Having Pizza? Be sure it doesn’t turn into a scary affair…

Raise hands if you enjoy having pizza. If yes, get ready for your share of Pizza delivery on July 18, 2014 at your nearest movie theatres. What’s special about this monsoon season’s Pizza? It’s hot and haunted.

Yes, you read it right. A supernatural thriller, Pizza is the story of a pizza delivery boy who is sent to a house with dark secrets. Will he come out alive from the haunted house to share his experience? You just have to wait and watch. 

Read on what the director, producer and lead cast of Pizza have to say about the upcoming thriller:

Akshay Akkineni, Director

Q: This is your debut venture. What inspired you to make the film?

A: It was fantastic. The idea came to me from Bejoy (Nambiar). He asked me if I want to make this film. And there were a lot of things, I felt we could add and make it a better experience. So that’s why I kind of chose the film. It’s turned out pretty well. You’ll know on the 18th (of July) how it has turned out.

Q: How was your experience making a debut as a director?

A: It’s been a joy. We shot in 3D, did a lot of sound. We have experimented a lot on the film. It’s been quite a fun process. Lot of experimentation. Even with the actors, we made them do things that you wouldn’t have heard of. Just for the workshop, I sent Akshay Oberoi to all the graveyards in Mumbai. That was just to get the mood. So we did a lot of funny things like that. Seems funny now, but they are not.

Q: Most movies these days incorporate the 3D element. How does Pizza 3D stand out?

A: The idea is to make the experience much better. And, I was never a 3D person. I always thought 3D is a gimmick. When now I’ve made a 3D film, I’ve started understanding 3D. When I look back at all the films I’ve seen, I just wonder why people didn’t shoot a 3D all their lives. Why shooting with one camera when you can shoot with two? It doesn’t make any sense. Your eyes see with two eyes. So you are supposed to shoot with two eyes. So, when I look back now it’s one of the best things that could ever happen to me. It’s really changed the way the film is made. And I don’t think I’m going to make another 2D film. I’m really addicted to 3D. I’m addicted. I’m not attached. I’m addicted. So I’m really enjoying this whole process of 3D and the whole immersive experience of shooting it. Even the way you shoot it, the way you make people act is entirely different. So, it’s a fantastic process.

Q: As a director your debut film is of a horror genre, which are your favorite horror films?

A: My favorite horror film is The Shining. Hands down, it’s The Shining. I really enjoyed that film. Every time I see it, I get spooked out. There are a lot of other horror films that I’ve seen that creep me out at that point of time, but not really great films. The Shining is the best!

Q: Apart from Horror, which other genre interests you?

A: I love and enjoy all kinds of cinema. I don’t know. I made a scary film. I’ll look at options to make other kind of cinema. The idea is to discover yourself. And I haven’t discovered myself. I don’t know what I like yet. I enjoy like this.

Q: Pizza is a fresh idea in the Bollywood Horror genre. What, in your opinion, makes Pizza stand out from other Horror films in Bollywood?

A: The best part about Pizza is, that’s what we have tried making clear with the proportions is and the way we put out our films to the audience is that it’s not completely a scary film. From beginning to end it’s not a scary film. There’s no bang-bang-bang-bang. It’s not that kind of a cinema. The idea is that it’s a very mixed genre film. There is a whole blending of genre that’s happening in this particular film. I would like to believe that people who are scared of scary films, will get scared. But they will also enjoy the whole graph and curve that the film takes from genre to genre. It starts off as one particular genre and slowly become something else. Then it becomes something else. You are left shocked. Once you immerse into the graph you tend to enjoy the film much more. We are hoping that it works.

Q: Pizza is a remake of the Tamil film of the same name. What are your contributions to make it different from the original?

