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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Sidharth Malhotra and Jacqueline Fernandez on their new comedy-thriller A Gentleman

The film arrives at an ­interesting time for ­Bollywood, ­following a ­summer notable for its high-profile flops

Jacqueline Fernandez and Sidharth Malhotra both underwent gruelling physical challenges during the filming of A Gentleman. Courtesy Fox Star Studios
Jacqueline Fernandez and Sidharth Malhotra both underwent gruelling physical challenges during the filming of A Gentleman. Courtesy Fox Star Studios

Bollywood star Jacqueline Fernandez is no stranger to action movies, with roles in hit actioners such as Dishoom and Kick already under her belt. In those movies, however, ­Fernandez’s roles were more decorative than hard-hitting female hero. With the forthcoming A ­Gentleman, ­Fernandez is ­finally going toe-to-toe with the bad guys, as evidenced by her double-­pistol-toting ­appearance in the movie’s ­trailer – and it sounds like there is more where that came from.

“[Making this film was] ­amazing because I’ve been part of so many big action ­movies in the past, but never actually had any action in those, so this is a first,” she laughs. “I loved ­getting beat up with the villains and ­contributing to the action – I hope I have many more action sequences to come now I’ve proved myself.”

Getting her hands dirty in the fight scenes wasn’t the movie’s only first for Fernandez. She also had to take a crash course in pole dancing, courtesy of tutor Roksolana Chubenko, from Dubai’s Milan Pole Dance Studio, who flew to Mumbai to coach her ahead of the shoot.

“It was an idea that came to us because we were shooting in Miami, where the film is based,” she explains. “My character is really sporty and adventurous, and there was this song, it’s like a post-­office, post-work song, so we thought ‘let’s put pole dancing in the song’, because that’s got that Miami vibe.”

It sounds like Fernandez may have found the pole dancing more challenging than her debut as an action star.

“I took my first lesson and realised that maybe I shouldn’t be doing this,” she admits. “I ended up really bruised and injured. It killed me – not easy at all. It took me a good two months to be able to do what I could do, and I still didn’t feel completely ready to do it then, but it was cool to bring ­something new to the table with my character, and that energy and vibe that the pole dancing brought.”

An unexpected bonus from the high-intensity training was Fernandez found she didn’t need to undertake any other form of exercise while she trained. Her new regime was so successful that the former model tells me the film’s directors, Krishna D K and Raj Nidimoru, had to ask her to cut back on her ­training ­because her muscles were becoming too defined.

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Fernandez was not alone in needing to keep in top ­physical shape for the film. Co-star Sidharth Malhotra carried out most of his own stunts, a fact that he hopes will contribute to the film’s success.

“It was a key decision to keep the action more real and ­contemporary,” he says. “You won’t see me blowing buildings up or anything like that, but there’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat and fight scenes – there’s a scene where I have to jump off a roof; there’s action in a car that gets into an accident. It’s pretty rich for action and that keeps it more interesting for the actors.”

He insists there’s more to the film than just stunts, however: “You can see in the trailers whenever my character’s falling down or getting hurt, we cover his reaction, and you see he’s in pain and getting hurt – he’s not just some superhero. I have to say a big thank you to our stunt director, Cyril Raffaelli. He’s worked on big Hollywood films such as the Transporter and Die Hard movies, and he did an amazing job. He’s taught me so much and helped the movie look really cool.”

There was a second new experience in the movie for Malhotra. He plays two ­polar-opposite ­characters whose lives become intertwined thanks to a case of mistaken identity, which leads to the straight-laced Gaurav getting mixed up with petty gangster Rishi’s criminal ­associates. Malhotra seems to have enjoyed taking on his new split personality.

“It’s really interesting playing two characters in one film, and they’re both very interesting characters to play, too,” he says. “It’s a really rich script in terms of content, and there are some big differing points of view between the two characters I play. Gaurav is a very typical non-resident Indian living in Miami. He wants a 9-to-5 job and to buy a big house; he’s given up his sports car to get married and start a family, and he just wants a girl to say yes, but she keeps saying no. Then Rishi is a bit of a rogue. He stays in Mumbai and he gets all the cool action and fun. They were really different ­characters and great fun to play.”

Malhotra plays two contrasting characters in A Gentleman, alongside Fernandez. Courtesy Fox Star Studios
Malhotra plays two contrasting characters in A Gentleman, alongside Fernandez. Courtesy Fox Star Studios

The film arrives at an ­interesting time for ­Bollywood, ­following a ­summer notable for its high-profile flops. Salman Khan’s war drama Tubelight, Ranbir Kapoor’s ­adventure Jagga Jasoos and Shah Rukh Khan’s romantic drama Jab Harry Met Sejal have all met with audience ­indifference and disturbingly quiet cash ­registers in the last few months. I ask the pair why they think this is and whether their own movie can avoid a similar fate.

“Audiences want everything today – quality content and production, not just gloss or big names,” Fernandez says. “They want a film that’s worth their money, and we’re ­competing with a lot right now: ­international movies, television, everything. So to get people into theatres, we need to give them some really ­impressive work, ­performance-wise – everything. That’s why we’ve really upped the level for this film.”

Her leading man agrees, and adds that poor scripts may have added to the recent ­malaise in Bollywood.

“People want to be convinced by the stories,” Malhotra says. “If they’re not convinced by the stories, they won’t get behind the film. It’s all about the story, and how you present it.”

He concludes on a positive note, however: “A good film will always get supported, though, I’m certain. And we’ve made a good film, I’m totally confident of that.”

A Gentleman is in cinemas from August 24