Let’s Make A Child’s Dream Come True Today!

Alfie The Elf’s story begins all the way back in 2012, while I was in the middle of writing my most ambitious book; “A Pocketful of Sunshine.” (Fingers crossed, one day it will be released.) It was around Christmas and my brother and his family were visiting and my nephew – Nathan (four, then) had a head full of questions about Christmas. Santa Claus, how he got his gifts.

Alfie The Elf Shaiju Mathew
Meet the gang of Alfie

As I answered his curiosity, a story spun in my head about the magic of Christmas. I wanted to tell a story about hope, about spreading joy, about magic, about wishes coming true, a story that was set in a magical land, a story that would bring all the magical creatures to life and then suddenly I had a character coming to life and that was Alfie.

To me, Christmas has always been special, it was all about waiting for gifts and spending time with family, eating yummy Christmas goodies and going to church to sing carols and this time felt magical to me and I wanted this feeling to be translated into my book.

As impossible as it may sound, I wrote about Alfie in nine days straight and like Alfie and the other characters in the story, I went through an emotional roller coaster; mainly to get this story out to the world. Almost all the publishers I approached had the same response about this book: “It’s too Enid Blyton-ish, we are looking for something that is more J K Rowling.” Some publishers who showed interest asked me to don a western penname. And by the end, my literary agent, too, gave up hope, raised her hands up in surrender and wished me luck with Alfie.

Alfie The Elf, Shaiju Mathew
Book Cover

Determined to bring Alfie and his friends to the world, I reached out to the public and asked for their opinion, I shared a few of the chapters with about a hundred people of varying age group (8 years to 65 years) and the response I got was overwhelming; they loved the story, they loved the spirit of Christmas and innocence Alfie and his friends brought with the story.

This motivated me to self-publish my book that was so dear to me and now you hold in your hands.

During all those self-doubting days, there were a few wonderful people who were my support system and stood by me through thick and thin. This book would be incomplete if I go on without mentioning them.

The two people without whom Alfie would not have been possible and to whom I am indebted for life: Anusha Jha Rohom, my book editor who after reading Alfie The Elf, was kind enough to come on board with zero expectations and molded my story beautifully. Secondly, Vikram Nandwani, my childhood friend, and illustrator who brought every character to life and came up with the beautiful book cover.

Apart from that, I would love to thank my friends and family especially my parents who always taught my brother and me to never lose hope and to always pursue our dreams how much ever they seem to be impossible.

And last, but never the least, my nephews and niece – Nathan, Jeremiah, and Kiara – the little kids with big ideas; I hope I made you proud.

Dream A Dream, Shaiju Mathew, Alfie The Elf
Inside Cover of Alfie

Now coming to the question of ‘How Can You Make A Child’s Dream Come True?’ By buying a copy of Alfie The Elf, you will be able to do that, how? I have tied up with Dream A Dream Organization who is backing Alfie to fulfill the dreams of many less privileged kids. Every book sold will help a child’s dream come true as 40% of the profits are going to this cause. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and order your copy from any of the leading online bookstores where you can find the paperback as well as an E-Book version. Also, don’t forget to send me your feedback on mattshai@gmail.com

Please order your copies from the following links;

Paperback edition in India: Amazon.in,Flipkart, PayTM, Shopclues, Infibeam, Notion Press etc.

Paperback edition abroad: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, BarnesandNoble,

Ebook Edition: Kindle, Google Play, KoBo, Dailyhunt, iBooks, Rockstand

Movie Review: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil!

Diwali is the biggest festival of India and like every year, this year too, two BIG movies are clashing with each other to  get audience’s attention. The first movie I am reviewing is Karan Johar’s much-anticipated, much-talked and controversy surrounded – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Without much talking, let me dive into the story of ADHM.

The movie starts with ‘private-jet ameer’ Ayan (Ranbir) trying to hook up with ‘Raees’ Alizeh (Anushka) after a chance encounter at a London pub. However, instead of they ending up in bed and bidding farewell later, they strike up a friendship instantly. They’re both Bollywood-crazy goofballs who love cheesy ’80s songs, poke fun at each other’s partners and fit into each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. But Ayan wants more from the relationship while Alizeh wants to have him as her ‘bestestest’ friend forever after reeling from her break-up with her ex DJ Ali (Fawad). Although, Ayan is a good singer, but Alizeh feels there is no feeling in his singing as he has never experienced heartbreak. Which he does when a chance encounter with Ali while Alizeh and Ayan are holidaying in Paris, makes her slip back into his arms, leaving him distraught.

Alizeh goes back to Lucknow and gets married to Ali against her parent’s wishes. Ayan tries to make Alizeh understand his love for her, but she rejects him as she is not in love with him. A distraught and heartbroken Ayan then finds solace in a physical relationship with an older divorcee Saba (Aishwarya), who helps him get a new perspective on one-sided love.

Will Alizeh fall in love with Ayan and accept him as her lover or will Ayan find his soulmate in Saba? To find out, watch the movie.

The story by Karan Johar is a mixture of his earlier movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu etc. and Rockstar. There is no originality in the story or script, however, performances by the lead actors keep the movie afloat and entertaining. Ranbir, as usual, does a fantastic job and Anushka is a dream to watch. Their chemistry is crackling and you don’t turn your face away whenever they mouth those typical filmy corny dialogues from the 80s and 90s. Aishwarya looks beautiful and does a decent job in her small role. Lisa Haydon is hilarious and makes the ‘Vaatavaran’ exciting with her presence. Fawad Khan and Imran Abbas are just okay and do not have too many screen time (there was no need for the entire controversy to be created around their presence in the movie). Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt lightens up the screen with their short cameos.

Dialogues by Niranjan Iyengar and Karan Johar is good and the first half is quite entertaining because of the dialogues and the lead pair’s chemistry. The second half drags in the first 20 minutes and then picks up once Anushka and Ranbir meet again. The music by Pritam is outstanding especially the title song and Channa Mereya which has a haunting presence even in the BG score.

Cinematography by Anil Mehta is very good and you will fall in love with the lighting and every frame which gives you that typical KJo signature style. Editing could have been crisper, especially in the second half.

Overall, ADHM is a feel good movie and keeps you entertained and therefore I would recommend you to watch it at least once if you are a fan of KJO movies.

My Verdict: ***

Alfie The Elf – My New Novel!

Source: blog.celoxis.com
Source: blog.celoxis.com

It’s been a while since Knocked Up my debut novel released and I have been getting a lot of inquiries from my fans and readers asking about my next book. So finally after 6 years my next novel is going to release this ‘Children’s Day’ i.e. 14th November, titled Alfie The Elf.

Alfie is one of my favorite characters I have created and I am proud to say that I finished the manuscript in 7 days flat. Alfie is cute, he is brave, he is magical and he believes in making this world a beautiful place to live for each and every kind of being. He goes through a lot of hardships in life but he never gives up on hope and faith which leads him to become a real life HERO!