A: The idea is the minute you say remake, a lot of people think it’s a frame by frame movie. But no, that’s not the case. The idea is to make a good film. And we have tried. I can’t say it’s already better because we don’t know yet, it’s not the 18th. But we have tried to enhance the experience of what audiences have felt in Tamil Pizza. We have tried enhancing it multiple folds with this film. And essentially about 60-70% of what is seen in the Tamil film has been changed. To put in a very simple analogy, it’s as simple as skeleton and flesh. The skeleton of the Tamil film, I’ve retained because there are a lot of things that worked. And we have completely changed on the flesh part like the characters, the graph, everything is entirely different. There are certain plot points that you would expect but they are not there because we didn’t see the need to put it. So, comparisons are inevitable. We have been hearing a lot of lack from my friends in Tamil cinema that you’ve changed too much. We already have been hearing that. So, that’s inevitable. I’m prepared for that. The idea is we have made it a better experience, 100%. We are hoping that the film works.

Q: Any upcoming projects?

A: Nothing as yet. There is something going on but nothing concrete yet.

Q: What are your expectations from Pizza 3D as lot of Bollywood Horror films didn’t fare well?

A: Obviously, I’m hoping it does well. That’s the whole idea of making a film. As I said, it’s not completely a Horror film. If Horror doesn’t work, something else will work. I’m pretty confident that it’s going to work. It may not touch 100 crores but it definitely will work.

Bejoy Nambiar, Producer

Q: How was your experience working with Team Pizza and Akshay Akkineni, a debut director?

A: It’s been a great ride. We had a lot of fun making this film. It was a completely new task for us. It was a remake. We just took the original source material and completely changed it around, adapting it completely differently for the Hindi film industry. And of course we were trying out a new format which is 3D. We have never shot a film in 3D. So it was a big new challenge for us. But at the end, it was all worth it. And how difficult and stressful the whole thing was, finally after seeing the whole project, we are happy with it. Really looking forward to the audience’s response.

Q: As a producer of Pizza, what are your expectations for the film?

A: My biggest expectation is that all the tickets on BookMyShow gets sold out on a daily basis for atleast for 2 weeks. That’s my biggest expectation (laughs). But jokes apart, I’m really hoping that the film that we have made with so much heart, blood, love and sweat, finds acceptance with the audience. The audience likes the film, that’s what we want more than anything. We want it to be liked by the audience.

Q: Pizza is a Horror-genre movie. What is fear to you in real life? Any experience from the set that let fear creep in you.

A: I’m one of those producers who doesn’t go onto sets. So, set related experiences you’ll have to ask the director. But fear to me – the biggest fear is Friday, when the movie releases. If the film is going to work or not. Having said that, if you ask me I’m not someone who if had to direct a Horror film, I don’t think I can. I don’t have the skill set to direct a Horror film. Though I’ve learned a lot in the process of making this film. And the whole experience has made me learn a lot. Maybe in the future if I’ve to direct a horror film, atleast I’ve information on that.

Q: As a producer what is your opinion about the promotional and marketing strategies followed by Bollywood, these days?

A: I think, in today’s scenario, marketing and promotions are as important as making a film. You can make a fantastic product, a fantastic movie, but if it doesn’t manage to reach out to the audience, and the audience doesn’t know what kind of film is it, they’ll not go for it. Marketing plays a very vital role these days. And how you pitch the film to an audience. Anything you do is, I feel, as less and you need to really go out there and pull people into it and tell them, "Listen, this is the film we want you to come watch."

Q: You have offered two of the most-critically acclaimed film, Shaitan and David. Any upcoming directorial ventures?

A: Of course. Just because I’m producing films doesn’t mean as a director I’ve given up. I’m directing films. I’m directing a film right now, infact. Starting something very soon. The director in me is itching to start soon.

Akshay Oberoi, Actor

Q: You play the most important character in Pizza. How was the experience of taking forward the major part of the film solely?

A: Well, I didn’t have that pressure, until now. Never thought about that. But, yes, it’s true the film does revolve around my character. I’m propelling the film forward. It’s the story of a pizza delivery boy and his wife. I never thought that I’d be the one who the pressure would be on. But now that you’ve mentioned, I’m feeling that pressure. So, thank you.

Q: How was your experience working with Akshay Akkineni & Parvathy Omanakuttan while on the set of Pizza?

