Director Onir’s latest film Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz is quite a deviation from his previous works which mostly took a serious look at everyday issues and the people affected by these. The film is a romantic drama which revolves around Archi or Archana (Geetanjali Thapa) as she is fondly called in the film. She makes a living creating internet memes and is addicted to a late-night radio show that is hosted by RJ Alfaz (debutant Zain Khan Durrani). The show sees RJ Alfaz narrating tales of love and longing in a very poetic or a shayarana style. A chance meeting and a host of WhatsApp messages lead them to meeting and eventually falling for each other. However, the path to their unison is not as easy as it seems.
The film which released yesterday to glowing reviews also marks the debut of it’s lead actor Zain Khan Durrani. We recently spoke to the actor about the film, his role and more.
Republished below are excerpts from the same.
How did Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz come to you?
Somewhere around 2014, a friend of mine staying in Mumbai told me about an audition happening for a lead role in the movie Shab, which incidentally was Onir’s previous release. Back then, the lead character in the film was supposed to be of a Kashmiri guy. At that time, I was preparing for IAS. So I reluctantly went and gave the first ever audition of my life which went pretty well (smiles). It was during this time that Onir noticed me and gave me an offer to come to Mumbai after finishing my studies. I thought about the same and said why not?
I thought of giving myself a year and trying my luck out in the film industry. Post that I worked as an assistant director on Shab and that’s how my journey started. During this time I was waiting patiently for the right role to come my way. Despite having promised myself a year, I ended up spending up almost 3 years in Mumbai. My folks were increasingly getting worried and said I was spending too much time trying my luck in this industry. It was around the same time, that this movie came my way. But I had to undergo the auditioning process yet again since the film was being produced by Yoodlee and were insisting on conducting auditions for the film. This was followed by 5 long months of auditioning and the entire process following which the Yoodlee people liked my audition and I landed the film. And thankfully all this happened just in time before the deadline given by my parents expired. (smiles)
Your voice exactly sounds like some of the very popular RJ’s who talk in a soft, sweet voice and tell stories of love and longing on late night shows on radio stations. It seems like your voice is tailormade for this role. Did you undergo voice modulation training?
(laughs) Not really. In the first year that I stayed in Mumbai, I took a brief training in singing. But while shooting for Kuch Bheege Alfaaz, I mostly worked on expressions and acting. I did observe a couple of RJ’s such as Hrishi K and Anirudh and they gave me some great advice which helped me a lot to prepare for the role. But that was about it. While I was playing an RJ, I had to make sure that I convey a certain feeling and expression which my character is experiencing while saying it. And Onir repeatedly impressed the same upon me. The secret was imagining and envisioning the stories that I was narrating.
In my opinion, I feel that this film and the role are quite the unconventional choices for a debutant? What’s your opinion on it?
If you look at films like Newton, Bareilly Ki Barfi and other recent films, the characters in these are very real, yet the films are a cut above the usual commercial films. I think people are drawing more aspirational value from real and lifelike characters rather than those which are larger than life. Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz is also a love story and a lovely one at that, so it’s a film any debut actor would want to be in. I also feel that your debut movie chooses you rather you choosing it. Even if this film had come a few years later after I started my career, I would have willingly gone ahead and done it.
Your debut film has aroused immense curiosity in your hometown of Kashmir. What would you like to say about it and to the people of Kashmir?
There are no cinema halls in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir. So I am a little disappointed that the people in my home state won’t be able to watch the film on the big screen. If it would have released theatrically in Kashmir, I feel it surely would have garnered far more attention. It is also exciting for the people from the state to see someone who is an everyday, regular person like them playing the lead role in a film. There are a lot of talented people back there. And I hope when they see this film and me, they will be motivated to go and make a mark in films or pursue a similar creative vocation.
In your opinion, should filmmakers always make a statement on the politics or the situations prevailing in the country?
It is always good that the films we make should be progressive. However it’s not necessary filmmakers to always make a political statement through their films. But if it all they do have a political opinion, filmmakers have an option to express their opinion artistically through their work. We all are entitled to express our opinion and art has always been a very strong tool to express the same. And this is the best medium we have to express ourselves, our opinions as artists.
What can audiences expect from Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz as a film
I genuinely hope that people go in large numbers to watch the movie and I am saying this from an audience’s perspective. I feel it is a beautiful story which encompasses a wide array of emotions. It’s a very lighthearted and a beautiful movie. there’s a lot of stuff happening out there which disturbs us and the people a lot in general. And this is one film which I feel will leave audiences happy and joyous after they watched it and serve as a nice momentary deviation from their everyday issue and troubles.