in a box as yet and also without trying much, getting these opportunities is great. Filmmakers are able to see me play the characters that they are writing which are all different from each other. I am looking forward to audience response towards me.
Lust Stories was a bold choice and now, a lot is being written about your kissing scene in Kabir Singh. How do you react to all the attention?
Lust Stories was a brave opportunity, and I am glad that people took it in the right spirit and sense. The best compliment that I got was from women themselves. Women supporting women is great. It was done aesthetically. It was an innocent girl’s character in a brave and bold subject. I look at the kissing scenes as any emotion, or comedy or action scene. I don’t know why so much unnecessary attention is being given to it when it is such a normal thing when you are in love. We are living in the 21st century. I really find it amusing. There is so much more to look for in the film than just a kissing scene.
You must have had your own struggle. But how do you react when people say that it was easy for you since your family is friends with certain film families?
Before I debuted with Fugly I was aspiring to be an actor, and I always thought that the toughest thing was to get your first break and then the second and third would follow. But when my struggle continued, I realised how volatile the industry was that you don’t know what your next job is. When my first film didn’t do well, lot of people didn’t know that Fugly was my debut. They thought MS Dhoni was my first film. After Fugly I started panicking wondering what do I do now, where was my career going, will I get another opportunity or not. But my family supported me and saw to it that I don’t give up. They pushed me for auditions, workshops, training and wanted me to work hard on myself because when you get another opportunity, you should be prepared for it. Nobody is going to come to your house and give it to you on a platter, they repeatedly told me. MS Dhoni was the first film that drew me closer to the audience, and Karan Johar saw it in me before anyone did and offered Lust Stories. That just changed everything for me and people saw me as an actor. The same people who were not interested in meeting me back then were the ones to call and appreciate my work.
You seem to be risk taker. Am I right in my assessment?
Till now, I have done everything very instinctively. Even though Abbas-Mustan film, Time Machine, didn’t do well, I have no regrets. I wanted to work with them because they come from a completely different school of filmmaking. When I go to small towns, it is that film people have seen on television. So there is an audience for every single film. You never know what clicks. I believe that it is work that brings work. I am also realistic about things. Even my films down South took me to a wider audience. I would love to do at least one film in South every year. I would love to be a pan-India actor.
All images from Twitter.
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