A: Well, I’ll start with Akshay. Akshay has grown up in a film family. He is the son of a legendary editor, Sreekar Prasad. And usko bhi viraasat mein kafi cheezein mili hai. Means technically, he is very sound. So it was a great experience working with him. He really knows what he is doing. He is such a young guy and having that kind of confidence is incredible. Parvathy is a special person. We got along really well during the shoots. And I think that chemistry reflects. I’m very fortunate to have met her and have a friend like her. And the overall experience with Bejoy and UTV and the kind of cinema we got a chance to make, was really cool. I’m very happy that in my life, during my career as an actor I got a chance to do something very different supported by big names. It’s not like we are releasing a small film. We have put together an interesting film with very good support.

Q: Pizza is a Horror-genre movie. What is fear to you in real life?

A: I think fear is kind of the same emotion across the board. So whether you are afraid of an empty road or a sound coming from nowhere. Even failure. Even uncertainty. Even fear of losing a friend or losing somebody. The fear emotion’s baseline is the same. Horror is something different. It is something that instills fear in somebody in a specific way. But fear altogether, you can be fearful of many things. And it’s pretty much the same emotion. Actually for me, as in my role as Kunal Malkholkar, a lot of fear I’ve used is my fear of uncertainty in my career. That was the baseline for my fear. And then I built it up for horror, the haunted house, etc. That was the base from which I started.

Q: While shooting for Pizza, was there any instance when you got actually spooked out?

A: Absolutely. Throughout the making of the movie I was scared. Because our art designers are brilliant. Just through our trailers and teasers, you might have seen that the art direction and production value of the film is brilliant. Actually these artists made my job easy. I’d walk into the set, look around and be like khud darr aa raha hai (I’m already feeling scared). I don’t even need to do anything. So thanks to them.

Q: We had read about your workshop of visiting graveyards late at night. Can you tell us something about that experience.

A: Sure. I spent many nights at the graveyard. I did a lot of research for this film. I even visited every pizza parlor from Colaba to Malad. And spent a lot of time with every delivery boy. Because you don’t know what helps in your subconscious where. So to work on the fear part of it, I went to a graveyard. Maybe like 3-4 nights stayed till 3.30 in the morning. Because that’s when spirits come out, as legends say. And sat around and all kinds of noises would come. And it freaked me out. It was a creepy experience. I would make sure I was there for atleast an hour. Say till 3.30–4 in the morning before the sun would come up and there’s light.

Q: This is your second venture in Bollywood after Isi Life Mein. What is your dream role to portray on the silver screen?

A: Dream character… I’ll like to play a negative role. I’d love to do a hardcore negative character. I think that would be most fun to play. And I think they are challenging, they are fun, they add a little spark. This film also has an "anti-hero" wala angle to it. But I would have pushed that even further. I’d love to explore that a little bit more.

Q: Said that, who is your favorite antagonist?

A: If we talk about Hindi cinema, I think Shahrukh Khan had done a brilliant job when he first came into Bollywood with Darr and Baazigar. Later on, he became the King of Romance, which is crazy how that type of flip happened? But he really got his name from those early films. Very unique kind of cinema. I think we often forget about that. We remember the Kuch Kuch-es and the DDLJ-s. But he was brilliant in Darr and Baazigar. Though he is a role model to everybody, but those roles of his are an interesting inspiration to me.

Q: You hold a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts & Economics and are a professionally-trained actor. Also you have worked with Prithvi Theatre. So can the audience see more of you onstage or will you limit yourself to onscreen platform?

A: Yes. I would love to do more of theatre and TV. I won’t limit myself to films. I think the world is changing. I think that TV has more exposure than movies. Sometimes with the movies, you work so hard to get that movie together but then you don’t get much of an audience support. That movie is gone. With theatres you do. With TV you get all kinds of audience and there are repeat telecasts. So I think these are two things that I’ll definitely continue doing. There’s no reason to cut these out.

Q: Apart from being an professionally-trained actor you come from a family with a strong film connection. Have you ever felt pressurized to excel?