I approached a lot of publishers in India who discouraged me from releasing this book saying Christmas and Santa Claus themed books will never do well in India, as readers will not accept a local author writing about the same. They also told me that because of this reason, there are no Indian books based on these themes. I was also advised by few literary agents to change my name to a foreign sounding name so that publishers and readers will accept my book. However, when I did a small research group study involving 100 individuals of different age groups, where I handed over chapters of Alfie they all came back saying that it is a wonderful story and they want to read the full book, in turn giving me the confidence to release my book independently.  Sorry if I sound pompous and trying to pull up your expectations for the book, but wait until it is released, I am sure you will love Alfie :).

Now you might ask who is my target audience. Then the answer is anybody and everybody who has a child hidden within him/her will love this book :). Now, here is the synopsis of Alfie The Elf for you all. Also, I will be posting a few sample chapters along with the original cover for the book in a couple of days. I hope you love the book and Alfie the way I loved creating him 🙂

Synopsis: Alfie is a 14-year-old orphaned midget. He has just one wish – to grow tall. He believes that would help him gain lots of adoring friends and even impress Charlene, the girl of his dreams. He tries all tricks and tips to increase his height, but to no avail. Finally, he pins all his hopes on a miracle by writing to Santa and stays ‘good’ through the year. Christmas arrives, but Alfie’s wish doesn’t get fulfilled. Hurt, and deeply disappointed, Alfie runs away from his orphanage to look for Santa. That is only the beginning of a fantastical journey that takes him across mythical lands where he meets creatures straight out of fairy tales. With a wicked wizard out to dominate the universe and a worried Santa with his share of woes, Alfie has his hands full. Will he be able to achieve his dream? With the help of his best friend, Bullet, a pug and Pedro, an owl, he just might!

To grab a copy of Alfie The Elf please visit any of the leading bookstores eg; Amazon.com, Amazon.in, Flipkart, Branes&Noble, Infibeam, Shopclues etc. or just click here

Alfie The Elf Shaiju Mathew
Meet the gang of Alfie

You can reach out to me on authorshaiju@gmail.com or on my twitter – @shaijumathew profile 🙂

Regional Cinema Is Here To Stay – Teeshay

Teeshay Shah is one of the few popular faces on the small screen who is also making his presence felt on the big screen. After last year’s much appreciated movie The Perfect Girl, Teeshay is ready with his new movie I Wish. With the advent of high content regional movies like Duniyadaari, Timepass, Natsamrat, Sairat and Chello Divas doing great business at the Box Office. I Wish is one of the most anticipated Gujarati movies of the year. Here is an excerpt from our recent conversation we had over a cup of hot tea and cookies.

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It’s great to have you back on CWS (smiles)
It’s a pleasure to be featured on CWS (smiles) I was looking forward for this interview.

How sweet… so tell me… I am all ears to know what is your new movie I Wish all about?
I Wish is about the struggles of a couple in love before and after marriage, and how they redeem themselves and their love, with music as a backdrop because the character I am playing “Vismay” is a budding rockstar and music is all that he knows.

With I Wish Team
With I Wish Team

After dabbling in mainstream Bollywood and Television, what was the thought behind doing a regional movie?
Well there are is tremendous talent all over the country and amazing stories hidden in every part of India which filmmakers want to express, plus over the last couple of years regional cinema is really standing its own ground and being noticed because of the talent which is there. I have been wanting to do something challenging always and I Wish gave me another opportunity to do so.

After Sairat and Natsamrat Bollywood is facing some serious competition from regional movies, what are your thoughts on this? Why is this happening?
People today are so exposed to internet and social media that a good product can never be ignored, and this will only grow. There is tremendous scope for telling unique stories and it  is reaching today’s audiences too. People want to watch good cinema and fresh stories and there is tremendous talent out there to feed the audiences with it. Hence, I believe regional films are here to stay.

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As Chello Divas was a big hit in Gujarati there might be some tremendous expectations from I Wish. Is the pressure bogging you down?
We had lots of crowds gathering when we shot outdoors. Even within the industry there is tremendous buzz, which is exciting because we know we are giving them something absolutely fresh and unique. It’s not fair to compare our film to Chello Divas because both the films are absolutely different and as far as the pressure is concerned it will always be there but we are a young and passionate team and have given it our best. We had a lot of fun while filming and that at the end of the day is important.

What can the audience expect from this movie?
The audience can expect a fresh young love story which has its ups and downs which everyone will relate to. It is an entertaining movie with some tremendous music to stay true to its genre of being a musical.

What are your future plans?
Nothing has been planned yet. I just want to take it one step at a time. Enjoy each day and have fun with the work I pick up.

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I am a full old school romantic kind of girl – Tara Alisha Berry

Beautiful, smart, vivacious, stylish, sexy, talented and more importantly confident are few adjectives that come to my mind the moment I think of Tara Alisha Berry. This bundle of talent never fails to surprise me with every movie of her’s whether it is a demure, shy girl in Mastram  or the bold and beautiful Alisha from Vikram Bhatt’s Love Games, Tara fits in every role and character to the ‘T’. It is my pleasure to have Tara back on Chai With Shai and today we are going to talk ‘dirty’. Presenting you excerpts from my conversation with my dear friend Taasha (nickname) over a glass of chilled iced tea and some delicious homemade cookies.

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Welcome back Taasha… it’s a pleasure to have you on Chai With Shai and I must say you are looking stunning in the promos of Love Games (smiles).
Thank you Shy… it is always a pleasure to chat with you (smiles)

What is Love Games all about?
In one sentence Love Games is “Love in the time of Lust” (whispers)

Wow! That’s quite a nice one liner (winks) So tell me what’s so special about this character – Alisha, in Love Games that made you take up the role?
Her graph is beautiful in the film. Also when I read the script I got scared thinking how will I pull this off. It’s always nice doing roles which are challenging. Also I would have never let go of the opportunity to work with Vikram sir and Vishesh films (gushes).

Hmm… How close is the character of Alisha with you in reality?
She is not like me at all. She is much more mature than I am. I feel I have a lot more to learn before I reach Alisha’s level of strength and maturity!

TAB

How did you prepare for the role?
We did a few readings and also did workshops with Bhatt Saab. By the time we reached the shoot we all knew exactly who our characters were and so then everything just flowed very organically.

Will you ever want to play some Love Games in your real life (winks)?
Never! I am a full old school romantic kind of girl. I don’t believe in games at all when it comes to matters of the heart.

Really??? (teasingly)
Of Course… what do you mean really??? (rolls her eyes) You know me… (smiles)

Ok got it (Laughs)… In our society we never speak openly about our sexual life, do you think a movie like Love Games will find audience in present scenario?
People don’t speak openly but they all watch explicit videos and read things with sexual content in secret! Our film is much much than just a film about swingers and sex. It has a very gripping and thrilling story and I hope audiences give us a chance so they can enjoy the film!

Tell me your experience of working with Vikram Bhatt.
It was amazing! Vikram sir can read my thoughts so I could completely surrender to him as an actor and didn’t have to worry about “am I doing this scene correctly / I should have done this or that ” etc.

