After winning raves for his debut performance in Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Hindi movie Beyond The Clouds (2018), newcomer Ishaan Khatter faces the audience once again with his second Bollywood outing Dhadak. Helmed by Shashank Khaitan and produced by Karan Johar, the musical romantic film is an official remake of cult Marathi language movie Sairat (2016). In this interview with Eastern Eye correspondent, Mohnish Singh, Ishaan opens up about Dhadak, how he bagged Beyond The Clouds, and what kind of preparations he did to glide into the skin of Madhukar, the character he essays in Dhadak.

Tell us something about your character in Dhadak?

My character’s name is Madhukar Bagla. He is about 19 years old. He is born and brought up in Udaipur. He is one of the leading characters in the film. He is a boy who is very unambitious and happy and content with his life. He is perhaps naïve. He has not seen too much of life but he is a smart kid and, at the same time, he has this uncorrupted nature and certain innocence to him. He falls head over heels in love with this girl and that dictates the trajectory of his life from then on.

How much do you think you relate to your character in the movie?

I think this character was more from departure than who I am in real than even my previous characters. There are certain things, of course, that I identified with, but most of this character, I think, I had to discover. So, I won’t say he is very similar to me.

How much have you evolved as an actor since you worked on Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi (2005) as a child artist to now when you are playing male leads in films?

I, actually, was never meant to be part of the film (Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi). That film was never a serious foray into acting. It was just like an exercise, I would say. Then I grew up and I grew much more serious about cinema, very passionate about it. I started studying it. I started watching a lot of films. I did a theatre course. I trained as a dancer and attended various workshops. Then I got the opportunity to do my first film Beyond The Clouds. I would call Beyond the Clouds my first film.

How did you come to get Beyond The Clouds?

Majid Majidi met me because casting director Honey Trehan had worked with me before on Udta Punjab (2016). He was the second unit and casting director there. He remembered me from then and he remembered this particular incident that reminded him of me when he was casting for Beyond the Clouds. Actually, for the longest time, he couldn’t put a finger on it, he kept thinking that he knew this boy but he didn’t remember and later that memory came to him and he called me up and through him, I met Majidi sir.

What was the incident?

There was this incident where one day – call it an act of destiny – I was three minutes late to come down to the hotel where the team of Udta Punjab stayed. Every day, we had to report an hour and a half before and this one day something went wrong with the printer and I didn’t make it down on time and the car left without me. I was not kept on set as a punishment by a very strict AD but what happened was that there was this big 12-foot wall which I thought I was capable of scaling. So, I started doing this run-up and started skipping and jumping to get on the other side of the wall. I didn’t manage for half an hour but I persisted and this old gentleman came to me and advised me how to jump it properly. So, I tried his technique and it worked and I climbed up. Honey Sir happened to be there watching this entire half an hour of struggle and saw my persistence and for some reason through recollecting that determination, he remembered and called me up to see this film and character and told me to come and meet him.

Coming back to Dhadak, how was the whole process of learning the mannerism for your character since he hails from Udaipur?

I think first things first everything came from the text itself. Shashank Khaitan had written a very vivid script and he presented the first half to us before we started shooting and then chronologically we did the second half. We started with a lot of reading because we are using a Mewari dialect in this. He wanted us to do a lot of reading. In fact, we would read all the characters’ dialogues so that we could learn it on the tip of our tongue and there is an ease to the manner of speaking. I did some research on my own part for the language to understand a little bit more of the intricacies. I met with a gentleman from Jaipur. Where we really got lucky was when we got to travel with Shashank to Rajasthan twice during the making of the film.

Other than the dialect, were there any other changes to accommodate your character?

There was a lot of physical elements that we were able to define because we got a lot of references. We lightened the hair a little bit, use contacts because they have light eyes in Mewar. I got my ear pierced. They have these very characteristic earrings, so we picked up these earrings from Jaipur. I was very skinny after Beyond the Clouds, so they wanted me to put on some weight. We spent a lot of time in Rajasthan which really benefited us because we got a sense of the place and got comfortable with the environment and we became pretty consumed into the day to day life.

How many times did all of you see Sairat on which Dhadak is based?

Each of us had seen it twice before we started shooting, then Shashank made it a point to tell us to stop watching the film before we started preparing for this one because he didn’t want either one of us to be too influenced by the performances in that film.

Dhadak enters cinemas on 20th July, 2018.

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