Pallavi Sharda made her leading lady debut in ‘Besharam’ (2013) opposite Ranbir Kapoor. However, after a gap of nearly two years, the actress is now ready with her second offering in Vibhu Puri directed ‘Hawaizaada’. In the film, it has been reported that Sharda plays the role of a dancer named Sitarra and the love interest of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, played by Ayushmann Khurrana. BizAsia spoke to Sharda about the upcoming film which is set for worldwide release on 30th January.
It’s been roughly a year and a half since ‘Besharam’. What have you been upto apart from ‘Hawaizaada’?
Not much. You’d be surprised how long this film has taken to shoot – and I mean that in a really positive way. It’s been a real labour of love. I’ve been spending my time in between India and Australia. I was in Australia for about six months of last year. In the time I was in India for four months of the year, I was actually injured with a broken foot. I was on crutches which is what took up a lot of time last year. I had to drop out of a couple of projects which was no fun. I had to shoot on crutches for ‘Hawaizaada’ for the whole schedule. So, last year was a year of bad luck health-wise so I could only concentrate on ‘Hawaizaada’ when I was coming back to India. Other than that I was back in Australia because I do a lot of work there relating to inter-cultural relations and communications which is the other hat that I wear.
How did ‘Hawaizaada’ happened for you?
I was actually cast in it two years ago now, right when ‘Besharam’ was starting. I knew Vibhu Puri because I did a musical called ‘The Taj Express’. He was the writer of the first musical we did in 2011 so we interacted a lot then and he ran all the workshops. So I knew him quite well but he dropped off the face of the earth for about a year and a half. He got back in touch with me when he was ready with the script. He went through the script with me and I loved it so was on board straight away.
Vibhu Puri mentioned in our interview with him that he cast you because you’re a trained dancer?
Yes, I am trained in Bharatnatyam. Yes, he knew this when we did the musical together because there was a lot of dancing involved. My role in ‘Hawaizaada’ of Sitarra is a dancer in the film.
You’ve done Laavni in the film but what other kinds of dances will we get to see in the film?
Well, it;s quite ironic because Vibhu sold it to me saying I’d be a Laavni dancer in the film and it would have seven songs, blah blah blah. What I came to realise is that the other songs are all about Ayushmann. I was watching the film back saying to Vibhu, “You really cheated me in this film”. (Laughs) I’ve actually got one solo dancer number called ‘Dil Todne Ki Masheen’ which has been composed by Vishal Bhardwaj. It’s been sung by his wife Rekha Bhardwaj. Other than that, I’m shaking my leg a little bit in ‘Mazaa My Lord’ which is a Goan number that I did with Ayushmann.
What appealed to you about the character of Sitarra apart from the dancing aspect?
Well, being a period film, it’s really rare that you get an opportunity so early in your career to do a film on this scale. It’s magnificent in terms of the look of the film, and the way Vibhu has set it all up. It’s really a dream project for any heroine I would say. Also, the appeal of working with someone like Ayushmann who, at that time, had only done ‘Vicky Donor’ and I was really impressed by his work as I grew to know him. It’s just been a great team and I have a lot of love for Vibhu. For me, he’s an artistic genius. The way he composes his shots, the way he’s written the film, the way he’s composed the lyrics… so I think all round, it was going to be a project which was always going to be very artistically and intellectually stimulating for me so it was kind of a no brainer.
In terms of your look in the film, did you do any specific research or anything for it given that the film is set in 1895?
I did a lot of research. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t very big back then so we had drawings as reference points. I really just looked at the context of the film being set in Bombay. I’m wearing Marwari sarees which is the Maharastrian way of wearing a saree. Vibhu and I also visited a function hall in Dadar in Mumbai, the Damodar Hall, where they still have real live Laavni dances happening on a Sunday afternoon. We used to go and sit to get a flavour of it. Laavni is very interactive with the audience and it’s really about playing to the crowd and wooing the crowd. In terms of the Laavni in the song, there’s not much of it in the song and what there is is really situational. It’s more about the interaction that Sitarra has with Shivkar in the song and how that takes their love story along. In fact, I think all of the songs in ‘Hawaizaada’ are a part of the narrative and without each song the narrative wouldn’t move. It’s not a traditional masala Bollywood film in that way but more like a traditional Hollywood musical in terms of the role the songs play.
What was your interaction like with Mithun Chakraborty who is also in the film?
He’s awesome. Mithun da is amazing, he’s so vibrant and full of life and he’s so supportive of younger actors. I actually met him at one of his film premieres called ‘Shukno Lanka’ (2010) around four years ago. I met him through my friend and he looked at me and said “You should be an actress” and I said “Yes that’s kind of what I am”. I told him this story the first time I met him on the sets and he remembered and we shared a really great rapport. We actually don’t share any scenes together in ‘Hawaizaada’ and the one scene we did have has unfortunately been editted out. We take over from each other in terms of our roles in Ayushmann’s character’s life. We spent a lot of time on the sets together. We were all shooting in Gujarat last year so I spent a lot of time with him. I got to know him really well. He’s incredibly intelligent, he told us so many back stories. He really put things into perspective because he too wasn’t someone who was connected to the film industry like myself and he had to go through his own hardships. It was really nice and inspiring to hear about his success story.
How would you describe the importance of Vibhu Puri’s vision for ‘Hawaizaada’ in relation to your own journey?
Oh it was absolutely imperative. Vibhu is the one who’s lived with this story for years before we even got to set. He had imagined a world which he was situating us within. We really had to rely on his vision so much and his idea of what a character from that era is and what it will be. He being the writer, the lyricist and the director meant that he had a really well-rounded idea of what he was creating. I relied on him really heavily when we were shooting for his interpretation of the scene. He’s very open mine and Ayushmann’s feedback so it was very collaborative and that’s what I really like about him.
In your words, what is the appeal of ‘Hawaizaada’?
It’s a story of an unsung hero which has never been told before. I think it’s going to be a great learning experience for audiences but other than that I think it’s just a beautiful emotional journey for the audiences to go on. That’s what we really want from film – to be taken on a ride, we want to be taken on a journey. I think in every twist and turn of this film, the audiences will laugh and cry. It’s an entertaining, wholesome movie.
What can we expect from you next?
There’s nothing I can specifically reveal because I have NDAs signed left, right and centre. But, I think everything that I’ve done has been so different from the project before it. That’s what I’m hoping to achieve; very versatile repertoire of performance even with the international projects I’ll be doing. What’s really funny about me is that people tell me I look so different in real life to what I did as a specific character. For me, it’s a compliment because I try my best to get into a character and not just look like myself on screen. I just hope I can please audiences with very versatile performances.
BizAsia is grateful to Pallavi Sharda for speaking to us about ‘Hawaizaada’. We wish her well with the film and for the future.