Exclusive: Niki Walia: “I fought for my role in ‘Shaandaar'”


Dharma Productions and Phantom Films’ ‘Shaandaar’ is on the verge of release. Although it boasts an award winning director to its credit in Vikas Bahl and also brand spanking new jodi in Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, the ensemble cast will also make the film the true wedding destination film it is. Niki Walia, an actress best known for her character Dr Simran in ZEE TV’s ‘Astitva’, will be seen playing Bhatt’s mother in the film – a character which couldn’t be any more unlike Dr Simran if she tried. The actress was last seen in the channel’s first British Asian soap in 2012 but is now ready to wow the audiences on the big screen.

BizAsia caught up with the actress exclusively on the eve of the release of ‘Shaandaar’.

Niki Walia Alia Bhatt

Tell us about your character in ‘Shaandaar’?

Geetu Arora, mother of Alia and Eesha, is a shrewd, materialistic woman who is influenced by money and power. Her main focus is pleasing the grand matriarch, Kamla Arora urf Mummyji, the with the hope that one day she will be the heir to the Arora Throne…It is also the reason she marries Bipin, (Pankaj Kapur, eldest son of Mummyji) who is almost double her age.

How would you describe your ��Shaandaar�۪ experience?

It was truly shaandaar, however clich̩d it sounds. To come back with a Karan Johar and Phantom Films production, I couldn�۪t have asked for anything better. Not many people know this but they hadn�۪t offered me this part I�۪m playing. They wanted me to play another random aunt in the film but I fought for this role. Vikas kept telling me I can�۪t play negative because I�۪m Dr Simran and I kept saying to him ���and?�۝ I said him that after watching his film ��Queen�۪, I gave him a lot more credit than that. I told him not to treat me as Dr Simran and reminded him that I�۪m also an actress. I do versatile roles. In a way, it�۪s a compliment because everyone remembers me as Simran and for my other roles which are very positive but, as an actor, for me, this was amazing. When I read the script and they had given me the option of two or three characters, they were also pushing for this one character more which I didn�۪t want to do. I opted for Geetu Arora which is Alia�۪s mum and Pankaj Kapur�۪s wife. I had a lot of opposition from the production but because I was on friendly terms with Vikas and Vikramaditya Motwane from Phantom, I just put my foot down and said I�۪m doing Geetu or nothing. (laughs) Fortunately, with all prayers answered, I bagged that character and it�۪s been a shaandaar experience ever since right from the locations to the magnitude of filming. I mean, we shot in all the castles possible in Leeds (UK). It was freezing and crazy times. We barely slept, any one of us. Even apart from Alia and Shahid, everybody was an insomniac. None of us slept but it was fun. We loved it.

What would you say you will most remember about shooting for the film?

The after-partys! You know, every time a schedule finished, Vikas and the production would throw a party. They made sure we had a good time after a hard schedule .Loved the atmosphere on the sets with all the actors , the boys side and the girl�۪s side ! IT was like this huge big fat desi wedding. Every day was a challenge ��� we had light restrictions, and then the sun going down… you know the weather in the UK. The team were very professional which really appealed to me because I am like that. They finished everything they set out to do on any day which was amazing. We finished such a huge film in 59 days, including the songs. Also what amused me was that during work everyone used to grumble that we were so tired and we�۪re freezing to death but as soon as they heard ���pack up�۝, there was a whole new burst of energy. I even learnt how to waltz in the film because of the song Nazdeekiyaan. So glad I got the opportunity !

As you mentioned, the weather is dull here in the UK whereas in a wedding film, usually it�۪s sunny. Does the weather play a part in ��Shaandaar�۪ at all?

The weather did not really matter ,this film will still look nice and sunny and bright. It�۪s more the locations that play a part than the weather. Every location is super shaandaar!

Niki Walia Pankaj Kapur

Sanah Kapoor, who plays your daughter, is making her debut in ‘Shandaar’. What was it like working with her and also what was the interaction like between her, her brother Shahid and father Pankaj?

