x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Race 2: back on the fast track

The sequel to Race is opening across UAE cinemas on Thursday and we sit down with the stars to find out what went into making the movie.

Deepika Padukone stars with Saif Ali Khan in Race 2, which opens across the UAE on Thursday. Sarah Dea / The National
Deepika Padukone stars with Saif Ali Khan in Race 2, which opens across the UAE on Thursday. Sarah Dea / The National

It was in 2008 that we were introduced to the ruthless brothers Ranvire and Rajive Singh and their exciting action-packed lives – filled with car chases, bombs and beautiful women – through Abbas-Mustan’s film Race.

With Saif Ali Khan as Ranvire and Akshaye Khanna as Rajive, the film grossed more than 106 crore Indian rupees (Dh70 million) at the box office – almost three times its production budget – and became the fourth highest-grossing film of the year.

Almost five years later, the sequel is about to hit the big screen. Saif Ali Khan plays Ranvire again and Anil Kapoor returns as RD (he played a police officer in the first film but is a nightclub owner in the sequel). Also in the film are John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Ameesha Patel and Jacqueline Fernandez.

Like the original, the sequel is directed by the brothers Abbas and Mustan Burmawalla – better known as Abbas-Mustan – the director duo who have presented some of Bollywood’s biggest stars in roles that would make them famous: Akshay Kumar in Khilaadi and Shah Rukh Khan in Baazigar.

But their last release, Players (2011), received a lukewarm response at the box office and the duo have a lot riding on this film.

Race 2 finds Ranvire travelling to Turkey in search of the person who murdered his fiancée, and finds RD. In the usual Abbas-Mustan style, what follows is plenty of adrenalin-pumping action and twists and turns in the plot.

Ali Khan is extremely optimistic about the film’s prospects.

“I am excited. Race was a very successful film and this is the first time that I am part of a sequel. We were extremely conscious of the need for the sequel to be a good film in itself and not just something that was made in a rush to capitalise on the success of the first part. The production and direction team have worked extra hard on this film for that reason alone. I also want to point out that it is not important for you to have seen Race to enjoy Race 2.”

“For people who have watched the first film, it will be very clear that Race 2 is more glamorous and is produced on a way bigger scale,” says Deepika Padukone, the female lead. “Also, this is an action film – there’s one big car chase that I was part of. It is a scene involving a bomb, and I am driving a car. It was fun, but I wish I was involved in more of the film’s action -sequences.”

Ali Khan recalls a fight sequence set on a plane.

“The plane was supposed to have lost pressure and be going out of control so John [Abraham] and I had to fight as well as act like we are losing our balance. We had lots of fun. They gave us fast cars to drive, and fast boats, too. I loved that.”

Ali Khan currently drives a Ford Mustang and admits to having enjoyed driving the various cars that are part of the film – the Audi R8, in particular. “We also blew up a yellow -‘Lamborghini’ in the film,” he says. “It wasn’t a genuine Lambo, though … who’d go and blow up an actual  Lamborghini?”

Anil Kapoor, who is the second male lead after Ali Khan, stresses that Race 2 is “not just an action film”.

“It has thrills but it also has song and dance sequences,” says Kapoor. “The story is excellent. My role is the same as in Race, but the story and the situations are all new. That time, I was a police officer. Here, I have left that job and  now run a nightclub.”

“It’s racy, it’s steamy, it’s sexy, it’s larger than life,” says Ameesha -Patel. “It’s got kick-ass action, super locations and quite an amazing plot, actually.”

At the risk of seriously offending some people, Patel adds that this sequel features actresses who are much sexier than the ones in the first film.

“I have never done a really big multi-starrer before and this was my first opportunity to be part of one that made sense to me,” explains Patel.

“Mine is the only role in the film that adds comic relief. Playing a ditsy character is really hard to do without looking and sounding stupid. It was exciting to be part of this project – I know that this film is going to succeed.”

The romance behind the action

Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone recently appeared together in Homi Adjania’s romantic comedy Cocktail. Their pairing in Race 2 displays a totally different chemistry, though.

“We have done four films together,” says Padukone. “But the films are so different from each other. Yes, of course, Love Aaj Kal and Cocktail were slightly similar, but in Race 2 we are together again, but with such a different dynamic. I am glad that people like our chemistry.”

For Ali Khan, this is his first release after he wed the Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor last year. He has appeared in several films with Kapoor, none of which has done well at the box-office.  “I am not sure how many people want to see us on screen together, considering the number of films we’ve done together that haven’t worked. Sometimes, off-screen couples are better off staying off screen,” he says matter-of-factly.

After Race 2, Ali Khan has Bullet Raja to look forward to, which he describes as “a desi Scarface – the rise of a UP [Uttar Pradesh, a northern Indian state] gangster”. Padukone has Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani alongside Ranbir Kapoor and Chennai Express alongside Shah Rukh Khan.