Unraveling the characters of Rustom with Akshay, Ileana & Esha
Rustom directed by Tinu Suresh Desai is based on the real life case of Naval Officer K.M. Nanavati who shot his wife’s lover, an incident that shook the entire nation. The film that narrates the tale of a man defending his honor has garnered attention ever since its first promising trailer was launched.
As the release date draws near, we indulge in a conversation with the key cast of the film that includes Akshay Kumar, Ileana D’Cruz and Esha Gupta. The three actors agree that the characters they portray in this story are unlike anything they have played earlier. The trio gives us an insight into their characters and shares their views on the subject of the film.
The movie is based on a real incident. As an actor, is there a kind of responsibility that comes with portraying a real person?
The film is based on true incidents, however it is not one isolated incident, it is a lot of incidents that are put together and then the story was developed. There is no pressing responsibility because at the end of day you are portraying a character, just the way that you would for a fictional character. My only responsibility is to decide whether I would like to do the film or no. In this case, I wanted to do the film and after that, it is the director’s responsibility; my job is to act.
How much of Rustom is based on reality and how much of it is a work of fiction?
Since the film is made up of different incidents, continuity was a major component. Therefore, just to show that one incident matches the other, to bring that continuity, we have used fiction. Those were the only fictitious parts, everything else is real.
Tell us about your association with director Tinu Suresh Desai. How would you describe him as a director?
I remember him as an assistant director when he had just joined the industry. He was also the chief assistant in Special 26, so I have seen him work and he has worked very hard. For me, it was a great honor to work with him. When he had joined he was just a young boy and now he has evolved into this creative man who he is very good at his work. He knows what he is doing and what he wants.
Your look in the film has become a topic of discussion. How was the experience of donning a uniform?
It was so nice to wear the uniform. Before getting ready for the shoot I would feel normal, nothing special, but the moment I wore the uniform, the cap, the badges etc., everything would change. There is something about the uniform, it gives you a certain kind of responsibility. It tells you that ‘You are the man and that you can take charge’. When you watch the movie, you will notice that my walk has changed. There is this confidence, which is clearly visible and I think that it is the uniform that defines the look of the character and also makes him appear confident.
How did you get associated with this movie and why did you say yes to it?
I received a call regarding a role in Rustom and was told that it has Akshay Kumar in the lead and that the story is amazing. I didn’t know what to expect of it when I went for the narration. But I landed up loving it. This is one of the first films where I’ve actually shown an immediate interest. Normally, I am very vague with my answer after the narration, but here I was extremely excited about working in this film.
Did you have any apprehensions about taking on a character like Cynthia Pavri who is based on a real person?
When you see the trailer, I don’t think that my character comes across as a very positive person. If anything, she is the reason why Rustom Pavri is in a mess. It was hard for the heroine of the film to come across as a negative character. This wasn’t a big concern, but yes, I was apprehensive about whether people are going to hate me in it. People might feel, ‘how could she do that to Rustom’ and so on. But Tinu Desai (director) told me that the audience might like me.
Cynthia is fighting for her husband’s safety, she wants him out of a mess, but she doesn’t know how to get him out. There is this helplessness about her that is very apparent in the film. I don’t know whether she is a positive or negative character; that will totally depend on how the audience perceives her.
How would you describe your chemistry with Akshay Kumar in the movie?
This movie has this really intense story where there is so much love between the couple. I think I’ve had the best onscreen chemistry with Akshay as compared to anybody else. It was just magic. When we were doing our first scene, there was this hush that came over the set. In the scene, I was suppose to break down and I actually started crying. And the shot was suppose to end with me crying, but Akshay put his arms around me and he too started crying. It was so beautiful and so real. There was this very strange chemistry, it almost felt like an actual husband and wife are going through a situation.
In the course of your career, you have been part of several commercial movies, but with films like Barfi and now Rustom, are you trying to bring about a change?
It has always been a conflict. When I read reviews, some films are bashed to another level and get ratings like one or half a star, but commercially these films have done extremely well. Even if these movies are bashed, you cannot ignore the fact that commercially they have done well. At the end of the day you want to do a successful movie because that is what is going to keep you running.
Therefore, it’s about whether you want to do a commercial film or a film where the critics appreciate you. I have done commercial films in the South and maybe here I don’t want to do a film where I am going to cringe when I watch myself on screen. Now, I think people, even within the industry, are warming up to the idea of me doing serious films.
Tell us about your character in Rustom
I play Vikram’s (the man who gets murdered) sister. My character is really strong. You rarely see main stream Indian actresses going for a negative role. Even when I got a call for this role, I had a slight hesitation, but it is a great character. She is rich, powerful and strong along with being extremely glamorous.
Was playing a negative character a challenge?
I have always liked a challenge plus, for me, this was something very different. Of course, it is a challenging role because here you are playing a character that people are going to hate and you know it, but I loved the role! It is the rebellion in me that comes out through this person. I was in awe of this woman. She is beautiful and glamorous, the red lipstick, red nail polish, the hair, everything about her was strong and powerful.
In terms of adapting to the character and understanding her, how did you achieve that?
There were small things that I had to pay attention to. I had to constantly keep holding the cigarette holder. And I had to make that gesture look very natural. Her chin would always be tilted, as if to say that everyone else is beneath her. The character knows that she has money, looks, and even uses her body in her favor. To understand the character, I had several sessions with the director so that I could get the character right.
What distinguishes your character from Ileana’s in terms of personality?
When you see the film, every character is perfectly placed. I think the casting director Shruti Mahajan has done a brilliant job. Had I played Ileana’s character, there was a chance that people wouldn’t have sympathized with Cynthia, which Ileana has played so beautifully. At the same time, I don’t think Ileana would have been able to play what I have. Had our placed been switched, all the sympathy would have gone to her character. As a person in the film, my character is much stronger because for her, it doesn’t matter what people think, it doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. For her it’s about justice and she is ready to turn all tables for it. From bribing people to using her power, she will do anything. So personality wise my character is stronger, but all the love and sympathy will go to Cynthia.
Transcribed by Aarti Sukhija