The trailers promise that Love Story 2050 will be sci-fi done in the best traditions of Bollywood. There are futuristic sky trails and energy ball battles. One of its songs, Milo Na Milo, which is currently climbing the charts, features an army of all-singing-all-dancing robots.
But there's also a pneumatic Priyanka Chopra sporting thick red bangs and metallic catsuits, cavorting with an equally well-sculpted Harman Baweja. And an animatronic teddy bear who plays Cupid, much like the pigeon in that other seminal love story, 1989's Maine Pyaar Kiya. What more could an audience want?
Ahead of the film's release, the Chopra-Baweja team flew into Dubai for a special appearance at Chi@The Lodge. The couple spoke at length about their film Chopra's first release this year, and on-off real-life boyfriend Baweja's debut.
The fast talking, good-looking Harman Baweja is being billed as 2008's hottest debut. Love Story 2050 showcases his dancing abilities, the extraordinary action scenes which he performed without a stunt double and a bit of romance with his leading lady as well.
All set for the release of his first film this week, Baweja shows no signs of nerves. As he says, it's a debut he's prepared for past 10 years.
What is your first film about?
There's a lot of dancing, melodrama, humour and romance. There are also flying cars, teddy bears that walk and talk, a robot called QT, Priyanka with red hair, me with black hair, and a whole lot of the future.
I play Karan, who is into extreme sports. I had a lot of stunts, and it being my first film, I was not very happy using a double. The action scenes are something I won't be repeating in the future in a hurry, because I suffered way too many injuries for my liking.
What about that resemblance to Hrithik Roshan?
It's not something that I take well. People are commenting about my resemblance to Roshan. That has nothing to do with me. More to do with my parents and what they did 20-odd years ago. The constant comparison with Hrithik puts an unexpected amount of pressure on me. I am a newcomer being compared to a successful actor who has been in Hindi films for eight years and has done 25 films.
What's your advice to anyone trying to break into Bollywood?
Hard work is the only way. Yes, you have to have talent, but hard work and persistence matter. Although I had a ready-made platform with my father being a director, I had to do my time as well seven years of assisting him and two years shooting the film.
Growing up, who were your celebrity crushes?
Mandakini in Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Stop laughing, I thought she was really beautiful. Then there was Bhagyashree in Maine Pyaar Kiya. And Madhuri Dixit. I have never had another crush after that.
She is not a crush.
Are you blushing?
No, I just have this constantly smiling face.
Have you watched Love Story 2050 in its entirety?
I have. After we shot 150 days, I asked my dad if we could re-shoot the first 50 days again. He was willing. But he also explained to me that then I would want to re-shoot the next 50 days as well.
It is my first film, and as a newcomer, people do give you a little leeway. I don't check the footage once the scene is done. Once my director has okayed it, I think it's a bit disrespectful to go and see my shot. I do it once in a while though.
What was it like to work with your dad?
I was assistant director to my father for almost seven years before this film. We already had a working rapport. On my first day of shooting, I was more robotic than the robots, intimidated and awkward about filming romantic scenes in front of my father.
I requested him to be absent from the sets for the first two days of shooting. It did not go down well with him, but he agreed. He sat in a different room with a microphone and video monitor. Eventually I did let him back onto his own sets. [laughs]
Pretty much everyone on the sets was critical of me. They were all my seniors. But working with my dad had the advantage that he understands me better than anyone else.
Did Priyanka offer you any advice on the sets?
She told me to talk slowly. It was fun to talk at breakneck speed while I was filming, but it's been quite hard when I started dubbing. My favourite scene in the film is the one where I had to convince her to eat a hot dog.
Baweja's favourite films
“As a student of film [he went to film school at the University of California in Los Angeles], there are some that I've watched over and over again. Three films have made an impact on me: Maine Pyaar Kiya, The Godfather and Scarface."
While last year was a bit rough on one of Bollywood's most attractive leading ladies her secretary sued her over money matters, her father fell ill and her films tanked at the box office 2008 promises to be Priyanka Chopra's year.
In fact, fans can expect a bonanza from Miss World 2000, with six of her films lined up for release later this year. It kicks off with the release of Love Story 2050 on July 3.
Tell us more about Love Story 2050
This is a love story that underlines the timelessness of love. No matter how many years go by or how cultures change, love does not.
It's a very exciting film for me given that it's set in the future and we have never seen anything like it yet on the Indian screen. Love Story 2050 is an extremely courageous move by [director] Harry. He has pulled it off. And all of us have put a lot of effort into this movie. So do watch it.
Did you see the promos very closely? Do you think a lot about your performance?
I am hyper-critical of myself. Every time I watch one of my performances, I think about how I could have done it better. There's one scene from Love Story 2050 that I would do all over again: In the second half of the film, my character goes to meet Karan's family. It was a scene that was rushed through and I wasn't all there.
How are you going to celebrate your birthday on July 18?
This is my first film releasing this year. If it does well, I will have a big birthday bash to look forward to. If not, I will cut my cake quietly at home with family. The rest of the year is going to be pretty jam packed though I have six releases lined up.
What do you make of the comparison between Harman Baweja and Hrithik Roshan?
Both Harman and Hrithik are close friends and having worked with both of them, I can say they are very different people. Their outlook, the way they perceive and execute a scene. Every actor is compared to someone when they start out, but they create their own space, and so will Harman.
Directed by Harry Baweja (yes, that's Harman's father), the film boasts some lavish special effects which were
outsourced to Hollywood.
The post-production and visual effects were created by WETA (the people behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong) and Rising Sun Pictures (Harry Potter, Superman Returns) and Prime Focus. The SFX to watch out for:
-A giant airborne fight sequence between Karan (played by Harman) and Zayesha (Priyanka Chopra), with the actors doing all their own stunts.
- Boo, the robot teddy bear who is Zayesha's best friend. Oscar winner John Cox, who worked on The Host created Boo.
- The fight scene between Karan and villainous Dr Hoshi a huge energy-ball battle set in Mumbai in 2050.
- Mumbai visualised in 2050. This super-futuristic metropolis, modelled on Shanghai, has the Gateway of India at its centre, surrounded by sky trains, flying cars, 200-storey buildings and robot armies.