Comedy might be one of the most difficult genres, but talented actor Aftab Shivdasani has it mastered and is the go-to-guy for creating laughs on the big screen.
After a string of commercial hits, he will next be seen in colourful film Great Grand Masti, the third instalment of a successful franchise that commenced in 2004 and is released this week.Aftab has been reunited with co-stars Vivek Oberoi and Ritesh Deshmukh again for another story of three mischievous husbands trying to get up to all sorts of no good.
Eastern Eye caught up with the star to talk about the film and more.
When you did the first Masti movie, did you ever imagine being in part three some 12 years later?
No, at the time we did the first part we never expected it to do so well and become such a big franchise. I think the makers got the confidence to make a sequel only once the film did so well at the box office and the audiences liked it.
Why do you think that the franchise has been so successful?
I think it’s because the audiences liked the film, it’s humour and the fact that it entertained them. Even though it dealt with infidelity, it is really a piece of fiction and to be taken lightheartedly.
How has the chemistry evolved between the lead characters?
I think the first part was where all of us really got together for the first time, and we were getting used to each other’s timing and performances. In the second part, we were much more comfortable with each other and the chemistry had grown better. By the time we reached the third, everything was just effortless and we had obviously grown as actors and performers, so the chemistry was at its best, I would say.
How does Great Grand Masti compare to the previous two?
It is a situational story again of the three friends set in a different place and circumstances. So in terms of the story, it’s very different, but in terms of concept and genre, it is the same. But I must add that it’s the funniest film I have ever done. There were many times that we as actors cracked up during the shoot, as we found it incredibly funny too.
Tell us about the story and character you play?
Well, it’s a story again of three friends who are in that phase of marriage where everything is on autopilot and they look for stimulation outside. So they travel to a place seeking fun and everything goes topsy-turvy after that. My character is again Prem, who comes up time after time with the most crazy ideas to get them all into trouble like in the previous two films.
Do you have a favourite moment in it?
There are so many scenes in the film that are so funny that it’s impossible to point out one moment that is a favourite. The audience will be falling off their seats laughing from scene to scene. A few are when I show a young couple a house as I am an estate agent; the gags there are hilarious. Another is when all the boys are on a road trip and we encounter a number of problems on the way, including one involving a snake. Then there is the intermission sequence of the film and the drop-dead funny climax. (Laughs) The list is just endless.
Tell us about the music?
Yes, the music is cool, massy and melodious, all in one album. I think it’s got a tune for all kinds of listeners. Personally my favourite track is the title track and a song called Lipstick Laga Ke.
Do you have a memorable behind-the scenes story?
Well, we shot a majority of this film in an old palace in Rajkot, Gujarat. We used to play a lot of pranks on each other. We shot late at the palace as it was filled with old hunting trophies. We were surrounded by stuffed lions, tigers and alligators, so the perfect setting to spook each other out.
All three lead stars are married and settled down now. Did that make it difficult to do a comedy like this?
No, as all of us have done the previous two versions and are used to this kind of comedy. Our spouses have seen the previous two and pretty much know what to expect with the humour (laughs). Also I think our spouses know that this is a fictional comedy and not to be taken so seriously!
Is it true that your wife doesn’t like you doing these naughty comedies?
No, Nin in fact has been the most supportive in my work and decisions. I have been blessed to have someone like her by my side. She is an independent global woman and is very secure within herself. And the best part is that she has an incredible sense of humour. (Laughs) It must be the Brit in her.
You are a versatile actor but have become somewhat of a comedy specialist. How do you feel about that?
Thank you for the compliment. I have always enjoyed comedy as a genre, but I try and make the best choices from the films that are offered to me. Having said that, I love action and thrillers as a genre and look forward to doing films in that space again too.
How does comedy compare to the other movie genres?
Comedy is all about timing and understanding where the punchlines are. If there is even a fraction of a second difference in the timing, the shot or scene falls flat and it doesn’t appear funny. Therefore it’s considered more difficult than other genres. Fortunately for me, I love to laugh and the timing comes naturally to me.
What kind of comedies do you enjoy watching yourself?
I love watching straight-faced situational comedies where the scenes are designed for the actors to do just enough to make it look funny. Where the actors look funny even when they have a serious face on.
What is the biggest masti you have ever got up to in your life?
I am quite an intense person in reality and don’t often do masti in my life. Unless I’m with my closest friends and I can just let my hair down and have a chilled time. I leave all the masti for in front of the camera.
Are you now under pressure to be funny all the time in real life?
No, there is no pressure, although people do presume that you are in reality what you are in your films. But films are only what I do and not who I am. Having said that, I do have a sense of humour and enjoy a joke every now and then. I like the balance in life.
Today, what are your biggest passions away from work?
My wife, my family, music, sports, travelling, scuba diving, learning new things and also growing as a person. I also secretly want to compose background music in the future for films.
What is your greatest unfulfilled cinematic ambition?
I have done over 40 films in 16 years and I feel I haven’t even begun my journey yet. I would like to do a historical or a war film as that’s been my ambition right from the start.
Can you see yourself directing a film?
Yes, as I am very passionate about my work. As to when, I don’t know, as I believe it’s a calling and will happen when the time is right.
Which movie have you seen loads of times?
I love The Last Samurai. It’s my favourite film. I have always wanted to play a warrior and show my intense side on camera.
Which performance as a film fan have you enjoyed the most?
I think it has to be Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Al Pacino in The Scent Of A Woman, Tom Hanks in Cast Away and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.
Why do you love cinema?
It takes you into another world and lets you imagine what it would be like to live there. It’s a fantasy that everyone lives in to get away from reality.
Finally, why should we all go watch Great Grand Masti?
It’s a great franchise. The audiences have liked the earlier two and know what to expect from the third one. And of course, it’s the funniest film so far and the funniest I have done.
Great Grand Masti is in cinemas now.