Ali Zafar and Yaami Gautam are like yin and yang. For Ali's cheeky answers, you have Yaami's bashful hesitation. The Total Siyapaa co-stars, who play the lead in the Indo-Pak rom-com, got into a no holds barred chat, where they spoke about temptations, crushes and dirty jokes, apart from music and their camaraderie. Excerpts from a chat:
Total Siyapaa is about meeting the parents. Ali, how was it when you met your wife Ayesha's parents for the first time?
Ali: I was very lucky that my father-in-law was a big fan of music and movies. Actually his dad used to make movies. Jab unse mila and he found out that I can sing, he was overjoyed. In fact, kya hua ki they didn't know that we were dating. So unhone kaha ki chalo gaana-vaana karte hai, doston ko bulate hain. Unhone mera gaane suna hi nahi tha usse pehle. Toh ho sakta tha ki main bahut bura singer hota and woh sab log aa jaate. But that night I sang on a little keyboard and people were sitting till 4 am and all his friends enjoyed a lot. And then I remember charming her mother by making a big lifesize portrait of her. I still have that. They're wonderful people.
You sing and act like some of the old time Bollywood actors. Do you think it's a revival of the trend?
Ali: Initially we had KL Saigal sahab. But he was a proper singer. Shaukeen gaane wale nahin thay. Toh wohi hero hi thay. Then Kishore Kumar, he was a proper singer, trained. Abhi jo hai, it's really good because the kind of cinema that is coming, it's becoming real and authentic also. Har tarah ki filmein aa rahi hain. So, in that space, if someone is singing, its good, like Ayushmann sang his own songs, then there's Farhan Akhtar. Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol also sang Senorita. It adds authenticity. In the West, if you see musicals, Val Kilmer sang Jim Morrison songs for The Doors.
Yaami, can you sing?
Yaami: I don't think I'm a bad singer, but I'm not trained. I definitely cannot compare myself to the likes of Ali Zafar. But, I'd love to give it a try someday. Not to bring out an album or something,
just to sing a song for myself, maybe.
Ali: She has a nice voice. She's always humming. I've heard her when we used to sit together. Achhi aawaz hai uski, waise hi sharmati rehti hai.
Were there any India-Pakistan debates on your set? Yaami: Even if he wants to, do you think he can here? Jokes apart, I don't think we've ever had any debates. He's one of the most loved stars in India; as much as he's back home. It's almost like his second home.
In real life, Yaami would you ever think of marrying someone from another country?
Ali: Or in fact, in real life, would you like to get married?
Yaami: Yes, I'd like to get married one day for sure. And yes, I don't mind. These characters in today's times are closer to how we think and react. So, yeah, why not, definitely.
What kind of a guy do you want? Ali: (chuckles loudly) Ali, what kind of a guy do you think she would marry? Yaami: That's a good question. Yes, Ali, tell me.
Ali: Maine iske baare mein bahut socha hai. I think he'll be a nice cool guy, chilled out..
. Yaami: Basically, whatever I'm, he should be just the opposite, that's what he's trying to say.
Ali: You're not nice and cool? Yaami: No, I don't think I'm. I'm too nice, he needs to be just nice.
Ali: He needs to make you explore stuff, which you are reserved about, mostly.
What does 'stuff' mean?
Yaami: I have no idea. Throughout the film and interviews, I've always maintained a straight face with no comments.
Ali: I'm always scandalising her. On the sets, Kirron Kherji and I were cracking jokes; yeh bahut scandalised ho jaati thi. Yeh kehti thi aap log aisi baatein kaise kar sakte hain. Yaami: Now I've kind of made peace with it.
Any cross-border crushes you guys had?
Yaami: Can I say honestly?
Ali: Don't say Ali Zafar while growing up. Yaami: Shahid Afridi. I even remember his birthday, November 27, one day before mine. I remember the time I saw him bowl and his hair flying in the air and all of that.
Ali: My childhood crushes were Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman. I used to also sing that song, Angrezi Mein Kehti Hai Ki I Love You... I used to think I was Amitabh Bachchan and sing songs to her.
Ali, have you encountered any biases in the industry?
Ali: So far, nothing. Agar honge toh I'm not aware of them. It's been pretty smooth.
Ali, there's a scene in The Reluctant Fundamentalist where the Pakistani family discusses that if someone wants to be an actor and wear bold clothes, they should go to India. Is that how Bollywood is perceived there?
Ali: I'll show you some films from Peshawar (Pakistan) so you'll understand what bold means. Look at fashion shows and shoots. I don't know how this has come. I think people feel wahan theek hai par yahan nahi hai. There are different opinions and hence, there exists a dichotomy that is present everywhere I think.
Have you ever encountered anyone with the not-so-liberal ideology?
Ali: Of course. We don't really get to communicate with people as much. But sometimes we read comments on forums or on articles, where I get to see people like these exist too. But then you think it might take time for them to evolve and they all have their points of view, which I understand.
Your film is a romantic comedy. Do you see that the portrayal of India-Pakistan relationships in cinema is also changing?
