‘Our friendship made it possible for us to be there for each other’
What kind of reactions did you get after the trailer launch?
M: Initially, only my family and friends were reacting. Later, we went through the comments online. And it felt great. I got a good response from everyone. Even people from the industry called and said encouraging things. z It’s not an average newcomer promo; there’s a lot of emotion. So, you were required to come up to a certain level?
M: While making the film, Sanjay sir and director Mangesh Hadawale said, never think that it’s your debut, think as if it’s your 10th movie.
S: People have said stuff like, ‘It’s not like a SLB film.’ ‘Bikharion ke Ranveer, Priyanka, amiron ke ghar se..’ You have to be like Priyanka Chopra and you have to be like Ranveer Singh. Sanjay sir has set those expectations and pushed us to try and reach there. We know we are not there, but we might get there. Mangesh sir believes he’s launching Aastha and Shivam (our characters in the film). Sanjay sir is like I’m launching Sharmin and Meezaan. That’s the distinction between them and their approaches in making our career, pushing us to do our best in their own respective ways.
M: It’s the perfect balance of the best of both worlds.
S: Till 17, I was like mujhe doctor banna hai. Then I switched to doing theatre in school. Sanjay sir was like yeh kar payegi ki nahin... I didn’t know how to do makeup, hair.. that is the knowledge Sanjay sir shared with me. He is known to launch heroines. He was like, you can’t look like that, being my niece and now trying to become an actor.
M: He boosted our confidence. He told us, ‘I believe in you, so you should believe in yourself.’
S: Sanjay sir really pushed us a lot... Hopefully, it translates.. z It will. That’s how it goes.. S: It can be a little scary because anything creative like art is highly subjective. You can’t have just one opinion. You don’t have any idea what the acceptance level is going to be. It’s really daunting. But that’s the path that will make you strive, work harder and expect less too..
M: Also, the problem is that here, a lot of people judge the book by its cover. So, they should wait and watch the movie. Then, I will be more than welcome to take criticism.
S: I want the audiences to see my first film, so that I know where I have to work to meet the expectations of the audience. z Sharmin, why do you call him Sanjay sir and not ‘Mama’?
S: I worked with him as an AD on Bajirao Mastani. But that’s not the reason. I call him sir even when we’re sitting together for a family dinner. At the age of four, I used to watch Devdas at the trials. I didn’t understand anything as I was a kid. But after I worked with him on Bajirao Mastani, I had newfound respect for him. Since then, I’ve been calling him sir. z Speaking of age, Meezaan and you are almost the same age?
S: We’re like 14 days apart and we’re friends forever.. M: We were in school together..
S: He used to date my best friend and make fun of me for being fat. z That’s not true, is it Meezaan?
M: That was my indirect way of motivating her. See, it has worked. She’s perfect today. z How well-versed are the two of you in Hindi cinema?
M: I’m obsessed.
S: He is more obsessed than me. As a kid, every Friday, I was like, I have to go to the theatre, whichever film it may be, whether it has a big star or not... I’d go for the 9 pm show... I would take whoever was at home with me, whether it was my grandmother or my staff. I was not allowed to go alone as a kid.. When I was in college, I used to go alone in New York... z What is your favourite genre in cinema?
M: When it comes to Bollywood, it’s drama, romance and comedy.
S: Courtroom drama. z Who are your favourite filmmakers?
M: Apart from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films, I love Yash Chopra’s movies. Those are the films I really connect to, like Veer-zaara (2004). I like it when it has a musical album. I liked Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dil Chahta Hai. I watch a lot of Priyadarshan’s films when I’m bored; especially those with Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Paresh Rawal. I love those.
S: I don’t know in what genre can you categorise Zoya Akhtar’s movies. She is in her own league. I want to have that Farhan Akhtarpriyanka Chopra relationship from Dil Dhadakne Do. There’s a cute energy going on. I love the old films of Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan.
M: With me, for some reason, I memorise the dialogue. S: When we were in school, Meezaan and his friends had learnt the dialogue of Welcome. And their responses to anything anyone said was a Welcome dialogue. I was like, I don’t understand you.
M: I have recited Welcome to Anees Bazmee and challenged him that I know the script better than him. z Who’s a better dancer between the two of you?
S: He is much better than me. I’ve decided to work on my awkwardness. z Which SLB song do you admire?
S: Pinga. In our movie, there is a song in which I’m wearing a nine-yard sari. While filming it, I would constantly think about Pinga because we had shot it over 10 days. Priyanka’s feet were bruised. I thought to myself I need to work a lot harder to get to that level and deliver. Both PC and Deepika (Padukone) put in a lot of hard work into their performances. z Has the equation between the two of you changed from school to being co-actors?
S: We’ve changed so much. We graduated in 2013 and started working together in 2018...There are 100 people on the set. You’re expected to deliver in the space.. Somewhere, our friendship made it possible for us to be there for each other and feel comfortable in that space. There were times when I wanted to cry. Meezaan helped me.
M: You are so busy doing your work that you don’t have time for friends. When you are shooting, you lose connection with not only your close pals but also your family. After the shoot, I would go home and sleep.
S: I was so used to leaving home at 7 am and returning at 11 pm, since the time I used to work as an AD that I wouldn’t see anyone for days. We shot Malaal for a year-and-a-half. People on the set become your friends. She wasn’t privileged because she is SLB’S niece. S: I’m an under-confident person. I will get uncomfortable with entitlement. z Are you tired or exhilarated with all the hectic promotional activity? M: Not really. I know how important this one month is. I just want to give my extra 1,000 per cent now. I know if I don’t do it, no one will. I have to go out of my way to get things done. For me, it’s not my film alone, it’s everyone’s film.
S: I’ve not done this before. I haven’t shown you my work, yet. But this is my space. So, I am like, when the trailer is out or when the song is out, then tell me how you think I am. I don’t know middle ground.
M: I believe in all-out promotion, that’s my view.
S: He is more confident of putting himself out there. I’m not.