Their film production banner is bubbling. The President is Coming arrives today.. and Chandni Chowk to China comes up mid-month. Cut to the Sholay family.. papa Ramesh, son Rohan and daughter Sheena Sippy, in a tell-all with Hiren Kotwani.
The release of The President is Coming was delayed after the 26/11 terror attacks. Will that decision really make a difference at the box-office?
Rohan: The material is good, George Bush is excellent comedy material.
Ramesh: Luckily it didn’t release.. no one would have seen it then. After Rab ne Bana Di Jodi and Ghajini, we know the audiences are coming to the theatres.
Sheena: Generation Next appreciates all kinds of films. My kids and children I know of their age group are as excited about The President.. as much as they are about Chandni Chowk..
(To Ramesh Sippy) It’s been 13 years since you directed Zamana Deewana. Haven’t Rohan and Sheena tried to get you back to direction?
Ramesh: Maybe I needed to step back and look at what was happening around me.. understand where I was going wrong. I wanted to do that for a short while but it’s been a long while.
Sheena: We’ve often told him to direct again.. he knows he wants to.. he will when he’s ready.
Rohan: We’re waiting, we don’t want to push him.
Does the cult status of Sholay cause anxiety?
Rohan: No, why should it?
Ramesh: Sholay will always be my film, just like Shaan, Shakti and Andaaz or my TV show Buniyaad. Success can’t be repeated.. soch ke.. Sholay became a phenomenon.. I didn’t plan it that way..
A filmmaker’s daughter would either opt to make movies or act. What prompted Sheena to take up photography?
Ramesh: It was her choice entirely.
Sheena: I followed my heart and love being in the profession. I was once offered to act, but it didn’t come naturally to me.
Apparently, you didn’t really have an easy time doing movies.
Sheena: Not at all. I was working on books. My second book on posters released recently. I’m not doing fashion, glamour, run of the mill stuff because I need time to do something on my own.. apart from our own productions. Today, there are a lot of women on the sets, films are made in a specific period of time.
I’m primarily involved with the visuals, the stills, I oversee the publicity material that goes out. In the case of Chandni Chowk, I was involved from the script level.
Rohan, it’s been over three years since you directed Bluffmaster.. why the delay?
Rohan: I’ve got a few scripts ready and would love to direct them all, but it’s not possible to get them rolling soon.
Ramesh: In the next two-three years, we might have four-five films. Things didn’t work out at the last stage for a couple of our projects. Sriram Raghavan’s Johnny Gaddaar was coming, so John Abraham’s dates couldn’t be used. Then John got busy. Rohit Shetty’s film with Shahid Kapur fell through before the shooting began.
Couldn’t Rohan have directed Chandni Chowk to China?
Sheena: At one time, he was almost directing it..
Rohan: I met Akshay with the script, he liked it and was on. I was excited about producing it.. somewhere down the line, we spoke to Nikhil Advani, he liked the script and was roped in.
How inter-dependent are you?
Ramesh: After the script is finalised, I step back to look at the other aspects behind the scenes.
Rohan: Dad’s always there when we need his advice.
Rameshji’s not known to brook any interference by an actor. Akshay Kumar reportedly interferes to the extent of writing his own dialogue.
Rohan: He went through the script a few times, gave his suggestions.. that’s part of team work.
Ramesh: He has reached a point where he’s projecting not just character but also a part of his personality. He knows the pulse of his audience and puts in an extra effort.
Sheena: Actors can’t be robots.
Any arguments between you three?
Sheena: Dad has the final say.. but he’s pretty flexible.
Rohan: A cold shoulder works.. we all cool down. (Laughs)
What did you guys think of Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag?
Ramesh: I haven’t seen it. I believe Mr Varma envisioned it and Amitabh went along with his vision.
Sheena: I haven’t seen it either.
Rohan: Neither have I.
No plans to make TV software?
Ramesh: When Star Plus started out, it wanted something like Buniyaad. I did attempt Gaatha, but it didn’t work very well then. Maybe because it was a new channel and that too in English.
Today interesting things are happening on TV like Balika Vadhu.
There’s variety, just like in the movies.. but I don’t have any plans for TV now.
There was talk that Rohena Gera, Rohan’s former wife was to make a film for your production company.
Rohan: She worked on the script of Kuch Na Kaho. We separated afterwards. That she was to make a film for us is news for me.
Ramesh: They had parted ways by then.. so where does this come from?
(To Ramesh Sippy) Was it difficult to gain acceptance from your children when you married Kiran Juneja?
Ramesh: We went through our own pressures. I had separated from my wife, after the marriage didn’t work out. Although I was initially conscious, I didn’t put in any extra or special effort to justify my second marriage. Kiran also knew everything about me and accepted me for the person I am.
Sheena: We have to take into consideration the feelings of the people involved. We were quite independent by then. It was a decision taken after a lot of thought and we respect and accept that.
Rohan: We were on our own, going to college.. we got along well.. we wanted everyone to be happy.
Ramesh: I’m sure they went through their own apprehensions, I did too.. but after some time, things turned out fine.
Rohan and Sheena.. are you in touch with your mother?
Sheena: Of course. Although she travels a lot. I travel a lot too.
Rohan: We’re family.. we keep in touch.
Despite love marriages, where do you think things went wrong?
Rohan: It’s been a while now.. I don’t want to talk about it.
Sheena: Kunal (Kapoor) and I still share a very amicable relationship. We have two amazing children. I still adore Kunal’s family, just as they adore me.