Set during the Emergency, Milan Luthria’s latest release Baadshaho promises mystique and thrill. With an ensemble including the likes of Ajay Devgn, Ileana D’Cruz, Emraan Hashmi, Esha Gupta and Vidyut Jammwal, this period heist thriller also boasts of high-octane action.

With each character having shades of grey and secrets to hide, Pandolin sets out to know more about the protagonists of Baadshaho. Here are excerpts from a chat with Ajay, Ileana, Emraan and Esha.

Ajay Devgn

Ajay Devgn

Ajay Devgn performing daredevil stunts in the film

How would define the film? Tell us about your character.

Baadshaho has a very rugged and western kind of feel to it. It is a band of people who are street smart and it is hard to say who is conning whom; that is the mystery.

My character Bhawani is an earthy guy, who is very smart but extremely emotional. Though the film is about the heist, it is more of a relationship story. When you watch the film, you will get to know how every layer of the character unfolds.

It is a band of people who are street smart and it is hard to say who is conning whom; that is the mystery

How involved were in the action of the film, did you share inputs as well?

Honestly speaking, length-wise there is not a lot of action. The film has more drama and thrill than action. But the action is hard-hitting and realistic, even though I wouldn’t call this an out-an-out action film.

I gave my inputs, but not too many because there are various aspects to it. But yes, if there was something that was not working out, then I would share it with the team. The action is not kept to show off, it is designed to go with the film and the thrill it offers.

Ileana D’Cruz

Ileana D’Cruz as Gitanjali

Your last film Mubarakan is drastically different from Baadshaho, what was the thought process behind choosing such a varied film

A film like Mubarakan is something that connects with me, it is a movie that I would like to watch. It is funny and entertaining and I assumed that because I like watching a movie like this, people might enjoy it as well. It is a very subjective choice and probably not a very good way to choose a film. Even Baadshaho was a selfish decision on my part. I love my role in it and I thought come what may, I want to play this character.

How would you describe your character Gitanjali? How difficult was it to play such a complex character?

Gitanjali is a queen, who is determined and strong. It is amazing to see how powerful she is and how manipulative she can be, if she wants to be. She knows exactly what she wants and knows how to get it.

It is a big deal for a woman, moreover, for a queen to go to jail. It is filthy and it was an actual jail that I was thrown into. It was stinking and I thought that I would throw up because the smell was unbearable, but that has added to the authenticity of the role.

From the fabric to the style to the jewellery, I’ve been part of everything

Your look in the film is also unique. Were you a part of the styling process?

I personally sat on the styling of the film; it is not something that I normally do, but this film was different. There was a bit of conflict because you are playing a character from the 70s, so you need to look authentic,  but the other aspect is that people are looking at you onscreen, so you’ve got to look good. I took a very keen interest in the way I was dressing. In the past, I haven’t been finicky, but here, from the fabric to the style to the jewellery, I’ve been part of everything. Even the hair and makeup were important, therefore, we did an extensive look test.

Emraan Hashmi

Emraan Hashmi

Emraan Hashmi in Baadshaho

How different is the character you play from your real self?

Honestly, there isn’t much that I share with Dalia (His character). I have never played anything close to him on screen nor am I anything like him (in real life). He is a thief and is slightly crooked in his head. I guess only the dark humour is something that is similar in both of us. Even in tense situations, I generally keep my cool. Dalia is constantly cracking these absurd one-liners in between, where it’s not even needed. If you see the promo, there is a moment when guns have been drawn out and they could get shot at, but Dalia is smiling. This defies human logic so that is something that is close to the kind of person that I am.

I would love to play more characters like Dalia. He is the most light-hearted, spirited character that I have played. Eventually with all his quirks and grey shades, he is just a simple guy at heart and that humanizes him, making him appear like any other guy.

In the trailer, we see you performing intense action sequences, how was the experience?

I have done films that have bit of action, but I have never done a film with such elaborate action. At the beginning, I was a bit concerned to get into the zone; I was nervous. Plus, it didn’t really help when for my first action scene, Milan (Luthria) took me to the top of a four-storeyed building and told me to jump from one ledge to another. Obviously there was a harness, but I was not given a shallow pool to learn, I was thrown into the deep end of the ocean! But then I realized that the entire action team is very careful. For Ramazan Bulut (Action Director), safety comes first and he is fantastic!

I will always pick a movie that reaches out to the widest audience

You have played extremely diverse characters from a Shanghai to now Baadshaho, what kind of roles excite you?

Each film has its own advantages, but I will always pick a movie that reaches out to the widest audience. What Milan does beautifully is that he tries to hit the sweet spot. There is a clear divide in our country, you have the masses and then there is your class audience. I think the mass audience wants escapist cinema, Shanghai is unfortunately a reminder of reality. There is a certain audience that have a more evolved sense of cinema and they want visual aesthetics and more, which Milan brings to the table. Shanghai is still one of my best works on screen, but Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai and Baadshaho goes to a much wider audience.

Esha Gupta

Esha Gupta in Baadshaho

Esha Gupta in Baadshaho

Since your character is set in the 70s, how did you get into the skin of it?

Instead of us preparing, I would say that the director was extremely well-prepared. Milan sir knew exactly what he wanted in the look and the costume (of each character). Be it the feel or the body language, or even the set design, he was very clear. For me, playing this character was pretty easy because I had actors like Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Sanjay Mishra next to me, which uplifted my performance. When it came to the 70s authenticity, that was majorly restricted to the look, costumes and the set.

My character is not uptight, she is just really strong, an alpha, which was similar to the role I played in Rustom

Did you face any challenges as this character is different from your other roles so far?

It wasn’t difficult because I’ve played a character from in 60s in Rustom and now this character is set in the 70s. But that (her character in Rustom) was more vampish because that was the uptight ear of the rich, where money spoke. The 70s was very different with the free love and hippie era just getting started.

My character Sanjana is not uptight, she is just really strong, an alpha, which was similar to the role I played in Rustom. The exception here is that the character is more endearing. She knows that she is a badass; she knows what she wants, she is strong, but is not a vamp. But again, all of us have shades of grey in the film, so she also has a reason to be a part of the heist.