Katti Batti begins where other love stories end
An actor who is most famous for romantic representations onscreen, Imran Khan, returns, after a gap, with another love story, Katti Batti, co-starring Kangana Ranaut. In an interview, the young actor tells us why and what makes the Nikhil Advani-directed prem kahani different from his and most other Hindi rom-coms.
How different is Katti Batti from your previous romantic films?
I think it’s a great misconception that Katti Batti is a rom-com. This film begins where other love stories end. In every love story you see a boy and a girl meet, they fall in love, there is a little bit of misunderstanding and eventually they live happily ever after. All that happens in Katti Batti too, but before the movie begins. The movie begins at the end of a seven-year relationship. Being in a real adult relationship has started to take a toll on them as a couple. So, you see the not-so-pretty side of relationships and the question that is put forward is – is their love strong enough to withstand these trials and tribulations? Avantika (Khan, his wife) and I have been together for thirteen years and obviously know there are ups and downs in a relationship. And even though you struggle and fight, you still stay together.
Katti Batti sees you returning to the silver screen after a long time. What was it that drew you towards this film?
Actually, I had signed this film two years ago. At the time I had agreed to come on board, Avantika became pregnant, which was late 2013. Around that time Nikhil was going to finish Hero. And Nikhil wanted to start the shoot of Katti Batti when Imara (his daughter) was born. So I asked him to push it as I wanted to be with Avantika and Imara. He agreed and we started shooting in October 2014.
How easy or difficult was it for you to say yes to the film?
I really troubled Nikhil (Advani, Director) a lot on this one. I didn’t get the tone of the script the first time I read it. I called up Nikhil and told him that I didn’t like the script at all. Nikhil is a fiery person, so he insisted that he’ll narrate it. I told him let’s talk after two months, which was code for – I don’t want to do it. But he was persistent. I tried my best to dissuade him but eventually agreed to meet for a narration. Twenty minutes into the narration and I was wondering if I had read the same script. When I’d read it I found the tone of the characters very clichéd. But when Nikhil narrated, I realized that his treatment is honest, organic and different than the way characters are generally approached in Hindi films. The characters, Maddy (his name in the film) and Payal (Kangana Ranaut) were jumping off the page. The moments between them kept resonating with my personal life. By the time we ended the narration I said sorry to have missed his point. And I should give credit to Nikhil as a director because it would not be the film it is without him.
What are your box-office expectations from Katti Batti?
I never know what to expect when it comes to box-office collections. Anyone who works in the industry will say the same thing. I have faith in the product. I know that it is a film I am happy with and proud of. And honestly you don’t get to say that with every film. This is my 12th film; there are some films that I am very proud of while some were not in line with my creative sensibilities.
Can you throw light on the creative process you go through to prepare for a character?
I have not always got (the time) but asked for it. I like to sit with the director, co-actors and read through the entire script, work out scenes, do the blocking, etc. While doing all that, the actors will add little things to the character and script, the director will like something and incorporate it, the cinematographer will figure the shooting style and so on. So, by the time you are shooting you are already in the groove and not thinking about ‘how will I play the role’. In those months of preparation one knows all the beats, notes etc. That’s how we worked on Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na, Delhi Belly, I Hate Luv Storys and Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola.
Will fatherhood influence your decision in the kind of movies you will do?
It has already changed, in a way. Of course, everyone signs a film with the hope that it is a hit, but its potential to make big bucks at the box office can’t be the only signing factor. My priority now is to do work that I enjoy because I spend 6-8 months on a film, away from my wife, daughter and friends. If the film is a hit, well and good, if it is a failure and I have not had fun, then it is a waste of time. I don’t want to do that. In the past, I have chosen films for reasons that were not true to me. That is the first thing that has to change – I have to like the script, the filmmaker and the co-actors. I have to feel extremely confident that I am going to enjoy my work experience. Gori Tere Pyar Mein is a great example of that. It is a different matter that the film failed but Puneet (Malhotra, director) is such a dear friend, I enjoyed working with Kareena (Kapoor Khan), so I enjoyed the process and it wasn’t a waste of time. Similarly, I enjoyed working on Break Ke Baad.
Does that mean you are not going to shy away from intimate scenes or bold language like in Delhi Belly?
Of course not. I will be very proud that one day my daughter will watch Delhi Belly because it is closest to my personal artistic sensibilities. If I start working in movies that only my daughter can watch then I am not being honest as a creative person.
Given that Kangana Ranaut is going through the post-Queen success, are you scared of getting overshadowed by her performance?
As I said I have confidence in the film. Everyone can say whatever they want before the film. When the film releases on Friday everything gets clear.
What according to you is success?
Being able to live the life that I want and do work that I want to do. Of course, it has to be successful to be able to do what I want. But the ultimate goal isn’t to just touch big numbers. Katti Batti is a tight little film with good performances.
Can you tell us about your next – Milan Talkies with Tigmanshu Dhulia?
I think it is too early to talk about Milan Talkies because they are still casting, etc. All I can say is that the script is closer in space to Katti Batti, in terms of a grand love story. It is a sweeping epic love story. I relate to grand love stories more than rom-coms. Such love challenges and pushes people to greater heights.