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What did you learn from the Bhatts?
I have learnt that it is important to be honest. As a person and as an actor. Bhatt Saab and Vikram sir have stripped down any facade I had before this film and I feel I am better for it. I feel like I have much more to explore within myself as an actor and hope I get the chance to do that!

Most of the Bhatt girls have been successful in Bollywood, some even ended up in Hollywood say Mallika Sherawat and Bipasha Basu. How was it being the new Bhatt girl in tinseltown?
I am ecstatic! I can’t wait to see how the graph of my career pans out! And who knows maybe I’ll end up in Hollywood too! (winks) God willing!! (crosses fingers and smiles)

Touchwood! (knocks on her head)
Ouch! (throws a cushion at me)

Peace… (smiles and raises my hands)
Cool (smiles)

After Love Games do you fear of getting slotted in the erotic movie category?
Not at all! I think when people see the film and see my character on the film they will see that it is one of the strongest women seen on-screen.

tara

How open are you talking about your sexual fantasies openly?
I don’t think I would in public and absolutely NEVER in front of you at least!

Why not me?
Just…(shrugs)

Tell me….
You want me to complete the answer or not?

Okay fine continue (pouts)
Where was I???? Hmm… Ya.. Like… Shut up don’t pout like a kid (laughs)

Okay fine… continue (smiles)
You are a total dramebaaz huh! Again you broke my flow… haan (pauses for a second before continuing).. As I said I don’t think I would talk sex openly in public, but definitely would with my boyfriend if I am in a long-term relationship!

How was it working with Gaurav Arora? Did you get to bully him considering the fact that you are 3 movies old and this is his debut?
(Laughs) Gaurav is a darling! He’s going to be the next heart-throb! He’s a wonderful actor and fun person! We got along really well and have become good friends. There was no bullying though! Come on I am sweet girl (giggles).

love-games-movie
Tara with co-star Gaurav Arora

Hmm… Now for a catty question… PR agencies always play up to the fact that when there are two actresses paired in a movie, there are bound to be some cat fights. So were there any cat fights between you and Patralekha?
You know that era of cat fights is long gone. Everybody wants to work and everyone is very chilled out these days. Patra and I have become closer and closer as the film has gone on and now I think she’s become someone I know I can call at any time and she’ll be there to listen. She’s a wonderful person and a hardworking actor and a great friend!

What image you want to portray on-screen bold seductress or demure next door girl?
Since I’ve already played the demure girl next door I think I’d love the challenge of playing a seductress!

Nice… Have you ever indulged in threesome?
What? (burst out laughing) No I haven’t. That was a bouncer (continues laughing)

Okay… Would you like some experimentation like 50 Shades of Grey in real life?
I haven’t read the book or seen the movie so I don’t know (straight face).

Alright… If offered the role of Anastasia Steele in the desi version of 50 Shades of Grey, would you like play it?
As I said… I can’t say because I haven’t seen the film or read the book but if I found the story interesting then, who knows! For me it’s about the script and director!

Gaurav Arora, Teeshay, Rahul Bagga who is the best on-screen kisser?
(Burst out laughing) I don’t think I should answer this!

Why?
It wont be fair to each of these guys… before you get into your way of dissecting things… please let’s move on to the next question (giggle)

Okay… answer this… Erotic Thrillers or Sex Comedies?
Brilliant stories! (winks)

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Steady relationship or partner swapping to spice up your sexual life?
Steady relationship.

Sex on the beach or Jungle mein Mangal?
(Laughs) What Jungle Mein Mangal??? Gross!!! Ummm I’m more of a mountain girl! So I think in a romantic setting in the mountains!

Smart…(smiles) So what are your future projects?
I’m in talks for a thriller and also doing two more films with Vishesh films.

Wow!!! What can the audience expect from LG and why should they watch it?
They can watch a thrilling story which will blow their minds with the twists and turns in it and that’s why they should watch it!!

Taasha as usual it is a pleasure to chat with you. I wish you all the best and may you become one of the biggest stars of Tinseltown!
Thanks Shy… wish you all the best for your new book Alfie The Elf! May it become one of the biggest bestsellers of all time!

Ooooh mutual admiration society huh? 
Nah seriously….

Anyway best of luck to both of us!
(both say in unison and laugh out loud)

 

Find Out Who is Sumeet ‘Miku’ Vyas’ Permanent Roommate!

One actor who has made his presence felt in the world of web series’ these days is Sumeet Vyas. Actor and writer Vyas who has played several small parts in many movies and sitcoms, gained instant recognition and stardom through The Viral Fever’s web series Permanent Roommates. And today on Chai With Shai we have the ‘man’ himself discussing his career so far and his future ahead over a cup of chai and pakodas. Here are some excerpts from our fun chat.

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Permanent Roommates Season 2 is premiered on 14th Feb. What can the audience expect this time?
Big scale entertainment, more mature plot, stellar cast – full of surprises (gushes), more madness, and a lot of Coooool stuff (smiles).

How did your affaire with Tinseltown start?
I was very weak at studies, so my father put me in an editing studio when I was 16, I started working there full time soon, as I learned very quickly. I worked there for a year or so, and then one day I went to Prithvi theatre to watch a play in which my father was acting, that changed my life. I started working with Ekjute theatre group, then moved on and worked with several other groups and directors, directed plays, etc. simultaneously, I was also doing bits on T.V, as and when I got any opportunity, did a few films, like English Vinglish, Aurangzeb, Aarakshan, Guddu ki gun, Kajariya, and some that are about to release (smiles).

How did your family react to your decision to become an actor?
They were cool, my father is from NSD, he was a little concerned when I left my job at the editing studio, but once he realised how passionate I was about acting, he let me do my thing. My mother has always been a pillar of support for me. So ya, they were cool (grins).

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Your father is a writer, did he give you any tips on writing when you started out as a writer too?
Not really, that’s what I love about him. He lets me have my own journey, allows me to make my own mistakes and learn from them. His suggestions are generally very poetic, which only make sense to me after ten years (laughs), a pattern that has continued since I was born.

Interesting (smiles) so how did you stumble into the world of web-series?
I had seen all the previous videos by TVF. A friend introduced me to them, and I knew Nidhi Bisht, who was in most of those videos, so I called her and told her that I’d love to work with them, and ya, they called me for Permanent Roommates (smiles).

I must say it is a pretty interesting story (smiles). How has been your association with TVF till date?
Very good I’d say, I love their work ethics, we have a lot of respect for each other. And they create a great atmosphere to work in.

How did Bang Baaja Baraat with Y Films materialize?
Well Anand Tiwari and I had worked on an idea long time back, but it didn’t go anywhere, and then we came in touch with Nikhil Taneja who had just joined YRF and he heard the concept and loved it, so we decided to write it afresh. I wrote the dialogues for it and Anand, Amrit Pal Bindra and I wrote the story together.

