The ever popular Karan Wahi has been in London for a couple of months, shooting for the upcoming ‘Hate Story 4′. Although he made his official big screen debut in a small role in 2014’s Yash Raj Films’ production ‘Daawat-E-Ishq’, he will be seen in a lead role this time round.
BizAsiaLive.com caught up with the actor to talk about his experience shooting in the British capital and more. (Scroll down for photos by Ketna Mistry.)
You made your big screen debut in ‘Daawat-E-Ishq’ and were appreciated in the small role you were seen in. Your second film ‘Babbu Ki Jawaani’ didn’t release in between and now you’re shooting for ‘Hate Story 4’ in the UK. Why has your return to cinema taken three years?
It’s exactly as you said. ‘Babbu Ki Jawaani’ didn’t release and that was the go-to project for me and for a lot of people back then. The film is complete and there was only one day’s shoot left. Unfortunately, I don’t really know why it didn’t release. I’m sure the producers had their reasons. So what happens is that when you’re a fresh man in the fraternity and you’re doing such a big production, because of that you tend to get more opportunities. Something similar happened to me and a lot of opportunities came my way. Everyone was waiting for ‘Babbu Ki Jawaani’ to release because success, I feel, leads you to more success. However, because it didn’t release, things got put off. I have a habit of not chasing things too much because I believe that what has to happen will happen. I have to make my effort for sure but I can’t live my life according to a particular dream. A lot of people ask me why isn’t Bollywood my final frontier but I don’t think it is. It’s a part of all the avenues we cover, being in this fraternity. Yes, Bollywood is the big A but apparently, even if you work on TV or on the web or anywhere, you are still an actor – even if the mediums are bigger or smaller. When ‘Babbu’ didn’t happen, I didn’t get worked up for about a month or two, but then I started doing other things. Not doing films or even doing them doesn’t make me a bigger or smaller person or a bigger, better or not-so-good actor. What matters is that I’m enjoying my work. ‘Hate Story 4’ came my way and I just jumped into it. I thought it had an interesting story. It’s a franchise which works on music, the thrill element, the sex quotient. I thought this is an opportunity where I like what I read and why not? I’ve been doing other things like anchoring, reality TV, producing, doing internet entertainment so I thought why not do ‘Hate Story 4’. I thought this might also open up more avenues but whether that’s true will only be known once the film releases. I think that’s why there’s been such a gap since ‘Daawat-E-Ishq’.
Is there anything you can reveal about your character in ‘Hate Story 4’?
Well, I’m opposite Urvashi Rautela in the film. All movies in the franchise have had a love story gone wrong, a revenge story, and I’m a part of that this time. I can’t say too much about it because I’ve been sworn to secrecy while we’re shooting. I love the soundtrack and this is expected from a T-Series film. This is the first of the four films where it’s being shot outside of India. It’s looking grander and looking for beautiful. The London light is great. You just happen to look really good, even if you don’t (laughs). This makes life easier because you’re not stressed about the way you’re looking so you can concentrate more on other stuff. All in all, ‘Hate Story 4’ is a really nice concept, I think. I really hope people love it.
Did you prepare for the role at all and have you found it challenging in any way?
Usually, before you begin shooting, there is some prep work that you need to put in. Unfortunately for me, when I signed this film, I had just landed back in India from Spain. I had just got back from ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, and then I went to America for IIFA. When I came back, it was only 10 days before we came to London. So, I’ve not really had the time to prep as such while the others did. We did do reading sessions before we began shooting here for a few days – while we were getting accustomed to the weather and all. It’s not one of those films where you’re playing a certain character because it’s a thriller so the entire story is focused on how the thrill element will pop up. Luckily, this time the lack of prep hasn’t really affected much. I remember I prepped for ‘Babbu’ for seven months. When the first poster of the film released, nobody recognised me. People thought it was all prosthetics and fake hair but it wasn’t. It was actual hair, no prosthetics, I’d lost all of my muscle, I gained weight. I think different filmmakers work differently, and I think this is a different way to shoot ‘Hate Story 4’.