A: I think it’s an honor to come from a lineage of very good actors. And that pressure is not a pressure. It’s an inspiration. So even the kind of study we have done abroad for theatre and acting is because they have inspired me. Watching them work, realizing, wow, these are really powerful actors I felt I’ve to live upto it. So I never took it as a pressure, I took it as an inspiration to learn more and become better at what I do.

Q: How did the movie Pizza happen to you at the first place?

A: I’d done the first film which was a Rajshri film called Isi Life Mein, it came out and didn’t do well. I’d wanted to work with Bejoy Nambiar really badly. Called him. Thousands of calls and finally usne phone uthaya (he finally picked my call). He asked, ‘Kaun hai aur tujhe kya chahiye?‘ (Who are you? What do you want?). So I told him who I was. We met. Then he offered me a TV show called MTV Rush. Did that. Then he said let’s do a film together. So I said that’s upto you. I’d love to do a film with you. And then again after 3-4 months down the line, I happened to be in Chennai. And he said that there’s a film that I want you to watch called Pizza. So I went to Satyam cinemas, watched the film, came out, called him and said, "I loved the film. What you doing with it?", so he said, "Tujhe karna hai? (Do you want to do it?)" So I said, "What? Do you want me to play that little janitor’s role who sweeps the floor? What do you want me to do?", so he said, "No. I want you to play the main lead.", so I said, "Wow!" I mean that was a very happy moment. So I said, "Yes. Absolutely." And here we are.

Q: What is acting to you?

A: Acting to me is trying to recreate. The camera is on but how can you make it as genuine, as honest as possible. Acting to me is very therapeutic. Why I became an actor is because I’m a very boring person in real life. I’m not that exciting. And through your characters you can explore more about yourself. You can learn more about yourself. You can be somebody else. And I love watching people, learning from people, observing people and that what an actor feels, anyway.

Q: Pizza is a new idea to the Bollywood Horror genre. What are your expectations from the upcoming thriller, Pizza?

A: My expectations from Pizza… I expect it to be a blockbuster (laughs). I mean it’s a cool, different type of film. Since our industry is changing and our audiences are rapidly changing, they are connecting to material that nobody would have imagined that it would work 3-4 years ago. That those kind of films will work and they are working really well. So I just hope we get that kind of reaction. Even if the box-office doesn’t happen, we get that kind of word-of-mouth. People say it’s a very unique, cool film with a different angle to it.

Parvathy Omanakuttan, Actress

Q: You play the character of Nikita, a horror novelist in Pizza. Tell us something about your character.

A: Well, Nikita is very headstrong. She is very confident in what she wants. She is very determined. She has the support of her husband, who is kind of frustrated with the fact that she has made a big mess of the house. It is horror novels and horror posters, everywhere. But the fact is that he loves her so much and he kind of understands her passion for it. It kind of irritates him at some point of time, but he also understands that and he kind of helps and support that. But it is my pagalpan (madness) for horror that kind of instils a terrible fear in him, which imperially changes his life one evening when he goes to deliver a pizza.

Q: How well do you relate to your character in the movie Pizza?

A: Well… apart from the horror bit, I’m very much like Nikita in real life who is a bit vulnerable, a bit emotional. But at the same time very headstrong and practical when she has to be.

Q: How did the movie Pizza happen to you in the first place?

A: Well… Bejoy had seen me wearing some goofy glass which I was wearing. It was just for style statement I was wearing it. And I happened to be at dinner with couple of my friends. And it was friends, so I was casually dressed and all. And he was there with his team. And he kind of kept that in mind. And when he was auditioning for this movie, he happened to get people from his office to call me and say, "Why don’t you audition for this role with the glasses you were wearing then?" And it was almost a year since I met him. And I was like, "I don’t have them." But then they arranged for the glasses in order to give that seriousness to that character. And once I auditioned, Akshay Akkineni, my director and Bejoy really liked my audition and that’s how I ended being a part of it.

Q: Pizza is a Horror/Thriller movie. To what extent do you believe in supernatural elements in your real life?

