It’s not easy to interview actors when they are drumming up buzz for a suspense thriller because there’s always that fear of giving the proverbial farm away inadvertently.
Bollywood actors Yami Gautam and Sunny Kaushal, who were on call to promote their latest heist-meets-hijack thriller ‘Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga’ (CNKB) on Netflix, faced a similar predicament last. In a video interview, they playfully weighed every question carefully and warned each other of giving away any major plot twists.
But we don’t blame them. The less we know about ‘CNKB’, the more we are likely to enjoy this engaging thriller about a winsome air hostess (Gautam) and her partner (Kaushal) who embark on a shady diamond heist while mid-air on a flight.
Partly shot in Dubai, the movie explores the themes of wicked romance, diabolical lovers, devious planning, and high stakes hijack/heist. It’s a part love story and part smuggling/hostage drama.
“This film is your popcorn-slash-samosa-slash-entertainment. It’s a pure thriller and as an audience our Indian viewers would love such films because it has twists that are unexpected,” said Yami Gautam in an interview on video along with her co-star Kaushal.
“But whether we are truly diabolical …,” said Kaushal, when Gautam – who has one of the most angelic faces in Bollywood -- quickly interjected not to give any further clues.
“You will have to watch it to know more,” said Gautam with a laugh. Incidentally, they both count director David Fincher’s hit psychological thriller ‘Gone Girl’, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, as their favourite go-to crime caper.
While they are tight-lipped about the plot and twists in ‘CNKB’, they agree that Bollywood films has come a long way with their brand of films.
“Bollywood is moving away from the term Bollywood itself. It’s so interesting to see the kind of films that are being made now. We are going through a correction phase and we are taking all of it in the most positive stride,” said Gautam. This actress, who made a spectacular film debut with the 2012 blockbuster comedy ‘Vicky Donor’, has been on a roll in the last two years. Her films like her hit comedy ‘Bala’ and her highly entertaining thriller ‘A Thursday’ showcased her acting prowess and her vast range as an actor. All these film were high on story and didn’t rely on male star-power to pull a film through the finish line.
So did they have to audition for this role? They almost seemed offended by the question.
“This is not some privilege. I have all my life done auditions till ‘Bala’ … With ‘Bala’ I wouldn’t call it an audition because I was asked very politely and sweetly asked by my director to read the lines because he wanted to know how I would sound if I played the part in ‘Bala’ … But honestly auditions aren’t really part of our industry culture like the West,” said Gautam.
She had a point. Star power, male star egos, industry connections, and film dynastic links play a crucial role in talents getting work in Bollywood. Nepotism is a charge that continues to plague Bollywood.
“In the West, popular, established, and prolific actors read lines and do screen tests … While I don’t have a problem getting a look test or auditioning, you may ask why I am the only one who has been asked to audition when my contemporaries in the same film who have done the same amount of work is not being asked to audition … The difference lies there,” she pointed out.
Apparently, both Kaushal and Gautam were hired for this job without any screening since they were familiar with the production house and makers. Produced by Maddock Films, CNKB -- written by Shiraz Ahmed and Amar Kaushik and directed by Ajay Singh -- were all familiar players for both Gautam and Kaushal. Both have worked with them in projects before making their street credit more solid. The makers weren’t off their mark.
Reviews for this quirky crime caper has been mostly favourable with many declaring that Gautam was the one that powered this film with her compelling turn as a flight attendant who may be hiding something sinister.
But do they take those reviews seriously?
“There’s an old saying that you can’t make everyone happy. My priority is my audience. When I am reading a script, I am reading it keeping in mind what excites me as an actor … I don’t want to please just a couple of people. If you are always seeking validation from some really important people from cinema, you will always fall short of something or the other,” pointed out Gautam.
In April 2022, she had famously called out a popular entertainment website for running vindictive and disparaging reviews of her performance. She tweeted her displeasure tagging them for targeting her unfairly.
“I love a constructive comment and genuine feedback. I even respond to crticial observations, but if its tone is condescending or done in a way th at’s not very constructive, then I don’t buy it. Reviews are subjective, I respect them. But I respect and love my audience more. Their connection with me will be of paramount importance.”
And that love and admiration isn’t one-sided. Going by Gautam’s strong run in Bollywood, she’s here to stay.
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'Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga' is out on Netflix now