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Interview Hindi

We’ve made a family film, like a family: Maniesh Paul on Jugjugg Jeeyo

The actor is part of the Dharma Productions film, which also stars Anil Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Varun Dhawan and Kiara Advani.

Photo: Courtesy Maniesh Paul on Instagram

Sonal Pandya

Maniesh Paul is back on the big screen after four years in Raj Mehta's Jugjugg Jeeyo (2022). The TV host-presenter and actor was last seen in Baa Baaa Black Sheep (2018). In the Dharma Productions multi-starrer, Paul is seen alongside Anil Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Varun Dhawan and Kiara Advani.

The actor, who is known for his wise-cracking jovial demeanour on television, is an easy fit for the role of Gurpreet, who plays Advani’s brother and Dhawan’s brother-in-law. Ahead of the film’s release, the actor spoke in a group interview about landing the part, finding the right roles and improvising on set.

The multi-faceted artiste was asked about enacting a role that is close to his persona and the challenges it brings. He replied, “With every line, you have to again prove yourself. If you do something new, people [then] say, 'Kya baat hai!' Something different has come. You have to make sure that you go up from what people have seen you rather than people saying, 'Maaza nahin aaya'. I always make sure that what is expected out of me, I should deliver that.”

He recalled receiving a call from both producer Karan Johar and director Raj Mehta about the potential role. When Mehta narrated a scene and asked him about his opinion, Paul simply stated that he was doing the film.

“Karan sir had called,” he said. “It’s the end of the story. For me, the kind of respect and regard I have for Karan sir, I don’t think I’ll ever question him that what are you giving me, how big is the role, where will I be.”

Johar and Paul have worked and bantered on several reality shows but the actor said he took up the part as a responsibility.

Paul went on to say while he takes on an acting job, he has to prepare for his character. But a part of his personality does seep out, now and again. He shared, “As actors I feel that we have too many people inside us; we have to tap into them. It totally depends what is given to me. Anything which is closer to what I am, I don’t have to tap into too many boxes, but when it comes to someone who is not really me, I have to meet the new people inside me and they take over.”

Making his film debut as a lead actor in Mickey Virus (2013), Paul has also acted in Ranbanka (2015) and Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive (2016). He stated that he always feels nervous when facing the camera.

“Even if I am hosting or working on a film, nervous energies are always there, but I feel that those energies are very important,” he said. “Those are the energies which keep you driven and make sure that you don’t take yourself or your work for granted. It was there in this film too. It was more in this film because Anil Kapoor was in front of me.”

He recalled not believing his luck that he was acting opposite the veteran actor. Paul remembered buying tickets to his films as a fan in Delhi. He added that it was even more fun acting alongside him.

“He’s a remarkable co-actor and he teaches you a lot but not in a preachy way, which is the best part about it,” he said. “He’ll come and give you a tip. He’s been working for 45 years now and he still has that same fire and passion on set. I haven’t seen him idling around or being nonchalant. He’s there in the scene, and not only for himself, but for everybody. That magical thing I’ve learnt, that’s definitely going to help me as long as I am working.”

Calling the film a learning ground, Paul said that everyone was a joy to work with.

“Neetu ma’am has been the sweetest soul on set,” he recalled. “She likes knowing stuff about you when she talks to you. I had a lot of fun with her. But I got to know her for the first time. I was very close to Rishi sir also and we talked a lot about him. During the last days, when he was in New York, I had gone to meet him. But I hadn’t talked to her so we discussed that, and how I met him.”

Paul also had a fruitful working experience with Dhawan and said their timing worked well onscreen. He shared, “When Varun listens to the script, he just doesn’t look for his character, he looks at the entire film, which is a great thing as an actor. Varun is not that guy. For our scenes, Varun said, 'This is your scene, you take it'.”

“A lot of scenes with Varun and I were improvised especially the scene towards the end when we are drunk,” he added. “I do a lot of improvisation, but not so much that I catch the other guy off guard. Raj also gave us freedom to do that as a director.”

“We’ve made a family film, like a family,” he said. “We used to have so much fun and craziness on set. I think that will definitely get across to people, people will see and enjoy that.”

Finally, when asked why he hasn’t done as many films, Paul stated, “I don’t get the films that I want to do. I didn’t get the characters I wanted and enjoy. Everyone works for money, but I just don’t do work for money. I do work when I enjoy it, when I feel that I added some entertainment [value] to it.”