The Hindi film industry has not churned out a lot of films that revolve around teenagers or the ones that feature protagonists who are in school or college. Divya Khosla Kumar, after directing several popular music videos, decided to make her debut with a film that was based in a university campus and traced the journey of five close friends over a period of time. The film was called ‘Yaariyan’ and it featured Himansh Kohli, Rakul Preet Singh, Shreas Pardiwala, Dev Sharma, Nicole Faria and Evelyn Sharma in principal roles. Despite featuring largely new faces, the film emerged as a box-office success.
As ‘Yaariyan’ completes ten years of its release today, Shreas Pardiwala, one of the lead actors from the film, goes down memory lane and shares some of his special memories associated with it.
You started shooting for ‘Yaariyan’ sometime in the year 2012. The film hit the screens on 10 January 2014.
Yes, we started shooting in the month of September or October in 2012. I was in college when I was offered the film. I was pursuing psychology and in the third year of my course then. I had to take permission from the HOD of the psychology department and the vice-principal of our college to shoot for ‘Yaariyan’. They were gracious enough to grant me leave and that led me to fulfilling my dream of acting in a Bollywood film.
How did you get the film?
I was doing a play called ‘The Gone Case’ for Out Of The Box Productions. I was playing the lead in the play and my face featured prominently on the poster. The posters of the play were put up all across the city. At that time, T-Series was looking for an actor who could play a comedic role. Somebody from the team at T-Series chanced upon the posters of ‘The Gone Case’ and liked my look. For the character, I was sporting long hair and was in a quirky look. That person from the team sent me a friend request on Facebook. I accepted the request. They had access to my Facebook wall and therefore, could see the pictures I had posted of myself. They sent me a direct message on Facebook stating that they would like to audition me for a film. I saw the message but didn’t take it very seriously. I thought it was spam message or somebody was playing a prank with me.
A few days later, they wrote a message on my wall in big bold letters asking me to check my inbox. I was still not sure if it was legit. I spoke to my father and asked him if I should go for the audition. He asked me to give it a shot. I had done a few ads earlier and had acted in several plays. However, I had never auditioned for a film. I was a 19-20 year old then and didn’t have any experience of working in the film industry. I went to the T-Series office and ended up giving 2-3 auditions for the film. During the second audition, I got to meet ma’am. I was then asked to give a look test. After that, the team called me up and confirmed that I was finalized for the film.
‘Yaariyan’ was the directorial debut of Divya Khosla Kumar. How was the experience of working with her?
It was a terrific experience. It was my first film as an actor and it was so wonderful to work with a director like Divya ma’am who was extremely kind and sweet. In my acting career, I have worked with a larger number of female directors than male directors. Recently, I had the privilege of working with Meghna Gulzar ma’am on ‘Sam Bahadur’. Being a female director, Divya ma’am understood the nuances and sensitivity of human emotions and beautifully showcased them on the screen. She gave us a lot of liberty to explore our characters.
Divya ma’am shot the film in several virgin locations across South Africa, Sikkim and Darjeeling. Some of my favourite memories are from the Darjeeling shoot schedule. Divya ma’am brings out the beauty in different landscapes and knows how to create beautiful frames. ‘Yaariyan’ was a film about college life, friendships, love and romance. With each passing generation, the definition of romance evolves. Ours was a beautiful, fun film. At that time, we did not have TikTok or reels. Social media was slowly getting popular. Life was a little more innocent. People were more sensitive. They say your first child will always be special for you. ‘Yaariyan’ will always be very close to my heart. I am grateful for all the love Yaariyan has received in these ten years
Your character in the film was called Pardi. Did you suggest the name?
No, there is an interesting story behind how the character was christened Pardi. The character was earlier called Rohaan. Another actor had been finalized to play the part but he had to opt out because of some reason. After I stepped in to play the character, I started interacting with the team and everybody would call me Pardi as it was already my pet name from my surname Pardiwala. One day, Divya ma’am said that the name Rohaan is not working for the character. The character I was signed on to play was a little quirky and Divya ma’am felt Pardi itself would work very well for it. That’s how the character came to be known as Pardi.
The film had an ensemble cast. How was it working with your fellow actors?
We were one big family. We interacted not only with each other but got to meet each other’s parents as well. From the five of us, I was the youngest one. All of them gave me so much love and adulation. Since I had to prepare for my exams, I would study in between shots. My co-actors would appreciate this and wish me well for my exams. We played a lot of pranks with each other and had great fun. We also shared a lot of life stories with each other. From 2012 till 2014, we were together. Though there were breaks in between, we shared a year and a half of our lives with each other. It was everybody’s first Hindi film. Himansh had done the TV show ‘Humse Hai Life’ and was extremely popular. Dev had done some advertisements and was extremely camera friendly. Rakul had done a bunch of films down South. Nicole had won a beauty pageant. Though we came from different backgrounds, we bonded very well and were extremely excited to be shooting for our first Hindi film. The rest of the cast members, too, were extremely friendly and supportive.
Do you remember the first scene you shot for the film?
Yes, I do! We started the film with the song ‘ABCD’. There is a portion in the song where Himansh, Dev and I had to emulate Gandhiji’s three monkeys who were supposed to signify that we should not speak, do and see evil. We had to squat down. My eyes were closed and tongue was out. That was my first shot for the film.
The film was one of the earliest box-office successes of 2014. Were you tracking box-office numbers then?
The first time I started tracking box-office numbers was when my film ‘Sam Bahadur’ released last month (laughs). I was very new to the industry then. Shortly after the release of ‘Yaariyan’, all of us were attending the Star Screen Awards. At the red carpet, somebody from the media asked us to share our thoughts on the film doing extremely well at the box-office. That is when we got an idea that the film was on its way to become a success. While I was not too aware of box-office numbers, I was definitely interested in knowing whether the audience was liking the film.
Even after a decade since its release, ‘Yaariyan’ is played on TV frequently. Even the songs continue to be popular and enjoy good airtime.
I didn’t know ‘Yaariyan’ would become so big. I didn’t know that ten years down the line, ‘Sunny Sunny’ would be playing in all parties and social functions. When I was on the sets, I was stressed about my exams. At that moment, I didn’t realize that I was preparing for the biggest exam of my life, my acting career.
The film is relevant after all these years and I see it as a blessing. The songs played an important role in the film’s success. They are played on music channels all the time. As you rightly pointed out, the film is aired frequently on TV. One of the biggest reasons behind the success of the film, I believe, was that college students could relate to it. It was a fun and entertaining film with a big beating heart. It spoke about the issues of youth. It showcased friendship, love, romance and patriotism. It was a very relatable film.
Even when I was in college, I was not sure about my career path. Once I started working on ‘Yaariyan’, I realized acting is what I want to do for the rest of my life. As an actor, I have not reached where I wanted to be but I am thoroughly enjoying this journey. I will always be grateful for the love and adulation I have received and continue to receive for ‘Yaariyan’.