You really need to be lucky to have a sunny day of 18 degrees in London in mid-October for making Bollywood movies.
Or should I simply say that Vipul Shah is too lucky? It's 1pm in London and I'm getting ready to visit Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan on the set of London Dreams.
I was given a deadline of 2pm but there was no need to rush as both were going to be on the set one hour late. Bollywood timings, you know....
But the result was the opposite. Being stuck on the Underground due to a signal failure, I reached the beautiful London Bridge location 20 minutes late.
Ajay and Salman were seated in their tent with a couple of electronic guitars. Their co-star, MTV's VJ Rannvijay Singh, walks in. Vipul is behind the camera as usual, almost ready for the song sequence with extras getting their steps right.
In walks the gorgeous Asin. Salman and Asin, arm-in-arm, get the right shot in three takes.
Sallubhai walks into the tent again where I was chatting with Ajay. I ask Salman if he could give me an exclusive on Heroes. To my surprise, he grabs my hand and takes me on one side and says: 'Let's do this dude!'
Just as I was about to take out my dictaphone, Salman says: 'The Hero is here, start recording....'
Q: Hello Hero!
A: (laughs) Nice way to start, huh? But the ultimate hero is not me but Sohail Khan. Watch out for him.
Q: Your absence was really missed at the premiere of your recently released film Hello.
A: You're right. I truly missed the premiere. But I was here in London shooting London Dreams. The whole family was present at the premiere and it's the first time I've stayed away from my family on Eid.
Q: Is Heroes a tribute to the Indian soldiers, in a way?
A: 'Heroes isn't about the Indian soldiers or against Pakistan. It's about two guys who just want to have fun in life and then they go on an exercise to find out whether joining the army is important or not. The jawans (troops) in Heroes - played by Sunny, Bobby, Dino and myself Ð-can be Pakistani, American, Chinese or Japanese but you will find such guys anywhere. In fact, one of my lines of dialogues in the film is: "When will this war finish?" and my co-star replies, "This isn't a war. War was fought between the Raja and Maharajas. This has become more political and when these corrupt politicians come and fight on the battlefield, that's when the war will end."
Q: Vatsal Seth brought to my attention to the fact that you did not smoke a cigarette just because you were wearing a turban. Very touching, I should say.
A: Yeah, that's true. That's the reason I am trying to quit smoking. I normally don't talk about smoking and I try to avoid smoking whenever possible.
Q: Do you think Vatsal Seth has a bright future ahead of him?
A: He is the cute Tarzan Boy. He is an adorable kid. Even though he is around 26 or 27, he looks 15 to 16 year old. He is training hard and trying to put on a bit of weight. And once he gets that, he will be an even better-looking boy, not that he is not now. You know, those lover boy roles which Kumar Gaurav, Aamir Khan and I have done in the past don't work now. It's time for a change, a drastic change. Vatsal will have to change his image if he wants to survive in the industry. With this film, he will do justice to his role just as Riteish, Aftab and Arshad have done in their films. Two hero projects are good for him right now. I think he has already signed three to four films.
Q: It means that you not only respect your country here in Heroes but also other cultures?
A: If you're going to respect somebody's religion and somebody's culture, I think they're going to respect your culture and your religion. I believe that all the religions are basically the same. They preach and teach the same things. It's just that they have different ways of doing it. I don't understand this Hindu-Muslim rift sometimes. Tell me one Hindu man or a girl who does not have a Muslim friend or vice-versa. This is just a card that the politicians play and some people do this for money too.
Q: Is it true that Heroes has nothing to do with war on the battlefield?
A: Yes. Heroes has nothing to do with war, fights and violence. Sohail and Vatsal have to deliver three letters to the parents of the three shaheed jawans. Heroes is not a Gadar or a Border or Maa Tujhe Salaam. When you see this film, you'll know that it is a very entertaining film with an important message.
Q: You play one of the jawans in Heroes. How did you make your character look rough and tough?
A: First of all, I did not put a fake beard. I wanted to grow my own and make it look very authentic. Then again, we are actors and we have to act. There is no way out. It's more about the convincing nature of the character you play. So even if I was thin, I can look tough. Plus the post production, action co-ordinators, fight sequences, and so on also help build a tough guy. It is not physically possible to do the kind of stuff that Khalli or the Rock can do (laughs).
Q: Tell us about the experience of the Mannata song with Preity.
A: Actually, we were not getting the right lyrics for the song. I did hear the same song from Sajid - Wajid in Hindi - and advised them to change it into Punjabi. So they had to rework the lyrics. Mannata is an outstanding song and I love it. We shot the song in the fields of Punjab and it was fun. I can still remember the smell of the fresh fields and the sand.
Q: Have you seen Heroes yet?
A: Yeah. I've seen the trial edit of the film and the daily rushes too. Heroes brought tears to my eyes about six or seven times while watching it. That's the maximum I've cried while watching any film. Samir Karnik has done an outstanding job with Heroes. He is the true hero. The film is also very well shot.
Q: Both Samir's Nanhe Jaislamer and his debut film Kyun, Ho Gaya Na were not successful at the box office so why say yes to Heroes?
A: First of all, I told Samir not to make Nanhe Jaisalme but he wanted to do it. He did approach me for Nanhe Jaisalmer but I said no. Then he comes up with Heroes, to which I immediately said yes. I think this film is going to be a sure-fire hit. I mean, I will be surprised if it did not do well. Plus Eros International is doing the marketing.Their last Samir Karnik film did not work, though, so I hope they do justice to Heroes (laughs).
Q: Your manager Vikas Kapoor has now turned producer with Heroes. He has formed his company Future Picture Productions along with Samir Karnik. Are you happy for him?
A: Of course, yes. He is my manager and quite efficient with his work. He used to handle the production side of things and then turned manager. But after sometime, you need to move on in life, which he did. He started to handle Sohail Khan's work as a production manager. Then the title of executive producer was tagged on him and now he is the producer. Vikas has always gone a step further in his career and I'm very happy for him.
Q: How much of Salman Khan off-screen represents Balkar Singh of Heroes?
A: Every character I play is somewhere close to me. There is some personality in me which has to have this resemblance. If I don't have that spark of the character, I cannot play it. I choose those roles in which I think I can comfortably do it. My onscreen roles bring out some kind of Salman Khan which is offscreen. Balkar Singh is tough, patriotic, loving and a good guy. I too am a good guy and not a bad one, as many people think I am.
Q: Why watch Heroes instead of going shopping during Diwali?
A: Wrong question, dude! That's too brave of you to say that. There are lots of reasons to go and watch a movie - the publicity, word of mouth, your favourite hero is in the film, it's a good story, and so on. I think Heroes would be a combination of just about everything. It's a meaningful film and it doesn't bore you. I bet you'll have fun.