Is kissing in films no longer a big deal?
Alia: It's not that we go around the set thinking 'oh, today we are going to kiss, so let's enjoy'. It's not that. It's acting. If it's important for the script, so be it.
Arjun: It's all in context. In 2 States, they are in a live-in relationship. That intimacy was important. Rather than having three intimate scenes, a kiss can go a long way in explaining the love between two individuals.
How do you react to rumours of your link-up?
Arjun: It comes with the territory... Alia: Which territory?
Arjun: This territory... this proximity... this fact that I like kissing you and you like getting kissed by me. The territory is part and parcel of the profession. I think we should just confess to create confusion. But we are not a couple.
What do you dislike about each other?
Arjun: Alia is a liability in heels; she trips and falls all the time and has no equilibrium. A little more composure is what she needs; she's pretty good otherwise.
Alia: I feel like he is a closed person, he expects me to understand without saying anything. But the thing I dislike most is that sometimes he works so much that he doesn't realize he is so exhausted. He never takes a break and that affects me mentally. He just doesn't listen to me.
Is it cliched for a star kid to debut in a film made by his or her father?
Alia: To each his own. Even though we both debuted with different production houses, people keep saying 'father, father'. For everything, 'father'. I try to dodge it, but it's difficult. I had honestly decided that I would debut outside my father's banner. But if no one was giving a film to me till 25, I would've turned to my father. He has still not offered me a film, so it shows it's always not that easy.
Arjun: People have even said my father paid Aditya Chopra to make a film for me. It's illogical. People say what they have to say. We worked towards the opportunity we got, we both auditioned for it. If I wasn't getting that opportunity, obviously I would've made my debut with my father.
Any advice you got from your parents before you joined the industry?
Alia: My parents keep telling me to be thick skinned in the industry. They tell me how people will put you up on a high platform and then bring you down. They also tell me to not believe in the image created by the hype.
Arjun: I've grown up watching my father and Anil chachu's films, their dedication and hard work, highs and lows in the family, the Friday verdict, et al. I've never sat down with my father like this to get advice, but I have learnt a lot. But one piece of advice from Adi (Aditya Chopra) that I got is something I always hold on to. When I auditioned for Ishaqzaade, he told me that I wasn't the conventionally good-looking guy, but I must understand that I am a good actor and that will define me. From that day, I have never cared about my looks so much. I just act according to my director's wish. As a person, my father said you work hard, and Anil chachu also said that you will have to work 100 per cent everyday and be respectful. Rest, you can't control.
Alia, what do you have to say about the constant comparisons with Parineeti?
Parineeti and I have been very honest about what we feel, we have spoken about it, probably that's why people react saying, 'Oh, how can they be so friendly with each other'. There's no insecurity. Also, a competitive feeling always doesn't mean you have to bring the other person down. Competitive feeling means you want do do good work. You can't lie about wanting to be on top. There is no reason for me to be insecure at this time. I would be insecure if I was sitting at home doing nothing, but I am in films now and that's where I always wanted to be.
What is the nicest compliment you have received for your performances?
Arjun: About three months had passed since the film's release when I received a bouquet saying, 'Bachchan'. I assumed it was Shweta Bachchan and I called her and said 'thank you so much'. She told me that she hadn't seen the film since she was out of town and said, 'But, you're welcome'. And that's when it hit me and my phone literally fell out of my hands — the handwritten note had to be from Mr Amitabh Bachchan. Then he called me and said he loved my portrayal of a small-town guy since he is also from a small town and he said 'you caught it bang on'. The handwritten letter is in my safe and it will always remain there as a reassurance that people did like my work in my first film.
How was your experience of shooting at IIM-A? Do you connect with your respective characters?
Alia: In terms of intelligence, I don't connect because I am only a 12th pass. The girl is an Economics student and it was fun to pretend to be a topper. The readers will love that we shot at the exact locations mentioned in the book. IIM-A is beautiful; we felt we were in London.
Arjun: Both of us never enjoyed college life so it was really interesting to shoot in such a prestigious institute. I am so impressed with the place and I feel proud of being an Indian when I see places like this.
Alia, did you get a lot of bouquets after Highway?
I feel very strange talking about who said what. I also feel weird talking about which compliment was the best, since every compliment matters. Even when a person says you are shitty, it matters. I feel weird discussing the compliments I get.
Sonam recently remarked that Alia should dress her age. You agree?
Alia: Yes, I agree with her. There are times I try to look older. And then there are times I look too young.
Arjun: Sonam has copied that from me because for years I have been telling Sonam to dress her age.
Besides work, how do you connect with Parineeti and Alia?
Arjun: I did my first film with Parineeti and we spent a lot of time together. We started our journey together, so I share a very buddy-like equation with her. I was introduced to Alia socially a couple of times, but got to know her only when we started working on 2 States, and that's when I discovered her as a person. All three of us, Alia, Abhishek (Varman, the director) and I became very close. Also, over a period of time, I realised that though she is very young, she is sensible and sorted. She is also evolved, a fantastic actor and my respect for her grew. That's the way I connect with both of them.
Arjun, is your friendship with Ranveer Singh for keeps?
Ranveer is unabashed and I love the guy. People feel that in this industry friendships are not for real, but that's not true. Otherwise, what is the point of being friends? I don't have many friends but I want to retain the ones I have.
Alia, how has Highway contributed to you as a person?
It has made me a freer person. Highway was such an emotional experience. The film took away the facade and no matter how many films I do, it will not be just a film for me. Even my father recently called me and said, "I am devastated; the spotlight has moved to you now." I know that he has made a huge mark and I know I can never be like him, but I will try.