People | Not Just Good Friends

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Not Just Good Friends
Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena and Photographs by R Burman and Styling by Nisha Jhangiani
Published: Volume 20, Issue 2, February, 2012

He is known most for his rib-tickling humour and punch lines that evoke spontaneous laughter. Sheís known most for her chirpy, bubbly screen avatars. Nine years ago, they launched their cinematic careers with their debut film, Tujhe Meri Kasam. Little did Genelia DíSouza and Riteish Deshmukh know then that less than a decade later, theyíd be celebrating a joint Ďventureí of another kind. Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena spends time with the bride and groom on the eve of their nuptials this month....

At the end of 2011, while the rest of the world and its aunt are raising a toast to the change in calendar, actors Genelia DíSouza and Riteish Deshmukh are looking ahead to a more meaningful date on theirs. And their daily schedules in the weeks preceding their marriage in February are packed choc-a-bloc, what with their latest film together Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya also due for a February release. So, in between working on current projects, finalising the details for their wedding (there is one more family wedding scheduled in the same month) and soon to engage in promotions for their film, the twosome have more than enough to keep them fully occupied. But, before the D-day, they promise to meet us at the suburban Hotel Trident.

Genelia walks in first Ė comfortable in her black tracks and tee-shirt. Casual conversation done with, she waits patiently for Riteish to arrive. He does, almost at the same time as her green tea. His chosen brew is coffee without sugar, and, after greeting her and our team, he disappears into the next room. Like most men, he is ready in a jiffy and spends time chatting about his other passion Ė the Legends Walk, a project that is very close to his heart. He waxes eloquently about his dream that will materialise in Bandra and will be a tribute to all the iconic stars of Hindi cinema Ė he regrets not immortalising Dev Anand before he passed away.

When Genelia walks in, the mood and tempo change as the bride and groom get into the groove. Seeking some music, Riteish gets his iPod and fits it into the dock.... He quips, staring at Genelia, ďI could just keep looking at her. I have no problem!Ē His fiancťe, who has draped herself in an elegant pose on the floor in front of him, turns a beetroot red. ďNow, you have made her self-conscious,Ē we chide him.

They are friends first whose camaraderie spills over into their interactions. Right through the day, their closeness is evident, as they have lunch, and it is also reflected in the way they speak, almost in unison, about their forthcoming wedding and the release of their film. ďThis is the first time we are talking about each other to anyone,Ē they both say, getting comfortably into chat mode....

Both started their film careers with the same movie

Genelia DíSouza: We first met on the sets of Tujhe Meri Kasam. I expected him to be a rich snob because he was the then chief ministerís son. I would avoid looking at him. But he was really different; he was very sweet, normal and grounded, very free to talk to. Our first meeting was nothing remarkable Ė he is a shy person and so am I!
Riteish Deshmukh: I remember seeing her outside the Hyderabad airport. She was wearing high heels, her hands were clasped and she was looking in another direction. I said ĎHelloí to her mother who introduced us. Genelia said ĎHelloí and looked away.

Three films together in almost a decade

RD: I was a huge film buff and always wanted to be an actor. So, when I got my first film I was like a kid who had got a toy to play with. I was trying to explore what I could do. For me, it was also about having fun, being there and giving my best shot. On the first day of the shoot, we were two new people in a new environment. We didnít know technicalities like the left of camera, right of camera, track, trolley, focus, sound, action Ė we knew nothing. We both had to learn from scratch. Slowly, I think we grew together. From the first film, I went on to do 20 films or more; she went on to do some 20 more films and we came back together to do a film after seven to eight years.
GD: Which was good Ė we kept getting offers to work together in between but both of us were pretty clear that if we did something again together it had to be something special.
RD: We had a very special first film and then we did Masti which was a big hit. In Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya itís different because all these years Iíve known her as a person and not as an actor because we hardly visited each otherís sets. You think youíve grown as an actor but she has also grown as an actor herself Ė so it was really great to work with a better actor than you are.
GD: Riteish is someone who keeps you on your toes. And today both of us know how we want to be presented; weíll concentrate on the scenes and give each frame our best. Itís very nice working with confident actors. Many co-actors have this insecurity thing going on and itís not wrong, it happens to all actors at some point of time. But Riteish is someone you canít touch in terms of spontaneity and acting.

When realisation dawned
There was no one moment when we knew that we were in love. We are still discovering each other. We have been the best of friends and, more than that, he completes me. I donít know whether I complete him or not. I depend a lot on Riteish when I have to make decisions. I talk to him but eventually the final call will be my own.
RD: We did not consciously decide to get married. We used to spend a lot of time with each other Ė we spoke to each other so much that love just filtered in. It was a slow process, it wasnít like I was going to say ĎI love youí to her today. Love happened gradually; similarly we decided after a few years that we need to get used to the idea of staying with each other and started thinking about settling down.
GD: Everything was gradual, nothing was rushed.
RD: I think itís been a growth process for everything Ė be it love, settling down, being together. I donít think anything was impulsive.

