John never had to work as hard as he did to get it right for Abbas Tyrewala’s 1: 800 Love. Interestingly, a large part of the drama unfolds through telephonic conversations in this film, just like in Abbas’ previous film, Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na.
And every actor knows emoting on the phone is one of the most difficult forms of acting. Says the 1: 800 Love director, Abbas Tyrewala, “It’s a challenge for the most seasoned of actors. A lot of the relationship between John and Pakhi (John’s co-star and also the director’s wife) unfolds on the telephone. It was tough. But Pakhi insisted on being on the sets in London to give cues even when John alone was doing all the telephonic talk. That made it far easier. She was providing him the cues while he delivered his lines on the phone.”
Abbas isn’t sure yet how he’s going to edit all the telephonic conversation in his film. But split screens showing the man and the woman talking to each other from separate places are out. “That’s the easy way out. I’ll have to find a way to show continuity in John and Pakhi’s conversations without resorting to gimmicks. But I’ve to hand it to John. He surrendered completely to the part and he has come out with a performance that’s completely unexpected. Dare I say 1: 8 00 Love is a new beginning for John.”
Abbas tries to assess his wife’s performance dispassionately. “She was always an actress. But she’s also my wife. So I was very nervous. Luckily, Pakhi has turned out to be everything that we expected her to be.”
A lot has been made out of the fact that Pakhi has acted in a comedy Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai earlier. But Abbas is nonchalant about it. “We never hid the fact that she acted as Punarnava Mehta in Yeh Ka Ho Raha Hai. Then she went to Darjeeling to be school teacher. I got her back and I persuaded her to return to acting. She was born to be an actress.”
Many times while shooting 1: 800 Love Abbas was stricken by déjà vu. “It was like going back to Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na. The hero is introduced to the audience on the phone in both. Then when I shot a scene in a pub with John, it turned out exactly like a pub scene between Genelia and Ayaaz Khan in Jaane Tu. Just goes to prove, directors apparently keep making variations on the same idea all their career.”
The London schedule went off without a hitch. “One of the actors Rohn was initially denied a visa. I insisted we can’t work without him. Thank God.”