A: Ahhh… in real life… I haven’t experienced anything negative. But yes, I’ve experienced spirits around me. And they have always been positive in a way that they have always given me a sense of support whenever I needed it. And I completely believe in the existence of spirits. Because I believe in God and I believe if there is a positive, there is also a negative. And… everything you know, we have studied science, we have studied the positive ions, the negative ions. Positives and negatives always exist in this world. So supernatural also exists. And it’s the fear of the unknown that kind of instils that adventure streak in each one of us. And I think you’ll experience that through the film.

Q: Akshay Oberoi visited the graveyards to get a feel of fear. Did you ever accompany him or did you do any such experiments?

A: I haven’t, unfortunately. They didn’t take me anywhere. I’m upset (laughs). But I was quite kicked in of the fact that its a Horror-Thriller film. Because of the fact that I’ve read so much about supernatural, spirits, spirit world. I, through this film wanted to experience something supernatural, but unfortunately, there were not many opportunities for me. I did not experience anything that spooked me out except for one incidence. It was first day of the shoot and I was standing at a spot. I was taking to Akshay, my director. He was telling me about what scenes we are going to shoot. And couple of minutes later, someone called me. I turned, I took two steps ahead. And there was bulb that was right above me, and it just fell. And it would have fallen on my head had I been standing there. So I think that was one thing that really spooked me out. But apart from that I’ve not done any experiments. Infact, I wanted to do a lot of experiments with different tools like calling spirits. But I always feel you should not disturb anybody, especially spirits we don’t know if they exist or not. They might be negative. They might be positive. They might harm you in certain ways. I think we shouldn’t go to trouble them and they wouldn’t trouble you.

Q: Horror is a difficult genre in general. How challenging was Pizza for you?

A: We had not planned it as an out and out Horror film. It’s Suspense, Thriller with an element of Horror in it. Horror plays an important aspect. It’s not a horror horror film where there is gore, where there is lot of bloodshed and all of that. It’s a part of the film where we knew that it had to be another character of the film which was very essential. Other than that I don’t think it was very difficult to be a part of anything like this. Like I said, I was very kicked in of the fact that I’m doing a Horror film.

Q: This is your second project in Bollywood after United Six. Also you’ve done a Mollywood film, KQ. Any more project plans in any of the film industries?

A: Yes. I’ve done Tamil film also. There was shoot for a Marathi film. So I don’t think as an actor you are limited to only doing one language film just because you belong to that particular place. I think everyone can explore. I think you need to understand what your limitations are, and kind of mold yourself in order to be better and do better. And I think that’s what my hardwork is about and my aim is to do as an actor.

Q: Any dream role you would like to portray on the big screen?

A: As an actor I want to explore every genre of acting like Comedy, serious, out and out Bollywood. But one thing I really really want to do is the kind of role that Angelina Jolie played in Tomb Raider. You know it has to be completely an Action-Thriller where I’m doing all the stunts and something like that. I’m an adventure junkie so I like doing all this kind of stuff.

Q: Is there a dream director with whom you would love to work?

A: Yes. I would. Actually there are a lot of  them. To say about senior-most, I would love to be part of a Mani Ratnam film, a Vidhu Vinod Chopra film, a Yash Chopra film. But I can’t be part of it anymore because you know. They are the kind of film-makers who make the heroines look like masterpieces. So I think that’s something I want to do. Even in the younger lot there are so many directors who are doing such amazing work. I don’t want to limit myself to saying that I want to work with only such and such person. Like I said, there is no limitation to anybody. Just because I belong to a glamor industry, I can only do a glamorous role. So that is something which I don’t want to limit myself to.

Q: If not a career in modelling and acting, what would have been your aspiration in life?

A: Well… I’ve always wanted to get into fashion and be a Miss. India, go for Miss. Universe and represent my country. But if I was not into any of that, if I was still academically inclined, then I would have loved to study psychology. And psychology is something that really interests me. To know about what happens with different personalities within us. And how we transform from childhood to adulthood and how everything is related to it.

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