By Letty Mariam Abraham, Bollywood Hungama News Network
The moment when people started 'knowing' her as Payal Gandhi, she announced that she is Gina Fernandes. And the moment her name was catching on, she said 'Rock On' with Debbie! We are sure that you must be off tracked about who is this 'she' we are talking about. She is none other than Payal aka Gina aka Debbie aka ….the one and only Shahana Goswami! Onscreen she was the woman responsible for Arjun Rampal's success in the season's super duper blockbuster Rock On. But off screen, she has been hugely responsible for many films like Yun Hota To Kya Hota, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd. etc. Bollywood Hungama caught up with this firebrand actress and Man! all that we could say is Rock On Shahana!
From your first film, Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota to now Rock On and Ru Ba Ru, how has the film industry treated you?
It may sound very clichéd but I believe I have been very lucky mainly because I started very young. I filmed for Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. and Ru Ba Ru when I was in college. And once I graduated, I dwelled more into films and did Tera Kya Hoga Johnny? with Mr. Sudhir Mishra and Firaaq with Nandita Das. And then Rock On happened. In short, I have done a wide variety of films just as I had intended to. I am really grateful and glad that I got to do so many interesting roles and characters. Actually, I would say I'm pleasantly surprised as I got a lot more than I thought and things that matched by taste and sensibilities. I think I have just been very lucky.
How did you bag the role in Rock On?
Shaanu Sharma and Simran are my friends and they were in the middle of casting for Rock On at that time. They happened to suggest my name to Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor director of Rock On), and I went ahead to meet him. I auditioned for the film, later I got a call, and there I was in the film.
How was it playing a role opposite the stylish and hot Arjun Rampal?
It was great. Luckily, we knew each other from my Honeymoon Travels…days and since it was a complete outdoor shoot we interacted a lot regarding work and a lot of other things as well. In spite of meeting him in a new space, he never let me feel that I am new or anything lesser than him. He always treated me as an equal; we would discus our characters, scenes, our history, our equation, and our relationship in terms of the film. Arjun encouraged me throughout the making of this film. He is full of surprises and often corrected me in the right places. It was a team effort and I think we managed to pull it off very well. He's been overtly generous and sweet.
Farhan Akhtar a director and now an actor how was your equation with him?
Very good. Considering, we all come from similar background and sensibility we got along very well. Farhan is fantastic person and an even fantabulous actor, which once you see Rock On you will completely agree with. It does not always happen that if a person is a good director he knows how to self-execute it on screen but Farhan breaks all paths. The best thing about him is, in spite of being super talented he is also very humble about everything and his sincerity in work shows. I have a great rapport with him.
This film is a debut film for Farhan and Prachi being a senior in terms of acting how did it feel?
(Laughs) I think it is not fair to be so technical about things. Just because someone has not faced the camera that does not mean they do not know how to act. I think Farhan, whether he on celluloid or not, he is far more experienced since he was a director before being an actor. Similarly, Prachi has acted on television before and has shouldered such a huge show all alone, which is comment worthy. So I have never felt that I'm more senior to them in any way, I always felt like the baby of the family and I still hold that post. I'm a lot inexperienced than any of them.
So what's your role in Rock On?
I play Arjun Rampal's girlfriend who eventually becomes his wife. My character is named Debbie. The interesting feature about this character is her existence along with the journey of the band members. She was with them when they were together and even ten years later. Everyone changes quite drastically after time but she is the only female character who shares this journey with them. Since Prachi is there only in the present. You see a stark difference in her, and she is not this quintessential heroine who is always sweet and loving. She is a very practical woman; you see how life and time has changed her due to circumstances. Its not melodramatic, it is just how drudgery of life changes you that for me was an interesting graph to play out as an actor.
Was Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor) strict with you or anyone?
Not at all, Abhishek gives lot of space to his actors. And he's very clear about what he wants. At the end of the day when we sit to discuss shots and scenes if there is anything anyone suggests, Gattu will always try to use it if he can. I won't call him a strict director at all; he always lets the rhythm of the actors to take over. I never found him to be a guiding, or pointing or any thing of that sort.
Rock On is huge musical background. What's your favourite track?
I generally like Rock music. But I am a little strange in my taste of music. I never follow one genre so I like all kind of music. But when you talk about Rock On it's really difficult to choose. With Shankar, Ehsaan, and Loy's music, the songs go to a different level all together. In addition to that, you have Farhan's voice to it as well, what more can you ask for. I really enjoy listening to his voice; it really fits the part to the bill. I think each song is different from another and yet they have a common thread. I cannot choose I love them all.
What's your personal favorite scene in the entire film?
That's tough to answer again, the film has lot of moments, it becomes very difficult to pick a scene but every one has done such a great job that there are so many little parts which really stand out. It would be little unfair to pick one scene. Hmmm…I think my favorite scene would be where I come and speak to Farhan about something. I think that point in the film brings a certain side to my character that one has not seen very often.
Could share some memorable moments spent during the making of this film?
I have treasured some amazing memories with this shoot. We had so much of fun that I cannot tell apart from the time we were shooting and when we were not. There was this one sequence where we all had to jump into Kashi Lake, shooting for that sequence was like having a ball. I had an amazing time, with lovely locations, outdoor shooting, and being in water. There's nothing more we could have asked for.
Tell us something about the story and your role in Ru Ba Ru.
Ru Ba Ru is about living in a relationship. Over a period, say about 2 years into any relationship, people start taking each other for granted. The film is about these two people. And how you tend to get jaded and caught up with everyday of life and you ignore the little things of life that make you happy including the person that you are involved with. We forget to express our appreciation for that person or love for that person all that in someway hampers relationships in the long run. It is about that one day when you realize the importance of people in your life is seldom known when they are lost.
How would you rate Randeep Hooda as an actor?
I think he is very fine actor and, he has amazing skills and is very knowledgeable about it. Randeep helped me a lot with my work and especially since this was my first film as a lead. He was very helpful not only with scenes between us but throughout the entire film. He guided me with my speech, intonation, and modulation. And I really think that he will be very successful. Ru Ba Ru will showcase another side to Randeep's personality; you will see a much lighter side of him.
Arjun Bali is a debutant director. How was he in comparison to your previous directors?
I think all the directors I have worked with are pretty much debutants except for Abhishek Kapoor and Sudhir Mishra. Had I felt that they were not good at their job then I would not have worked with them in the first place but luckily, I never felt that with any one of them. Arjun knew what he wanted because we did a lot of discussions and rehearsals before the actual shoot, so I never felt like anything like that. In addition to that, he has been an ad filmmaker all his life so he was definitely in touch with the medium completely. It always felt like working with any other experienced director.