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Films are a great binding factor, or so the late film critic Roger Ebert would have us believe.
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I studied Osama: Pradyuman
Suddenly-famous Pradyuman Singh worked hard to fit into the Al-Qaida chief's character - running till he fell on his face, maintaining a crushing diet and carrying a loud rooster around. But, he tells, TOI-Crest, it all paid off in the end.
How did TBL happen?
I did theatre in Delhi with Abhishek Sharma. In 2007, Abhishek said, I'm making a film. He played an Osama Bin Laden tape, saying, this is what I want you to do. I was shocked. But tempted.
How did you prepare to play Osama bin Laden?
I studied Osama bin Laden for eight months through the internet, books, DVDs, examining his gestures, which fingers move when he speaks, how he bats his eyelids, touches his beard, shakes his head. Vikram Gaekwad was our brilliant makeup designer. Make-up took three hours daily. There were prosthetics and shading. I grew a moustache and lost nine kilos. I had a dietician and a trainer who made me run till I fell flat. It evolved. But people's reactions to me as Osama bin Laden made me uncomfortable. Especially when they said I scared them.
How did you prepare for Noora?
Noora was difficult. Osama bin Laden was known, Noora undefined. The film's associate dialogue writer, Mohammad Ahmad sahab, worked with me for weeks to get the dialect. Ali helped. I wore shalwar-kameez even to malls and parties. Sikander, the rooster, stayed with me. Abhishek had these ideas of method acting. So the rooster and I lived together. He crowed from four till 11 every morning. I couldn't sleep. It worked beautifully though. Initially, I didn't even know how to hold the rooster. Eventually, the rooster brooded on my lap for hours.
You're from an Indian armed forces family, playing a Pakistani farmer. The film was shot in Mumbai, set in Pakistan. Was it a head-trip ?
It was very exciting. Seeing Pakistan recreated in India was amazing. I was playing a Pakistani poultry farmer, an Osama bin Laden look-a-like and 45 years old. As an actor, I couldn't have asked for more.
How do you understand the India-Pakistan equation?
We have a love-hate relationship. We love Pakistan because we are almost the same. The hate comes from terror.
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