Ehan Bhatt, who was recently seen in the music video of Chhor Denge, opposite Nora Fatehi, is all set to make his big screen debut tomorrow with AR Rahman’s dream project, 99 songs. In an exclusive conversation with Spotboye, the debutante talks about his experience of working with Rahman, how he trained to become a musician, going away from the stereotypical representation of rockstars in Hindi films and more. Read excerpts from the interview:
You are about to enter Bollywood with 99 songs. How excited are you about your debut?
I am on Cloud 99, that’s how excited I am. (Laughs) The film is releasing in Tamil and Telugu as well and not just Hindi. What could be better than having your debut in three different languages. I am just elated.
Tell us what the film is about and the role that you play in it.
The film consists of everything. It’s a sum together of friendship, love, challenges and of course music. I portray Jai, a musician, in the film.
How did you train for your part in the film?
Since I am from a non-musical background, I had to go to Chennai to learn the piano. I spent about a year at the KN Music Conservatory, along with my friend and co-actor Tenzin Dalha, who plays my best friend and bandmate in the film. While I trained in piano, he trained to play drums and everyday it felt like we were getting a bit closer to our characters. I don’t think the film would have been possible without that training.
What role does music play in your life?
Everything. Music is hope, and hope is a good thing. No good thing ever dies. We have music for every mood. There are days when life is against you and those days you console yourself with good music, while on good days, you listen to happy music. It is a part of our daily life and is inseparable. I am that guy who always has his earpods with him, wherever I go.
You are debuting with the dream musical project of the music maestro himself, AR Rahman. How was your experience working under his guidance and associating with the brand that is AR Rahman?
Since I was a child, I have idolised Rahman sir’s music. I have been a big fan of his personality and his work all my life. I always thought that maybe someday I will be in a film that will have his music, but I never thought that I’d be doing a film written and produced by him. He has been a part of it in every stage. It’s such a delight and an overwhelming feeling that he trusted me to carry forward his dream project. He could have easily asked any A-lister to do the film and they would have done it without even hearing the narration. I am so thankful that he chose me to give that opportunity. People tell me that I was chosen amongst hundreds of actors who auditioned for the role, but all I know is that my number was 38, and I guess it’s my lucky number now.
99 Songs had its international premiere in the festival circuit in 2019. Since then, the film has faced several delays in release in India due to various reasons. During that time, did you ever feel anxious about the film’s fate?
Of course, I felt anxious, but when it was broadcasted to an audience that was alien to our kind of cinema—a Korean audience of around 500 people—we received a great response and a standing ovation. Now that we are releasing it in India, we are getting appreciation from all nooks and corners of the industry with compliments like the film has Hollywood type quality. I believe every film needs its time for marketing and promotion and fortunately our album was released almost a year ago. So, now the audience is familiar with it and it received rave reviews like, the album is like a saviour in this time. During the lockdown, people’s preferences and tastes changed since everyone watched world cinema on OTT. Ours is a film that has a very different treatment and storyline, and now with the changed tastes of the audience, I feel like they will relate to it more. This is the kind of a film that will relate to the audience globally.
Are you even a little sceptical of hitting the theatres during this time when a lot of the country is under partial or complete lockdown?
I am sorted in my head. There are massive films getting OTT release but for me, as a debutant, I wanted my film to release on the big screen. I want to show my parents the hard work I have put into it on a 70 mm screen and witness their reaction and experience. The film is a visual masterpiece so it will be an injustice to it if people watch it on their phones. Unfortunately, we are coming at a time when theatres are shut in many cities but we have already waited for a long time. So, I am just thrilled that it is finally releasing.
Did working in 99 songs piqued your interest in music?
Definitely. Before this film, I used to criticise music very easily but after I went to the conservatory and sat with composers and music directors, I realised that making music is not a cakewalk. There’s a line in the film that my character says, “100 gaane lagte hain ek dhang ka gaana likhne mein,” and that is true. It takes 1000 songs to write the perfect one. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. After learning music, it inclined all my senses towards music and my respect for musical artists increased.
Before making your debut in films, you recently appeared in a music video, Chhor denge, opposite Nora Fatehi. Do you think it will work in your favour, since the audience is kind of familiar with you now?
Definitely. Nora has a huge fan base globally. When the video came out, I checked a few comments and they mentioned and appreciated me and I was taken by surprise. I played the bad guy and still got a massive response to it. The video is still trending and receiving so much love. To my surprise, it kept on multiplying and last I checked, there are over 200 fan pages of me from all over the world. So, it feels good to know there are hundreds of fan pages promoting my film and the film is coming so soon after the video. I just can’t even imagine what good I had done to deserve this. During Covid last year, we were worried about the release, but God had better plans.
Your co-star Edilsy Vargas is also a newcomer to Bollywood. How was she on set?
She is very talented, humorous and kind. She is from Hollywood and has worked in a lot of films there, so it was an honour to share screen space with her, especially in my first film.
The whole album of 99 songs is divine, but what is your favourite song among the lot?
It would be impossible for me to choose; I will pick the whole album. It’s like with Rahman sir’s music, you listen to it two-three times then you get the song. So, my choice keeps changing. Even people who have listened to the whole album, all have different favourites so it is uplifting to see that.
While you were prepping for your part, did you have any specific music album or song that you used as inspiration?
All songs of Rahman sir. The good things in my character are inspired by Rahman sir himself, that I learned by studying and observing him. Usually, the musical films we see have the artists doing drugs or some kind of intoxication or bad things and eventually the rockstar life ending with a suicide. So, when I was offered the film, I thought I would get something similar and I would have to die at the end, in the stereotypical way. But music is a very divine thing and can be done nicely too. Look at Rahman sir for example, and that’s what we have tried to show in this film.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I have one project with Netflix going on floors in June. Also, I have some other projects in different stages of discussion. There is this music video as well, with T Series that I might be doing soon, but it all depends on the Covid situation.
Image source: instagram/ehanbhat, wikipedia
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