Sidharth Malhotra reveals he's trying to return to films with pan-Indian appeal, like Marjaavaan and Shershah
Sidharth Malhotra discusses the recent spate of flops he has faced, and why Marjaavaan, an unapologetic masala film, could change his fate at the box office.
Sidharth Malhotra was seen in an action avatar earlier in Ek Villain (2014), Brothers (2015), and A Gentleman (2017), it will be far more intense in his new release, Marjaavaan, Milap Zaveri’s romantic actioner, a throwback to the masala action films of the '80s.
“There is a slight look of Ek Villain and Brothers in Marjaavaan but we have taken it a notch higher. I have a director who was totally convinced. It is made for the specific cinema-loving audience. We are looking forward to how this risk pans off on 15 November,” says Sidharth.
Sidharth essays a leather jacket and bandana-sporting toughie, who falls in love with a speech-impaired girl (Tara Sutaria). But soon enters the the ‘menacing’ and 'murderous' gangster-dwarf (played by Riteish Deshmukh), leading to violence, street brawls, and face-off between the two actors.
With his last four to five films doing poor business at the box office, success has been eluding Sidharth for some time now. The actor has decided to take some measures that could help him reinvent. “I will now concentrate more on pan-India films, and Marjaavan and my next release Shershaah (set in the '90s during the Kargil war, Sidharth portrays war hero Captain Vikram Batra) are more under that category. For now, I am hungry for these kind of films. I want to venture into something that connects me to much bigger audience, which doesn’t necessarily mean the mass audience, but the subject. So it can even be a family subject catering to the middle-class India. That is what is at the back of my mind right now,” he says.
For Marjaavaan, Sidharth approached writer-turned-filmmaker Zaveri (dialogue writer of Ek Villain), fresh off the blockbuster success of John Abraham-led Satyamev Jayate. The actor, who is known for his suave, urban, and affable persona, threw himself into the masala potboiler, the genre Zaveri is at ease with and deals with conviction.
“My director says Ek Villain and Brothers is my audience but I have made the mistake of staying away from them. I feel chalo der aaye durust aaye (better late than never). So I am back with a bang, double the dhamaka, double the action, double the intensity. But I genuinely enjoy action. I am a big fan of this genre of big action films. It was a matter of getting the correct script with enough meat to make an entertainer. Then, of course, there was Milap Zaveri’s dialoguebaazi, and his treatment to the film. So we decided to make a love story which was slightly more of '70s and '80s kind of cinema. That larger-than-life aura used to happen in the past, and not now. We have tried to recreate it in our own way, and create a very intense love story with that kind of flavour. So far we are happy with the response,” says Sidharth.
However, Sidharth feels it was tough to pull off the 'Angry Young Man' persona in contemporary times, and considering his personality, it was a bigger challenge. “But there is a risk factor in every film. Which film is safe? This one needs a lot of conviction to pull off, and it’s all about the attitude and the personality to stand on screen, and bring out the anger and style. I’ve been a fan of Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Deol, and Sanjay Dutt, so that helps me believe in this cinema, and I also feel that Indian audiences love this kind of cinema,” he says.
“But I have always played characters that weren’t so easy. For instance, the script of Baar Baar Dekho was very challenging to narrate. Same goes with A Gentleman, and same happens with Marjaavaan. I love surprising the audience with a role that I haven’t done before. Even my attempt to do Jabariya Jodi, to have that language, diction, and lehja is exciting as an actor. The film performing or not is a different conversation,” he adds.
Sidharth may have had certain reservations with the massy dialogues of Zaveri in the beginning but he eventually surrendered himself to his director. “At heart, Milap is a dialogue writer, and then the director. We used to have lot of discussions, and I would ask Milap many questions on what many of those dialogues meant and why say it, and he would get really stressed out explaining or at times changing the language. I used to alter a few things to make it more palatable for people, besides for my own comfort. Sometimes, you don’t want to sound so convoluted that it is not understood. We have creative freedom with Milap, not that he would always listen to me,” he laughs.
“And then, I realised,” Sidharth continues, “This is what I signed up for, and you have to eventually give in. This is the zone and sur of the film, and you have to give mass masala Milap full freedom (laughs). Even in this loud film, I felt less is more. We had an element of a matchstick that this character has, and though he doesn’t smoke, he uses it at a very important part of the film. All these elements come from lot of discussion and planning, which I have not done in the past for my films. It is great to create a character. What you see in the trailer, you will get 10 times more in the film. There is an audience for this kind of cinema, and we are catering to them for a change.”
Marjaavaan was also a different experience for Sidharth as both his co-stars play unique parts. “My heroine is speech-impaired, and there is absolutely no dialogue between us. There was no give-and-take, and there were a lot of hand gestures and eye contact. Then, I got half of Riteish this time (laughs out loud). But don’t get fooled by his size. He is more menacing and villainous than what he played in Ek Villain. But it was very odd to have this pairing with an antagonist, who is vertically challenged. We are both in different avatars. In Ek Villain, I was slightly grey shade but this time, it was more good versus evil. To shoot with him was tedious because of technology since we had to use green screens. I couldn’t look into his eyes, and I almost looked at his crotch level and say the lines so it was very distracting for a hero to say threatening lines like, Main maroonga marr jayega (laughs heartily). Sometimes he would be on his knees looking up to me, and at times, he wouldn’t be there, and I had to say lines to the green screen in thin air because we had to make him into a dwarf. But Riteish, this time, is very entertaining, very menacing, and he is a big highlight. People will enjoy his new avatar,” says Sidharth.
While the actor does admit it hurts after a string of flops, he also hopes that he will not repeat the same mistakes, “wherever I have control over a project". "For example, the release date of Aiyaary (directed by Neeraj Pandey) was pushed multiple times, and there were a lot of tussles and ups and downs with other releases like Padmaavat and Padman, so that was a learning which comes from experience.
"Yes, definitely it hurts as a creative person, and you want your film to be accepted, liked, and also make money at the box office. With every film that doesn’t go your way, I have learnt something about every department, be it changing the release date, having the correct trailer, sometimes music, sometimes production, and for me, as an outsider, it is a great experience. I feel like an outsider not in a sense how people are treating me but in the sense of being alien to having an understanding of the business of cinema,” he clarifies.
“My last release, Jabariya Jodi, in the last five to six days, my producers and distributors decided to shift the release date, which I think was not wise. Again, trusting them that they would know better but that wasn’t the case. Of course, collectively creatively something must have been lacking in the film but the fact is we got only six days of free release days. So it is important to have the correct backing from the producer, distributor, and by everyone as a team that they want to present the film correctly. That is again the learning. But I don’t want to dwell over it for too long because I am back with another film. It is a new beginning.”
Sounding least perturbed about the debacles, he signs off saying, “If you see any superstar’s career, they only have a handful of films that have gone their way completely. The success to not-so-hit ratio is very uneven. So I think there is also the learning from that when I chat with them. The only solution is to keep working and looking forward, and not let failures hamper your choices for the present."
All images from YouTube.
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