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Is web-series a lucrative career decision? Would you recommend the same to newcomers?
I guess so, because so far, content is what works on the web, so if your stuff is good, it’s an open medium, just dive in.

Films, serials and web-series you have done every medium of entertainment. So what’s next for you?
A lead part in a film (rubbing his hands and grins).

I am sure you will get one soon (smiles).
Insha Allah (laughs).

Do you think Indian’s are open to experiments when it comes to various genres of entertainment like westerners?
Of course we are, how else would a Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Fargo and other series like them become so popular in India, especially with the youth. They’re nothing we can relate to in these shows and still they work because they are such interesting stories.

True… What are your future plans?
Am writing a series right now, and Permanent Roommates 2 is going to keep me busy for the next 2 months.

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Great! So Sumeet if you are a close follower of our chat series you would have noticed that we have a round where I throw few questions at you and you have to reply in a word or a sentence as appropriate.
Yes… (smiles) I am prepared for that (laughs)

Are you??? (smirks)
Yes… Now don’t scare me (laughs out loud).

Don’t worry as you are new on my series I will be little kind to you (winks).
Thank God!

Okay so here we go… Who is your Permanent Roommate?
My wife (smiles).

Nidhi or Sridevi your favorite co-star?
Nidhi.

Played safe huh?
No seriously (laughs).

What advice will you give the TVF team?
Don’t change

One Night Stands or Committed Relationships?
Whatever gets you good sleep in the night (winks).

Clever (smiles). The most embarrassing moment ever?
Can’t tell you, it’s too embarrassing (laughs).

Okay… next… Long drives or candle lite dinner?
Long drives.

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Your favorite movie?
Agneepath (the original) and Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind.

Your favorite book other than Knocked Up written by me?
Animal Farm by George Orwell

If a movie is made on your life, whom do you want to play your character?
Me Of course!

Other than you I meant…
No one can play me better than myself!

Okay fine… moving on (smiles). The most underrated actor in India?
So many of them (counts on his fingers) Sanjay Mishra, Akshay Khanna, Javed Jafari, Gajraj Rao and Sumeet Vyas (winks).

Hmm… impressive… Okay now, the most overrated actor in India?
Again so many… (about to start counting his fingers, shakes his head and smiles) can’t name them (winks).

Huh? Okay, your dream director?
Raju Hirani and Woody Allen

Permanent Roommates or Bang Baaja Baraat?
Permanent Roommates always!

Is there is a Permanent Roommates 3 happening in the future?
I’m sure there will be (smiles) fingers crossed… See (crosses fingers and shows me, and smiles).

Any other projects you are doing with TVF?
Many, but nothing fixed yet.

It was a pleasure having you on Chai With Shai Sumeet and before we conclude what advice do you want to give your fans?
There’s light somewhere, it may not be much light, but it beats the darkness, be on the watch, the God’s will offer you chances, know them, take them, you are marvelous, the God’s wait to delight in you ( a small quote from The laughing heart by Charles Bukowski)
Be cooool!

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Tanuj Wants To Have a One Night Stand With Scarlett Johansson!

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Meeting up with friends over a cup of ‘chai’ has been one of my favorite activities. Today I am glad to feature my dear friend and actor Tanuj Virwani on Chai With Shai. Tanuj and I go way back in time when he was an assistant director and I a budding writer. Today he is one of the most promising stars to hit the silver screen and after an initial setback with his first two movies, his next with Sunny Leone – One Night Stand looks quite promising. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

One Night Stand is one of the most promising movies of 2016 starring Sunny Leone and you in the lead. Tell us about the movie and your character.
Yes I’m really looking forward to this one (smiles). I play a mature, rather grey character in the film who’s really a bit of a jerk to everyone around him until it all starts catching up with him. In short, the film is a mature adult drama about relationships love and loss (smiles).

How did One Night Stand find its way to your life?
I got a call to test for it and so I went, three days later the producers called me saying they would like to meet me and that’s what set the ball rolling (smiles).

Nice (smiles)… So tell me how was it working with Sunny considering the fact that she is one of the most sought after actresses today?
She’s wonderful to work with, very level headed and grounded even though she is so successful she never acted like a star if I was finding certain scenes difficult she would help me through them. I really couldn’t have asked for a better co-star (gushes).

I am sure (smiles)…With the suggestive name like One Night Stand, can we classify it in the same genre as Kya Kool Hai Hum series or a Mastizaade? If not, how different is it from the aforementioned movies?
(Laughs)… No no no I can assure you there is not even one prevent similarity between those films and ours simply because the genre itself is very different.

Really? (raises eyebrows)
Really… (continues laughing) Come on yaar, those are full on masala entertainers with huge doses of humour while our film is an adult drama. The characters are all real and pretty serious, no jokes going around here
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Hmmm (frowns)… I do believe you (smiles)… So did you have any inhibitions while filming this movie?
Well initially I was a bit sceptical because of certain scenes I was to perform. However, I decided not to particularly highlight them in my head as they were aesthetically done and I trusted my director’s vision. If I would think about it too much I would not be able to be truthful to the character.

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Right… Born to a superstar mother (Rati Agnihotri) and businessman father, how was your growing up days?
I have had a lovely childhood. By the grace of God my parents have raised me with the right values without giving me anything in excess. It’s important that we make our own mark in the world and come out of our parent’s shadows. Nothing makes them more proud of us (smiles).

That’s true… Did you always aspire to be an actor?
Not really I wanted to be a director actually it’s something I would still like to pursue in the future.

I know… but how did the transformation happen?
I was an assistant director and offers would start coming in via my mother also once the acting bug hits you it’s very difficult to shrug it off (laughs).

Happens (joins laughter)… Like you said earlier, you want to still pursue being a director, so any aspirations to turn into a full-fledged director with a mainstream Hindi movie any day soon?
Yes absolutely I write and direct a lot of short films, so yes that does seem like the next logical step but not anytime soon. I want to establish myself as an actor first.

What kind of movies give you a kick?
I like dark gritty movies with grey characters

Any favourite character you think you could play?
I would love to do an Indianized version of Tony Montana from Scarface (winks).

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Nice… Tell me how open are you with experimenting with characters and roles in movies? Would you like to play a gay man or a quirky character if anyone approaches you?
I am absolutely open to all types of roles. The moment one starts being judgemental about a character you cease to be honest with your craft. The key is to keep reinventing yourself so as to keep the audience interested.

True… So which directors you want to work with and why?
Raju Hirani, R. Balki, Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali amongst others. Well I think their body of work is reason enough (smiles).

Were you disappointed with the underperformance of your previous movies?
(Giving a deep thought) Disappointed? Yes. Disillusioned? No. See you have to shrug it off and aim at doing a better job in the future. Nothing lasts forever not success and not failure. The only co-star in one’s life is ‘CHANGE’!

Rati Aunty is a terrific actress and a huge star of her time, what kind of advice does she give you on your choice of roles or how to conduct properly in the industry?
She wants me to learn from my own mistakes and make my own decisions so unless and until I go to her for specific advice, she doesn’t interfere much.

