Vishal Bhardwaj has the talent to create a world of his own, give his characters fascinating quirks and draw you out as a performer. His upcoming film, Rangoon, took me to the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, into huts where you lived out of a sleeping bag. It gave me a chance to wear the stiff-as-cardboard shirts from my Winchester college days in England and the Trilby hats I usually get to dust out only when Kareena and I are at Gstaad during New Year’s. It also gave me a chance to research cufflinks and ties, inhabit the world of Hollywood’s ’40s heroes like Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn, and my grandfather Iftikhar Ali Khan
I loved this journey into the past and my only regret is that I forgot the white gloves lying in my wardrobe which would have looked so good with the black dinner jackets. Rustom Billimoria is an action hero-turned-studio boss. The physicality of the role was a challenge because Rusi’s lost his right hand while doing a stunt and this meant I had to do everything left handed, even a sword fight. That wasn’t too difficult actually since I’ve had some practise playing cricket left-handed.
A couple of days into the first schedule, Vishal who’d asked me to bulk up for the role given the guy’s action background, felt I should cut down a bit. I told him it was too late, besides I’ve seen guys in the gym working out with one hand so it was okay. During our earlier film, Omkara, Vishal was less busy. This time, he had his hands full and I had to prep up more though he still contributed to my performance. And the artistic integrity I found on the sets of Omkara I discovered again only in Rangoon. That, I’d say, is the magic of Vishal Bhardwaj!