Is there any one memory you’ll be taking away from shooting in London?
Can I take the weather? (laughs) And the roads? And the civic sense? And the food?
India had good food!
Yes, I’m not denying that India has some great food but the kind of food I’v had here I don’t think will ever come to India. We have very different tastebuds and it feels like we fuse our tastes to every kind of food there is (laughs). But I’d definitely take the weather, the roads and the people driving on the roads.
According to you, does Bollywood come with big shoes to fill because so many people have made the transition from small to big screen?
Honestly, from my perspective, I really don’t think that. Maybe for others they’re thinking I’m another actor from TV. But don’t non-TV actors also fail? How many films come in a year and how many are actually successful? I think the rate is probably around 10 per cent and, out of that, 8 per cent is probably the Khans, the Kumars, the Kapoors… (laughs). It’s a tagline that TV faces tend to do films like these. Filmmakers like T-Series and Tips are the only ones that give TV actors that opportunity, more often than not. I’m not saying others don’t give that opportunity but there’s still a thought that TV actors can work more and are used to the gruelling aspect of it. However, I don’t think that really counts when work is given. I’m not saying that others are not talented enough but if people think Bollywood comes with big shoes to fill then that’s their perspective and not mine. If I take it as just another job and just another day of acting, I don’t pressurise myself. There’s less pressure on me and less thought process otherwise from day one I’ll be wondering whether something will work or not, or will something get good reviews or not, or should I have done it in the first place or not. Most of things you do on TV, you don’t really think about them. So if we’re the same people who do things like that in TV then why not in films? If we’re the same people who say there shouldn’t be any disparity then we shouldn’t be creating that when we’re working. I’ll give the same effort to a TV show that I’ll give to a film or to my anchoring. If I vary from one thing to another then obviously my success will also vary. If I don’t vary then the product may not always be a winner but I’ll eventually end up as one. I haven’t been thinking much about what will happen with ‘Hate Story 4’ – whether it’ll make money or not. My job ends at the last day of the shoot. I should then be satisfied that I’ve done my best and done what my director wanted because it’s a director’s medium. It’s also my luck. If the movie makes 100 crores then everyone will want to work with me. Maybe ‘Babbu Ki Jawaani’ will get a release. If it doesn’t work then people will say another TV actor failed. So it’s how you take it, it’s your perspective. Sushant Singh Rajput has done exceedingly well for himself and he comes in the category of one in a million. Certainly you can say that after Shah Rukh Khan, Sushant made it but that doesn’t lessen the other TV actors who tried. If someone asks why would you do this and not that, my reply would be that you’re not even getting this. Who am I to point fingers and call a certain project lesser or bigger? I’m happy in what I do.
As you touched on, you’ve taken on a number of roles in TV – you’re an actor, you’re an anchor and you’ve also been a reality TV show contestant. Is there any one of those three that fulfilled you that little bit more than the others?
