He has the knack. He has often been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Once there was this story of his one-sided love for Meenakshi Seshadri. Then a kissa kiss ka with Mamta Kulkarni. Now it’s the movies he announces but never makes.
Even his Halla Bol was conceived a decade ago with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead.
Rajkumar Santoshi handles a volley of questions fired by Roshmila Bhattacharya.
Wasn’t Hallo Bol supposed to be a quickie and released last December?
Not last December but may be earlier this year.We had wrapped up the shoot in six-eight months. But the elaborate background score took some time. Also, Ajay had to give out some of his dates to Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag. <b1>
Did you see Aag?
Yes and I wasn’t impressed.
Apparently, the commercial failure of Ajay Devgan’s Aag and Cash and your own film Family had steered buyers away from Halla Bol.
We didn’t enter the market till the first copy was out. Pyramid was the first party we talked business with and they bought all the territories. Pyramid is a well-established distribution concern down South. They’re entering the North with Halla Bol.. the fact that they’re releasing the film themselves and not selling any territories speaks for their confidence.
And see, Ajay is not a one-film actor. He has a proven track record and I’m a dependable filmmaker too. Halla Bol has fetched more money than any of Ajay’s earlier solo films.
Why was the release pushed back, from Diwali to December and then to January 11?
We had no intentions of taking on Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. So a Diwali release was never on. And then December 21 would have meant a clashwith Taare Zameen Par and Welcome. Keeping the interests of all the three films in mind, we pushed back the release by three weeks.
Why has Vidya Balan been sidelined in the hoardings?
She’s overshadowed by even Pankaj Kapur. Vidya is playing Ajay’s wife, his conscience keeper. There’s a definite graph to the character and the role is bigger than that of Pankaj Kapur. But I won’t deny that the focus of Halla Bol is Ajay Devgan. It’s his story, his conflict with his conscience. <b2>
You had narrated the story to Shah Rukh Khan who had liked it. So why didn’t he do the film?
The idea had struck me10-12 years ago. Yes, Shah Rukh had liked the story and Bharat Shahwas to produce the film. But soon after, Bharatbhai ran into legal problems and Shah Rukh and I got busy with his other films. We drifted apart. Years later, I revived the project with Ajay. When we recently met, Shah Rukh told me he was glad that Ajay had done the film.
Why haven’t Aamir Khan and you worked together after Andaz Apna Apna?
We need, the right script. Also, our schedules don’t match. Aamir likes to focus on one film at a time and I’ve been busy with several projects.
Yes with films like Mahabharat for which you reportedly got an advance of Rs 4 crore. It’s been four years and the film hasn’t even gone on the floors.
Yes, as writer-director I was getting monthly installments. I worked on the project for almost a year. It was Ramoji Rao’s responsibility to get the talent together. I haven’t heard from him in ages. As of now, Mahabharat is not happening but Ramayan is.. with Ajay and Kajol as Ramand Sita.
And what’s happening with Prithviraj Samyukta?
After I heard that Chandraprakash Dwivedi and Sunny Deol were also planning Prithviraj Samyukta, I shelved my film. I didn’t want a repeat of Bhagat Singh.
Will Sunny Deol and you ever make another movie?
I’ll always be indebted to Sunny Deol for launching my career.We did three jubilee hits together— Ghayal, Ghatak and Damini. Ghayal and Damini won him two National Awards but he hasn’t come up with such performances in recent times. We should collaborate on another movie soon.
It won’t be a sequel. I’m not so bankrupt of ideas that I have to make a Ghayal 2. It’ll be a fresh, original film which will prove thatwe’re still a strong duo.
Ranbir, another shelved film, caused your break-up with the Bachchans.
Right? I worked on Ranbir for a year-and-a-half but the story didn’t shape up to my satisfaction. If I find something for either Amitji or Abhishek or better still both, I will approach them.(Smiles) We still talk at parties. And please rememberAmitji and I did Family after Ranbir was shelved?
Would you agree that Family is the biggest blot on your career?
I don’t agree. The film may not have worked but it had its moments. It was one of Amitji’s best performances but unfortunately went unnoticed.
Its producer Keshu Ramsay is still pretty upset with you.
Because Family was his son Aryaman’s debut?
He’s a sincere boy and the role had range. I even gave him scenes with Amitji. Family was an original idea, I didn’t just pick it up from a DVD. Unfortunately, the film didn’t work.
Talking of DVD lifts, we’re told that Halla Bol has shades of Mephisto .. besides parallels from the Jessica Lall murder case and the Narmada Bachchao Andolan?
Nobody has seen the film yet, so how can they make such assumptions? The film has neither drawn from the Jessica Lall case nor is it Aamir Khan’s Gujarat story. It’s original. I’m not a DVD chor . It’s appalling how some of our top filmmakers blatantly copy from DVDs and then attend award functions proudly.
I wouldn’t step out of my house if I had stolen an idea. Even our stars are knowingly a part of such thefts. Yeh to din dahaade robbery hai! I’m not worried about such allegations.When I’m inspired by a creative work, I buy the rights. Recently, I bought the rights for a highly acclaimed play Jiss Lahore Nahin Dekhiya, o jamian he nahin . It’s about this Muslim family which migrates to Lahore after the partition.
Wasn’t Priyanka Chopra your first choice for Halla Bol?
Yes, but there were date problems.
So then you cast her in London Dreams even though Salman Khan had recommended Katrina Kaif.
Salman is the last person to interfere in a film’s casting.
The buzz is that he’s now trying to revive the movie with Vipul Shah as director.
Really? All I know is that there were some production issues which led to a roadblock. It’s a big film and has to be shot in London. I have just two films in pre-production, Ramayan and Ashoka. Ashoka starts off with the emperor turning into a monk after the battle of Kalinga.
Won’t it be lacking in passion and drama?
It has everything a moviegoer would want.. love, action and drama. There are even flashbacks of young Ashok. But it’s not a teeny bopper love story. It’s a historical along the lines of Gladiator and Braveheart. Shah Rukh’s Asoka had plenty of love and passion. It didn’t work. Let’s see how my film does.