Actor Rahul Khanna who forayed into Bollywood with a big bang debut in 1947 Earth, is back with another hatke film — Fireflies. The film centres around two brothers and a tragic incident from their childhood that has coloured their relationship. In an email interview with Sangeeta Yadav, Khanna talks about his father Vinod Khanna who is an inspiration for him and about the kind of roles that excite him. Excerpts
Tell us more about Fireflies, your upcoming film?
The film is a lyrical ‘mood-piece’. There are no thrilling plot twists or big action sequences. It’s a simple, poignant story about love, loss and redemption. It’s set between Bombay today and the tea plantations of Ooty in the1980s. The film centers around two brothers and a tragic incident from their childhood that has coloured their relationship. I play the elder brother who is a hotshot, big-city investment banker. The movie was shot on location in Bombay, Bangkok and Sri Lanka. It also has a really incredible soundtrack by Monica Dogra, Karsh Kale, Nikhil D’Souza & Indus Creed.
Was Shiv a very challenging role to play?
Every role has its own set of challenges. My character starts off being quite discontent. He’s someone who has evolved into being ruthless in both his business and personal life and is starting to question his choices. During the course of the film, Shiv starts to allow himself to be more vulnerable. I’d never played someone like him before, so it was different. Before we started filming, we had an intense series of workshops and test shoots with all the actors so we got to know each other and were well prepared by the time the cameras started rolling for real.
How was your experience working with the cast of Fireflies?
The technical and creative team were among the best in the business. Director Sabal Shekawat is one of India’s top ad-film directors so, in terms of visuals and production value, Fireflies is one of the most stylish & slick films I’ve worked on. All my fellow cast members, too, were wonderful. I have always admired Arjun Mathur as an actor. Although we don’t actually have too many scenes together, I enjoyed the times we did share a scene. Monica is a unique performer. She has also contributed some incredible music for the film. It was also lovely working with Shivani Ghai who is new to India but has a large body of work from the UK and the US.
She was such a professional and a delight as a co-star. Aadya Bedi, too, really impressed me with her performance. I truly hope to work with them all again.
Can you share some anecdote from the making of the film… ?
In terms of memorable experiences, for some reason, I was plagued by major physical catastrophes right from the start! A couple of weeks before filming I had an accident and fractured two fingers whose nails then turned a very un-cinematic black! We tried all sorts of cosmetic tricks to cover them up but nothing worked and eventually we just settled for old-fashioned band-aids!
There was also a day when, halfway through filming an important scene, I developed the most enormous pimple ever recorded in the history of dermatology, right in the middle of my forehead. There was simply no way to cover it up so it had to be digitally removed in post-production.
And then, while on location in the rain forests of Sri Lanka, the day before shooting a scene where I had to have my shirt off, I went for a swim and was attacked by a swarm of sand flies that left me with a thousand angry, red bites all over on my back. But, thanks to the genius of cinematographer Shanker Raman’s camera work and lighting, you can’t tell.
What do you have to say about the trend of Bollywood movies originally been made in English language like Finding Fanny, and now Fireflies?
Both should co-exist! I think it’s important for the audience to have choices. For us artists, the only way one can grow, creatively, is to constantly try new things. Fireflies might not be everyone’s cup of tea but hopefully it will find an audience and perhaps pave the way for others who want to create something different and new.
You made your Bollywood debut with Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth. How has the journey been till now?
I am certainly more confident and understand the craft better now. I know myself in and out. I am well aware of my strengths and weakness. I also appreciate all the technical expertise, behind the scenes, that powers the film. During breaks, I often spend time with the camera, production or art department asking questions and getting to know the process better. Filmmaking is a team effort but as an actor one is often isolated from the rest of the team. I have grown to enjoy interacting more with the other departments and offering them as much support as they offer the actors. It just makes for a more enjoyable and efficient working environment.
You have worked in a couple of Hollywood films as well. How did that help you in Bollywood?
In the West, the budget is much higher and everything is very disciplined and planned. That said, the Indian industry has changed a lot in the last few years. These days, most Indian films are made quite similarly to their western counterparts. Productions are extremely well organised and everything is meticulously scheduled. Indian technical and creative talent has always been top notch and now, our execution is also catching up.
What does Vinod Khanna have to say about your performances?
He is a cool father who never put any pressure on us. Papa has encouraged us to take important decisions and make the most of whatever comes our way. He has been an inspiration for both of us. We have learnt how to take things in our stride and move on with our lives from him. I used to call him the man of steel because he has a very strong will power and can endure any amount of stress. The young generation could take a few tips from him in anger management.
Do we get to see father-son living it up on the screen as well?
I would love to! But for both of us to share screen space, the script would have to be a pretty spectacular project and, so far, we haven’t found one.
(The article was published in The Pioneer Newspaper-