For a star-son you are much grounded and well behaved, whom do you want to give credit for the person you are today?
My parents for the way that they have raised me looks like they did a really good job no (laughs).

Absolutely (smiles) I can vouch for it… In an industry filled with gossips and rumours you have a very clean slate till now. Are you actually not a controversial person or you are intelligent enough to cover your tracks? (laughs)
(Peers at me and then smiles) Well I’m a normal guy nobody is squeaky clean and no one is a monster as they are sometimes portrayed to be. I’m a private person when it comes to certain aspects of my life which do not concern my professional life I would not like my life story being breakfast news for 1.3 billion people so I try and keep a low profile as I think it keeps one’s sanity and peace of mind (smiles).

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Out of the three movies you have done so far, two have been directed by women. Do you see any difference while getting directed by a female director compared a male director?
I find that women directors at least the ones that I have worked with are just a little more emotionally switched on, also the kind of instructions vary a bit when a man is directing you as opposed to a woman. Both experiences have been enriching for me

What are your future projects?
(Rubbing his hands) Well there is something coming up really soon but I’m not yet at liberty to speak about it. Hopefully soon (smiles) once One Night Stand releases.

Explain One Night Stand in one sentence and what can audience expect from this movie?
Karmas a bitch. That’s what our movie says if you are a bit of a jerk to people it will come back and haunt you someday. The audience can expect a lot of twists and turns, and drama and yes of course Sunny Leone in a completely new avatar (winks). I think she’s gonna surprise a lot of people with her performance in this movie.

Okay, Tanuj we have arrived at the most exciting part of our conversation where I will throw few questions at you and you have to answer them in a word or sentence.
Whom do you want to have a One Night Stand with (except Sunny Leone)
Scarlett Johansson (laughs).

In real life you prefer One Night Stands or Committed Relationships (laughs)?
(Joins laughter) Nice one… Relationships of course.

The most sexiest actress today as per you – Sunny Leone, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Kriti Sanon?
Deepika Padukone.

An actor you feel is competition?
Every single working actor out there is my competition.

Oh don’t be a saint, just take one name…
Come on… (pauses) I will pass for now.

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Okay (smirks)… Purani Jeans or One Night Stand?
Right now, one night stand (winks).

Tanushree, Joe or Jasmine D’Souza fav director?
Infact all three have been wonderful so it would be unfair just to pick one (smiles).

So diplomatic… Anyway, would you like to work in a remake of Ek Duje Ke Liye?
Yes that would be great (excitedly).

Wait the question is not yet over…
Okay please continue (smiles).

Thank you (winks and both burst out laughing) Okay let me ask the question now…
Okay go on.

Who would you like your heroine to be Akshara or Shruthi Hasan and why?
That all depends on the script and the director

Hmmm… Your secret fantasy?
If I told you I’d have to kill you (laughs)

Okay fine I don’t say as I don’t want to die so soon (winks)… Your favourite holiday place?
Gold Coast, Australia.

So predictable…
What predictable?

Last time also you said the same thing.
So?

I thought abhi kuch toh badlav aaya hoga
Jaani hum aise hi badalte nahi…(winks)

Accha? Anyway (smiles) what message you want to give your fans?
Don’t let success go to your head or failure to your heart stay blessed stay hungry stay foolish guys. Love you all (smiles).

It was a pleasure catching up with you Tanuj and I wish you all the very best for your future projects.
Likewise (smiles and hugs).

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Chai With Shai: Aamir overrated, Akshay Genuine – Ashish R Mohan!

After a long hiatus I am back with my Chai With Shai series and what better way to start it again with one of my favorite people from the industry. He is one of the most promising directors to hit the tinsel town and he has made one of the biggest hits with Akshay Kumar – Khiladi 786. And if I have to describe Ashish R Mohan in one word then I would say he is a ‘Dreamer’. Here is an excerpt from our interesting chat we had recently over the customary ‘Chai’ and cookies for a change (winks).

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How did your affair with Bollywood begin (winks)?
Affair! Nice way to put it (laughs). Okay, so it all started when I was a kid. I come from a small town Shimla and had no connections in the Mumbai film industry. My grandmother did her Masters in Music and Hindi and my dad was also an artist – he use to paint. One of my first teachers in school was also a great musician and French national. I was his favourite student. In short, I had a lot of creative influences around me during my childhood.

Right (smiles)
(continues…) My dad used to take me for movies whenever there was a new release in theatre. I remember watching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Guide when I was a kid. All these influences made me grow up with an intent to join movies and pursue it passionately (smiles). My family was not too financially strong to support me when I decided to move to Mumbai. Moreover, I was too young according to my parents to live on my own. I was 18 when I left for Mumbai. My family did their best to support me. After two months of struggling for work and visiting few sets as a junior artist, I finally got to meet Mr. Anil Devgan, after I got rejected by one of the junior artist supplier for some small part as a background artist. Mr. Devgan was making Blackmail then. I met him few times and kept on pestering him to hire me as an assistant and one day he did hire me (smiles).

So persistence pays (smiles)
Yes, it did pay (laughs). After Blackmail got over I got a chance to join Mr. Rohit Shetty whom I knew since Zameen days. Rohit was very fond of me and knew I would never let him down. I worked with him for 7 years and finally got my first movie Khiladi 786. There’s a lot more in between which I would love to pen down as a biopic someday (laughs).

Please do hire me as your writer to pen your Biography (laughs)
Sure why not (joins laughing).

Khiladi 786 was one of the biggest hits of 2012. With a superstar like Akshay Kumar as the leading man and a big hit under your belt, these are dreams that most of the non-filmy debutants wish for. How did you manage that feat?
It was my writing team and Mr. Himesh Reshammiya who made it possible for me. I had approached many actors for another script which was a heist film based in the late sixties. But none of the actors I approached were ready to trust a newcomer. And when I met Mr. Reshammiya finally, he told me to come up with something that would be fit for a big star. I had no idea whom he was talking about and once we had the final dialogue draft ready, he made us meet Akshay sir.

Wow!!! Tell me all about the first meeting with Akshay?
You won’t believe it was one of the biggest high in my life to sit next to Akshay sir and narrate him my first script and imagine I was narrating him the script on his private plane (gushes). I was not too sure whether he would agree to work with me but he loved the script and had no insecurities working with a newcomer. He said ‘yes’ for the film at an altitude of 15000 feet in his plane flying back to Mumbai. He probably is one of the finest gentleman and the most secure star we have around (smiles).

Now this will definitely make an exciting chapter for your Biography (smiles).
I bet (smiles back).

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Ashish, normally every director who works with Akshay Kumar repeats him for his next movie but you went for a Jackky Bhagnani to star in your second movie Welcome 2 Karachi. What is the story behind it?
I so wish I had a chance to direct him again after Khiladi 786. However, Welcome 2 Karachi script didn’t suit his image of an action superstar. I was making a movie with Mr. Irrfan Khan and if I would have taken few matured and professional decisions I would have ended up making a great film (frowns). I got carried away emotionally. But I don’t have any regrets as this experience taught me a lot more than what I learnt from the success of Khiladi 786.

