Priyanka and I are still friends: Harman Baweja

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Mumbai, Jan 30 (IANS) It was a double blow for him. First his debut vehicle "Love Story 2050" turned turtle at the box office, then his girlfriend walked out on him. But, says Harman Baweja, neither has the break-up spoilt his friendship with Priyanka Chopra nor has the flop dampened his spirit.

He has teamed up with ex-girlfriend Priyanka in Ashutosh Gowariker's "What's Your Rashee" and says personal relationships don't affect his work.

"It was fabulous working with her earlier. It's fabulous now. I don't think personal relationships should affect the quality of my work.

"Whether we were together or now, I don't think our work can ever get affected. We're thorough professionals about this. We've been great friends and we still are," Harman told IANS.

Rejecting rumours that Priyanka has got a better role in the film, Harman said: "Don't jump to conclusions. I don't want to give away the story. I'm shooting more than Priyanka is, whatever the perceptions of her role. Beyond that I'll say nothing. If I do, I'll be screwed by Gowariker."

Harman is not too happy with the way he was panned by the industry for delivering a dud.

"What I was put through after the release of 'Love Story 2050' was totally uncalled for. It was almost as though I had committed a crime. I don't understand why I had to face so much flak. I'm not the first debutant to deliver a dud. Even Neil Nitin Mukesh's debut film didn't live up to expectations, but he was treated far more kindly. I think the idea was to demoralise me."

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: You've been pretty quiet of late?

A: I've been working while everyone has been doing the talking. What was there to say? I work better under stress. And Ashutosh Gowariker's "What's Your Raashee" is a hard film to shoot, though I must say Gowariker keeps the atmosphere on the sets light and work-friendly. He comes with surprises all the time. Not at all rigid about what he wants.

Q: Is it tough to shoot the film when you and Priyanka have parted ways?

A: Not at all. Whether we were together or now, I don't think our work can ever get affected. We're thorough professionals about this. We've been great friends and we still are great things.

Q: I believe the two of you are absolutely normal with each other on the sets of "What's Your Raashee".

A: That just goes to prove that we continue to be friends.

Q: How hard is it to work with her after the breakup?

A: It was fabulous working with her earlier. It's fabulous now. I don't think personal relationships should affect the quality of my work.

Q: How friendly are you with Priyanka today?

A: As friendly as I was earlier.

Q: Ironically Shahid Kapur and Kareena Kapoor were the first choices for "What's Your Raashee" after they split. And now you and Priyanka?

A: If that's true, then that's just a coincidence.

Q: I believe Priyanka has a far more substantial role than you?

A: Ha, don't jump to conclusions. I don't want to give away the story. I'm shooting more than Priyanka is, whatever the perceptions of her role. Beyond that I'll say nothing. If I do, I'll be screwed by Gowariker.

Q: How did you deal with bitching about you latching on to someone far more successful?

A: I never needed to latch on to anyone for professional or personal gains. I never have. I never will. What I was put through after the release of "Love Story 2050" was totally uncalled for. It was almost as though I had committed a crime. I don't understand why I had to face so much flak. I'm not the first debutant to deliver a dud. Even Neil Nitin Mukesh's debut film didn't live up to expectations, but he was treated far more kindly. I think the idea was to demoralise me.

Q: Did they succeed?

A: Not the way they thought they would. But I do a have a mother, father and sister who were very hurt. They saw how hard I was working and when they saw the cruel comments they were very disturbed. May god forgive the backbiters for making my mother cry.

Q: Why have you been subjected to so much criticism and ridicule?

A: I've no clue. It's not as if I haven't thought about it. At the end of the day "Love Story 2050" was just a film. I wasn't at war with anyone.

Q: The time since the release with your debut flopping to your breakup with Priyanka seems pretty harrowing?

A: It may seem awful from the outside, but I've been brought up to weather more severe storms. Yes these were setbacks. I didn't get the recognition that other debutants who came with me like Ranbir Kapoor, Neil and Imran Khan. But I don't envy them. I'm proud of them. Because they're part of my fraternity. I belong to a film family. We live, eat, breathe and talk cinema. Out here we don't celebrate others' failures and our own success.

Q: Are you saying you are happy with your career?

A: Of course! Even after the brickbats, I am working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ashutosh Gowariker and Anees Bazmi. It doesn't get any bigger. So what if my debut didn't work? These filmmakers still thought I had potential.

Q: Are you hopeful about "Victory"?

A: Of course, I am. It's been a tough film to shoot. A lot of cricket training, lots of gruelling outdoor went into it. It was very detailed training. It was about four hours of training every day. It's taken its toll on my health. I hope I get my due. My cricket coach Pravin Amre says if I had come to him some years earlier I could've played for the Ranji trophy. I want to pursue cricket beyond "Victory".

Q: You're now supposed to be seeing your "Victory" co-star Amrita Rao?

A: Today the audience is clever enough to see through these publicity stunts at the eve of a film's release. Minds that cook up these things are sick. I'm only now beginning to understand how such things work.