Zubaan with Vicky Kaushal & Sarah Jane Dias
The stars of the beautiful musical Zubaan – Sarah Jane Dias and Vicky Kaushal get candid about their upcoming film and more. Here are excerpts from the Pandolin Talking Talkies Video Chat.
How was the experience of meeting each other for the first time?
Sarah – I was the first person to be a part of Zubaan. The team had auditioned many boys for Dilsher’s role and then they told me that we’re going to have a look test with Vicky (Kaushal). Vicky showed up as Dilsher. And my first thoughts when I saw him were, “Who does this guy think he is!?”
What I didn’t realize is that Vicky had adopted the character of Dilsher at the audition. So we did the look test and by the end of it, it was as if it was all meant to be. And I remember telling Mozez (Singh, Director) that this is your boy! I was convinced about it.
Vicky – I was nervous about meeting Sarah as it was the first time that we were meeting. It was also my first film as a lead so I was anxious, but what I loved about Sarah was that she was really down to earth. She was really open, vocal and very transparent and that’s how she is as a person. I think that’s what clicked between us.
Zubaan was the opening film at the Busan Film Festival. Tell us about your experience there.
Vicky – It was truly special and was the best premiere that we could have imagined for Zubaan. We were nervous about the reaction but got a great response.
Sarah – What was most interesting to me was the kind of questions and the observation that the Korean audience made. They noticed everything and the questions they asked were not what you expect from common reporters. They were happy to see what modern day films in India look like. And they loved the music. It was very overwhelming.
What was the brief that Director Mozez Singh gave you’ll – as individual characters and a team? What was the kind of prep that was done?
Vicky – For the first two sessions, Mozez tried to explain to me the mindset of Dilsher, which was basically about this character running away from music. And one needs to have a strong reason to have that kind of a mindset. And I was thinking that this is a huge deal. How can there be a person who’s running away from music? Although there’s no big deal about it but I couldn’t connect to this whole conflict in his mind. But slowly we came to a point where I started understanding, we had reading sessions and I started spending time with Mozez to understand the character. Then came in the stuttering part for which we had to go to Dr. Ajit, a speech therapist. I would sit through his sessions and meet patients who were 20 to 25-year-olds, who were very insecure about having a person who’s just there to observe them. So I had to become friends with them and that’s how I came to know about the technicalities of stuttering. Stuttering is not random and you stutter only at specific sounds. It could be any word but proper nouns are very difficult for them.
All these technicalities really helped me incorporate those characteristics in Dilsher. Also the Punjabi accent that we wanted to implement was a slightly different one. Dilsher is born and brought up in a village in Punjab and has always spoken in Punjabi. But now he has stepped out of his village for the first time and come to this huge metro city. So we wanted to show that in the way the character speaks. We had Kulvinder from Punjab who helped me and I had to literally write a new script for myself mentioning how much should be in Punjabi and how much in Hindi. So we had to work a lot on the detailing.
Sarah – Amira is an urban girl, an artist, which is exactly what I am in real life too. We did this really helpful exercise, which was done during Angry Indian Goddesses as well where you make a list of your characteristics and a list of your character’s characteristics. And as far as possible you try that your character has different characteristic. They need not be things that you necessarily see in a character but you do this just to get yourself into the thought process of the character.
In terms of actual prep, I’m a musician in real life as well, which is part of the reason why Mozez cast me in the film. He had told Mukesh (Chhabra, Casting Director) that he wanted a singer and that helped especially for the performances. I had wanted to do a course for a while and so I went to the True School of Music and did a Pro Vocal course. Apart from that we also had workshops. Mozez was also clear that he didn’t want Dilsher and Amira to be too familiar with each other. Amira comes from a wealthy, affluent side of Delhi while Dilsher is is a complete contrast to that. So you see the awkwardness, mostly from Dilsher because Amira is free spirited and it’s not a big deal for her to make friends with anyone.
Vicky, are there any similarities between you and Dilsher?
Vicky – The only common thing between Dilsher and me is that we both belong to Punjab. Otherwise there’s a huge difference. I don’t have knowledge about music but I am extremely connected to it. Music is a very important part of my daily life. Whether I’m happy, sad, excited or nervous, music is my reference point. In terms of characters also, I always attach my character to a song or a tune that I listen to. So to play a character who is running away from music was something very different from who I am. Understanding that was a bit of a challenge but fortunately Mozez was very clear of the Dilsher he wanted and his complexities. So sitting and discussing the character with Mozez gave me a good insight into Dilsher.
Sarah, how was the experience of donning a traditional Punjabi look in the film?
Sarah – Being in that garb was very interesting for me because I’ve never really dressed up like that for any of my films. Aki (Narula, Designer) did a phenomenal job by making it seem modern at the same time with the colors and various other pieces. I remember we were in a village in Punjab and we didn’t have a vanity van, so we were living in one of the houses there. There wasn’t a very big mirror and hence I got my hair and makeup done in front of those typical bathroom plastic mirrors. When I got into the costume I had no idea what I looked like. So when I saw the film and saw myself as the traditional Punjabi girl, I couldn’t recognize myself! But it’s quite an amazing thing to be able to pull off both those extremes in one film, all thanks to the amazing styling team, the director and the general vision of everyone.
You’ll have worked with Pan Nalin (Angry Indian Goddesses) and Neeraj Ghaywan (Masaan) respectively. How different is Mozez as a director?
Vicky – The difference between Neeraj and Mozez is that Neeraj is a director who wants to see his film before the film starts. He wants to have his film on paper and is very particular about details, even though you can improvise at any time. Mozez is more of an explorer as a director and he explores the characters while he’s directing them. We made quite a few changes in the script while shooting. Otherwise the energies were the same, when it comes to directing your first film.
Sarah – I can’t really draw the same comparison because Pan is not a first-time film director. And neither is Mozez, because not once did he strike me as a person who has not done this before. He’s very meticulous in a very different way as compared to Pan. Mozez is very vibrant and believes in prep but to an extent. Mozez also, like Pan, is willing to take your inputs. He will give you time to discuss the scene with him. And you trust him, which for a first time director to instill that trust is very commendable.
And what would you say about your producers Guneet Monga and Shaan Vyas?
Vicky – If we are sitting here today, it is because of them and the way they have supported Mozez through the journey. Guneet has been the one figure who has stood by him. especially at a time when Guneet herself was taking baby steps in the industry. It’s great to see that in a director and producer.
Sarah – They have a great camaraderie and are always on the same page. Shaan and Mozez are like peas in a pod. It is great to be around them.
Zubaan releases in India on March 4, 2016.
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-Transcribed by Kiran Dave