Back in 1994, he made his debut with the hit, Aatish: Feel The Fire. But even after 22 years, as he gears up for his next big film, Kaabil, starring Hrithik Roshan, film-maker Sanjay Gupta’s excitement for cinema remains unabated.
“I feel I’m starting only now (laughs). Ab jaake thodi tameez aayi hai film banaane ki (it’s only now that I have developed the discipline to make a film). After Aatish, Kaante (2002) was a turning point for me. I have a strong feeling that with Kaabil too, the same will happen. I look at it as a start of a new journey,” he says.
Gupta admits to feeling a bit nervous as well as excited about the “extremely special” film. But he says there’s “no pressure in that sense”. “When you are working with a star of Hrithik’s stature, it does come with its own set of expectations, which one must try and live up to. It’s because Hrithik’s fans expect a certain level of quality,” he says.
The big clash
However, the Shootout At Wadala (2013) director is clear that it’s important for him to “live up to their (Hrithik and producer Rakesh Roshan) expectations first”. “Since we have worked together for the first time, I don’t want to disappoint him and more importantly, Rakeshji. Hrithik is one of the most selective actors. Whenever he has done anything, he has delivered, so I hope everything ends on a good note,” he says.
When it comes to the movie, its clash with Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees has been a big talking point. “Beyond a point, what can you do? I am sure no one wanted this (clash). Due to whatever reasons and circumstances, it’s happening. But the clash is not in good taste. Even in Hollywood, there are so many stars and production houses, but you will never see two big films releasing on the same day. It happens only here and it’s unfortunate,” he says.
The film-maker is also looking forward to working with Sanjay Dutt again. “I am hoping that it [a film with Sanjay] happens soon. It will be wonderful to work with Sanju again. We have seen many milestones in our careers together. At this point, there’s nothing on the horizon. Right now, I am not even looking beyond Kaabil so that I give it my best. I don’t know what my next film is going to be, and whether it will be with Sanju or not.
Gupta acknowledges that Kaabil is the toughest movie he has worked on. “Definitely, it is but in a way, it’s also the easiest film. When you work in an organised manner and with such an amazing cast and crew, who are at the top of their game, it becomes comparatively easier. But right from its scripting stage till now, it’s been a tough one,” he says.
Reinventing the style
Even though a number of his contemporaries have faded away, Gupta continues to be a strong player in the game. “Not being relevant as a director has been one of the biggest insecurities of my career. The shelf life of directors are extremely short but you can be a part of the game if you keep raising your own game. So, you have to constantly work on yourself and keep reinventing your work. Also, it’s very important to have your unique style. Ever since my debut in 1994, as a film-maker, there’s been an obvious growth,” he says.
The best game
“Like my other films, I have played my best game with Kaabil as well. I went to work every day, fully charged up and motivated. But there was never any pressure. In that sense, it’s been an amazing journey,” says the film-maker, adding that a film like Kaabil “takes a lot from you” at every stage of film-making. “At the same time, it also gives you so much. It enriches you. The experience of shooting a great script with fantastic actors teaches you a lot,” he says.
Interestingly, Gupta has directed a film outside his banner after a long time. “It has been wonderful because ever since my company was launched, I worked only for movies under my own banner. But with Kaabil, a big load was off my chest. Rakesh [Roshan] ji is such a wonderful producer. In fact, I feel that if I ever make a film without him now, I will feel unprotected. Working with him is like having a security cover,” he says.
It was recently rumoured that Gupta is planning to work with Ranbir Kapoor. When asked about this, he says, “In an interview, there was a question about a script of mine, and if I have any particular actor in mind. I just said that Ranbir could be the right choice. I haven’t even met Ranbir or even discussed anything with him. I’m not making Bigde Nawaab anytime soon. I don’t know what my next film is going to be. Kaabil will dictate the direction of my career.”