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With Neeraj Pandey sir you have to unlearn all that you know: Rakul Preet Singh

With Neeraj Pandey sir you have to unlearn all that you know: Rakul Preet Singh – Rakul Preet Singh made her Bollywood debut with Yaariyan in 2014, after which she vanished from the scene. There was talk of her doing MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, but that fizzled out soon. And now, after four years, the actress will return to Hindi films with Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary. She has also bagged the lead role opposite Ajay Devgn in a yet-to-be-titled film. Here, the actress tells us why she was missing in action, and what prompted her return to Hindi films…

Why did you disappear after Yaariyan?

It wasn’t intentional, nor was it pre-decided that I am not going to do a Hindi film. It just so happened that two days after I finished Yaariyan, I started shooting for my first Telugu film. That released in November and by then I had started another movie in Telugu. And when Yaariyan released, which was exactly a year from the day we finished the shoot, I already had two-three films in the South. I was working every day, it was not like I was sitting at home. I felt I might as well do great films at one place, rather than go to Mumbai and look for good work. And whenever something great comes my way, I will do it. In three-and-a-half years, I did 16 films in the South.

There were reports of you being a part of MS Dhoni: The Untold Story? What went wrong?  

I was supposed to do the Dhoni biopic with Neeraj (Pandey) sir, which I had signed. I had even been part of the readings, but unfortunately, I couldn’t do the film because there was a slight change in dates. I was shooting for three South films at that time and I couldn’t accommodate the change.

How did Aiyaary happen?

For Aiyaary, which is also directed by Neeraj, the team first asked, ‘Ab dates hai ki nahin’, I said abhi block karoge toh hai. It’s a good film to make a comeback with. It speaks content, it has a good starcast and it’s Neeraj sir’s.

The film focuses on Sidharth Malhotra and Manoj Bajpayee. Where do you fit in?

I play a software hacker in the film. That by itself means I would be part of an integral plot of the film —  you’ll realise when you see it. Of course, it’s not a love story, nor does the film talk about the life of a boy and a girl, but in a Neeraj Pandey movie, every character has some importance. And looking at his past films, just to be associated with his movie means either you are there for a reason or not at all. I feel it is more important for me to come with a good film at this point. A film that I would be proud of and is intelligent cinema. It’s not how much screen time you have, it’s what you do in that screen time that matters.

Does that mean you have a different approach for South films and Bollywood?

No, obviously I won’t play the second lead in Bollywood. I am playing the lead role in this film and would like to do good roles. But this is the kind of movie that doesn’t require dancing around the trees. It has songs which take the story forward, it has characters that are integral to the core plot. I am an army kid and I was more excited about being a part of the film which talks about the system and army.

How is it working with Neeraj?

With Neeraj sir, you really need to unlearn everything that you know. His style of shooting is realistic. He gives you complete freedom within the space and boundary of the character. It’s an interesting way of shooting. You need to understand every director’s style of shooting, adapt to it and deliver. Neeraj sir shot the film on real locations, not a single set was used. Even with the actors,  he likes to keep it real, whether it is the lighting or makeup. While performing, you can’t be overacting, it needs to be subtle and natural. He would always tone down the make-up. He didn’t want any colours on the lips. Whatever we did, he would say tone it down. It had to look like we are real people.

What was your equation like with Manoj Bajpayee and Sidharth Malhotra? 

My first day of shoot was with Manoj and he is amazing. I have grown up watching his films. He is an extremely talented actor and so comfortable to work with, very encouraging. He is extremely hilarious — he was the only one joking all the time on the sets! I learnt a lot from him. Sid, on the other hand, is a very easy-going guy. Both of us are from Delhi, which we realised while shooting and hit it off well on that note. He is non filmi, is grounded, has no airs about himself and is very hard working.

Can you tell me about the film you are doing with Ajay Devgn and Tabu?

I have a glamorous role in the film, it’s the lead with Ajay sir. We have just wrapped up the first schedule and it is shaping out well. It came to me post the shooting of Aiyaary. I was in Mumbai when they did a photoshoot with me for the look of the character. They liked it and I was on. I have a meaty role in the film, but it’s too early to talk about it. All I can say is it’s a new age love story.

With Neeraj Pandey sir you have to unlearn all that you know: Rakul Preet Singh

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