Popular actor Imran Khan makes a welcome return to the big screen after a gap of nearly two years in this week’s Bollywood release Katti Batti.
The Nikhil Advani-directed drama, which also stars Kangana Ranaut, shows what happens after a long-term relationship ends and the challenges of reigniting the romantic flame.
Clearly delighted to be back in the spotlight, Imran took time out to talk about Katti Batti, his break away from cinema, love and romance, the secret of his own successful relationship, and why he doesn’t like remakes.
Why did you take a long break from films?
(Laughs) Okay, honestly this break turned out a lot longer than I originally intended. I signed Katti Batti around the same time we found out that my wife was pregnant. The way [director] Nikhil [Advani] was sche-duling it, I would have started shooting at the same time she was due to give birth. Obviously I didn’t want to be doing rehear-sals and stuff in the last couple of months of her pregnancy and then start shooting around the time my baby was going to be born. So I asked Nikhil if he wouldn’t mind pushing the schedule back to three months after the baby was born. He was actually really accommodating and said, ‘Absolutely no worries, take your time’. So that’s how it happened. It gave me the free time I needed to just be with my wife and my little daughter.
Do you feel energised after your time away from the big screen?
Always. You know Asjad, I really have figured out one thing about myself – I’m not good at multi-tasking. A lot of people can jump from one film to another but I’m just not one of those guys. I do need time in between films to kind of unplug and spend a little while getting the next one.
What did you like about Katti Batti?
The thing about Katti Batti that I found really exciting and interesting is it is a much more honest and organic look at relationships, and at what real love is like. There is a tendency when we make love stories to show the nice stuff, what we call the honeymoon period. But Katti Batti is a film that actually starts at the end of a seven-year relationship – they have already met, started their relationship, fallen in love, lived together and then have broken up. So all of the romantic stuff has actually been cast aside. Now it’s down to brass tacks, what happens when you have been in the ugly side of a relationship and been through the fight? Are you strong enough to still stay together?
You’ve done quite a few romances. How does this compare to the others?
I think by and large when you look at the romantic films that I have done, they have tended to fall into the category of boy meets girl, they start to date, fall in love and live happily ever after. Katti Batti really does begin where all of those films would have ended.
What was it like working with Kangana Ranaut?
Kangana is someone who takes her craft so very seriously and it really does show in her work and performances. She is always thinking about how she can be better, how she could add more to the character, how can it be better, deeper and more layered. I hold that in very high regard.
Do you have a favourite moment in the movie?
I am trying hard not to give any spoilers here. But the bulk of the film is about my character Maddy tracking Payal down and he is just not able to get in touch with her. She has moved out of town, has changed her phone number and he just can’t get a hold of her. The first time he actually manages to get her on the phone and speak to her is at a moment when you are ready to give up all hope. You think that there is no chance and it is at that moment he talks to her for the first time since they broke up. It is a very emotional moment. I think that’s a beautiful scene.
You seem to be able to do love stories better than a lot of other actors. Where does that come from?
(Laughs) I don’t know. I do think it is the supreme driving force that we have as human beings. The love for another, selfless love for someone else. It’s beautiful, it is noble and it brings out the best in us.
Are you as big a romantic in real life?
Funnily enough I am not one for much romance. And here is why Katti Batti is not about romance – it’s about love, which is very different. Romance is all very well at the beginning of a relationship and great in the honeymoon period. Once you are through that, though, the romance starts to slip away; that is when real life kicks in. It’s not all wine, roses and candlelight dinners any more. It’s actual hard work and there is the question of do you have it in you to stick through that part of it as well, when the glamour is gone. When it’s actually just hard work.
Is it fair to say then the film is aimed at couples who have been in a long-term relationship?
Yes, absolutely. Maddy and Payal have been in a seven-year relationship, which ended before the film starts. You do get to see all that other stuff, however, so anyone who has been in any kind of long-term relationship will look at these guys and see a lot of themselves in their story.
What is the secret of your long-term relationship with your wife Avantika?
The fact that we have actually stuck it out. Anyone who has been together as long as Avantika and I have been will tell you, once the first year or two has passed and the honeymoon is over, it is no longer romance, as I said. Then it is hard work, there are ups and downs, there is a great deal of struggle. You have to hold on, not give up and stay the course.
Are you still determined to not bow down to the pressure of doing lots of films?
I have always prioritised my personal and family life, and my friends. I find that has great value and is what really nourishes me. I enjoy making movies very much and am a movie geek, but in order for me to do my work effectively, I do need my family time. I do need time with those who are nearest and dearest to me.
Is there any role you would love to play, but haven’t yet?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t know, perhaps some kind of historical fantasy epic. Something like Lord Of The Rings or Star Wars. You know where the setting is larger-than-life, where the fate of humanity lies in the balance.
A lot of remakes are happening now. If you could do a remake of a classic, which would it be?
You know actually, I am not a fan of remakes. If someone has done a good job and made a film that you consider remarkable and a classic in some way, it requires a great deal of arrogance to look at that and say, ‘I can do that as well’. In my experience, nine times out of 10 when we have tried to do that, we have ended up with an inferior version of the original. To my knowledge, no one has surpassed a classic original with the remake.
Today what is your biggest motivating factor?
It really is my love for the work. The fact that I enjoy waking up in the morning and going on set. I enjoy working with actors, I enjoy working with the directors, crew and cinematographers.
Why do you love cinema?
For me it has always been about an organic visceral reaction. When I watch a movie, I want to just react from the heart without intellectualising or thinking about it. I want to laugh like no one is watching, I want to weep openly, I want to shout out, ‘oh god, what is going to happen next?’, ‘it is terrifying’, ‘it is thrilling’ or whatever. You want to be at the edge of your seat and react from the gut. I love that feeling as an audience member when I watch a movie, so when I make a film, that is what I want to give to people.
Finally, would you like to give us a message for your fans?
I think the kind of support that Indian films get internationally is really remarkable. It is humbling and overwhelming, the idea that our films are travelling around the world. It really is a testament to the purity and beauty of cinema. The bottom line is, thank you to everyone.
Katti Batti is in cinemas now.