Coming out about their romance
I donít think itís important to speak about our personal lives. Weíre here as actors. Itís very important that our work speaks for us. Both of us are private people and we donít like to bring out in public what happens in our personal space.
RD: Hats off to all the people out there who can cope with the media attention, confident about who they are. Itís commendable but thatís the way they choose to take their relationship. When we started seeing each other, first a few of our close friends knew about it. Then more people knew as we started being more comfortable with each other. Itís very important for me to primarily be comfortable with someone Ė I need to give the relationship respect, dignity and privacy. I donít need to be out there; thatís not me; thatís not in my DNA. Both of us are similar in that way. Neither of us wanted to go out and tell the world.
RD: Eventually to get married was our decision. As far as our families are concerned, they have always been supportive of what their children wanted. Theyíve always been there.
GD: It is nice that our families have always been there with us.

Love in reel and real life
We are very different people and different actors. Onscreen I am independent but off screen Iím more dependent. I like being dependent on Riteish. As actors, we are both very aware of each other. We work well. Itís not just because we are a couple that we are always discussing stuff. Heís a very Ďsetsí person Ė heís out there with the director and the team. Iím slightly reserved; I like to get ready, learning my lines, by myself.
RD: For me, I feel, thereís always a fear of the fact that when weíre stepping on a set to do a film together the fact that we know each other so well, will that hamper us? When youíve been with someone for so long, you donít need to say so many things. One look and that person will know exactly what youíve said. When you are acting for the audiences you have to behave in character. Once a close actor friend had told me that several actors lose out on their chemistry on the sets because in real life they know each other too well.
GD: I have a different take on this. I believe that the chemistry is already written, scripted on paper, well directed and edited. Itís not just me who holds the responsibility, itís the entire team.

On complementing each other
Itís like what a glove does to a hand. After some time you are no longer two people, you become one. You start behaving like one, thinking like one and that oneness is very important in a relationship. It doesnít mean that you donít question each other. You still remain two people but you figure out how to be together. So, you can say we are similar but at the same time different.
GD: We eventually come to the same conclusions even if we have different routes of getting there. We have very individualistic approaches but the thought process eventually is one. We donít fight at all; if there are any issues we just discuss them.

Work inputs from each other
We listen, we discuss. But as two actors, we are very individualistic.
RD: Probably if somewhere something doesnít work, she will say, ĎWhy donít you try this, it might workí or I tell her that this punch line might work. Apart from that we give each other full freedom. The fact that you know someone so well doesnít mean that you can intrude into each otherís acting space by telling that person what to do.
GD: Weíve never interfered with each otherís careers and itís very important to give each other that space. Itís a very, very tough job at the end of the day emotionally. Every hit, every flop plays with you internally. Luckily both of us take success and failure in a similar fashion.

Living with labels
As an actor, heís amazing with his lines, very spontaneous. He can turn a scene instantly Ė itís never about what is written on the paper, which is scary because Iím quite someone who likes to learn my lines when heíll just come up with one punch after another...
RD: I am always trying to come up with lines that fit, that make a pun on something, be it in Hindi, Marathi or English. I hang around with so many different people with a varied sense of humour Ė Sajid Khan, Boman Irani, Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan Ė all of them have a great sense of humour. Itís almost like playing cricket. I like to retaliate when I can.
GD: Heís just trying to be modest. Itís very difficult to do what he does Ė just break through and take a scene somewhere else.
RD: Iím actually a very serious guy when it comes to real life. Iím not always cracking jokes. I am what my company is. People ask me to crack a joke and I tell them to pay me and I will crack a joke.
GD: I stepped out of my bubbly image with Force. But I donít think it really stuck. Everyone has a phase, you enjoy it. People say why are you doing this and why are you doing that, but eventually you get offers and you take the best projects that you feel you can give our best to. I know that I get kids and people coming in with a big smile, in a cuter bubblier zone. In Force I really wanted to play a child-like woman, I didnít step out totally from that zone but I wanted to be more of a mature woman. Iím a very sorted girl but I do have all this thing happening with me when Iím cute and bubbly.

Who has to make them more?
I would like to change his schedules. He is just so busy.
RD: I really have nothing to change. If I did I would have to change it back to what it was. I have just got used to her and have adapted myself for such a long time to her personality. We go back to the same comfort level, complementing each other.
GD: It is much easier getting along and understanding each other because we are in the same industry. It is not a nine-to-five job. As far as marriage is concerned, every relationship requires some adjustments Ė the degree differs. It is a way of life.
RD: She adjusts to whatever I do as a person. She will always be there for me. Whatever I do Ė whether as an architect or an actor Ė I know she is there. Every time I am a bit out of sorts, she understands.
GD: Riteish has a lot more going for himself than I do. He is doing so many things.

Their preparations for the big day
We are taking each day as it comes. He still has to decide which designerís clothes he is going to wear for the ceremony.
RD: For us, marriage is a private space. Till date we have not discussed our plans in public. There are speculations. The only thing I have come out and said is that we are getting married. This is probably the first time we are speaking about each other or what we do in each otherís lives.
GD: Both of us think on the same lines. I am slightly more private than he is.

After marriage, work choices...
I havenít thought about working after marriage. What do you think (she asks Riteish)?
RD: Itís your choice. Every individual needs to decide for himself; everyone has a particular phase but genetically a woman goes through a lot of phases in life: childhood, her maturing as a woman, marriage, childbirth and more. Whatever decisions she has to make are her own and no one else can make them for her. No one can force anyone to do anything.
GD: Work is important to me but now Iím entering a new phase and I would like to give priority to my marriage. I have never been a part of the numbers game which was a great thing. Iíve been working for every single day for the last 10 years. So, I definitely want to enjoy this phase.

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