Was it conscious effort not to play stereotypical blind?
I have been so surprised by the blind people I have met.
Blind people are no longer as we imagined them. For instance, the CEO of a company which is earning millions can be blind. There are blind photographers... how does that even make sense? But there is a blind photographer, who is nationally famous for his shots.
There is a blind bodybuilder, a blind guitarist, a blind band...
When I started off the process for Kaabil, we were making the character sympathetic as he is blind. The environment and screenplay helps a lot in building sympathy for the character. Since it is author-backed, it becomes easy for the actor. Just looking at the character and his environment, you would say, 'Arrey bechara'.
But meeting blind people, I realised there is no essence of helplessness in them. So I came back to the drawing board and we changed the screenplay, the scenes, the way the people interact with them, changed my whole process of making this person just like me. That he is blind is inconsequential.
The challenge was to win hearts even without building sympathy.
We had to be very careful that the other characters in the film should not treat the blind people as helpless but as equals. Films are inspirational, they teach you certain things. One thing I learnt is that blind people are not bechara.
Even when I met my blind friends in the beginning, I was extra nice to them. But after 15 minutes of being with them, I was back to normal as they were so cool and did not make me feel that they needed something. They are always smiling, cracking jokes and enjoying life.
How does a blind man perceive love?
The first blind person I met came to my house from Amboli (a suburb in western Mumbai). He came alone, without a stick. He came by train, and then autorickshaw. He had lunch with me; we spend four-five hours together, chatting.
I was amazed by him and wondered how he managed all that. It was shocking for me.
He told me he was a big fan of mine. I felt awkward but I had to ask him how he could be my fan if he hadn't seen me or my films.
And he told me he had seen all my films.
He explained senses... like, whatever comes to our eyes comes to other senses too, like our ears, nose, touch... he said there is an energy field with which you can feel the presence and and all the feelings.
We are unaware of it because since we are born with sight, we have never learnt the other senses. But I learnt that while making of this film.
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Do you think wearing dark glasses would have helped your acting?
We did not wear dark glasses in the entire film. We did the screen test with the glasses, and had them all along, but every time I wore them, it felt unnatural. So I decided not to use it.
I thought I needed to do more with my eyes. If I wear the glasses, it will hide whatever good I can do with my eyes.
How was working with Yami Gautam?
My experience with Yami has been enlightening.
I was a bit concerned (initially) because the film is all about the girl and if the girl did not work, the film would not work. What she brought into the film is so special and beautiful.
This is the first time you are working with Sanjay Gupta.
Dad has told me himself that he could not have made Kaabil the way Sanjay did. He is given it the Tarintino twist.
Does your film Kaabil have an edge over Shah Rukh Khan's Raees, releasing on the same day?
No. I don't think either film needs to have edge over the other. Both films have to be judged by the audience. Both films will be loved.
Did the clash in the release dates affect your friendship with Shah Rukh?
Business and friendship should not be mixed. Raees and Kaabil can clash but friendship and business cannot clash.
They have to do the best they can do for their film and we have to do our best for our film. The friendship stays intact.
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