Gulabo Sitabo is your first release on the OTT platform. Does it feel any different from your earlier in-theatre releases? First of all, I want to know what OTT means. Is it an abbreviation for ‘Oh Teri!’. Sorry, bad one. That’s the Punjabi in me. As you know, my mother was Sikh. Coming back to your, question, no it doesn’t feel any different. Why should it? I’ve been working for 51 years and I’ve witnessed a lot of changes. The best way to survive is to embrace change, not fight it.
You have gone through a whole history of cinematic metamorphosis, from black and white to OTT? That’s true. My first film Saat Hindustani was in Black & White. We then moved to colour. Then, from 35mm to 70mm. From mono-sound to the most advanced sound systems. From single screen to multiple screens. AND most importantly the WORKER on the set from pyjamas and bare feet to jeans and sneakers! The digital release is part of cinema’s ongoing process of evolution. One shouldn’t avoid change. I wouldn’t!
The younger generation of stars is so much in awe of you they find it difficult to look you into the eye on camera. It must have been really difficult for Ayushmann Khurrana to be so rude to you? Let me correct you. The young actors are very confident and not in the least awed by me. The current generation of actors is a pleasure to work with. They are well-prepared before coming on the sets and thoroughly professional. Ayushmann had no problem whatsoever being, as you say, rude to me on camera. It’s ACTING, remember?
Hence the question, what it like working with Khurrana has no real relevance? I cannot understand that question at all! We are professionals on the sets. And we all need to give our best shot. If any one of us gives less than our best then the work suffers. Ayushmann, which by the way means long-lasting and that’s what his career is likely to be, was doing his best on the sets. And I hope I was doing my best. You may ask the director Shoojit Sircar if I was good enough or not.
Shoojit has cast you as a grumpy old man again in Gulabo Sitabo after Piku? For more than 20 years now, I have played the leading man, the hero who fights against all odds, beats up the villain and walks off with the heroine in the end. I never questioned my directors be it Manmohan Desai, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Prakash Mehra in the past or Balki, Karan Johar or Shoojit Sircar in the present about why they cast me the way they did. Perhaps, they see me in a particular way. Perhaps, they have a mental picture of what I’m capable of and cast me accordingly. If Shoojit sees me as grumpy, then so be it.
What was it like shooting in Lucknow for Gulabo Sitabo? Lucknow, it isn’t called a city of nawabs for nothing! It is a city that gives you a royal welcome, and serves you the best cuisine in India. The people are warm and hospitable. No wonder Lucknow has become a favourite shooting spot for our film industry. While we were shooting in Lucknow, there were three other films also being shot there. By the way, I look forward to shooting in your city, Patna, in the near future.
Amitji, Gulabo Sitabo required a lot of prosthetics from you. I know how wary you are even of sticking on a beard on your face? That’s right! Do you remember the discomfort I faced when shooting for my dear departed friend Mukul Anand’s Khuda Gawah? That beard which you said made me look distinguished made me feel anything but distinguished. But Balki’s Paa tutored me in the art of managing with the most arduous prosthetics. In comparison, Gulabo Sitabo was simple…if you see 4-5 hours of makeup in the gruelling summer heat as simpler! But then if you are an actor you can’t complain. The hard work comes with the territory.