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Love and its labours

BUDHADITYA BHATTACHARYA
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CHAT Ahead of its release, Dhanush and Sonam Kapoor talk about Raanjhanaa

The trailer of Aanand Rai’s Raanjhanaa begins with a hat-tip to Saajan . In a sparsely populated hall, over the weepy “ Bahut pyaar karte hain ”, a friend urges Dhanush to seize the moment. The implication is, if he doesn’t, he might become the Sanjay Dutt of Saajan , whose role as Aman was a monument to thwarted love.

And by the looks of it, Dhanush, playing Kundan, a Banarasi boy, acts on the advice. He goes to all lengths to woo Sonam Kapoor, playing Zoya. The chase, which takes Kundan from childhood to manhood, spans two cities (Banaras and Delhi).

“He is following her because she wants him to follow her. She does it with a little bit of spunk… Zoya is so strong that she is the one who drives the narrative. She wraps the men (the film also stars Abhay Deol) around her fingers,” Sonam says.

“Not every boy who loves a girl has the guts to go and tell her. So what he does is he observes her from a distance. That is the very innocent, teenage puppy love that we have shown; it’s not any kind of stalking,” protests Dhanush, who inaugurates his Bollywood career with the film.

“Kundan is a beautiful character. Everyone can relate with Kundan and see a little of themselves in him. How he reacts to certain situations is what makes him interesting,” says Dhanush.

Zoya is the only child of a Muslim couple, and has been brought up with a freedom uncharacteristic for a city like Banaras. She goes to study in JNU, where she gets involved with student politics, street plays and social work and meets Abhay Deol’s character, a student leader. In different ways, both actors were unfamiliar with the characters they play.

“When I was offered this film, I sat down with the director and asked why I was offered the role. He said, ‘You seem like a girl from a small town who is not going to stay in the town. I said, ‘But I am a city girl.’ And he said, ‘You come across like a city girl who doesn’t belong in the city.’ In small towns, you’ll find these girls who you know when they are walking around that they are not going to last long and when you see them in the city you know that these girls are not city girls. And he said, ‘You have that in you, in your nature and your sensibilities.’ And I said, ‘Maybe you are right.’ Because my parents brought me up with middle-class values and I sometimes feel very out of sorts in the city.”

She prepared for her role by studying, and imitating Jaya Bachchan’s character in Guddi , and later through an acting workshop with Asmita Theatre Group. “I needed to imbibe the energy, strength and loudness of street theatre. And hopefully I have been successful in doing that.”

For Dhanush, who was cast on the strength of his National Award-winning performance in Aadukalam , the unfamiliarity was one of language. For someone who is still learning Hindi, getting the diction of Banarasi Hindi right was a challenge. “I used to act once in Tamil in my head and then in Hindi,” he says. Does he think he will be accepted by the audience? “Even if people don’t accept me it’s fine. I just want them to accept the film,” he adds.

The film’s music is already a massive earworm, but Dhanush (whose “Kolaveri” catapulted him to international fame) is conspicuous by his absence. “When Rahman sir is there, you don’t need me at all,” he smiles.

BUDHADITYA BHATTACHARYA

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