Kartik Aaryan on Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2: ‘Akshay Kumar has been a superstar since I started watching Hindi films; comparisons with him is unfair’
In conversation with actor Kartik Aaryan on the release of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, his journey in the entertainment industry, dealing with controversies and the negativities around it.
Kartik Aaryan -- one of the most sought-after heroes in B-town -- is living his dream. He has clocked over a decade in the movie business; success may have taken its own time to reach his doorstep but, by his own admission, his perseverance, patience, confidence, ambition and drive paid off. He stepped into Bollywood debut with comedies and romcoms like Luv Ranjan’s Pyaar Ka Punchnama series followed by Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Luka Chuppi with which he hit the limelight. He also starred in Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal, opposite Sara Ali Khan. But when he was loved in an intense role with grey shades in his last release Ram Madhvani helmed Dhamaka, it opened many doors for Aaryan as an actor. It gave him the confidence to go more versatile and show his craft in different genres to establish himself as a more capable actor than he has so far been credited for.
However, Aaryan, who is extremely popular among the youth, understands that fame and success are transient. “If you take them too seriously, it might become difficult to survive when it goes away. Never let them affect you,” he says. Aaryan will be stepping into many uncharted territories going further and has quite a few stellar line up of films in the pipeline. He will soon be seen in Rohit Dhawan’s Hindi remake of the Allu Arjun’s Telugu blockbuster Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo titled Shehzada with Kriti Sanon. Then there is Hansal Mehta’s Captain India, an action-drama inspired by true events; Ekta Kapoor’s Freddy, a romantic thriller with Alaya F and a few more untitled ones. But as of now the actor is excited about Anees Bazmi’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (releasing on 20 May) sequel to Priyadarshan directed, and Akshay Kumar-Vidya Balan starrer that hit the screens in 2007. Excerpts from a chat with Aaryan:
We have seen your comic side in many of your earlier films. Now how was it combining comedy with horror in ?
You will love me in horror also. I would call it a roller-coaster ride. It may be my first horror-comedy but overall it is a family entertainer. I think it will bring back the family audience to theatres. I enjoy watching horror movies and that too alone (laughs). I like comedies but this one is a great balance because I had to bring that element of thrill also. There is a lot of excitement. This probably can be called the first larger-than-life horror comedy. Lot of people are saying good things about the film, the trailer has had a good response. We are taking a big franchise further. I had a great experience because the team is very elaborate and versatile. I have worked with such a big team for the first time.
It is a no-brainer that you must have jumped when you were offered since it is a big franchise but then as you have yourself said you have big shoes to fill in. Comparisons with Akshay Kumar who is undoubtedly one of the best we have in comedy, is inevitable. Is there stress on that front?
Definitely, it is big shoes to fill in but there is no stress. If I get an opportunity like this I would want to grab it and work hard towards it. I am happy the kind of response the trailer and songs are getting which validates the whole thing. But the comparison is unfair, Akshay sir has been a superstar since I started watching Hindi films, so I can’t think of any comparison with him. I hope when the film comes out the audience sees it as a different film which it is and they see it in a new light.
The film has taken a long time in the making, almost two-and-a-half years…were there any changes made to the script?
No, we didn’t make any changes; we went on to make what we had planned because we believed in it. It took that long because of the pandemic. The moment we started filming there was a lock down and we didn’t shoot for almost a year. Then there was second wave, third wave, and I and few others were tested positive and hence there have been a lot of gaps but hats off to the team that they completed the film. There was a lot of money involved and that could lead into a very confusing state. Now when I see great reactions and feedback I feel it was worth it.
Your last release Dhamaka where you played a disgraced news anchor and not that typical conventional hero, was appreciated and that paid off. The film was trending in the Top 5 Non-English Films worldwide on Netflix. Do you think a quintessential Bollywood hero has changed?
I think the audience for such films has increased. If you put a quintessential hero in a good story it will work. It has come down to the story and if that doesn’t work for the audience then nothing will work whether conventional or unconventional. What works is content and if the story is bringing engagement then all kinds of set up will work. A Dhamaka is an unconventional film to do and a character to play and it worked wonders for me. The film opened so many doors for me as an actor. I believe in a good story. I think I have maintained a good balance between different genres but I try to choose good scripts rather than choose genres. It is not about genres but it is about great scripts. If I get back-to-back romantic scripts or comedies and if the scripts are good I will do it.
As we all know, now the lines are blurred, and actors, filmmakers today have the choice of doing films for OTT or theatres and considering the audience has been watching such varied fare, how has your choice in selecting scripts changed?
