Sunday, February 20, 2011

Filmi Girl talks to... Ankush Khanna!

When I first heard about the huge group of British Asian youngsters that Nikhil Advani had taken on for Patiala House, I thought he was crazy. Why go through all that effort to haul actors to Mumbai from London when all anybody is going to talk about in the press is Akshay, Anushka, and Rishi Kapoor?

Now, I know better. Nikhil Advani is crazy for doing it, sure, but He’s crazy like a fox. You simply can’t fake the energy and enthusiasm that the young stars of Patiala House brought into the film. I can only think that having that genuinely excited energy around must have been a great motivator to Nikhil and Akshay – who have been two of the Bollywood media’s biggest punching bags in recent years.

What better way to prevent any jaded feelings or bitterness than surround oneself with people who are just excited to be on a film set?

And one of those youngsters, Ankush Khanna, took the time to speak with me about what it was like making his first Bollywood film.

In the film
Patiala House, Ankush plays the role of Himaan, younger brother to Komal (Hard Kaur). Himaan is a scene-stealing, fashion-obsessed metrosexual trapped under the dowdy and traditional thumb of Bhau-ji (Rishi Kapoor) – a thumb Himaan would probably feel was in need of a good manicure.

“I’m not very good at interviews,” chirps Ankush brightly, before I can begin asking questions. At the very young age of 18, Ankush is already an old hand at performing. He’s an award winning dancer (five time All-England dance champion, as he is quick to point out) and he speaks with that combination of wisdom and naivety that can only come from a young person who has accomplished so much at such a young age.

Despite his proclamation at not being good at interviews, Ankush proceeds to answer all my questions with a refreshing honesty and self-depreciating humor. We start with the basics: does Ankush watch Bollywood films and, if so, does he prefer the new ones or the classics? “I hope I don’t get told off for this but I enjoy the classics way more,” he says. He’ll get no argument from me, a lot of the older films have more emotional resonance than the newer ones… and then I realize that for Ankush, ‘classic’ means the 1990s and I suddenly feel really, really old.

“I watched a film called Dil To Pagal Hai,” continues Ankush, happily, “and I remember I saw Karishma Kapoor on the screen – I was about 4 years old at the time – and I said she is my girlfriend. And I just found her a beautiful, beautiful girl. And the storyline was amazing. It was about two dancers competing and then they had to do a huge show at the end of it and it was just something I’d never experienced before. It was quite exhilarating.”

While I may have been a couple decades off in my assumption of what makes a ‘classic,’ I think it’s interesting that these 1990s Yash Raj films have had such a profound impact on South Asian children growing up all over the world. In Ankush’s case,
Dil To Pagal Hai led to a life-long affair with Bollywood and we happily chat about the current heroines (he loves Aishwarya Rai – and Anushka, natch) and films (we both gush over Band Baaja Baaraat.) Surprisingly, Ankush has a soft spot for Chandni Chowk To China - a film I often drag out in arguments as an example one which was unfairly bashed in the press. Ankush explains, diplomatically, “Chandni Chowk To China kind of broke the comfort zone a bit. It was something different you wouldn’t expect from an Indian film and I think that’s the only reason it might have not got as good reviews but I loved the film.”

Turning the topic back to Nikhil and Akshay’s current film, I ask Ankush how he felt on working with such big stars for his first film. “Nervous,” he replies, a feeling which only ramped up when Akshay Kumar didn’t show up at the table read. “The first time we were going to see [Akshay] was going to be on set, which scared me even more, but then when I actually met him, he’s probably one of the most down to Earth actors. He’s just so friendly and he puts you at ease while acting, which is always a good thing. You don’t want to be nervous while you’re doing a shot because it might not come out successfully. But when you’ve got such a big actor supporting you and helping you throughout the whole scene it feels quite rewarding. You feel quite special.”

Having a small role like this next a big star must be a wonderful learning experience – seeing somebody like Akshay act up close and personal. For example, how does he manage to get that single tear to roll down his cheek? “Yeah, we loved that. I think that was his signature – the one individual tear.” The single tear is something so deliciously melodramatic that one can only do it with a complete lack of any irony.

“My heart broke when he cried in the hospital scene,” Anksuh explains, “because there was two tears then. So, next level.” Any tips on learning that trick? He laughs. “I’m not allowed to give that information out, am I?”

And what about Rishi Kapoor? “Just even being next to him in the same room was amazing. I remember towards the end of the shoot he invited us all back to his house for a few drinks, just to get to know us a bit better. I remember him putting me on his lap and he goes, ‘So, Dancing Boy, you’re a very good dancer – you should keep doing what you’re doing.’” Ankush pauses. “I don’t think it got much better than that.”

It’s high praise, indeed, from a man with famously exacting standards.

The whole atmosphere of the
Patiala House set seems to have been one of support and trust – a real family atmosphere – which is why going to India for two months by himself to shoot a film at the age of 17 was such a positive experience. “My dad came to India with me for the first week. I didn’t take him on the set then because I was like, ‘Dad, this is my first job, I don’t want to be uncool and take my parents on set.’”

But even when the safety net of his father was gone, Ankush wasn’t worried. “I always had someone looking after me, which was really nice – like even Hard Kaur, when we went out and stuff, she’d always look after me. I always felt at home in Mumbai, it’s kind of like a second home, now. We were there for a good two months and by the second month, I felt like a little
Mumbaikaar. I felt like one of them because I felt so at ease wherever I went.”

Of course, it probably also didn’t hurt that – according to
Nikhil Advani - Ankush is such a little charmer, he had all the girls in love with him.

After all that hard work and effort, what was it like seeing the film for the first time? “I was really nervous because we didn’t get a proper first preview – the first time we watched the film was with all the press and our family. As soon as it got to the interval, I let out a sigh of relief because I was loving the film. The story’s amazing and the hard work we’ve done has come out well.”

Did you Google yourself afterwards, I ask Ankush, cheekily. “I believe you should always be modest,” he replies, “So I was obviously going to be a stalker of
Patiala House, seeing what all the reviews were going on about.” And Ankush is completely pragmatic on reading negative reviews. “At the end of the day, you need haters to be successful, as well.”

Those are wise words from somebody so young. Still, it’s not all reviews and interviews for the young actor. “I’ve some nice reactions from some young girls which is quite nice for a young boy.” That should be reward enough – impressing teenage girls is not an easy thing to do, as any teenage boy would be happy to tell you.

And so what comes next? Superstardom in Mumbai? A reality show in Los Angeles? Ankush’s answer is much more practical. “I’m not an accomplished actor yet. So, I always believe that you need to work hard before you achieve and also I’ve learnt from a very young age that you need to fail to appreciate success. So, even if I didn’t get something, I wouldn’t be downhearted by it because everything happens for a reason.”

With all of his talent, charm, and that hard-working and humble attitude, there is no doubt in my mind that Ankush will continue to delight film lovers for years to come. He made a real fan out of me and I wish him the best of luck in his next projects!


never-evil said...

I always enjoy reading the interviews you do. This was another wonderful one. Can't wait to see PH :)

Thelondongirl said...

i was thrown for a sec, because the first pic... he looks a bit girly. good interview.

bhavyarox said...

you actedso well in da movie

best of luck 4 da future

dancingballoon said...

love this interview! follow
doesn't look as girly as that first picture ha!

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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