Exploring today’s youth in M Cream with Imaad Shah and Ira Dubey
Starring in India’s first stoner movie, Imaad Shah and Ira Dubey will be seen sharing screen space for the first time in Agneya Singh’s movie M Cream. The film traces the journey of four young characters who are exploring the mountains of Himachal in search of a mythical drug. The movie goes way beyond drugs to show a coming-of-age story of these youths.
Both the actors come from strong theatrical background and are known for their unconventional roles. Be Imaad Shah’s Dil Dosti Etc or Ira Dubey’s Aisha, they both are critically acclaimed actors and M Cream is yet another unconventional movie under their belt. As the movie is releasing after two years the actors have a lot to share, which is what they are doing here with Pandolin. From the journey to their individual roles to their character’s transformation, Imaad Shah and Ira Dubey open-up about M Cream.
Do you think Figs is closer to your own-self, was it easy to relate to him?
No, the character is not closer to my real self at all, but I do see shades of myself in the character or at least I tried to bring shades of myself into the character. Hopefully Figs is a relatable character and everyone is going to see some part of themselves in him. That was the effort from my side as an actor. I wanted to make Figs relatable to the audience.
How would you describe your journey in the movie?
Figs is a slightly arrogant character. He holds a lot of strong opinions and he thinks his opinions are the only right ones, so he is arrogant like that. But then he embarks on this journey, which turns into a coming-of-age story for him which is what the film revolves around. The journey becomes significant to him in various ways. He learns to open-up his mind, he learns to see other’s point of view and he matures during the course of his journey.
The movie deals with the current generation, what is your perception of today’s youth? How will the movie impact them?
I think it will be wrong to generalise the entire generation. I think the further we go into the future, there will be people with varied opinions. We have some good minds, some talented minds working hard in their fields, but I think individuality is of great significance, awareness is of great significance because now with the kind of information available I think there is no excuse to be ignorant anymore. I think my generation believes this, at least, I hope they do because I certainly do. Awareness about what is happening around us is very important in order to fight fascism and to fight any kind of dictatorship. That is why I think our generation needs to be very strong and accept the diversity that is present in our country.
You have been seen in a limited number of movies, how particular are you about which movie to work on?
Yes, I am careful while choosing a film. I like movies which have strong characters with a central graph of their own. I have mostly played lead characters only exception was Mira Nair’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, which was a good film, but I want to focus on playing good strong lead roles and characters with strong graph of their own. M Cream was that film which is why I did it. I don’t believe in over exposure, I want to make sure that people don’t see too much of me. It’s like maintaining the right balance. I am open to doing a lot more films, doing better films. I am hoping to do every kind of films because the process of making the film is a growing experience.
How does having a great actor (Naseeruddin Shah) as a father affect your choices in being part of a movie?
I just have the need to pursue excellence, which is the main thing, so if there was any kind of pressure it is to be better and better. The pressure was to be more professional, be the best version of myself, and do my job really well. I don’t think about that stuff too much actually, I prefer to focus on the work itself. Mediocrity is not an option at all. The work I do has to be good, so I push myself even further to do better and better as a result of that.
What aspects of the character do you relate to?
Jayashree Bose (Jay) is a Bengali girl living in Delhi; she is strong, silent, grounded, sensitive and idealistic . She believes in social issues, she believes in humanity and that she is capable of making a difference to the world. I am making her sound very serious, but she is not. She doesn’t smoke hash like Figs does, but that doesn’t make her boring, she enjoys her whiskey and she enjoys talking about politics, life, philosophy. There is a kind of innocence to her character because at some level she believes that she can make a difference and change the world. I think what attracted me to Jay’s character is that I found some similar qualities in her that I see in myself as well. Here idealism and inner strength were the aspects that I related to.
What was your process towards developing your character?
Agneya Singh (Director) gave me the reference of the woman Joan Baez who is a very well-known signer, but little known in India. She was the on and off partner of Bob Dylan for a long time. Joan Baez was a singer and she came from a folk tradition, she wrote some beautiful songs and she had a voice of an angel and she was a very strong and resilient woman. She lived her life very privately, she believed in a lot of causes, she was an activist and she helped humanity. Agneya gave me her biography to read when I signed the film and that was a wonderful starting point for me as an actor because I learnt a lot and picked so much from the book.
Since this movie is youth centric, how do you think they will be able to connect with the film?
The film is about that moment in time when you have just completed college and your family is no longer there to protect you and suddenly you are thrown into this big scary world and you don’t know what to do, you don’t know which way to go or what choice to make. You don’t know what is right or wrong, what your sense of purpose is, where you want to go in life. We all come across this point when we are completely clueless. At this point everything suddenly becomes a tangible reality because suddenly you are trying to be an adult. The movie is that moment when four kids take this road trip which is a metaphorical journey also, it’s not just a physical journey, it is a journey of self-discovery and transformation and growing up, so all that happens and drugs is just a background for it. I think it is this point which people will be able to relate to, it is about coming of age and being an adult.
How was playing Jay different than your characters in other movies?
When I first read the script I was convinced that Agneya was going to offer me Maggie, who is Figs’ best friend, she is a typical upper – Delhi girl, and she is more vivacious, glamorous, out-going, liberal, and open-minded. She has all those qualities people tend to associate with Ira Dubey. The funny thing was, after I read the script I called Agneya and told him that I loved the script and told him that I will do Maggie’s role. When he heard this, he paused for second and told me that he was actually offering me Jay. I was so thrilled and excited that someone could see the potential of an actor to not just play the character people would generally associate or typecast you with or because unfortunately in our business you tend to get type cast a lot. This is very frustrating and we are always trying to break this image and I think in this film I could break away from the stereotypical role that was generally associated with me.
How would you describe the journey or transformation of your character in the film?
I had a chance to go through a real journey in this film and the character has a real conflict without the fuss or melodramatic aspect to it. There was nothing life altering happening to this character, but her belief system is completely shaken up during the course of the movie. When she finishes college and meets this guy she believes that through her writing and her strong belief, determination, idealism and her will she can actually make a difference. As the movie moves ahead she realises that maybe she can’t. What is beautiful about the film is that it takes you on a journey with these characters and yet you are left with this feeling of wanting to know what happens next. I think with Jay what was really interesting to me was to get under the skin of somebody who is at some level very innocent yet is exposed to the real world. That was a very interesting struggle as an actor to play.
How would you sum up your experience of being part of M Cream?
M Cream is one of the most memorable shooting experiences that I’ve had. I think it is the combination of so many things – one is we had a very eclectic group. Agneya had come from New York after finishing film school, we had a Chinese DOP, we had a lot of Americans on the crew and involved a lot of veterans from Bollywood. Even though we shot in India, the film looks very international in its texture and in a visual sense. The whole film was shot in Delhi and Himachal. We worked closely with a lot of locals from the mountain region (pahari people). To me that was very visceral because some of these moments and locations that we shot in are filled with memories. There was something almost awe-inspiring and humbling to be so close to nature. So shooting in those conditions was not just grueling but also very transformative.