Stars of new Hindi film Pizza talk about the supernatural venture

Akshay Oberoi and Parvathy Omanakuttan, the stars of the new Hindi supernatural thriller Pizza, on making a scary film and the spooky incidents that happened on set.
Parvathy Omanakuttan in a scene from Pizza. Courtesy UTV Motion Pictures
Parvathy Omanakuttan in a scene from Pizza. Courtesy UTV Motion Pictures

When the Indian director Bejoy Nambiar’s thriller Shaitan (Devil) hit cinemas in 2011, it exceeded expectations. Despite its experimental theme and cast of relative newbies, the film earned three times its budget at the box office and received 29 award nominations in India, of which it won five.

After this phenomenal success, Nambiar’s second project, 2013’s bilingual gangster comedy David, was lauded by critics but bombed at the box office. The director’s hopes are now pegged on his third project, the supernatural thriller Pizza (in 3-D) – a Hindi remake of a 2012 Tamil film.

Once again, Nambiar has cast newbies in the lead roles, with the conviction that their talent, his direction and a strong story – about a pizza deliveryman who takes a pizza to a “house of dark secrets” – will be enough to make it a winner.

In the lead are Akshay Oberoi, an Indian-American actor who made his Bollywood debut in 2010 with Isi Life Mein, and Parvathy Omanakuttan, the Miss World 2008 runner-up, who has appeared in four films since 2011, only one of which has been in Hindi.

We spoke to them while they were in Dubai to promote the film.

What do you think about Nambiar’s preference of new actors over A-listers?

Oberoi: It was actually I who chased Bejoy for the role. I’d finished with Isi Life Mein and Shaitan had just come out. I was blown away and bombarded Bejoy with phone calls. He eventually met me and saw how keen I was to work with him. When he bought the rights for Pizza and told me he wanted me to work on it, I immediately said yes. I initially thought it would be for a bit part, but it turned out he wanted me for the lead role.

Why is Bollywood so besotted with remakes?

Omanakuttan: If it’s a good and honest remake, then what’s the harm? The original Tamil film was superb. The Hindi remake will bring the story to a wider audience and that’s great. A good story is worth sharing.

In Bollywood, supernatural thrillers are few and far between. How did it feel to work on one?

Oberoi: It was very different from playing your typical Bollywood hero in your typical masala film. I do want to point out that the “horror” element is not the only thing there is to the film. Aside from the amazing horror scenes, there’s a very good storyline, too.

Omanakuttan: We don’t want people to assume that it’s a pure horror film. There are other elements, too: thrill, mystery, drama.

Did you have any spooky experiences on set?

Oberoi: Loads. We feel there was a good spirit watching over us. In one scene, I had to run out into the street, where the camera would cut. So I ran into the street and though Bejoy yelled “Cut”, the camera kept rolling just as a lorry zoomed past my nose. We have on tape that lorry passing right in front of me, missing my by an inch.

Omanakuttan: We were watching on the monitors inside and gasped in horror. Some force was protecting Akshay. A similar incident happened to me. I was standing in position for a shot, with a big light bulb suspended above me. Bejoy called me and just as I took two steps forward, the bulb came smashing down and crashed onto the floor. Had I not moved, it would have smashed on my head.

What are your favourite horror films?

Oberoi: The Shining.

Omanakuttan: Paranormal Activity.

Pizza is out today in UAE cinemas

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: July 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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