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August 8, 2000


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Great expectations

When his launch vehicle Prem Aggan (produced by fond papa Feroz Khan to give his son a platform) bombed, most people were prepared to write him off.

 Fardeen Khan Fardeen Khan, however, showed commendable patience, riding out the rough patch and biding his time till his luck changed.

Today, he has Ram Gopal Verma's Jungle on the marquee, and a half-dozen other films in his kitty, and word in the industry is that the negatives attached to his flop debut are a thing of the past.

What you notice about him is the ease with which he accepts both his former bad fortune, and the present turnaround. Asked about this, he says smilingly, 'The first thing you have to do is understand the ways of teh industry, and just accept its haywire ways,'

In conversation with Lata Khubchandani, Fardeen Khan looks at the past, the present, and the hopeful future. Excerpts:

Was it a foregone conclusion, that you would get into acting given who your father is?

 Meghana Kothari and Fardeen Khan in Prem Aggan Actually no. Initially I had set my heart on producing and directing. I took up acting, started studying it, only because I thought it was important for a director to know acting. The actor is, so to speak, the most important prop in a film -- so if you want to direct him you have to know what he can do and what he can't. So I took an acting course when I was in university -- and got interested. So I just took it from there.

I discussed it with my father, and he told me that I'd have to work hard, he wasn't going to launch me just because I was his son. So I started training with Kishor Namit Kapoor, I learnt dance with Shakun Shaikh and after about a year, when my father thought I was ready, we started work on Prem Aggan.

Was working with your father an inhibiting factor?

Not really. He is a good communicator, I am a good listener. This was the first time we were interacting at a professional and not a personal level, so that took some getting used to, since till that point I had always seen him as a parent. When we started working, it meant I had to forget he was my father, and only think of him as my producer and director.

He is the kind of director who explains the scene to you, then wants you, as the actor, to show him what you can do with it. Then, he guides you to where he wants you to go.

The film industry has, as you have probably discovered, a certain culture, a certain way of doing things. Do you fit into that matrix?

Well, that is not the question. The point is you cannot change the existing culture. So you just have to have your own personal work ethic, your personal standards, and be consistent to those. That is the only way you can come to terms, and carve out a niche for yourself.

After Prem Aggan flopped, were you surprised when Ram Gopal Verma offered you Jungle?

 Urmila Matondkar and Fardeen Khan in Jungle Yes, very. We happened to meet, and he liked what he saw, I guess, he said at the time that we would be working together. And then he offered me Jungle, the role of a city boy, carefree and careless, a bit of a risk-taker, trying to make something of life. I identified with the character, so I took the role.

How do you prepare for a role?

You won't find me standing in front of the mirror, rehearsing. That kind of thing makes it mechanical, you decide what you are doing in front of the mirror and then, before the camera, you are only re-creating -- and that gives the whole thing a rehearsed effect. I would do that only where required, like in comedy where timing is critical, and you have to practise to get it right. But otherwise, I prefer to draw on my own emotions, to react naturally to the scene and the dialogue, keeping within the framework of my character.

I guess each actor has his own technique, and it works differently for different people. Even in acting school, we each one of us did what worked for us -- there is nothing like right and wrong, nothing like a rule everyone has to follow.

You said earlier that an actor is a prop. Now you are an actor -- do you still consider yourself just a prop?

 Fardeen Khan Well he's the most important prop. A film is as much about characters as it is about a story, so though it may sometimes seem unfair that a lot of burden is put on the hero of the film, I don't really think it's unfair.

What is unfair is when an actor is blamed entirely, for a bad film. There are so many cases where an actor does well, yet the film flops -- to blame him is therefore unfair.

Everyone talks of your 'international looks', they point out that you are different from the normal Hindi film hero. Is that an advantage or otherwise?

Yeah, well, as long as they like what they see, I guess I can't complain. If it works to my advantage, then it can be good.

To get back to acting -- you've learnt the art abroad. How do you define 'acting'?

The basic explanation of acting is 'portraying a character' -- nothing more, nothing less. I'd say it is pretending to be someone else, portraying a character so that it comes to life.

You don't, as yet, have an image, a stereotype -- is that a plus or a minus?

Every actor draws from his own personality, there is something about his personality that is reflected in his work. I think that for actors in my slot, given the roles we are offered, you pretty much have no option but to play yourself with a few variations here and there. As far as the roles coming my way now are concerned, I guess my best bet is to use my own personality as the base, rather than try to create something else.

You have a very 'soft' look about you -- do you think you'll get slotted into the 'chocolate box' pigeonhole?  Fardeen Khan

I can look mean when necessary (laughing). There is that side of me, too. A character, or an aspect of a character, doesn't depend only on how you look in real life, it can be created by the right get-up, by adding on a couple of physical traits. And once the appropriate look is achieved, half the work is done.

It is true that there is not much requirement for all this in our films, but that trend I think is changing, heroes are increasingly doing roles with shades of the negative. I think doing negative characters would be interesting -- actually, what I would really love to do is Dracula, it is such a complex character, frightening and sympathetic all at once.

You do a film, and it flops. Does the work you have done still seem worthwhile?

Of course. Failure does affect you, but the experience of making the film, playing the character, is still enriching.

Finally -- do you think the industry expectations are higher from star kids? And is that fair?

Yes, there are expectations, and they are high. But what is wrong with that? I don't see anything wrong in the industry expecting good things from you.

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