INTERVIEW: ‘12th Fail has given my career a re-start’, says Actor Harish Khanna

Khanna has previously worked in films like 7 Khoon Maaf, Kaminey, and Gangs of Wasseypur.

Published: 18th November 2023 01:11 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th November 2023 01:11 PM   |  A+A-

Actor Harish Khanna

Actor Harish Khanna

Express News Service

Actor Harish Khanna has been earning praise for his work in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s recent film, 12th Fail. The actor plays the father (Ramveer Sharma) of the protagonist Manoj (played by Vikrant Massey). The film, based on the true story of IPS officer Manoj Sharma, represents the struggles of millions of Indians who attempt the UPSC entrance examination.

Khanna has previously worked in films like 7 Khoon Maaf, Kaminey, and Gangs of Wasseypur.

Excerpts of his conversation with The Morning Standard:

What are your thoughts on the success of 12th Fail?

I am extremely happy that people are going to theatres to watch this film. It’s quite motivating. The best part is that along with the critical acclaim, 12th Fail is also performing well at the box office.

What importance does this film hold for you?

I will cherish its success throughout my life because it has given me a much-needed re-start. For the last five-six years, I have been working in independent films, but 12th Fail has rebooted my career in mainstream cinema.

How was the experience of working with Vikrant Massey?

Vikrant is a wonderful person. He is humble and always radiates positive energy. When I met him for the first time, during the first workshop and my initial look test, he spent six hours with me without any big-star tantrums. He was simply committed to the process, and it was evident in the result. Our chemistry was so good that Vidhu Vinod Chopra came to me after my first look test, hugged me, and said, “You’ve made Jammu proud.” The best thing about Vikrant in 12th Fail is that he was a part of each co-star’s look test. He has delivered a very nuanced performance.

What were your learnings as an actor from 12th Fail?

My biggest learning was to surrender – to the character, the script and to the director. After receiving the script, I moved from my apartment to a guest house and locked myself up for two days and worked on the lines. I always wanted to stay committed to the character, his accent, his lines, and the rest. On all occasions, I was prepared to listen to the feedback from the director. This is how I surrendered myself.

You debuted with Govind Nihalani’s Sanshodhan in 1996. Along the way you have had some hits and some misses. How would you sum up your journey from being a regular Jammu boy to an actor in Mumbai?

I am very grateful for my journey so far. I have never put excessive pressure on myself. I approach the work as it comes but with all honesty. If I had to describe my journey from Jammu to Mumbai, I would simply call it – magical.

What was the turning point in your career?

I would say Vishal Bhardwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf, because I received critical acclaim after that performance. People started noticing my work. It was then followed by Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur.

You have worked with Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra. What is that one thing common between them?

While all three are ace directors and have a different way of approaching a film, they are all very detailed in their scripts.

Are there any projects in the pipeline?

Currently, I have two-three projects in my hand. One of my upcoming films is Stolen. It was screened at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival as well as the Venice Film Festival, where it received a five-minute-long standing ovation. I play a cop in the film, which is about child trafficking, surrogacy, WhatsApp forwards, and lynching.

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