Exclusive: Shreyas Talpade Soham Shah and more discuss Kartam Bhugtam

In Kartam Bhugtam, an NRI from New Zealand returns to his hometown after his father’s demise. When a pundit predicts that he won’t be able to leave no matter how hard he tries, the prediction mysteriously comes true. Starring Shreyas Talpade, Vijay Raaz, Madhoo, Aksha Pardasany and more, the film directed by Soham Shah is an intriguing psychological thriller. In an exclusive interview with Filmfare, the cast members and director opened up about taking risks, finding the right roles and more.

What made you sign up for Kartam Bhugtam, Shreyas?

Shreyas: The fact that a brilliant director like Soham was helming the project. Any actor in their right mind wouldn’t say no to a script like this. It’s about a guy who comes from New Zealand to his hometown and an astrologer tells him that he can’t go back. And then he’s stuck. What is the reason? He gave me that one-liner and then said can I now narrate the entire film. I was so intrigued.

Soham, how did you decide to bring Madhoo on board?

Soham: The supporting characters are the most crucial to the film. For Madhoo’s character, we went through a lot of typical casting options that would be your first 10-12 choices. But that would be so predictable. So I thought of getting actors who have done a lot of good work but they haven’t been seen for a while. Luckily, she was free to look at work. Before she got busier, I met her and when I saw her, I was taken aback because I didn’t know if I could make her look old. But when I narrated the script, she had that want to come back for a meaty role. She said “Don’t waste me.” She brought something new.

Kartam Bhugtam Shreyas

Madhoo, what has your journey been like leading up to this role?

Madhoo: It’s not like I’ve come back after a long time. I did take a gap of 10-12 years. My first film in Telugu was released in 2011 and my last Hindi film was released in 2012. While I’ve been at it, I wasn’t sure how to leave my family and step out after deciding that I wouldn’t work. I started out so slowly and so unsure. That’s why I was so nervous the second time around as compared to the first time. The first time I was just happy to get the opportunity. It’s been a long journey so when Kartam Bhugtam came, it was just the right time. I had already done the small parts, easy parts and two-day parts. My family was also set up so now my kids understand that mumma is a working woman. It happened slowly over 10 years. Instinctively I knew Soham was a good director. He also wanted me so badly and was ready to take a risk with me. So I didn’t even question it.

Madhoo, how do you reflect on working with Mani Ratnam?

Madhoo: I’m not a thinker. Roja came to me and I took it. I didn’t know how great Mani Ratnam sir was back then. I had watched Agni Nakshatram and Geetanjali. I knew he was great but I didn’t know I had bagged the film of the century. I didn’t know I was doing the role of the century. Raat ko mujhe utha utha ke scene karwate the because Mani sir loved the 5 am morning sun and 3 am night shoots. I was always asleep. But in my sleep, if I’ve done such work then I’m destined to be an actor. It is not my work or my effort. So in spite of me, my life has worked not because of me. It’s not that I did my homework. Soham came to me not because we wanted to play an old person and show people how talented I am. My philosophy is “Why not?”

Kartam Bhugtam Shreyas

Shreyas, do you think there’s a link between comedy and thrillers that makes you do both genres so easily?

Shreyas: I started with theatre and there was a time when I was very bad at it to the point where my director would say that the person with the worst performance would be named last. So through the course of 40 to 50 shows, my name was last. It was a running joke. I would feel bad but people used to think “This guy is important, his name always comes towards the end as or Shreyas Talpade” Back then I used to work on my craft. I started observing people and realised it’s all about the timing. After Iqbal people thought I was a very serious actor so I had to prove that I’m good at comedy. That’s when Golmaal happened. More comedy films happened to the point where people thought I could only do that. Luckily, Kaun Praveen Tambe and Pushpa happened so the perspective started to change. So when something like Kartam Bhugtam comes and everything from the story to the cast is unpredictable, I enjoy that. Soham wanted me specifically for the part. I love making people laugh. I like it when people just smile at you. The fact that you can make people happy when you see them is great. There are theories and techniques we learn in acting school but when you’re doing lines with a set of actors what you do in that moment, it all boils down to that.

Aksha, what was the most exciting thing about this project for you?

Aksha: Soham sir has known me since I was very young. At that point in time, he was casting for Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and I had auditioned to play young Poo. He was the one pushing me and for whatever reasons it didn’t work out. And after all these years I met him and he narrated this story. That itself was interesting. He was clear from the beginning. He said this role is short but it drives the film in so many ways. Of course, the cast and the story pushed me towards wanting to be a part of this film.

Soham, your films Kaal and Luck left audiences divided. How do you look back on these films and how they shaped your filmography?

Soham: I never retrospect because that’s not how I look at movies. I don’t want to be in the film industry just to make movies and make money. I can’t do that because my background is artsy. I have been experimental. Kaal wasn’t being thought of at that point. Nobody was interested in wildlife and nobody knew of Jim Corbett Park. I used to spend six months of a year there. Whatever money I earned, I would go to a wildlife sanctuary. I wanted to make a film with my voice. I took a risk and I was fortunate to have someone like Karan Johar to back it. When I did Luck, there were many superstars who were my friends. They asked me to make safe films. I did not understand what a safe film is. Nobody knows till that Friday. I was stubborn and I still am. I don’t care how a film is going to be received because I have put in my 300 per cent. I also believe a film will do well when all the stars align including the crew. See, we’re talking about Kaal and Luck 20 years later. So there is honesty there that comes through. Maybe I will get my due some time. I just don’t want to chase a superhit film. I leave it up to the audience.

Shreyas: Ya, that was a time when a lot of new things were happening in the industry. Everyone was experimenting a lot. We’re still talking about it. Something like Andaz Apna Apna didn’t work when it was released. Now people wonder why it didn’t work. Similarly, Kaal and Luck were way ahead. The film is being compared to Squid Game. This time, he did something that people will relate to. I feel like this one will connect to almost all Indians. Everyone is vulnerable at some point in time and we want some support whether it is numerology or astrology. We want someone to tell us that things are going to be fine.

Kartam Bhugtam is currently in theatres.