For a team trying to promote a film titled Nautanki Sala, the conversation would also naturally flow in the same vein. And as cliched as that may be, director Rohan Sippy and actor Ayushmann Khurrana definitely entertain, leaving us wondering how good the film could actually be.
In the city on Friday, the director and lead actor of the movie sat down to fielded questions about their upcoming project and the quips kept coming, starting with the trailer. With the last scene of the trailer ending with Ayushmann and co-star Pooja Selvi in a lip-lock, Sippy said, “It’s probably one of the longest lip lock scenes you’ve seen,” as an embarrassed Ayushmann buried his face in his palms.
Emerging from his drug war-based Dum Maaro Dum, which starred Tollywood actor Rana Daggubati, Sippy’s latest is a subtle comedy about two men and of course, a love story. “The film is about two people -- one a suicidal prone lost soul and the other, a theatre artiste who tries to help this struggling man. He holds his breath in and is constantly trying to deal with his bungling friend,” explained the director whose earlier movies include Bluffmaster and Kuch Na Kaho, with long-time friend and actor Abhishek Bachchan. So how did it feel to not make a film with his best pal? He smiled sheepishly and said, “Well, he does a cameo in the film,” before adding, “But it’s nice to have him on board.”
The film also features Kunaal Roy Kapoor as the lead and Evelyn Sharma along with Pooja Selvi. With Kunaal starring as the other pivotal role in Nautanki Sala, the question had to be asked, who of the two is which? Promplty replying, Ayushmann said, “I’m Nautanki and Kunaal’s the sala. He’s actually more, he’s devar, Vidya’s devar!”
Taking theatre as the premise to the movie, there’s plenty of theatrics at hand, not just on stage but off it. Explaining why he chose Nautanki Sala to be so, Rohan said, “There is a lot of symbolism of theatre in life and that was what I wanted to show. I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare in Love and the costumes. Plus it also gave me the excuse to dress Ayushmann in weird clothes.” Ayushamann, a theatre artiste himself, said it was a homecoming of sorts. “I like to do films that are close to home. In Vicky Donor I played a Punjabi, which I am. In Nautanki Sala I play a theatre artiste and in my next, I’ll be playing a struggling actor which I am now. But playing a theatre artiste in a film is tough; you don’t have to be that loud, there’s a lot more subtlety involved, etc. But it was great to get back on stage.”
Telling us more about his character he said, “I play Ram, a theatre actor and director who saves this man Mandar Lele (Kunaal). Lele has a suicidal tendency and I try to give him a reason to live. However, in our theatre production Ravan Leela, I play Ravan and that just goes to show that there are shades of grey to life.”
Starting his career as radio jockey before moving to anchoring TV shows, Ayushmann’s first claim to fame was winning Roadies seasons 2. In the 10 years since, the 28-year old has finally managed to break into films. Asked if he maybe started too young, or if maybe a few years back and forth would’ve made a difference, he replied.
“I can’t help but give the cliched answer I was at the right place at the right time. I was into radio when it was booming, I was anchoring when there was a dearth of anchors and then looking at me on TV was how I was cast for Vicky Donor. Acting was what I’ve always wanted to do and have been part of theatre through college. I did what I had to do to get there because I don’t have a godfather in the industry. Theatre and television is slightly more democratic and has less nepotism.”
But Sippy quipped in with a slightly different perspective. “When you are older, there’s a certain maturity that you bring to the character and that’s what as a director I would look for.” Does that explain why there’s been quite a few years gap between his films? “Dum Maaro Dum was just two years ago! But yeah, the others was because I’m lazy and unproductive. This is a sign of improvement though!”
While Ayushmann plays the grounded Good Samaritan of sorts, Kunaal’s Mandar Lele shows shades of Zach Galifianakis. When quizzed, Sippy conceded there were certain similarities, but just in shades. “In fact, he was a beard-full more similar in Delhi Belly. But we toned it down for the film.”