Ishaqzaade, a film which was not only a box office success but also a critical one completes six years today. The film was loved by the people for its rawness, freshness and intensity. With Habib Faisal’s direction and Parineet Chopra and Arjun Kapoor in the lead, the film leaves an impact even half a decade later.
The film touches upon a variety of social issues like widowhood, honour killing, inter-religion marriages and communal violence while portraying an unusual love saga.
We often remember the actors who play a lead role in the movies but we forget those who carry the film on their shoulders and support it, lifting it towards success. One such actor is Akash Bathija, who played the role of ‘Bikram’, Parma’s (Arjun Kapoor) best friend in Ishaqzaade.
In an interview with Cocktail Zindagi, 25-year-old Akash who is turning 26 four days later, tells us about how it was shooting for Ishaqzaade and his journey so far.
“Ishaqzaade was a complete game changer for me. The slight fame and recognition is a small part, but the biggest way it changed my life was how much I learnt on set. Not only did I learn a lot, but what I took back most was inspiration from Arjun,” he reminisces.
Akash, whose first film was ‘Isi Life Me’ with Rajshri Productions in 2010, has been seen in a lot of TV shows like Amita Ka Amit, Razia Sultan, Veer Shivaji, Gumrah and more. A law graduate, he always believed that acting was his calling and balanced his academics and career during the shoot of Ishaqzaade.
We were curious about how he was cast in the film. On asking, he tells us, “Well, I wasn’t expecting to be cast at all,” and adds, “When I reached the audition venue, there were only30-year-olds with six packs. I really thought I’ve been called for the wrong character. Interestingly, Bhumi Pednekar was an assistant casting director at YRF and she took my audition. She made the audition a breeze. I gave the audition knowing it wouldn’t get me anywhere. But two weeks later I got the call and I couldn’t believe it!”
It wasn’t easy playing the character of Bikram for him, “My character was something I hadn’t attempted in the past. Bikram was a grey character, negative too at times. I had never played a North Indian goon before. My only concern was that I didn’t want to come off as a typical Bandra boy from Bombay. Luckily enough my prep helped me do justice to the character.”
Akash doesn’t keep a count but so far he has given over four hundred auditions! Sometimes he auditioned for a role even if he did not fit for the part only to boost his confidence in front of the camera and hone his skills.
How was it to work with the director, Habib Faisal? “Habib sir is a master at his craft. Honestly, I was extremely nervous. But he made the entire process so smooth. It fascinates me how much one can learn from him. He has been the biggest acting lesson for me,” he says.
In India, there is a saying, that to gain something one has to lose something. The shooting schedule of Ishaqzaade once clashed with Akash’s law exam dates. He was sure that he would be allowed to appear for them but then the shooting dates were postponed due to a heavy fog in Lucknow. In the hush-hush, he had to skip an entire semester of exams.
Talking about a moment that he cannot forget while shooting for the film, he remarks, “In my first shot, I ended up improvising a little. Habib sir walked up to me, and said, “What was that?” and my heart skipped a beat. I really thought I messed it up. But to my surprise, he said, “It was awesome, just keep doing what you’re doing.” I was flattered. I cannot forget this moment ever.”
On the sets, working with Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor too was memorable for him. Talking about this co-actors, he tells us how it was, “They’re sweethearts. Never did they make any of the cast or crew feel uncomfortable. While Parineeti is one of the sweetest persons I’ve met, Arjun has to be one of the wittiest. His sense of humour is to die for. Even for his first film, he was so cinematically and technically well informed!”
Shooting for the film wasn’t all serious – there was some fun too. “We were shooting a chase sequence on bikes. At that time, I didn’t know how to ride a bike properly. In one shot, I landed up accelerating aggressively in the 1st gear and ended up doing a wheelie. I couldn’t handle it and had a bad fall. But with a bruise here and there, I was up and ready for a re-take ten minutes later. What was funny is that right after my accident, Habib sir was obviously worried for my health, but 2 schedules of re-shooting would worry any director!”, he laughs. He now owns a stunning ’17 Ninja 650, goes on long rides, very often. He also loves going on treks and plays the drums.
Do you remember the song, ‘Chokra Jawaan’ from the film? Akash was not supposed to be a part of it. But when he told director Habib Faisal, he could dance and showed some moves, he was put right next to Kapoor, swaying to the hip beats. And yes, don’t worry, the bottles are filled with water, not alcohol really. Here’s the song:
Ishaqzaade changed things for Akash drastically. He did not always want to be an actor, he wanted to be a lawyer. But right from his childhood, he loved performing. Ishaqzaade brought clarity to his life, he knew that a career in acting is what he wanted to pursue.
Also, Arjun’s transformation inspired him. Akash lost 20kgs post the film and continues to work on his body. In a couple of months, he will be resuming work in a brand new avatar.
“Ishaqzaade will definitely be one of the closest films to my heart. Especially cause it was a lot of firsts for me. It gave me a lot of opportunities. I’ll always be grateful to YRF,” he signs off.
Here’s to six years of Ishaqzaade!