August 11 2015
VETERAN actor Carl Wharton appears in the current release, “Jaanisaar” which features Pakistani TV star Imran Abbas and marks the debut of Indian fashion designer and one-time dancer, Pernia Qureshi, alongside Bollywood stalwart Dalip Tahil (once of “Eastenders“).
A colonial drama set 20 years after the First War of Indian Independence (1857), it’s a love story between a western educated prince and a dancing courtesan. Wharton plays a wily British soldier who is not much enamoured with Indians or the fairer sex.
The film marks the return to filmmaking of painter, fashion designer, social activist and Kotwara royal family member Muzzafar Ali, whose 1981 ‘Umrao Jaan’, another a courtesan tale, was such a hit…
By Tasha Mathur
www.asianculturevulture.com (ACV): How did you become involved with “Jaanisaar”?
Carl Wharton (CW) : The character who was playing my female counterpart, Natalie Arikan, was also the casting director and she had to find three characters from the UK which ended up being her, me and another actor called Benjamin. She spotted me on Casting Call Pro and gave me a call to ask if I would be interested and then put my details forward to Muzzafar Ali. He then chose me from my showreel and headshots.
ACV: What was it that appealed you to about working on this project?
CW: Well, I had never done Bollywood before. I’ve enjoyed watching it in the past and I thought it would be a new experience. I wouldn’t say I’m an avid watcher but yes I’ve watched several over the years. I like the actual style in terms of music and dance because I do have a background in dance as well. But it was mainly because it was a period piece and a costume drama. I do often get cast as villain type character as well so it was just ideal for me.
ACV: What were the main challenges of filming in a new location such as India?
CW: I had never been to India before and first arrived in Lucknow. There is a cultural shock when seeing lots of people living on the streets, animals walking about and cars beeping non-stop.
On set, it was initially quite challenging for both sides because it’s all completely disorganised. Then, you throw in three English people who don’t speak Hindi and it was a bit hard because they tend to speak in Hindi. Then you have to go by their actions and you’re stood there thinking ‘I don’t know what’s happening’. But after a couple of days, the first and second assistant directors came and talked to me to keep me up to date about what’s going on. It was a lesson for both groups and we compromised and it worked fine after that. There were also quite long days of filming and in a heat that I hadn’t experienced before. The costumes were fantastic but they were made of wool. So that in the heat was… wonderful!
ACV: Did you happen to learn Hindi along the way?
CW: That’s actually something that was dropped on us. They gave us Hindi lines to say but only a couple of nights beforehand. So initially, it was very stressful and they seemed to expect you to learn it in parrot fashion.
But then I explained to them that they’d hired me for the type of character I am as an actor and for the depth. I found that I was concentrating on trying to learn the Hindi lines rather than trying to get the characterisation of my role right. So after some discussion, we again compromised and they were happy for me to just have one line here and there to show that my character could speak Hindi because, historically, Cavendish would have spoken Hindi as a servant of the military for Queen Victoria.
ACV: With this film being a period drama, how did you prepare for the role in terms of researching the history behind the story?
CW: Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for that from our side because we got cast quickly and then it was about sorting out visas and flew over there so there was very minimal research. I did my own research, which I do anyway. But all I could do was look at actual historic military men who lived through that period of rebellion. I just tried to pick up their traits and put it into the character of Cavendish, who I was portraying. But once I was over there, I got the chance to speak to the Director in depth and put my views forward of what I considered my character was about so we seemed to be on the same page.
ACV: How did you bring yourself to play such a negative role in the film?
It was a challenging role because they are obviously traits of Cavendish that I don’t possess. For him, it was all about the British Empire being the machine and controlling whatever country they went into. He was quite a devious character particularly with another character, Kitty. She was more like his play thing. They would have a physical relationship but if she overstepped the boundaries, he was quite happy to hit her and demean her in front of people.
ACV: Would you be interested in working in Indian cinema again?
CW: I’d love to work in Bollywood again. I’m hoping when “Jaanisaar” is released, other filmmakers will see the potential of opening Bollywood a little bit more to other nationalities. There’s been a few suggestions but nothing in stone at the moment.
The two co-stars Pernia Qureshi an ImRan Abbas
‘Jaanisaar’ went on release from August 7…