This year, he was awarded the Padma Shri and Priyadarshan insists that after 86 films and 32 years in the film industry, he fully deserves the national honour. “Any kind of acceptance proves that you’ve done something to be proud of and that life hasn’t been a waste,” asserts the director, who’s in town to promote Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal, which opens on September 28. The sequel of sorts to Malamaal Weekly (2006) revolves around a lottery ticket and has been adapted from the Malayalam film, Marykkundoru Kunjaadu (2010).
Tell him it’s not the kind of film you expect from a Padma Shri, and he says, “I’ve made serious films like Kala Pani (1996), Virasat (1997) and Billu (2009) too. Kanchivaram (2008) won the National Award for Best Film and Best Actor (Prakash Raj). But after Aakrosh (2010) and Tezz, I decided to do slapstick comedy and give people what they expect from Priyadarshan,” he reasons. “Some films you make for the masses, hoping that they’ll make money for the producers. Some, like Kanchivaram, you make for yourself.”
So, when is he going to make another serious film? “Soon,” he promises, saying he’s been working on a film on AIDS, but got distracted by Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal and another film for Vashu Bhagnani. “The script should be finalised in six months. Every filmmaker has a social commitment, and this will be my way of telling people not to ostracise those affected.”
He says he narrated the idea to Aamir Khan who liked it and asked Priyadarshan to return with the script. “But I got caught up with other projects. Once the script is done, I’ll definitely take it to Aamir. But I think he’s too busy now, so if he doesn’t have dates to spare, I’ll approach my other favourite, Akshay Kumar,” he says.
He has other projects with Akshay lined up for next year. “I have a couple of remakes in mind, and also this film on AIDS. We have an excellent record, so we have to figure out what will live up to people’s expectations,” he says. But will a commercial star be accepted in such a serious film? “When I did Hera Pheri (2000), no one thought action stars like Akshay and Suniel (Shetty) could pull off a comedy. I know Akshay well, he can pull off anything,” he says.