Some of Bollywood’s biggest hits — the Munna Bhai films (2003, 2006), 3 Idiots (2009) and PK (2014) — feature in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s solid CV as a producer. Still, he maintains that he would be just fine without the fame… and most of the money.
As his maiden Hollywood venture gears up for release, Chopra tells us why he is keen to have Prime Minister Narendra Modi watch it, and reveals why Karan Johar calls him lucky. Are you anxious about your debut Hollywood film?
When I am working or just writing a story, I do my best regardless of whether it takes five years or seven years. Be it Parinda (1989), PK, 3 Idiots or Broken Horses, they were the best films we could do. When you have done something to the best of your ability, there’s no need for anxiety.
Despite delivering four of Bollywood’s biggest money-spinners, you don’t make too many films at a time. Why so?
Being a first-class graduate in economics, I know the basic definition of money: money is what money does. But beyond a point, it ceases to do anything for you. So if I have Rs 100 crore in my bank account, I am not going to use Rs 99 crore out of that.
So, where does money figure in your scheme of things?
Beyond a point, it has no meaning. You could use that money to buy space in the media to call yourself the‘number one producer.’ No one calls me that because I don’t pay money. Whether my photograph is printed in a paper or not does not interest me.
There is a perception that you are a ‘difficult’ person, so many maintain their distance…
I’m not at any loss due to it. In today’s times, 99 per cent of the people who come close to you do it with the intention to use you in some way or the other. I have no interest in being friends with such people. Nowadays, even friends are like that. No one invites me for parties or events, and I don’t have to bother about going anywhere. Karan (Johar) once told me, “You don’t know how lucky you are.”
Is it true that you have written to PM Modi to watch your latest film?
Yes, I have written a letter to him saying that since he has propagated the ‘Make In India’ campaign, he should watch the film. As an Indian, he will feel proud.
In an interview, you said that you don’t have issues with your ‘arrogant’ image…
Why should I? I know I am a good man deep down. Why should I care about what others think of me? Am I called arrogant just because I’m not diplomatic? People go to film premieres and lie blatantly, but if I think a film is bad, I say so. So, who is your friend? The one who is lying to you or someone who is telling the truth? Those who lie by pretending to be your friends are your enemies. If others think I am arrogant, I am fine with it. In the real sense of the word, I am not arrogant.
As you get ready for the release of your Hollywood film, do you feel like a newcomer?
It’s like my first film, but the only thing that’s different is that there is no anxiety. I guess it has got something to do with the fact that a few people abroad have already seen the film, and have liked it immensely. Film-makers like James Cameron and Alfonso Cuarón have not only watched the film, but have also come out with a press statement (praising the film). I am grateful to them.
How different is the film-making process in Hollywood as compared to Bollywood?
Our respective art forms are very different. But, if at the age of 62, I unlearnt everything that I learnt for 40 years and did something completely different, you can only imagine what young Indian film-makers can achieve.
What else is on your plate right now?
Nothing as of now. My next (starring Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar) will be ready in some time and will release in October. Then, Raju (Rajkumar Hirani; director) is writing a film with Abhijat (Joshi). If anyone gives me a good script and I like it, I will start making it. There are no set plans as such.
Are you also involved in the making of the Sanjay Dutt biopic, starring Ranbir Kapoor?
Till the script is ready, it’s too early to talk about it. I don’t know when it will be done. For me, until there is a script I am proud of, there’s no point in talking about it. We even made a trailer of Munna Bhai Chale Amerika, but till date, we haven’t made the film because we couldn’t zero in on the correct ending for the storyline, despite having the rest of the story ready.