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Interview Hindi

It was always a tense atmosphere on the sets of Runway 34, says Rakul Preet Singh

The actress speaks about the differences between her two projects so far with Ajay Devgn and the training in aviation basics that she and the others had to undergo.

Suyog Zore

Rakul Preet Singh is playing a pilot in Ajay Devgn's forthcoming film Runway 34 (2022). The actress, who will be seen sharing the screen with Devgn for the second time and with Amitabh Bachchan for the first time, is super excited to be part of the project.

"The first and foremost reason I agreed to be part of this project is that it's a very different and unique film," Rakul Preet said at a recent media interaction. "It has not been seen in Indian cinema before. I don't think we have had a film in India which is a complete aviation thriller.

"Ajay sir has directed it. Getting an opportunity to work with Amitabh Bachchan sir and Ajay sir and doing the role of Tanya, which is a very unconventional and yet power-packed role, I think all these factors led me to say yes to the film."

Rakul Preet said the cast members had to undergo some training to learn the technicalities of aviation, the layout of a cockpit, and how the various instruments work. "We had to do a couple of workshops and undergo three or four days' training," she said. "There was a captain who trained us about the cockpit, how it looks, the technicalities behind it, so that we don't get confused in between shots. The captain was also there on the set to guide us. I have forgotten everything now though."

Rakul Preet had worked with Ajay Devgn in De De Pyaar De (2019), where he was her co- star, but on Runway 34 he was also the director. Asked about her equation with Devgn the director, she replied, "Both films are very different. There is nothing in common. So the atmosphere on the sets of both films was also very different. De De Pyaar De was a light-hearted commercial entertainer, so we all used to joke around on the set. But things were very tense on the set of Runway 34."

The actress was all praise for Devgn acting and directing at the same time. "It was not an easy film to shoot," she said. "It required a lot of attention. There was no time to even converse. As soon as a take was over, he would get busy setting up the next shot and checking everyone's performances.

"It's very difficult what he has pulled off. And he deserves a lot of appreciation for it, He took up the responsibility of directing a not-done-before kind of film. Plus he is playing the main lead. So the whole atmosphere was quite tense throughout the shoot."

About Devgn's directorial nous, Rakul Preet said, "The kind of technical brilliance he has shown, especially in shooting the sequences inside the plane, is commendable. He had seven cameras in the cockpit and it was a real cockpit, so it was even more difficult. In a court scene, he had 11 cameras! I have never worked before so many cameras in my life. People generally use three or four but Ajay sir decided to use 11. This kind of confidence only comes when you know your craft. And because he is an actor, he knows exactly how to make things easier for actors."

Asked if she found it difficult to work with two legendary artistes, she replied, "I don't like this word 'difficult', so I would say it was definitely very exciting. When you are working with people who have a lot more experience than you and have proved their mettle over the years, you also get that adrenaline rush to push yourself to deliver your best. Being in their presence pushed me to give of my best."

Rakul Preet had tested positive for COVID-19 during the shooting of Runway 34. The actress recalled how she spent those few days. "I think it was the third or fourth day of shooting when I tested positive. This was in December 2020. Ajay sir and I were sitting in that cockpit and I just had a terrible bodyache throughout the day. At first I thought it was because I was sitting in one place the whole day. But the next morning when I woke up I again had the same terrible bodyache.

"So I got tested and found that I had COVID. At that time, it used to take 21 days to test negative, so I did everything from yoga and daily exercise to blowing balloons and finally tested negative on the 11th day and on the 13th day I rejoined the shoot. When you know how much is riding on you, you have to make sure you get back as soon as possible. Luckily Ajay sir shot the passengers' scenes during those few days, so we didn't waste too many days."

The actress is also going to be seen in her first solo lead film, Chhatriwali (2022), this year. "I'm very excited for Chhatriwali," she said. "It's about a girl who is a condom tester, but it's a family film. I think for me that was the selling point. It touches upon important topics in a light-hearted manner. I think if we can start conversations around such subjects through films without being preachy, it's a good thing."

Runway 34, which also stars Boman Irani and Angira Dhar, is scheduled for release on 29 April.

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