Ali: In that regard, this movie is a first of its kind. Someone had said to me, why is it always that the guy is a Hindu from India and the girl is a Muslim from Pakistan and I said, see now here's our film. Minds are opening up, avenues are opening up today. Your favourite India-Pakistan romance film?
Ali: I like Veer-Zaara.
Yaami: Veer-Zaara. Our film has no idea of dramatising; ours is a different take on the whole situation. Does it feel like a sense of deja vu? Your first film was with Ayushmann who sings, second with Ali...
Yaami: No, Ajay sir's broken it, I don't think he's a great singer. He's a fabulous actor, he's one of the biggest stars. I've told him that in fact. But, I've never heard him sing.
Who's a better singer? Ayushmann or Al i?
Ali: Ab bol do. Jo kal jawab diya tha wahi de do. Har interview mein different answers nahin de sakte.
Yaami: Ali Zafar is a fantastic. If I have to compare, I'll have to say Ali. I've heard his songs before Total Siyapaa in films and I'm a huge fan of Coke Studio Pakistan.
How quickly did Ali and you hit it off?
Ali: Party sharty yeh karti nahi hai. Aur time waise bhi nahi tha London mein party karne ka. So, there was this one night when I'd said, 'Listen guys, we've worked too hard' because we were shooting from 7 am till 9 pm. So I said, Yaami tum London ghumi ho? Yeh maine usse poocha koi ek hafte baad. Maine kaha London dekha hai tumne? Yeh kehti hai nahin. Maine kaha tum shooting ke baad kya karti ho wapas jaake? Yeh bolti hai main kamre mein hoti hoon. Maine kaha kamre mein kyun hoti ho tum? Kiske saath hoti ho? Kehti hai akele hi.
. Yaami: You are improvising a lot. I used to go for a jog in Hyde Park every day and go to Oxford Street alone. Ali: You tell me that you went there after one week. You said that I am in the room, I don't know where to go. Yaami: Overall, that is true. Ali: That is true. So, I said I will take you out tonight, just come with my friends and me. We had a really good time. I remember she laughed throughout. Yaami: I had a really great time. I still remember his friend's name (Adnan). It was crazy! Ali: Aur wahan pe when we got together, strangely one of my ex-girlfriends from 10 years back also came. Maine kahan theek ho tum? Jo thi woh maa ban chuki thi lekin woh phir bhi modelling karti hai. Yaami: Ali, she's a good looking girl. Ali: Yeah, she's nice. But woh thodi possessive type thi.
Ali, your wife is not possessive given your popularity? Ali: Nahin yaar, that's why she is my wife... up till now. She's very secure. Yaami: Main phir se bolun that she's very sweet?
Ali: Every TV interview jab main Yaami ke saath thodi chemistry banane ki koshish karta hoon ke film bech lo, thoda chemistry bana lo, she says, 'Ali's wife is so nice. She came onto the set. His son is so sweet and I used to play with him.' Main kehta hoon achcha ji ji. Kis tarah creative ho gaye ho yaar. Yaami: Arrey, you don't know. This is my way of having fun. I don't drink. I don't go partying. How will I have fun in life? That's how I have fun.
Ali: Yeah talking about my wife, she's amazing. She's an angel. She says that I am an alien and I say she's an angel. Because she says that tum jo cheezein kehte ho aur kar jaate ho woh kis tarah ho sakta hai. Aur agla banda usse sahi bhi hota hai, and you convince the other person ki yeh theek hai, it is okay. So I think I am very lucky to have a wife like that.
Yaami: And she's very pretty.
Ali, you have worked with some beautiful actresses. Aren't there any temptations? Ali: Yes, there are. Bas phir Buddha ko follow kar lete hain. Aur kya karein? Yaami:Ali, your wife's very good.
Ali: Buddha didn't go after the temptation, he controlled it till he died. Hoti hain temptations but I feel awkward going beyond a certain... temptations toh hoti hain. Har kisi ko hoti hongi nahin toh abnormal hai. But it's how you deal with it. So I deal with it in a very professional manner. Maine apne aap ko sikha diya hai ki kaise daba loh uss cheez ko.
Political tension between two countries always affects actors and singers from both sides of the border. Does it upset you because there must be many who say why do we need Pakistani singers coming to India and vice versa? Do these kind of incidents bother you?
Ali: It can, in the sense that artistes harmless se log hote hain... jyaada tar toh. Unko apna art karna hota hai, gaana gaana hota hai. Apna gaana logon ko sunana hota hai. Thode bahut paise banane hote hain. So sabse pehle because woh limelight mein hote hain toh unko target karke yeh cheezein register karni aasan hoti hain toh I think aisa hona nahin chahiye. Kuch log jo ke jaane jaate hain aur jaane gaye hain iss wajah se ki ye woh hain. Ab yeh falana banda kuch aur nahin hai, bas yeh singer hai ya actor hai. Bas uska yehi kaam hai aur uska kaam nazar aa raha hai toh unke liye thoda kuch special ho jaaye toh achhi baat hai.
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