x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Neha Dhupia: Pappu Can't Dance role 'worth an arm and a leg'

The director and stars of Pappu Can't Dance Saala talk about the emotional journey of the film, and their own careers, ahead of the Dubai premiere.

From left, the Pappu Can't Dance Saala director Saurabh Shukla and stars Neha Dhupia and Vinay Pathak at the pre-screening press conference in Dubai.
From left, the Pappu Can't Dance Saala director Saurabh Shukla and stars Neha Dhupia and Vinay Pathak at the pre-screening press conference in Dubai.

Struggle, ambition and love are three emotions tackled by the new Bollywood movie Pappu Can't Dance Saala, written and directed by Saurabh Shukla.

The romantic comedy, which is being promoted as "the most critically anticipated movie of the year", stars Vinay Pathak (My Name Is Khan, Bheja Fry) and Neha Dhupia (Singh Is Kinng, Julie). Its world premiere was in Dubai on Wednesday before opening to the public over the weekend.

The movie follows a backup dancer based in Mumbai (Dhuptia) and her neighbour from Banaras (Pathak) and what happens when cultures clash. The pair come to respect each other when life throws an unexpected turn.

During a press conference in Dubai ahead of the premiere, Shukla said this was his first attempt at a commercial film that also delved deep into human flaws.

"The story is about a man who cannot handle the city and the girl at the same time," said Shukla, who went on to explain the title: "Pappu represents all of us because we all have flaws. If you don't work on that then you have no story."

Dhupia said it was a role for which she had spent much time preparing.

"This is one of those roles you want to give an arm and a leg for. I related to the character and tried to make it my own because it talks about the simplest things in life in the simplest of ways - we are not trying to be thrilling," she said. "Like the character, I changed apartments many times and it shows that you can find love in the strangest of places."

Pathak said one of the most important aspects of the movie was that it took on "something large".

"Today, our tolerance for something other than ourselves is limited. If we are comforted in a world familiar to us, it is difficult when someone tries to break it - it's about big-city challenges and neighbours that are difficult to live near."

After the press conference, he admitted he was a little nervous about the premiere but was reassured by the chosen location: "My reverence for Dubai is from my heart and its diversity is humbling."

He added that the roles that attracted him most were those dealing with a common man going through uncommon circumstances.

"We make so many movies every year in so many different languages. It's a huge industry that is prospering. This film is relatable to everybody," he said. "The great thing is, we have the platform to tell the stories we want because we live in a different era. It's not your quintessential third world country anymore. Reasons are economic reform, self reliance and growth in education."

Dhupia said the film industry was not easy but not impossible.

"The closest thing I have taken from this experience is that it's a story of struggle, ambition and of love and I feel all three are great emotions," she said. Even Shah Rukh Khan is struggling right now, struggling to stay on top. A newcomer is struggling - but the point is to have faith in yourself."

What sets everyone apart, she believes, is "a certain magic".

mel-shoush@thenational.ae