Bollywood: Vikrant Massey, Kriti Kharbanda on '14 Phere'
We spoke to the stars of the new romcom streaming now in the UAE on ZEE5.
While romcoms are a dime a dozen in Bollywood and have been for decades, a quirky take on the genre is always a breath of fresh air.
Actors Kriti Kharbanda (Pagalpanti, Housefull 4, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana) and Vikrant Massey (Haseen Dillruba, Dil Dhadakne Do, Mirzapur) come together for the first time on screen in 14 Phere, which tells the age-old tale of a college romance that blossoms into something more serious. But when the lovers, who hail from different cultural backgrounds, are faced with the inevitable dilemma of introducing each other to their respective sets of parents, Aditi (Kriti) and Sanjay (Vikrant) decide on a somewhat unique course of action.
Will their ruse of hiring actors to carry out an elaborate scheme of deception work and will the stars align in their favour? Watch 14 Phere, an original film from the ZEE5 Global brand streaming now, to find out.
Vikrant and Kriti opened up to City Times in a Zoom conversation about taking on this entertaining romance and why “ordinary” lives sometimes strike a bigger chord with the audience than larger-than-life “heroes” and “heroines”.
Kriti calls both the protagonists of 14 Phere “flawed” and says that therein lies their charm. “Normally when you read a script or when you talk about the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ of the film in order to define roles, you realise that they are larger than life or they are everything you aspire to be. There are very few scripts wherein there is a reality and your characters are flawed and endearing all at once. Their flaws make them special as well as relatable and I think that’s the most beautiful part about Aditi and Sanjay — that while they are both flawed they complete each other.”
Calling them “ordinary people who have been put in extraordinary circumstances”, she adds, “Their execution (of the marriage plan) is flawed, and there is a chance of getting caught at every corner. But they don’t give up on their love or their families and that’s what I liked the most about them.”
Vikrant says he’s sure audiences will accept and relate to the relationship portrayed between Aditi and Sanjay.
“All of us are flawed, and this also makes Aditi and Sanjay far more real. We’ve been so accustomed to watching these so-called heroes and heroines in films larger than life. But here, these guys are as relatable, as simple and as normal as you and I are. And that is something which really struck a chord. I saw an opportunity of a script which could potentially be a very good film, and we are hopeful that it has translated that way.”
Slipping into character
Actors tend to bring something of their real selves to their characters and Kriti and Vikrant are no exception.
Vikrant thinks he is like Sanjay “in a lot of ways”.
“Though our backgrounds are very different — I hail from a huge metropolis (Mumbai) whereas Sanjay comes from the very small town of Jehanabad in Bihar, I definitely do identify with his middle class upbringing. I wouldn’t say I am a 100 per cent like Sanjay but want to believe that like him, my heart is in the right place.”
Kriti admits she relates strongly to Aditi’s independent spirit.
“Aditi was brought up by her dad and brother so she has had a lot of masculine energy around her. And while I didn’t have that at home — I had my mom with me — because I was the oldest child I always felt an added sense of responsibility; I had two siblings who I had to set an example for, and that made me the independent person I amtoday.
She also “takes a lot of inspiration” from Aditi.
“I see a lot of myself in her and vice-versa, in terms of when you talk about a strong woman of today who is independent and not afraid to make her own decisions. She uses her head more than her heart, but I really connect with her and I am hoping she becomes an inspiration for all women and helps them realize that they can make their own decisions — there’s nothing wrong with that!”
Going the extra mile for love
In 14 Phere, Aditi and Sanjay hit upon an outrageous plot to hoodwink their respective families so that they can get married. Do they ever see themselves doing something like that in real life?
“I think if push comes to shove, when it comes down to love, a lot of people are willing to go that extra mile,” says Kriti, adding that she finds herself “extremely fortunate” that she never had to face something like this in reality.
“But the truth is that love is so passionate that it doesn’t always make sense. When it comes down to the person you love and you want to spend your life with, what do you do? I think I would resort to any measure — I would talk about it and I would figure a way out and if this is what it took, I would do it.