My thinking is a bit different on this. I am among the audience that watches a lot of films and I never thought that I would make this for this set of audience. Yes, I can choose the platform, theatre or OTT but I never thought that the audience evolved only in the last two to three years. I feel the audience has always been watching and has always been smart, Hollywood films were always available. Maybe now people have more access to all kinds of cinema but they have always been watching South films, Hollywood films... Good content has always worked. So I don’t believe that audience’ palette has changed but yes, there is now more acceptance of different kinds of content. Bad films never worked and it will never work. Audience has always been smart, we are also the consumers and we enjoy good and discard bad stuff. It is only about that. The criteria will always remain the same.
But are you happy with the scripts offered to you? Are there enough good scripts?
(Laughs-out-loud) Let them bring good scripts to me and I will read. Now maybe because of many platforms and so many avenues a lot of things have changed. Work has increased many folds for actors, directors and all creative people which is enriching and good.
What are your thoughts on the current craze for South films that are having massive footfalls nationwide and even worldwide? You are also doing the Hindi remake of Telugu hit Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo which was headlined by Allu Arjun…
Films become hit and flop everywhere, in all film industries, it is not that it is flopping only here. The rule is the same, whatever is good is working here. Sooryavanshi and Gangubai Kathiawadi worked. A film has to be good and it will work. Now how do I compare…? (Laughs) It is difficult to compare (different film industries) in words. We keep remaking each other’s films. South remakes Bollywood films, we remake theirs’ and this will keep happening. It depends upon the director and people associated with the film what changes are they making in the film they want to remake. Many times you like the concept and decide to remake in your own style which can also be interesting and fun. It is not that you make frame for frame.
Does box office collection give you jitters? It's after a long gap that you will have a box office release...
I am actually excited because after over two years I will have a box office release and I am looking forward to it. My expectations are high and I want the box office figures to get bigger and better. Dhamaka was on a streaming platform and I was also in a different zone then since I was making my debut on a streaming platform. I wanted that one to be dhamakedaar and now I want dhamaka in terms of box office.
Any director that you would like to work with? And do you go all out in approaching those directors?
I really want to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. If I love someone’s work and I want to work with them, I would love to approach them. Earlier I used to be very shy but now I am not.
Do you miss doing things in life that you would do earlier?
Even now I am having fun doing things that I did earlier. I play football, I go out and eat pani puri, pav bhaji, so I don’t miss anything from what I was doing in the past just that at times when I am dining with my family…now I love clicking pictures with fans, I love engaging with them…but that is the only time when I am out with family I can’t have privacy with people crowding …and that private family moment I miss.
Is it a conscious decision to stay grounded? Do you consciously work on it or is it an inherent nature?
That is how I am. That is the kind of thinking I have always had. I come from a background...I come from the small town Gwalior, it is my real life story, I don’t have to do anything different consciously. I feel like playing football but it happens that where I go there are photographers. Now I don’t look good 24/7 .. and they fill the YouTube with football matches, you can’t be conscious all the time. But this is part and parcel of my profession, you have to live with it.
Do you feel like a star?
(Thinks hard) I think I am a fan-made star (laughs).
It has been over 10 years that you have been part of the industry? Do you think the industry has embraced you or do you still feel like an outsider?
No, I don’t feel like an outsider, I feel like family. Film industry is like an extended family for me. I don’t feel that I am any different. I am really happy. You can see it with the kind of films that I am doing and with the kind of makers I am working with. If I was treated like an outsider then I wouldn’t have gotten these big offers. I am blessed to be working with the producers, directors I want to work with and with the kind of films I am doing or that I want to, all that is happening. I feel very much like a part of this industry. But yes, to survive and to keep it going will always be a challenge for everyone. Entering the industry was a big struggle and then to consistently maintain and reach a position it is like a long journey where you have seen the entire biopic (laughs). If you think about it, maintaining your stardom is difficult. People used to talk about their journey and I would hear but now I am experiencing it myself.
How do you deal with controversies and negativity around you? Some time back it was suggested that you had a fallout with Karan Johar over Dostana 2 and recently it was alleged that you had threatened to quit Shehzada ...?
I gather all my energy into my work. Work, I believe, speaks volume. It is always about your actions rather than your words. This is how I have always led my life and I believe in it. I have always gotten fruitful results with this attitude and outlook and that is how I will proceed further in life and career.
How do you deal with failure of your movies?
If a film doesn’t work I start thinking and analysing why it didn’t work and if I can change something in my next film. That is normal human behaviour. But many times you get so attached to your film that you lose your objectivity but I do analyse. But there is no drastic change because as soon as you get another good project you get into a different mood (laughs).
Many actors/stars are doing web series, will you take the plunge?
If it is a good one, why not?
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 releases in cinemas on 20 May
Seema Sinha is a Mumbai-based mainstream entertainment journalist who has been covering Bollywood and television industry for over two decades. Her forte is candid tell-all interviews, news reporting and newsbreaks, investigative journalism and more. She believes in dismissing what is gossipy, casual, frivolous and fluff.
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