You're one of the few Hindi filmmakers in recent times to wrap up a shoot in the Holy City without sparking off headlines.
(Laughs) I guess that's true, the credit goes to my fantastic coordinator in Varanasi. I'd been to the city about four to five times before, for ad shoots, and when I returned for Laaga Chunari Mein Daag the local pundits recognised me.
Did you choose to set your film in Varanasi to make the distinction between the spiritual and the material more marked?
I could have located it in Kolkata, but Varanasi was better because it's like re-living history there. The city is steeped in tradition, there's a wonderful sense of peace too, with Allah miya and Bam bam bhole co-existing. Also, I love its bhool bhulaiya gallis and the yummy chaats which are a big attraction for a foodie like me.
It's best to roam the city at night when a kind of surreal mist hangs over it. I've tried to capture that on film, but for the real thing you have to be there.
Parineetawas an adaptation, and so too, we're told, is
Laage.. of the '70s film
I haven't even seen
. And there's nothing '70s about
.. It is very contemporary, a story that's been on Adi's (Aditya Chopra) mind for a while. Halfway through the half-hour-narration, I started crying.. and couldn't stop. (Laughs) I think my tears got me the film. That convinced Adi that I felt for these people. Despite my art school and ad film background, I'm still very
.. very middle class.
Was the choice of Rani Mukerji as the heroine prompted by the fact that she's a Yash Raj regular?
Rani's a Pradeep Sarkar regular. We've done more than 20 ads together and are all set to shoot the next Dabur commercial. She's gorgeous, talented, disciplined, her homework is extraordinary. Rani knows exactly what her character is and where she's going. And she's a Bengali too?
(Laughs) Rani, Konkona, Jayadi..we are all true-blue Bongs. On the sets, we made sure that those who didn't know Bengali learnt it.
You'd planned on casting Rani and Vidya Balan as sisters. Did the entry of Konkona Sen Sharma demand any changes in the script?
None. Both the girls are very Indian.. with a modern perspective. That's how it is with Rani too. Konkana has this mad streak in her, like the
You've managed a casting coup, getting Jaya and Abhishek Bachchan together for a film?
I'd seen Jaya Bhaduri in Satyajit Ray's
. I wanted that girl back, as a mother brimming with love. For Rohan I needed a man.. kind, fun and strong. Unlike Vivaan (Kunal Kapoor's character) who's young, mad and naturally cool, Rohan is extremely proper.
I instantly saw Abhishek in my mind. This role, as I told him recently, is not so much about its length as the largeness of the character. The initial buzz was that the promos were a downer and required some amount of re-shooting.
There was no re-shooting. The promos grow on you.
.. is a simple story of three women with some intriguing twists and turns. It's not something you've seen in the movies before.
Hopefully, the end will not be as formulaic as
If Saif (Ali Khan) hadn't broken that wall in
I would have. It wasn't just bricks, but a wall in the mind that needed to be smashed. All over the world walls are coming down.. so why not in my movies? Even in
.. I break walls.
Shantanu Moitra's score has slowly climbed to the top of the charts. And the tribute to Manna De's '63 classic from
Dil Hi To Hai
is evident in the title track. It's a brilliant song, it played constantly on our minds when we were developing the story. The lyrics are wonderfully evocative and delve deep into the girl's mind -
Ho gayi maili meri chunariya, kore badan si kori chunariya
There's a Kazi Nazrul Islam song
too.. about how when you stand back and look at yourself from a distance, you see the good and the bad. You accept both and move ahead. That's what this film is about too.
Parineetafetched you the Best Debut Director National Award. Will
Laaga.. win you the Best Director Award next?
I'll be happy if I win the Best Debutant again because every time I start work on a new film, it's as if it were my first work (chuckles).
Your next film will be with Yash Raj?
The next two films.. we have a contract. Hopefully, there will be more.
Does that mean Vidhu Vinod Chopra is out of your life?
I'm always there for Vinod, whenever he calls me, but after these two Yash Raj films (laughs)..
Eklavyais off to the Oscars on a wave of controversy. You were a part of the film too..
Yes, I'd feel terrific if it won. It's time we brought home an Oscar.