I’m so glad you asked me this. It was so endearing watching Shahid and his dad working together. Even if they disagreed with each other on the sets, Shahid would always ��� with all due respect ��� just say ���Ok sir�۝ and ���Ok dad�۝ and ���as you like it�۝. (laughs) It was so cute. In the movie, they don’t really get along and personally they love each other to bits. Being there on the sets and seeing them having confrontational scenes, it was hilarious. Pankaj Kapur is a legend. Shahid Kapoor is another great actor. Sanah is still a baby in the industry and was really working hard and learning from dad and brother and all other seniors around her. Another thing I�۪d like to mention is how humble Pankajji is ..remember I had a very bad patch health wise , I developed this very nasty cough. Pankajji’s runner who used to come on the sets with him used to be around with a tiny little box with cloves in it. Because I was coughing constantly ,Pankajji would signal to him and say ���please jao, Nikiji ko de ke aao�۝. He was really looking after me.

There’s a scene in the song ‘Nazdeekiyaan’ where Shahid and his father dance together. Were they nervous at all?

No no, they’re both thorough professionals. It was funny though when Shahid takes his father’s arm and chucks him out. (laughs) I was there, I was watching him and I was absorbing every nuance. You’ll see his performance in this film is on another level. I feel honoured being a part of this film.

Niki Walia Sanjay Kapoor 340x

You play Alia’s mother in the film. How would describe her as an actress ��� she’s achieved so much in the short time she’s been in the industry?

She’s come a long way. When she started off I was a little unsure but within a short span of time she’s really worked hard. I did not give her enough credit when she began but with her on the sets, I can say she’s very hardworking. She doesn’t mess around, she’s very focused. She’s got a really good vibe about her. In the first schedule, as there were so many actors it wasn�۪t easy ,she did take her time warming up but once she did, it was amazing.Vikas had to keep reminding me that my character didn’t get along with Alia’s. He kept telling me ���Will you stop being so good to her? You two are not supposed to have fun!�۝ I kept telling him that when he says action, I will turn into my character but can you not tell us not to have fun when we’re not working. (laughs) We got on so well.

How would describe Vikas’ sentiment as a director?

When you see him work, he’s just effortless. He doesn’t take any stress. When I met him and asked him about the magic he created in ‘Queen’, he very humbly said ���I didn’t do anything ��� it was my actors and my team�۝. Shaandaar wasn�۪t an easy one to achieve. We had 18-22 characters per family and Vikas knew exactly what he wanted out of each character . Vikas and his amazing team of assistants handled all the characters so well, hats off to them. Vikas�۪ sense of humour, oh my God! So I�۪ll sum it up with this, Vikas is funny, talented, patient, grounded and an honour to work with.

Niki Walia Karan Johar

Did you find any kind of difficulty in essaying a character which is away from your norm?

No not at all.. in fact I really enjoyed seeing the looks on everyone�۪s faces as they all knew the real me wasn�۪t anything like Geetu Arora.

It’s evident that Alia and Shahid share a great rapport with each other. What was it like on the sets with them?

They were like buddies on the sets. Sometimes, it was difficult to whether were filming or just chatting, because they were so in sync right throughout . Shahid and Alia both have a great love for music too and all we heard was music blaring from their respective trailors. They have a beautiful chemistry.

Niki Walia - Shaandaar

‘Shaandaar’ seems to have a universal appeal. How would you say that came about in your opinion?

Well, it’s a destination wedding. And may I say, what a beautiful destination !

It�۪s a traditional Indian wedding set up against the beautiful Yorkshire backdrop! It’s a visual treat. This is one shaandaar film!

BizAsia would like to thank Niki Walia for taking the time to share her experience of working in ‘Shaandaar’ with us.

The film is slated for release on 22nd October.

Niki Walia’s Facebook page –��here

Niki Walia’s Twitter –��here

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