How close is Laal Singh Chaddha to Forrest Gump, of which it is an adaptation?
We have tried to make it as close to Forrest Gump as possible, but it’s an Indianised version. Atul Kulkarni (scriptwriter) and Advait Chandan (director) have made a few changes, and we hope the audience loves it. The Hollywood version had a few adult scenes, but since we wanted to make a family film, we decided to do away with them. We wanted to retain the innocence of the character from the original version.
Did you actually grow a beard for the role?
I grew my beard six inches long. It took me almost six months. I met a Sardar at my gym and liked his look. I told him I wanted to have this look for my next film. I did grow a beard but also used extensions.
Your son Junaid gave screen tests for the film. What happened?
Junaid studied theatre at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and did plays for a year. I told Advait to shoot a few test scenes with him for the film to see if he could handle it. We made him Laal Singh Chaddha and he shot for two weeks. That helped us gauge what Junaid had learnt at school. He was so good as the character that I was in a dilemma if Junaid should do the film. I showed (the tests) to all my close friends who don’t give any leeway to my work. Only two people said no––Atul (Kulkarni) and Aditya Chopra. They said that since it was an episodic film, a newcomer should not do it. It’s a star vehicle, which is why it was Tom Hanks who played the role in the original.
How did you convince yourself for the role?
I prepped for the film, but it stayed in my mind that Laal is an innocent and pure character. I am 57 and an idealist. You learn a lot throughout life and that innocence does not remain. I had to finally use Junaid’s instincts for the role. I got the cue from his screen tests as Laal.
You are 57 and the character’s age spans from 18 to 50. What was the toughest part about it?
There were challenges during the run sequences. There were a lot of locations and I travelled a lot for one and half months. I don’t look 18, but the technical team has done an amazing job with de-ageing. What was difficult was to mentally prepare as an 18-year-old.
You made Kareena Kapoor Khan, who you are working with after 12 years, audition for her role. Why so, and how was it working together again?
I watched her for the first time in Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham and I loved her. Then I did 3 Idiots and Talaash with her. She gets into the character completely and is a fantastic actor. She has never given a screen test, but she agreed for this one because we wanted to see how she would look in the film. After we did a reading with her, both Advait andI realised that she was perfect for the role.
What qualities of Laal have impressed you?
He is innocent, doesn’t complain, and knows how to leave the past behind. If anyone speaks ill of him, he keeps quiet. He knows that you can’t rewind the past. A lot of us don’t accept that. Even if he feels bad, he just moves on with life. His mother has taught him that. My relationship with my Ammi has been the same. That’s why I could relate to the film. I have learnt a lot in life because of her.
Are you doing Kiran Rao’s next film, Lapata Ladki?
I gave a screen test for it, but she rejected me. Both of us felt that I was not the right fit for the role. I was also busy with Laal, so we decided that if she cannot find anyone, I will be there as a backup.
Have you ever faced rejections in your career?
I don’t like rejections; they upset me. I was rejected from a Hindi play during my intercollege years, but when I went out, I saw a notice on the board about a Gujarati play. They wanted chorus players.
I said to myself, “Don’t give up.” I went and auditioned for the Gujarati play.
Do you plan to launch Junaid soon?
He doesn’t want me to launch him. He is making his own career.