In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Raashii Khanna talks about the elusive nature of fame, which actor made her feel at ease on the sets of Farzi, and why she feels class distinction is inevitable in our society. Edited interview below...
Tell her she’s *really* famous, and Raashii Khanna is quick to admit she wouldn’t know about that because she is a homebody.
A bona fide star down South, Raashii—who’s venturing into the Hindi industry in a biggish way after her brief role in 2013 Bollywood film Madras Café—wants to be accepted and embraced by North India, her hometown, but there’s no hurry. “I am never worried whether I will be recognized or seen,” she tells OTTplay in an exclusive interview for her Amazon Prime Video web series, Farzi.
During the course of our chat, the Oohalu Gusagusalade star shared her opinion on class distinction in India (“It exists!”), how Shahid Kapoor made life easier for her, and explains why Farzi came as a breath of fresh air after a long list of ‘caricatur-ish’ roles.
Edited excerpts from our conversation with the star:
Revisit this scenario for me: It is your first day on set and you have Kay Kay Menon, Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathi as co-stars. What was your first day like? How did you deal with the initial nervousness?
RK: So, firstly, as a person, I am very reserved and for me it takes time to open up. And that’s why I am so glad that one of my first scenes, when I had started shooting for Farzi, was with Shahid. And, for me, I have grown up watching his films and I've been a fan of his work. So, somewhere, there was this little girl in me who was a little starstruck like Shahid Kapoor, you know, and that sort of thing. But, all thanks to him, because he broke the ice. He was very sweet. He's very nice. He just started the conversation; he was funny and made me laugh. And we sort of struck this friendship that is beautifully, and that has beautifully come out with time.
And, on set, I wasn't starstruck at all because if I was, then I would actually cheat my craft there. And, I didn't want that. So, I was quite prepared before we both went to set and on set, I was Megha (her character) and Shahid was Sunny. I realized that the method that we both use was very similar when it came to acting. And that sort of really helped me become better as an actor.
There was something for the sort of your big Hindi venture after a while. So, did you have any apprehensions or did you think like, ‘oh, am I going be recognized? Am I going be, you know, pushed to the side?’ Did you have any reservations as far as your visibility was concerned, because this is a global platform and, at the end of the day, Farzi is a huge multi-starrer web series.
RK: See, I have never thought of whether I'll be recognized or whether I will be seen. These are things that I don't really think of. What I've thought of (was) what’s coming to me is a great series, and that this is a great part that I have. And I just need to do justice to that. So, for me, as an actor, I only think about how can I project it (the character) in the best way possible. How can I learn from it? How can I give to that character? That's all that's these are all the sort of questions that are out there in my head. What will happen? How will people receive me all that I don't think of, because I just want to do my job in the best possible way. So, even now, people ask me, ‘are you nervous? Or, how are you feeling?’ I'm like okay I am not nervous but I'm not even very excited because I've been excited on set the first day I started shooting, it was so exciting to be a part of it. And now, there's this sense of calm where I'm like okay, now people are going to see it. And I have this (feeling) somewhere in my heart that you know, we've made a great product, and people will like it. And, OTT gives every character a lot of depth. So, what you see me also in the trailer is probably point one percent of what you'll see of me in the series. So, I have this sense of security and this sense of confidence that people will walk away rooting for me (because of) the way the character has been written.
You, obviously, have a massive fan following down South. And now, you have worked on a project which is like a blend of both Bollywood and the South Indian industry. So, how is it different? Or, is it different at all?
RK: I think honestly, if you ask me, there is no difference because in the North (or) in the South, I am a very private person, so I really don't get out anywhere. The only time I get out is probably for some openings where you go and meet your fans, but otherwise, I'm quite a homebody so I really don't know how famous I am till I get out. And, in North, also I stay at home so I don't know how much I'm known outside and I mean, it'd be great if people in the North also know me because now, they see a lot of South films also. It's a great feeling. But I don't think there's any difference in the way people receive you. If they love you, they love you. They'll give you a lot of love. But I'm hoping that my North (India) fanbase sort of increases.
