Kriti Kharbanda Interview: As an actor, if I don’t know how to hold my own ground, I’ll never survive in Bollywood

After receiving oodles of adulation and appreciation for her guest appearance in Akarsh Khurana’s Karwaan (2018), actress Kriti Kharbanda is currently seen in her new comic-caper Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se, co-starring Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol. The YMD franchise basically belongs to the Deols, but the young actress is confident to make audiences laugh with her performance in the latest instalment of the series. Before the release of the movie, Eastern Eye correspondent, Mohnish Singh, caught up with the actress in Mumbai and tried to know more about the movie, her character and how was it to work with the Deol family.

How was it working on Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se?

I was very excited when they first offered me the film. When it was very close to the start of the shooting, I was very clear about one thing that as an actor I have the right to know what is going to happen to me in the film as a character. So, they said that they want to do a look test and I agreed to it and provided whatever was needed, and when you are confident enough that I could be a part of the film, I would like to have the same confidence and would appreciate if you could provide me with a script, I want to read it. It’s not like if there were only dance sequence I wouldn’t have done it. I would be very interested, but as an actor, I have every right to know what I am going to be a part of.

Can you tell us about your character that you are playing?

I play Chikoo Patel. She is a Gujarati girl and extremely ambitious. She is like a coconut, hard on the outside, soft on the inside. She is an ENT specialist and is in the final year of her studies. She meets Sunny sir because he is an Ayurvedic doctor and wants some sort of knowledge from him and that’s how my journey as Chikoo in the film starts with all three of them.

How did you come to the decision to work on the film?

I have to give credits not just to the Deols but also the director and the producer when they didn’t question me once when they provided me with the script. Their only stipulation was to give my decision within 24 hours as they were short of time. I sat overnight, I read through the script, I finished the script and the rest of the time I was contemplating what I should do? Then I chastised myself saying that you know you want to do it then just say yes. So, that’s how it happened for me. Though I wanted to make sure that they are confident that they want me in the film and only after that I will look into creatives and figure out how I want to go about it.

Who approached you for the film?

Kuldeep Rathore, who is the producer of the film. He approached my agency for the movie and that’s how it came to me.

How was the experience on the sets of Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se?

It was a picnic for everybody else except for me, because it seemed like everyone had free time except me. The thing is that they would shoot from 8:00 to 2:00 with Dharmendra sir in the morning, 2:00 to 8:00 with Sunny Deol in the afternoon, and 8:00 to 2:00 again with Bobby Deol in the night and I was there in all three schedules of the day. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner with all of them. Also, on the set, there wasn’t a culture to sit in the van so nobody did, especially Bobby sir. He never goes in the van.

How was it working with the team?

One thing I have to admit that the producers never made a difference. For me to be treated the same way as Sunny sir or Dharam sir on the set was a very big deal. They never made that differentiation. Not just with me but with everybody, the food that was coming was the same for all. If the food is coming from home, then it’s for all. Once there was a huge vessel of milk on the set for all. I was treated with equal respect, touch wood they were a dream team to work with.

How was the experience of sharing the screen with a star like Dharmendra?

So cool, I mean that man’s energy. I sometimes think if I would even make it till 80 years old, and he is here alive and kicking and how. He has this passion, not just to shoot the film but to promote it. Being around him, he brushed off some of his energy to me. You know you look at him and you don’t want to complain. When you see him dancing in “Rafta Rafta Medley”, those expressions he has, I mean I know there is Salman Khan in front of him but you cannot take your eyes off Dharam sir and I think even Salman sir would agree to that.

Was there anything you learned from Dharmendra?

I think the one thing I have learned from him is that there were times when he had to give me a cue and he would still perform. He doesn’t need to, yet he would do it and he is 82 years old.

Did you ever feel intimidated thinking of sharing the screen with the three Deols?

No, I didn’t think that way. I am intimidated by their personalities, but I am not intimidated by them as actors. As an actor, if I don’t know how to hold my own ground, I will never survive here, I will never be successful. The whole idea is that it’s the people who make you comfortable or uncomfortable. They never tried to intimidate me. Like, whenever Sunny sir leaves, he keeps his hand on my head and he says bye, that’s the way it has been. We hardly shake hands or hugs; he always just keeps his hand on my head, so how do you feel intimidated by that? How can you feel overshadowed by them?

Do you think the constant conversation about equality and gender neutrality is actually making a difference?

See, if constant conversations were to help, all of our rape culture and demeaning of women in India would have gone down a lot more. Only constant talking about it does not help, we don’t realize one thing. When we teach our girls what a right touch is, we are helping her, but the second you do that with a boy and you tell him what is right and wrong, you are helping yourself, you are helping your daughter, you are helping his to-be girlfriends, his wife, you are helping his daughter. We don’t realize educating boys helps keeping a vast amount of girls’ life safe. By educating a girl, we only save her life.

You are working with Bobby Deol in another franchise Housefull, was it easier to work with him on the second project?

The second project became easier because Bobby was there. The thing is that I have become the queen of sequels, Raaz Reboot (2016) was a sequel, Guest Iin London (2017) was a sequel, Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se is a sequel and Housefull 4 is a sequel. I am very used to doing this but it’s great that he is on set because, for the first couple of days, I thought I would be really lost there. It was the first time I was meeting a lot of people on the set. I think we saw each other, Bobby and I, and we saw cupcakes (laughs). But he is great to work with, and I am actually looking forward to my next schedule.

What’s next?

I am not the kind of person who thinks about tomorrow, unfortunately. I try really hard to plan for the future but unfortunately, I have never gone further with it. I strategize my moves in the current day but I don’t strategize thinking what will happen tomorrow? What if I don’t wake up tomorrow? You don’t know so why ruin your today thinking about what will happen tomorrow?