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Indian actor Sidharth Malhotra, who’s the byword for suave and slick in Bollywood, steps out of his comfort zone in his latest romantic comedy ‘Jabariya Jodi’, directed by Prashant Singh.

Set in Patna, the film explores the morbid and murky tradition of groom kidnapping in the Eastern Indian State.

Malhotra plays Abhay Singh, a thug who earns a living by abducting hapless men for the express purpose of marrying them to his client’s daughter.

Reports claim that thousands of eligible bachelors — who are usually accomplished government service employees or engineers with stable jobs — are abducted every year in Uttar Pradesh by families of the bride who cannot afford dowry.

The bride’s families employ criminals or henchmen to do their dirty job and forcibly conduct a union with a reluctant groom. Statistics claim there are at least nine forced marriages done at gunpoint in Bihar and this bizarre tradition is blamed on the direct fallout of dowry, a social evil where you demand money before marrying a girl.

“My character is inspired by a couple of real-life ‘baahubalis’ of Bihar who are oddly in either politics or in jail today,” said Malhotra in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!.

As far as plots go, it’s warped enough to pique our interests. The film also features Parineeti Chopra, who worked with Malhotra earlier in the unconventional but highly-enjoyable comedy, ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’(2014).

Ahead of the release of ‘Jabariya Jodi’, the ‘Student Of The Year’ breakout star Malhotra talks about his role, the challenges and his favourite romantic comedy of all time...

Excerpts from our interview:

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Q: Firstly, love the subject of groom-kidnapping in ‘Jabariya Jodi’. What were your instant reactions when you were narrated the script? Were you aware that it’s an audacious, grim reality in some parts of India?

A: I had only read a news article about the Pakaruah shaadi [forced marriage] in Bihar, but I went into in-depth detail only when I heard the script and sat down with the writer and director of ‘Jabariya Jodi’. If you notice or do some research, you will realise that most of our characters and instances in the film are inspired from real-life stories. My character, Abhay Singh, is inspired by a couple of real-life ‘baahubalis’ who are oddly in either politics or in jail today. It only happens in India and it’s a unique concept. We wanted to make a story on it and we opted for a more entertaining route which I think makes it interesting.

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Q: What was the most challenging part about playing Abhay Singh?

A; My character is based in Patna, therefore a lot of hard work was needed to get the accent right. We spent about one-and-a-half months training to get that language and our dialect right. We had a private coach and what you hear in the film is Patna Ki Hindi called Patnaiya — which is a mix of Bhojpuri, Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili. We had to speak in Hindi because ‘Jabariya Jodi’ is a Hindi-language film and we wanted to keep it ‘today’. This is how kids or people in Patna speak. Our maximum work and effort has gone into getting the language and lingo right. We also worked hard on getting my look for the character right — those earrings, coloured hair and colourful clothes — had to look right. So I sat down with the director and we came up with it. I wanted to make Abhay Singh a colourful-but-strong personality.

Q: What’s your favourite romantic comedy of all time and there’s a scene where Parineeti asks you to turn around that reminds you of the cult romance ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ (DDLJ). Was that intentional?

A: Not at all. If you are referring to the scene in the trailer where Parineeti says ‘palat’ [turn] we are not re-creating the scene from the iconic ‘DDLJ’. Though I am a big ‘DDLJ’ fan and that scene is so iconic, even if we use the word ‘palat’ in a romantic zone, it reminds you of that film. As an industry, we have explored the genre of romantic comedies extensively. ‘DDLJ’ comes into that category and so are films like ‘Jab We Met’. Even an offbeat film of director Shakun Batra like ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’ was a great romantic comedy. There are so many nice ones out there. I hope tomorrow ‘Jabariya Jodi’ becomes a good reference point for a well-made romantic comedy.

Q: How difficult was it to nail the small-town dialect and mannerisms, especially since you grew up in a city?

A: For me, picking up the dialect was the most challenging. I grew up in Delhi, so speaking Hindi was always comfortable. But I had friends while growing up who are from Bihar. It was very interesting to portray a character who’s far more colourful. The way Abhay Singh romances in ‘Jabariya Jodi’ makes you root for him. He’s one of my most favourite characters that I have played in my career and I am hoping the everyone enjoys my character as much as I did.

Q: Keeping ‘Jabariya’ Jodi in context, what would you like to tell all those who still think giving and taking dowry and forcing someone to marry against their will is pardonable?

A: It’s absolutely wrong. Taking or giving dowry is wrong. It’s an ancient ritual which needs to go. See the point is, our writers took a more funnier route to get this point across because everyone knows that giving or taking dowry is illegal in India, yet many people continue with that practice within our country or states. It happens only in India. So when you are categorically saying that it’s wrong, people aren’t necessarily getting the message across. So we tried a more comical route to make them laugh and make them realise that ‘yaar, yeh sahi nahin hai’ [mate, this is not right]. And, also to be fair it’s a love story at its core. But if you ask me, the practice of ‘pakaruah vivaah’ [forced marriage] should stop definitely. It’s a definite yes — stop that practice of dowry and kidnapping grooms.

Q: How was it working with Parineeti Chopra and what did you observe about her?

A: Working with Pari for the second time was great. We took off from where we left off in ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’. There’s friendship and comfort between us which definitely benefits the film. Our director benefited tremendously because it helps to have two actors who get along well on a set.

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‘Jabariya Jodi’ is out in the UAE now.