Vikrant chips in, “All of us have the capacity to tap into areas of ourselves which we are not aware of. I am very fortunate that I come from a family that has been very accepting and accommodating. Kriti put it so beautifully — that a lot of the time love really does not make sense and if you’re absolutely sure that you have found the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, you would resort to any measure to fulfill your dreams.”
We asked Vikrant, who is known to play diverse roles in the film industry, what it was like going from his recent romantic thriller Haseen Dillruba to this light-hearted love story.
“It was fantastic. I find myself very fortunate. I recognise the blessing that has been bestowed upon me. I get an opportunity to try varied genres; there are producers backing me and this is exactly what I always dreamed of and I couldn’t have asked for more. What’s also very humbling and heartwarming is that the audience recognises this. There is a great sense of gratitude and I hope I continue to entertain fans through different genres and performances.”
Respecting & embracing traditions
14 Phere (referring to the 7 rounds (phere) taken by the bride and groom around a sacred fire in a Hindu wedding) focuses on an inter-cultural marriage which in India tends to hit roadblocks more often than not in the form of family and relatives.
Kriti weighs in on the topic. “In our situation (in the film) it was about a Jat family and a Rajput family. I think it’s very important to embrace everyone’s traditions and customs. Why not bring everything together and make everyone happy — I think it is very doable. The idea is not to let go of your values or identity but to adapt to new values, newer traditions and newer customs. Respect what you bring to the table and what your partner brings to the table and not have it be just one way. And if that means you’re getting to do double the ‘pheras’, then why not?”
Vikrant says Kriti was “speaking my heart”.
“In the last few years especially we’ve seen the younger generation — the millennials and the Gen Zs coming out and accepting whole-heartedly varied customs and traditions. We’ve seen so many inter-caste marriages. Dono customs aur traditions (from both the guy’s and girl’s side) se shaadi ho rahi hai. And it’s a great sign of the wonderful times that we are probably going to leave behind for the future generation.”
Can a movie change your mind?
Bollywood films have had a huge impact of on people’s lives and sometimes even their mindsets. We asked Kriti and Vikrant if 14 Phere was an out and out entertainer or whether it conveyed some kind of a social message as well.
“Our primary motive was to entertain, but (after watching it) you could also have had a change of heart or managed to gather the guts to talk to your parents who have a change of heart, and suddenly realise how important it is that their children be happy. We didn’t make this film preachy. It’s about different points of view and eventually it comes down to — can we be on the same page or not and if we can, great. And if we can’t, then we will work harder towards it. It’s as simple as that.”
Vikrant believes no art form “has a right or wrong.”
“We are in the business of storytelling. If you personally feel there is a takeaway for you, please make it your own and share it with people — somewhere down the line also a part of storytelling. We are not out to change the world. We are here celebrating traditions. We all know how diverse India is; we have so many cultures and traditions. We have family values — it is something that has seeped so deep into our bones, and we are here to celebrate that. But at the same time we have evolved; we have come a long way.”
‘Thank you, UAE, for supporting us’
In a parting shout out to the UAE and their fans here, Vikrant and Kriti were thankful for the global reach of their new film.
Vikrant, acknowledging the huge popularity of Bollywood films here, shares, “I have had the good fortune of visiting the UAE very often. I have a lot of friends and family there who really couldn’t wait for the film to come out. I am sure there will be a lot of people who can relate to Sanjay and Aditi’s story and we are hopeful that they will get entertained. And thank you so much for supporting us, you’ve been far away from home but you’ve still been there all these years. 14 Phere is an out and out family entertainer and I really cannot wait to hear your responses from the UAE.”
Kriti adds, “I find myself extremely grateful to be working in the Indian film industry in a time when our reach is global. The fact that people from all over the world across 190 countries are going to be watching this film just feels a little surreal at times.
“The UAE has always been one of the biggest supporters in terms of filmmaking or even just releasing a movie there, and I know there are people who actually make time and watch these films with their families. So I really hope that we bring them one step closer to home when they all connect with it and enjoy it with their families and feel a little less homesick.”
14 Phere is streaming now on ZEE5.