You have seen super success with your first movie and disaster with your second, what has these two experiences taught you?
Rise and fall is just a state of mind.

Sounds very Zen like (laughs).
Yup (winks).

How was it working with Akshay Kumar?
I could not ask for more. I got to learn a lot from him. What makes him a huge star is his humble approach towards everyone on the sets and he creates a very positive atmosphere around him. I learnt a lot from him in terms of discipline and professionalism. I look up to him.

It was heard that the movie you scripted and planned (Welcome 2 Karachi), and the one that actually got made are as different as chalk and cheese. What is the truth behind this rumour?
That’s true but I would hold myself responsible for taking few wrong decisions and making wrong choices (frowns).

How did your family support your decision to become a director?
They always supported me with whatever I decided in life. All they wanted was to see me doing good for myself and people around me.

What are your future plans?
Currently I am working on a production from Costa Rica which is a Spanish language film with a lot of Bollywood influence. Simultaneously writing a script for a big star back in India.

Advice to your fans?
Keep watching movies in the theatre, say no to piracy. Enjoy every moment, live life entertained.

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Okay Ashish, now is that part of my series where I would ask you few questions and expect you to reply in one word.
Okay… but be good to me…

What do you mean ‘Good to me’?
I have read your previous interactions and the questions… I am already squirming in my seat (laughs)

I never knew my fun questions can make people nervous (winks and laughs). Okay fine! As the Holiday season is just round the corner, I am going to be good with you… going with the mood of the season (winks)
Great!

Akshay Kumar or Jackky Bhagnani?
Hahahahahahaha…

Got it (winks) Himesh Reshammiya or Vashu Bhagnani?
Himesh Reshammiya without any second thought.

Asin or Lauren the better actress?
Asin

The most underrated actor in Bollywood?
Ajay Devgn

The most overrated actor in Bollywood?
Aamir Khan

Ouch! If given a chance which movie you want to remake other than Welcome 2 Karachi (winks)?
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron

The sexiest actress in Bollywood?
Deepika Padukone

Romantic dinners or long drives?
Long drives

Name one person whom you want to be marooned with in an isolated island?
Alia Bhatt

Nice… you have answered every question so quick… so all the nervousness was just a facade huh? Let me ask you some really tough ones now…
No… Spare me (laughs) I think I have already ended up in trouble with few of the answers (laughs full throatedly)

(Joins in laughter) Okay Ashish, it was fun catching up with you and I wish you all the best for your future endeavours.
Thanks Shaiju… It was a pleasure…

 

Chai With Shai: Find out why Yuvraaj likes Salman without shirt!

Meeting friends over a cup of chai is something I love to do. After ages I met one such dear friend of mine Yuvraaj Parashar who recently starred in Dunno Y2. Today in Chai With Shai, Yuvraaj bares himself and talks about his life, struggles, movies etc. Here is an excerpt of our conversation that highlights the victory of an underdog. 

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How did your journey with Bollywood start?
I am from a small town – Agra. My journey was not very easy. Basically I am a dancer and used to dance from my childhood. Whenever I used to go for shows, people around used to tell me to become an actor. I got encouraged by them and started dreaming of becoming an actor. In fact when I came to Mumbai, I didn’t even know where to go and how to start my career. I went around knocking the doors of many casting agencies and production houses and people used to shoo me off saying I can never make it. Those were depressing times. I used to come back to my room, look at my shields and trophies and question my talent. I often thought were these trophies given to me for my talent all a fallacy? However, I shook myself up and decided that I will definitely prove everyone wrong and achieve my dream of being an actor.

How did your family react to your decision to pursue acting and Bollywood?
My family always encouraged my decision however, initially my father was not in favour but seeing my determination he also gave in.

You said you are a dancer and since childhood you have been dancing. So have you taken any formal training in dancing?
I have taken training in Kathak and Salsa but not for Bollywood dancing. From the age of 3 or 4 I have been dancing.

If Remo D’souza offers you ABCD 3 would you do it?
Of course! I am waiting for that day (smiles).

Have you approached any director for work?
I have in my initial days but I was always rejected saying who told you, you can dance or act? But then today by God’s grace I am an actor and am doing some meaningful roles.

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You have been surrounded by controversies ever since you became a part of Bollywood. However, you have always stood strong and faced them patiently, what gives you so much strength?
I get my strength from my God. The strength comes within me. Also my family. Any controversy, any bad situation then always stood by me and that gave me strength to face such situations in life (smiles).

Touchwood!
(Laughs) Yes, touchwood!

I had read somewhere that your family disowned you for signing Dunno Y. How far is it true?
It is true but not after signing Dunno Y but when the movie was made and we were promoting it. My family obviously didn’t know what movie I had signed so they didn’t object to it then. But when the movie was getting promoted on TV and the posters were put up, people in Agra who knew my family starting talking bad about me and my choice of movie. They told my parents that I am doing some porn movie and the posters showed me standing naked. My parents were affected with those talks and stopped talking to me, especially my father, close to two years.

Then how did things sort out between you and your family?
I was in regular touch with my mother but dad was not talking to me. Zeenatji (Aman) came to know about it and she was sweet enough to talk to my parents and make them understand that if the movie was bad would people like her, Helenji and Kabir Bediji work in it? Would a legend like Lataji sing for the movie? Better sense prevailed and soon things were normal between us. Today my parents are my biggest supporter (laughs). They are proud of me today and when Dunno Y2 released my father called up each and every person he knew telling them that ‘my son’s’ second movie has released (laughs).

How did Dunno Y1 happen?
Kapil and I used to go to the same dance classes and slowly we became friends. During our conversations he told me about Dunno Y and how he was looking for an actor. When he asked me if I would be interested, I said why not and that’s how things fell in place and Dunno Y1 got made.

Did you have any apprehensions playing a gay man on-screen?
No. I loved the subject. The character was interesting and therefore I went with it. I never wanted to do conventional movies where I had a couple of songs, few fight sequences, dance around the trees etc.

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I understand you had to go through a lot of struggle before and after Dunno Y1 was made. How did you sail through that period?
Before the movie I had to go through the normal struggling period however, after the movie was made and released, I went through the worst phase of my life. You might not know that I also became a partner in the movie. I had invested in the movie when it was completed and ready for release. I lost a lot of money when the movie didn’t get a proper release nor did it do well during its theatrical run. All those luxuries and comfort I had before I invested in the movie ran out. There were days when I did not eat and was in depression for a long time. When I look back I feel all those experiences only made me strong and determined to make it big in the industry.
Did the attitude of the industry people change after Dunno Y1 bagged many international awards and recognition?
Yes it did but then I believe people who judge you on the basis of a success or a failure are not the right people to be with. I like to keep myself far away from such people.