Raj & DK, undoubtedly, are the men of the moment. So, what was the brief as Megha was concerned? And, how did you imbibe your own qualities and your own bits into this character?
RK: So, Raj & DK sir made me sit, they made me understand what this character was. The thing that I loved about them was that they had this really strong backstory for Megha: where she comes from, and why she is a certain way. So, I have this thing of (where) I'm constantly smiling and I'm constantly blushing and so Raj sir looked at me and said, ‘You can't smile so much, you can't blush so much. You have to kill Raashii to be Megha’. That was very funny and that was very sweet also. And in terms of my look, they really wanted to tone me down and I don't think anyone has ever seen me before the way they see they will see me in Farzi, and I think Farzi came at the right time where I was looking for something where I could be myself or be closer to a real character. Because all I had been playing were caricatures and now, I have this great platform. Now, I have these great directors and so I was more than happy like I had to pinch myself like okay, I'm in a Raj & DK series because they are so good and the characters they create, and even Megha as well.
In recent times, Indian cinema: be it our web shows or documentaries and even movies that are being recognized and awarded internationally. The Oscars, the International Emmys, just to name a few. So, what are your dreams and hopes for Farzi?
RK: Ah, see, as I said, I don't know how I'll sound but I have to tell you this that I am never really anxious about the future. I believe in being in the present and do your best in the present and just leaving everything. That's not in my hand. I mean, of course, if it does great, I will be very proud and I will be very happy because we have given a lot of effort. But I do think about where will it go (in terms of reach and award shows)? I think if the content is great, and the actors are great, and everyone's come together like they have for Farzi. I think there's no reason why it will not do really well. Now, what is that extent? I don't know, I can't gauge it. But I'll be very happy if it does (do international award-show rounds).
Since most of us are not in the know, how would you describe the pulse of Farzi?
RK: Yaar, pyaar, paisa, sab Farzi (laughs!)
That’s how I will give it to you. I mean for everyone probably Farzi means different things. Farzi, obviously, means anything that's fake and a lot of things in our life and a lot of things around us are fake. I can say social media or things where we're not really truly ourselves. Everything that's fake is Farzi. So, I think a lot of us have that side (referring to being fake) and a lot of us have that where we have to fake it. And, some people fake it till they make it and so, there's so many different definitions of Farzi. I mean I can't say it for others. But, for me, I keep saying that as actors, we are the most Farzi people because we sell dreams. And, you know, we come on screen and play this other character that is not us. So, we are the most Farzi people, ever (smiles!).
This question is purely based on what we've seen so far, like in terms of trailers and whatnot. Farzi seems to be touching upon the class distinction that is prevalent in India. We are living in a very sensitive world. Do you fear that there will be some repercussions? You know talking about class distinction will rub some people the wrong way?
RK: I don't think that's the motive of our show, or that's the thing that is very prevalent in the show. It's actually about this artist who has been struggling, but he's not been making it. So, he tries to understand why do we not get those opportunities? Of course, it's a very middle-class thing, I have been from the middle class (strata of society) and these subtle class distinctions are everywhere. And they've always been there. It's not like very sudden, it's always been there. So, I don't think there'll be any questions about that or there'll be any upheavals about the class distinction being shown in Farzi. I think it's much more than that. I mean, there is a sort of resonance in the trailer that you see but that’s not the main theme of the show. So, I don't think that will affect anything as such relating to that.
My last question to you is amongst the three of your co-stars—Shahid Kapoor, Kay Kay Menon and Vijay Sethupathi—would you say is the closest to you at the moment? And how did your friendship develop and then blossom eventually?
RK: See, I'll tell you that it's not like I'm close or far off from anybody (laughs!). I can't say I'm close to somebody because I think I'm on good terms with everyone. Professionally, that's how I've always been always my co-stars. So, there's no one above the other; I cherish all of them. I cherish the fact that I got that opportunity to work with all of them. So yeah, not one above the other.
If you had to pick like one person, you who you feel you have some sort of a bond with some sort of relationship with. Who do you pick and why?
RK: I honestly have only the ‘professional bond’ with everybody. As I said, there's no one person that I can choose over the other (laughs!).-