When your surname is Sippy and your grandfather and father are the names behind hits like Seeta Aur Geeta, Shaan, Shakti and Sholay, can your career ever be in doubt? Not for Rohan Sippy, who may have studied philosophy at Stanford University, but, "when it came to working, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. I have never felt passionately about anything besides filmmaking," says Ramesh Sippy's son and GP Sippy's grandson.
After spending some years learning the ropes, Sippy directed his first feature Kuch Naa Kaho in 2003. He followed it up with Bluffmaster in 2005. On April 22 he will release Dum Maaro Dum. That's a long gap in Bollywood. So what was Sippy doing over the last five years? "We produced a couple of films (Taxi 9211, The President Is Coming, Chandni Chowk to China), and generally time flies by faster than you know it. There was no real reason for taking so long, except that everything had to feel right and we also had to adjust to the changes in the market," he says. When writer Shridhar Raghavan bounced the idea for the thriller that became Dum Maaro Dum, "it instinctively felt right," he adds.
Sippy is excited because he has followed a complex narrative structure with this film. "That was one reason, also things were complicated because we were working with an ensemble cast; for the kind of approach we have taken to the shoot, all the invisible effects and postproduction, it needed more time in thinking and executing," he says.
Set in Goa, the narrative is of three stories converging at a point in the first half, and then moving ahead. "The first story is about Prateik Babbar, a student, who gets tempted into doing things he would not normally do. Abhishek Bachchan is a cop responsible for cleaning up the scene and taking on those behind it. The third is a musician, played by Rana Daggubati," explains Sippy. Bipasha Basu is another central character. " All these characters have some sins in their past that they have to pay for. That emotion plays out through the film."
In a month's time, Dum Maaro Dum will be in cinemas. Will it be another five-year break for Sippy? "I hope not," he replies. "Shridhar has a couple of ideas, which he is fleshing out. I am targeting the end of the year. I would love nothing more than to be back at the office, so to speak."
Back in Business
Much has changed in the film industry in the last few years, especially with the tremendous burst of talent in the last year in particular. Rohan acknowledges the contribution of directors like Maneesh Sharma, Vikramaditya Motwane, and movies like Band Baaja Baaraat, Udaan and Tanu Weds Manu. "How polished their first films are. It's not often you see so many first-time directors making such different and complete films. It is very heartening that the standard is going up and if talent is nurtured correctly, it will just do much better," he says, adding, "And a Dabangg shows that good old Hindi films still have to be made. Finally, there is a chance for all kinds of films to coexist."
And does he, like so many, feel Sholay is the greatest Indian film ever made? "Absolutely, but I would probably put Shakti just 1% behind. Sholay transcended being a film to becoming a phenomenon. It's been durable and showed how modern and progressive the people at the heart of it - like Salim-Javed, my dad, granddad, Amitji, Dharamji - were, with ideas like widow remarriage in the '70s just put out as a texture, not driving the plot or preachy. That is also why it does not date or feel regressive; besides the fun, sheer emotional thrust and spectacle of the film feels fresh and modern."
While there are reports of Seeta Aur Geeta being remade, would Sippy consider remaking any of his father's films? "No, because I don't think I have a way of making them better," he says.
Abhishek on Rohan
"As a director, Between Kuch Naa Kaho and Bluffmaster, there were similarities in his way of working, but with Dum Maaro Dum, he is not the Rohan who directed the earlier two films. If I have to generalise, then it is just confidence. In the past he was very forgiving, kindhearted and understanding. He would consider all suggestions. But with Dum Maaro Dum, he was so sure of what he wants; and he was so sure of the visual - he had seen the end picture. By his third film, I think Rohan is at the top of his game. So I saw a huge difference, apart from the fact that his moustache had become slightly shorter and his glasses had become smaller."
- From HT Brunch, March 20
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