The songs are very melodious especially the songs sung by Lataji and Salma Agha. How did you convince Lataji to come out of her hibernation?
I would give all credit to Kapil (laughs). When we approached Lataji, she loved the story and the song, and she came on board. In fact apart from the Dunno Y series she has not sung for anyone and we consider it as a blessing (smiles).

Whom can you say are your friends in this industry?
Kapil Sharma and also his father Mr. K.C. Sharma. I share a very beautiful and warm relationship even with our age difference. He is a very positive person and always tell me if God has brought you to this industry then he will help you sail through.

Who conceptualized and designed the innovative posters of Dunno Y2?
(Laughs) It was a team decision.

Come on someone would have suggested it right?
Yes (laughs). It was my idea (smiles). We wanted to do something quirky to get our movie noticed and say that they want to see it…

…and it did work (smiles)
Thank you (smiles)

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Any funny events that happened during the filming of Dunno Y2?
There is this scene where we are in a dance club and my character had to make Kapil’s character jealous as we are having some friction between us. So I had to approach this junior artist and kiss him, and to my surprise that actor actually smooched me and I was taken aback (laughs).

Have men hit on you?
Yes many a time but now I know how to handle it (laughs).

When Dunno y1 released 377 act was abolished and now when Dunno Y2 has released the act is back on. What is your take on this act?
I feel this is not justified and 377 should be permanently scrapped. Because you cannot punish someone for falling in love. Moreover, this act was introduced by British and even after independence we are still following the acts left behind by them. My last word on it, abolish 377 permanently (smiles).

If you look at Hollywood, there are movies made for every kind of audience eg: rom-com, action, porn, gay themed movies, historical etc. Why is it that we don’t see that kind of experiments being done in India?
I feel we should also make movies for each kind of audience because whoever wants to see a movie will definitely see his kind of movie. Like during our promotions we put up a post that said “Agar PK dekhke tu Alien nahi bana toh Dunno Y dekhkar tu gay nahi banega.”

Yes I have seen that post and had also shared it (laughs).
Agar movies dekhke log waise ban gaye toh we would have seen so many doctors and lawyers and criminals everywhere. So I feel as creative people we should strive to make movies that will appeal to everyone.

Gay characters are often used as an object to raise laughter in Indian movies, what’s your take on it?
It is totally unjustified. There are so many straight acting gay men, not every gay guy is feminine. So stereotyping people in movies is not good. Audience should see Dunno Y2 to understand what I am talking about (winks).

How did the Norwegien collaboration happen and what was the idea behind hiring a co-director – Tonje Gjevjon along with Sanjay Sharma?
They saw Dunno Y1 in a film festival held in Israel and approached us. We worked on the story together and Sanjayji always knew that it is a collaborative movie and he was okay with it. The entire shoot went up

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Both movies had some great songs, so who chose the music?
Nikhil Kamath is the whole and sole person who should get all the credit. Not only the songs he has done a fantastic job with the background music too.

Great! Okay, Yuvi it’s time for some fun. Are you ready?
Fun??? (raises eyebrows)

(Laughs) Relax, I am going to ask you some questions and you have to give me some quirky replies. Done?
Phewww! Go ahead shoot (laughs).

What is your wildest fantasy?
What??? (laughs uncontrollably) I have never thought of this.

Give a thought and answer (laughs)
Okay… let me think (pauses and then starts laughing). Going on a date with Madhuri Dixit… is this good enough?

You are giving me this answer to please me (laughs).
(Joins laughter) Nothing like that.

Your dream date
Madhuri Dixit

Nice (smiles). Future Ahead?
I am part of a musical play Hyacinth directed by Sandip Soparkar and there are few movies that are in planning stage.

You suck at this, let’s play rapid fire, okay?
(laughs) Cool!

One person you want to romantically pair up on-screen other than Kapil for Dunno Y3?
John Abraham

The hottest male star in Bollywood?
Salman Khan

Your dream role?
Shah Rukh’s role in Devdas.

Favorite movie in Hollywood with a LGBT theme?
Brokeback Mountain

One night stand or dinner date?
Dinner Date (giggles).

Does size matter?
Depends what size are you referring to (bites tongue).

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Hmm… Should I elaborate?
No! No! (laughs).

Dream director?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Salman with shirt or without?
Without (winks).

Who among the current actors you feel would have suited the role of Ashley and Aryan other than you and Kapil?
Ashley – Ranbir Kapoor Aryan – Varun Dhawan.

Wow what a choice! (Laughs) Hollywood or Bollywood?
Of course Bollywood!

Your favorite author?
Of course you!

You definitely made my day (winks). It was such a pleasure to catch up with you Yuvi, all the best for your future endeavours.
Thanks Shaiju.

Chai With Shai: I want to kiss Deepika Padukone – Diganth Manchale

Diganth Manchale, lovingly called as ‘Doodh Peda‘ because of his fair skin, is one of the most sought after actors in the Kannada industry. Diganth who is making his debut in Hindi movies with Wedding Pulav starring Anushka Ranjan (daughter of Anu and Shashi Ranjan) took some time off his promotional schedule and met me over a cup of Chai. Here are some excerpts from our fun-filled conversation;

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You are one of the most successful stars of Kannada industry. However, not many people know that you started off with a not so happening movie Miss California in 2006. How did your journey as an actor start?
Yes that’s correct. I did start out with Miss California which was a big disaster (laughs) and after that I had to struggle a lot. I didn’t know what to do next. I did a lot of print ads, modelling, TV commercials, walked the ramp for few shows before I signed my next movie which was three years after my first one. The movie was Mungaru Male.

Yes I have seen that (smiles)
It was one of the biggest hits and you can say it was the DDLJ of Kannada industry. Although, I had a very small role but I got noticed by people and the director Yograj Bhatt saw a lot of potential in me and offered me his next movie…

Gaalipatta?
Yes (smiles)… you know a lot about me huh?

Of course, I keep track of all my guests who get featured in my series (winks).
(Laughs) I was one amongst the three main leads of the movie, and again Gaalipatta was a big hit. Then the director Yograj Bhatt once again repeated me in his next movie Manasaare which I would like to call my first movie technically because I was the solo lead and it catapulted me to the top league after it became a huge success (smiles). I would say from the year 2009 onward I became one of the established actors in Kannada industry.

Nice (smiles). Let me tell you, although I am not a huge Kannada movie buff, I did watch Mungaru Male and I just loved the movie. I still remember the last scene where your character is getting married to Pooja Gandhi’s character and I was surprised to see such a good-looking actor for the first time in a Kannada movie….
Yeah (laughs) I have heard that quite often. Initially, people didn’t accept me as they felt I am not a Kannadiga. My North Indian features made them think I was one of those north Indian guys who knows the language as I would have born and raised in Karnataka (laughs). In fact when I was giving interviews in Kannada during Gaalipatta, that time they came to know that I am a Kannadiga and forget Bangalore, I was from a small village near Sagara in Karnataka. After that I was accepted and considered as one among them. In Karnataka people want their heroes to be from their own motherland and actors mainly male get less acceptance if they are from outside Karnataka.

