Film-maker Sanjay Gupta has, of late, been in the news with him driving Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s comeback vehicle.
The actor was last seen in Guzaarish (2010). She took a break following her pregnancy post that. Now, she’s ready to act again. As the shoot of their film approaches (the schedule is set to start next month), Sanjay reveals how Aishwarya was cast, and also talks about the rumours that have surrounded this film since its inception.Your film hasn’t even started, and the expectations are already sky high. Are you aware of this?
Sure, there must be expectations, but this film was never designed as a comeback vehicle. The idea was to find the perfect actor to play a powerful role. I was clear that we needed somebody who is a superstar with a strong on-screen presence and personality.
Is it true that you postponed your film with John Abraham for this project?
Yes, I was working on another script (Mumbai Saga) for a year and-a-half, and we were set to go on the floors last month. But then, I apologised to John saying I want to prepone the film because I don’t want to miss the deadline for the Cannes Film Festival, and John understood. When you have such a star cast (the film also stars Irrfan Khan), not capitalising on the overseas market would be foolish.
Irrfan Khan stars in Aishwarya Rai's next with Sanjay Gupta.
Apparently, you asked Ash to shed some kilos for the role...
Not at all; why would I? The film’s a human drama about an ordinary person who is thrown into an extraordinary situation. So, it’s not like she needs to acquire a body like Lara Croft’s. Most women gain weight during motherhood; my wife did. I don’t understand this obsession with losing weight. I think Ash is in fantastic shape.
A few years ago, you were almost written off by the industry...
Three years ago, even I felt like the game was over. There was so much negativity, and I didn’t have a platform I could use to clear the air. But then, Ekta (Kapoor; producer) walked in and we made Shootout At Wadala (2013). Today, perhaps, I am the only director who has nearly Rs 200 crore riding on his films, since a huge corporate is funding these movies; so, more than this film marking Ash’s comeback, I am anxious about doing justice to that kind of money.
Filmmaker Sanjay Gupta (HT Photo)
Have you ever analysed what went wrong with your career?
Two things happened: first, a temporary fall-out with Sanjay (Dutt), and second, actors didn’t want to work with me, and production houses didn’t touch me. So, there was almost like a fatwa (sic) against me. I also thought of doing other businesses at that time since I have a family at the end of the day.
Before Sanjay Dutt went to jail, what was your equation with him like?
I would be lying if I said it was like how it was before, but it was good. Wounds take time to heal, but they’re healing. Sanju will always be special to me. He writes to me. We are in touch.
Is it true that you won’t be shooting on weekends so that Aishwarya can spend time with her three-year-old daughter, Aaradhya?
Like Ash, even I am a new parent. I have a two-year-old daughter, and a son who is nearly Aaradhya’s age; Ash and I are both every attached to our kids. So, I suggested that we shoot from Monday to Friday, which is how international films are shot.
Aishwarya has always been very selective about the films she does. Has your proximity to the Bachchan family helped?
I wouldn’t like to think so. I am not on back-slapping terms with any of them, and I don’t think that would be a criterion for Aishwarya, or any actor, to select a film. I have met Amitabhji a couple of times, but he has never discussed her comeback film with me. The same goes for Abhishek.