Actually, no not really. All three mediums are very different. Acting is the most special to me because it’s given me everything else. I became an actor first and then I became everything else. What anchoring did was it gave me a name that is my name and not of a character that I’m playing. For TV people, it’s very difficult to be known as your own name. Wherever you go, you’re always referred to as a character people must have seen. It was really nice when I became an anchor that people actually knew me by my name and then started talking about the characters that I played. As an actor, that’s really the number one thing – to be known as an actor who has played a lot of characters rather than a character who has been played by me. Being a reality TV contestant is a completely different ball game and it’s actually not my forte. I think that’s because I’m not competitive enough. I don’t push myself to an extent where I might break down or something. If you ask me to name something that’s surpassed all aspects of my work, it has definitely been ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’. It’s not something I would ever do in my life. I told the producers, the channel… I look rough and tough but I’m not. I work out because I love fitness. I don’t work out to kill people or to beat somebody… or to pick snakes or rats. When I did the show, I cried… I was happy and I did some great stunts. I also did some really bad ones. But I had so much fun in the entire process. This is the first time I’ve enjoyed losing so much on a show. The day I got eliminated, I was laughing because I wasn’t disappointed. People didn’t know what I’d experienced within myself. 50 years from now, I’ll be able to tell you things that I tried in my life that you will never try but that I actually did. When we say that life is about experiences, we just say it like it’s nothing. Indians (back home) are brought up in a very systematic way. Life is set in a way. Until the time you’re 10, your parents will tell you everything. You then start middle school, you rebel, and then you go to college… Your studying aspect is very different. You have to be career-oriented. Being a waiter cannot be a career because our hierarchy system is there. You can work as a General Manager but you can’t work at the bar. In London, I can be a waiter here and do that as my day job. You won’t judge me for that. In India, we say the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. It’s because poor and rich never chill together. For example, my driver and I can’t sit on the same sofa and eat. But over here, your chauffeur might well be richer than you. I think this system will result in Indians not experiencing much. Like, we make more houses than we travel or we save gold more than we travel. So if we travel to Paris then we will only go to Paris because we have to see the Eiffel Tower (laughs). We won’t go anywhere else. We’ll come to London and we’ll not go on the streets of London and walk around but we’ll go to the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, Buckingham Palace… Our aspect of travel is also very different. So this is why ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ was such a great experience for me. I did so much that I may or may not do again in my life. I even told Colors that if they could then if they could please make me a contestant on ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ again. Those 45 days are the most gruelling. You really hate them for those 45 days (laughs). But you don’t even realise how quickly they’re over and how much fun you had. You’re living every day with so many people and there is nothing else but them and animals.
I understand you’re also going to be in Netflix Originals’ ‘Sacred Games’?
Yes I am. But I haven’t shot for it yet because it’s been delayed now.
From an international perspective, transitioning on to web-content is often about reaching a wider audience but what about the Indian perspective? Web-content is growing?
You know, from the Indian perspective, there’s the hierarchy system which I was talking about. So we have TV and we have films. I mean, anyone who goes to Mumbai to be an actor never says they want to be a TV actor (laughs). They all want to be the next Shah Rukh Khan. So, there are a lot of people who used to be very anti-TV because of the regressive nature of it. So we’ve squeezed this other thing in the middle of TV and films which is called web. So if you now go to Indian ask anyone in Lokhandwala what they’re doing, they’ll say they’re doing a web series. What they don’t realise is that web-series doesn’t mean cool. Abusing content is not cool. What is cool is that on the web you can put in content which is not allowed on TV. You can say things which will look realistic enough but you can’t do on TV. So, before I signed ‘Sacred Games’, I have already shot for a very big web show with Hungama, produced by Mr Kumar Mangat. It’s called ‘Barcode’ and we’ve already shot for it. I think it’d releasing in December. That’s when I realised that if I want to make web content or be in someone else’s, it better be good content because otherwise why am I going to the web? For actors, the web doesn’t have much money for actors. They’d rather put money in the production then to put into the actors right now, especially in India, because the web culture has only just started. I don’t think Netflix has realised that India is a very big market. For ‘Sacred Games’, it is a small part I have been signed for. I’ve been signed for all the seasons so I will be there constantly on the show. I couldn’t shoot for it because I’ve come here to London for ‘Hate Story 4’. It’s been raining there so the shoot’s been delayed a little. Once I’m back I’ll start shooting for it. I think it’ll probably come out in January or February.
What’s happening in the future for you?
There are a lot of things that I’m doing. I’ll be back in India on 11th November and from the 13th I’ll start my TV outings again. I am hosting two shows – one probably in November-December and the other probably in February-March or later. I’m doing another comedy show with Colors; they’re coming up with something new this time. That’s something I enjoy a lot, even if it means being the brunt of all jokes. It’s fun to try different things. I’m also doing another web-based venture. So there are a lot of things happening – for Star and Colors. And, of course, ‘Hate Story 4’ releases on 2nd March so from January the promos will be out. Hopefully everything falls in place.
BizAsiaLive.com thanks Karan Wahi for taking the time to chat to us.