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I think, the only actor from the North who actually made some mark in Kannada movies is Dhyan, right?
Ya…

But then even he also fizzled out.
Ya… he is not in the league anymore.

Correct… Diganth tell me how did a boy from a small village with no filmi connections made it so far? Can you share anything about your family, your growing up days etc.?
I am from a small town called Tirthahalli in Shimoga district, Karnataka few kilometres away from Sagara city, where I was born and raised. My father was a professor and he always wanted me to study further and never wanted me to be a part of the showbiz (laughs). However, my elder brother and mother were in total favour of me joining the industry and therefore they encouraged me a lot. Soon after college I met this director Kudlu Ramkrishna who is also from Tirthahalli. Mr. Ramakrishna was looking for a fresh face and wanted to launch someone from Tirthahalli and after meeting me, he was impressed with me and put me in his acting school before he launched me in Miss California and that’s how my journey started with the movie industry (smiles).

Hmm… Tell me after Miss California flopped miserably there was a point in time when things were not happening for you. Did you ever think of packing you bags and quitting the industry for good?
Well I did think of doing that however, I felt if I have jumped into the ocean then it would be better for me to struggle and swim out of it. During that time someone suggested me that I should go for modelling. Till that time I felt modelling was only for girls (laughs).

What??? (Laughs)
Yeah (continues laughing) I was that naïve. Then I went for my first TV commercial audition and surprisingly I got selected (smiles). Soon I was doing a lot of print modelling and also walked the ramp for various designers at Lakme Fashion week etc… until I got Mungaru Male.

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I see that you are a regular in every Yograj Bhat movie. How did you meet Mr. Bhat? Tell me the story of you bagging the role in Mungaru Male (excitedly)?
I was shooting for a TV commercial with Rajeev Menon when the production controller there one day told me that Yograj Bhat is looking for a good-looking actor who had model like features and can speak in Kannada. I was not very excited about the offer as the hero of the movie – Ganesh, was a newcomer while I had done a movie already and I didn’t want to play a small part. I was looking at doing something bigger and not just do timepass roles. The production guys of Mungaru Male kept on calling me as they had liked me and wanted someone who was better looking than the hero to make a real impact in the climax scenes. After a lot of coaxing I met Yograj Bhat and rest is history. Today when I look back I feel I would have really regretted if I wouldn’t have done Mungaru Male (smiles).

Did you always aspired to become a Bollywood hero someday?
Oh yes! In fact since childhood I watched a lot of Hindi movies and I was well versed with Hindi as I learnt the language in school. I always wanted to act in Hindi movies than Kannada and today by God’s grace I am doing Hindi movies (smiles).

Do you have an accent while speaking Hindi?
I do have a slight accent however it is not very strong and therefore am fluent with my dialogues apart from dubbing my own lines (smiles). In short, I had prepared myself for Bollywood since long time.

Most of the superstars from south especially men, couldn’t make it big in Hindi movies case in point Kamal Hasan, Rajnikant, Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi etc. What do you think could be the reason?
I don’t know (frowns). Maybe back then the acceptance was low however, now the geographical barriers are slowly diminishing. With movies like Robot and Baahubali doing well, I think ‘NOW’ is the right time for actors from the south to make a mark in Hindi movies. The audience is accepting and I am sure soon there will be more actors from the south making their presence felt in Bollywood.

Now that you are debuting in Bollywood, don’t you think you will have to struggle all over again to make a mark here?
Yes and I am ready for it. I love challenges and I am sure I will make my mark. I am in a comfortable zone in Kannada movies with lot many projects in hand. However, starting all over in Bollywood is something I have prepared myself for.

Diganth with Anushka Ranjan
Diganth with Anushka Ranjan

Great (smiles)…. So how did Wedding Pulav happen?
There is nice story behind it. Couple of technicians from the Kannada industry told me that Binod Pradhan was making his debut movie and was looking out for a leading man. They asked me to try my luck. I had never heard of Binod Pradhan but when I came to know about the movies he had done like Parinda, Mission Kashmir, Bhag Milka Bhag, Rang De Basanti etc. I wanted to be a part of his movie. I tried to source his number from all my contacts and the number I got was his old number. Whenever I tried that number it was always switched off. Then I had to leave for Romania for fifteen days for a Kannada movie shoot and I had kept my phone switched off. When I came back I got a message from Binod Pradhan asking me to contact him asap. I immediately called him and the next moment I was on a flight to Mumbai and soon signed the movie. Maybe I was destined to do it (smiles).

(Smiles) How was it working with the Ranjans’?
Ranjans’ (smiles) working with them was a great experience. They took care of me and treated me like I was one of them. Especially Anushka who is a nice person, a nice co-star, she is very confident for a newcomer.

Wedding Pulav is Anushka’s debut movie produced under her home banner, so did her character get more footage and importance compared to yours?
Not really. If you look at the trailer we have been given equal footage. If you see the movie you will again see that we both have equal roles and Shashiji saw to it that there was no partiality done.

How was your experience working in Bollywood?
Very good (laughs). I found it professional, in a corporate way. Would love to do more films here (smiles).

What are you future projects?
I have a Hindi movie called Ticket To Bollywood with Amyra Dastur which is 70% complete. In Kannada I have two movies up for release Sharpshooter and Prapancha with Yograj Bhat, and two more in the making.

Diganth_wiki

Okay in my series I have a section where I ask few questions that you have to reply in one word preferably (smiles).
Alright (smiles)

Shall I shoot?
Yup (smiles).

Which is your favorite food item?
Hmmm….

Not Wedding Pulav please (winks)
(Laughs) Anything and everything in vegetarian food.

One item please
Aah! That’s a toughie…

Okay… I will let it pass… but the next one is a killer and you cannot escape (winks)
Oh!

Your wildest fantasy?
(Laughs) This is a bomb of a question… so I cannot pass it?

Nope (nodding my head)
Wildest fantasy (thinks)…. A kissing scene with Deepika (laughs) the Bangalore connection you see…(winks)

I do (laughs)…. Bollywood or Sandalwood?
Bollywood

That was fast… Favorite director?
Raju Hirani

Dream role?
Barfi… Ranbir’s role in Barfi

Diganth with Aindrita Ray
Diganth with Aindrita Ray

Hottest actress?
In Kannada Aindrita Ray and in Bollywood Deepika Padukone

Favorite co-star?
Nidhi Subbaiah in Kannada and Anushka Ranjan in Bollywood.

Biggest competition?
Yash in Kannada and Varun Dhawan in Bollywood (laughs).

Here’s a googly… One night stand or committed relationship?
(Laughs) I am a person who loves to be in a committed relationship… so no One Night Stands for me (continues laughing).

(Laughs) Okay… Last not the least, what is your message to your fans?
Please watch my movie Wedding Pulav and also support me the way you have supported all this while.

Thank you Diganth for taking some time from your busy promotional schedule and chatting with me. I wish you all the best in your new innings in Bollywood.
Thank you. Likewise (smiles).