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John is the right choice for Aashayein: Nagesh Kukunoor

The soft-spoken, always smiling engineer-turned-director is suddenly sparking controversies. Roshmila Bhattacharya speaks to Nagesh Kukunoor.

entertainment Updated: Dec 28, 2007 13:29 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Questions, questions. Has he recovered from the Canada blues? A mammothly messed-up shoot with Akshay Kumar set off rumours that Eight by Ten had been scrapped. The grapevine buzzed that the director's best buddy, Elahe Hiptoola, had rubbed the actor as well as the unit the wrong way.

And what about Aashayein in which he directs the commercial turkey John Abraham? And did Subhash Ghai interfere in the soon-to-be-released Bombay to Bangkok? Nagesh Kukunoor answers thorny questions posed by Roshmila Bhattacharya heels

You really messed up big time with Eight by Ten.
For a fortnight the entire unit was twiddling their thumbs in Canada. Yes, we lost out on 15 days of work. The only wrong decision we'd taken was to hire a local production manager on face value. None of the locations he had promised us worked out.

A film shoot is like a runaway train. Once it whooshes past the station, it's hard to bring it to a stop. But I'm confident that once we start shooting again, we'll be able to ride out this schedule.

The buzz is that Shailendra Singh of Percept Picture Company is livid and has washed his hands off the project.
Shailendra is a buddy. Sure he's upset but not with me. We have another schedule coming up in January. (Smiles) I'm confident we'll get our train back on track.

When Akshay Kumar was asked about Eight by Ten recently, he said that you and he had a fistfight. And you'd have another one before you started work again.
(Laughs out loud) Obviously, he was joking. If we'd had a fistfight you think I would be alive today? Akshay's one of the fittest actors in the business. If he had to have a fistfight with someone it would have had to be with that local production manager.

<b1>So you're not pumping iron just in case..
I'm pumping iron but to get into better shape. Being around Akshay you learn to value fitness. He can carry off unimaginable daredevil stunts. (Sighs) I was really looking forward to shooting Eight By Ten.

It was my first

maar dhaad dhamaka

. Choreographing action scenes with the fight masters and working on SFX was a real high. For me the biggest thrill of filmmaking is the prospect of learning something new.

Apparently, Akshay Kumar brought down his price to Rs 6 crore for your project. But after the disastrous schedule in Canada, he is believed to have doubled his price. True?

I wouldn't know since Akshay has never broached the subject of money with me ever. He's dealing with Percept on that directly. He did give me some sound tips on investments though.


Eight by Ten

a desi

The Sixth Sense


It's a supernatural thriller. When I was shooting abroad, when pitching the film, I mentioned that it was a

Sixth Sense

kind of a film.


, one of our brilliant reporters wrote that I was remaking Manoj Night Shyamalan's film.

All these years, Elahe Hiptoola was content to be your co-producer. But of late, she's been seen behind the camera. Does she have directorial aspirations?

(Laughs) Elahe is right outside. Want me to call her?

You could answer that.

She's been getting offers since

Bollywood Calling

. Her answer has always been, "Are you mad?" I don't think she has changed her mind.

All these years, you would focus on one film at a time. Now suddenly, you're juggling two, even three projects simultaneously. Was it over-commitment on your part that led to the recent mismanagement of dates?

Once again I have to repeat that it was the local manager in Canada who was to blame for the mismanagement. It's unfortunate because Akshay is solidly booked. Even I'm working on two films simultaneously. (Smiles) But I'm really not worried or upset. This was a welcome break.

So you admit that you work at a frenzied pace.

There was a time when I'd look around and wish that I too could work on two-three projects at a time. (Chuckles) I guess one should be careful what one wishes for.


Bollywood Calling

you've returned to comedy after a long time with Bombay to Bangkok. Tired of the intense stuff?





I wanted to venture into an area I hadn't surfed in a while. There was this story I'd written almost nine years ago. I dug it out but frankly it no longer excited me. With 500 love stories coming out in a year, there's nothing you haven't said or seen before in this genre. It was the

prem kahani

of an Indian boy and a white girl but even that was no longer novel.

I was wondering how to give it a new twist when an idea flashed through my mind. Why didn't I turn the sappy love story into a wacky romantic comedy and set it in Thailand - a country I loved and had always wanted to film? We'd never seen a desi babu woo a Thai girl before. That's how Bombay to Bangkok happened.

<b3>Language must have been something of a hindrance while shooting in Bangkok?
It's amazing how a country that's completely dependant on tourism can speak so little English. The first week was a trial because Thai is one of the toughest languages in the world. It's designed phonetically.. if you mispronounce a word the meaning changes completely.

What about your heroine, Lena Christensen? Does she speak any English or Hindi?
She knew a little bit of English and thank God for that. We got over a 100 gorgeous local girls trooping in for the audition in Bangkok but none of them could speak English.

I didn't want to communicate with my leading lady through a translator. After two months I found Lena who's a singer, dancer, model, aerobics instructor and even has her own TV show. And yes, she speaks a little English.

Talk is that Shreyas Talpade squirmed his way through a kiss with


Deepti watching from the sidelines?

It was a sweet, romantic scene that ends in a kiss. Unfortunately, we just didn't seem to be getting the feel right. (Laughs) After half-a dozen retakes Lena approached Deepti who was on the sets, and solemnly apologised for kissing her husband. She's married too. Fortunately, her husband wasn't around that day!

You must be proud to see your protégé doing so well.

I'm happy for Shreyas because success couldn't have happened to a better guy. But after


the relationship has changed. Today, I'm more friend than godfather. (Laughs) As long as he always has dates for me, we'll be fine.

Reportedly, there was interference from your producer Subhash Ghai on

Bombay To Bangkok




has still to see the first cut. He was too preoccupied with the star-studded

Main Yuvraj

to concern himself with my film. Even otherwise, during


, we'd decide we wouldn't go revisiting scenes. We plan to collaborate on a third project.

What's happening with



Given John Abraham's recently commercial duds do you regret signing him?

No, John is the right choice. He's playing a gambler in the film.

Do you gamble too?

I enjoy playing cards and blackjack at Las Vegas. But I'm no addict.