You two are star newcomers but the audience is so invested in you already, is this a weird space to be in? How do you respond to it?
Janhvi Kapoor: I understand that all of this is mostly because of who my parents are, and the kind of work that they’ve done, and now because of the hype around Dhadak. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with me because I haven’t earned any of this attention – I haven’t done anything to deserve it yet. Hopefully I will in the future. I’m aware of that so it’s flattering and I have a lot of gratitude for it – it’s a lovely place to be in. But I don’t think I can take it too seriously, I’m not at that stage.
Is it pressure though?
Ishaan Khatter: No, I think it is a matter of perspective. If you look at it in a certain way, you could feel responsibility towards the audiences who have such anticipation and hopes for your work. But I don’t think it’s pressure for me. It feels good. It definitely feels like a sense of responsibility – that you have so many eyeballs on you. And it only urges you more to go ahead and do something about that and live up to it.
Ishaan, when you had done Beyond The Clouds, I saw this interview that you did where you talked about Majid Majidi telling you, “Of course you want to be a great artist and a great actor but the more important thing is to be a great human being and the other things will come from there.” Do you both believe that good actors are necessarily good human beings?
Janhvi: I believe that I need to. I feel that there needs to be honesty in you for you to convince audiences of what you’re feeling on screen. Even Mom (the late Sridevi) would always say that first you need to be a good human being in order to be a good actor. If you have any frustration or malice or anything negative in your heart, she would always say it would make your performance feel fake.
Ishaan: If we’re really thinking about this critically, then there are a lot of actors out there that people think behave badly and are not the perfect picture of.. The thing is, I think actors are largely misunderstood. People are almost already on the backfoot when they’re engaging with an actor or a popular actor or a movie star. In advance, before even knowing them, they’re almost ready to judge every action and things are taking out of context and blown out of proportion.
Having said that, there are actors who are considered very good who have behaved very badly and have done things that are considered just morally wrong. And I think you can be a skilled and effective actor, but somewhere to make the audiences feel empathy for you and something positive, there has to be something nice inside. There has to be a vulnerability and sensitivity. Basic goodness.
What have you two learnt from the people around you on what not to do?
Janhvi: I’ve recently learned that I should not speak as much as possible. Sometimes I read the kind of stuff that’s printed about me and it makes me cringe.
Stuff you’ve said, or people have written about you?
Janhvi: Stuff that I’ve said sometimes that’s paraphrased of course. But I think that I don’t know how to differentiate from a statement, like yesterday we were asked a question at the press conference – If you had the opportunity to do a biopic of an actor, whose biopic would you do? And if he (Ishaan) asked me this question I would say that this and this actor have really led interesting lives, so it would be so fun to attempt something like that. So, I said Madhubala ji, and Meena Kumari ji.
And then my dad sent me this message asking, “Why have you said that you can play Madhubala and Meena Kumari in a film?” They just erased the question and now it sounds like I think I can be these magnanimous iconic people when I’m not even the dirt on their foot maybe. But it’s so daunting, I don’t know what to say ever. So, I just want to be quiet.
Ishaan: I think most recently… I’ll connect this with Dhadak and Shashank, is not to bring any past experiences into any new work that you are doing. Of course to bring that with you and draw from it, but not to allow that to influence in any way. There was one particular instance where he thought I was playing it a certain way and he wanted me to kind of play act in this scene. The references for this character for being flamboyant were 90s films, he’s probably watched a lot of films with Salman bhai. I think I was a little hesitant in the beginning or I was doing it a certain way and so he came to me and said, “Listen, everything is to be seen in context. This scene can’t be played at this tonality because you’re not being real as Madhukar – you’re pretending to be cool.” I remember I did that once and he cut the thing and said, “Ishaan, ham!” And then we got the take! So I think just to shed my inhibitions a little bit.
Ishaan, what was it like for you when Beyond the Clouds underperformed? It was a niche film and I think you did really well – it was such a fine debut. How do you process that at such a young age and then just move on?
Ishaan: I think I’m also very fortunate that I had Dhadak at the time I had just finished shooting for it. I don’t very much understand the financial, commercial aspect of it and I didn’t want to break it down. I do try to learn and form a better understanding of things. The first two-three days I was a little taken aback because I expected for more people to watch it. And what I did understand, and my mom really helped me form an opinion about it, was that every film has its own destiny. This might sound idealistic, but she said that this was meant to happen for you, and this was an unparalleled experience to be able to work for the likes of Majidi sir. She let me see the positive side of it – it’s yet to come out on digital, there are still some territories and countries where it hasn’t released yet. And yeah, that it’s not the end of its life or anything of the sort.