Bollywood showman Subhash Ghai is puzzled with reports that more than The Devil's Own, his recent release Black & White seems to replicate Joseph Costelo's The War Within, where a closet terrorist arrives in New York, befriends a benign Muslim family and plans to blow up the Grand Central.
"I've never heard of The War Within. In Devil's Own, the terrorist succeeds in his mission. In Black & White, the point is we need to kill terrorism, not terrorists. That really touched me," Ghai told IANS.
The film, about a terrorist, who comes to Chandni Chowk to blow up the Red Fort on Aug 15, is a well-made film. One of the unique aspects of Black & White is the casting of veteran stage actor Habib Tanvir.
"Casting for the part of the young terrorist (played by debutant Anuraag Sinha) and for this wise old man of Chandni Chowk was very tough. I got Habib saab to play a man who sheltered Hindus in his home during Partition. Eventually, he sold all his property for a pittance."
Ghai says Habib Tanvir was reluctant to work in his movie.
"Finding the right actor with a specific heritage, culture, personality and face was really tough. I didn't want to cast anybody stereotypical. Even Dilip Kumar wouldn't have worked. My casting agent suggested Habib Tanvir. He was reluctant to begin with me. He wondered what he'd do in a Subhash Ghai film! I told Habib saab, 'Subhash Ghai has gone crazy. He wants to make an unusual film.' When he heard me out, he loved my subject and my command over Urdu."
<b1>The film also has Anil Kapoor, who has given a stellar performance.
Some bitter reviews, however, have left Ghai undeterred.
"They aren't angry with my film. They're angry with Subhash Ghai because I have not made a typical masala movie. When I was doing that, I was told, 'You've opened an acting school, so now make a sensible film.'
"Now that I've made a sensible film, they're wondering what has happened to Subhash Ghai. They're judging Subhash Ghai, not the film. I had a story that I needed to tell at this point of my career. I'm not demoralised by reviews. The world has torn Jesus and Gandhi to shreds. Who am I? Today, even artist MF Husain isn't in our country. These brickbats don't matter to me."
Ghai reminisces about the ups and downs in his career.
"According to critics, I came down with a thud in 1982 when Krodhi didn't work after two hits, Kalicharan and Vishwanath. Then I made three hits - Vidhaata, Karz and Hero. Then when Trimurti didn't work in 1993, the critics wrote that Ghai had lost his magic. I bounced back with Khalnayak, Pardes and Taal. Then the moment, Yaadein opened badly they decided to write me off on Friday itself."
Ghai says that too many channels and newspapers are responsible for this kind of reporting.
"Now I understand one thing. Today, there's a lot of change in the media. The hunger for news today drives the media to extremes. Abhishek Bachchan-Aishwarya Rai getting married peacefully isn't news, but some crazy girl barging into a wedding claiming to be his wife is bigger news.
"In the 1980s, there were only six newspapers and one TV channel. The media is busy creating vertical rather than horizontal news. If 10 people of calibre have appreciated
Black & White
, why should I be bothered with five people who think a theme like terrorism is an occasion for them to be clever and cheeky with words?"
There's jubilation at Ghai's office.
"We're very happy with Black & White. We are uncorking our own champagne and celebrating. Never mind the personal slant of the comments. Have they said anything nice about Jodhaa Akbar or any other recent film? God bless them because even readers laugh at these opinionated critics.
"Music of a different Sufi kind has been used in Black & White. Music has always been important in my films. Taal was a full-on musical because it was about musicians. Although Karz was a murder mystery, it was still formatted as a musical. In 'Black & White', there's no place for music. The protagonist doesn't like music. The music had to be the kind that the protagonist somehow had to tolerate.
"Anuraag Sinha's character had to go through a change. And music had to be a part of that change. The explosion finally happens within him rather than outside. I asked my composer Sukhvinder to give me a score without any disco or item songs. How many critics have noticed this?"
<b3>Ghai is full of praise for debutant Anuraag, who got into the skin of his character.
"I'm happy for my hero. I really like that boy. He's a very good actor and a humble human being. He's an educated soft-spoken boy from a good family. Mumbai hasn't polluted him as yet. No matter what the fate of 'Black & White' is, I'll make another film with him."
He is optimistic to the core.
"My next film Main Yuvraaj is a typical Subhash Ghai film. I've enjoyed big sets sounds and am moving with times. Main Yuvraaj is ahead of its times. I'm lucky to have AR Rahman to compose the music. We're planning a Diwali release."
In Main Yuvraaj, Ghai works with Salman Khan for the first time.