It's been three years since he directed a movie, Kisna, and a lot has changed. Today, a film sells on hype and the showman who's returning to the front with an experimental venture rather than his usual lavish entertainers, knows he has to be ready for some sticky queries, which he fields, head on.
Subhash Ghai in a talkathon with Roshmila Bhattacharya.
Feeling nervous after the break?
(Smiles) Yash Chopra made Veer-Zaara after eight years and Aditya Chopra is directing a film after nine years. I may not have anchored a film but I was in touch with filmmaking as I sat in on scripts and worked on the music with my directors. I was working 14 hours a day. And once I was back on the sets, it was as if I'd never been away.<b1>
Hasn't the failure of Kisna been weighing on you?
Kisna was my great-grandfather's story. Today's youngsters couldn't connect with the idea of aman leaving his love and the good life to return to a girl who was his father's choice. That was how it was then. But the idea of love has changed. (Smiles) Hundred years ago, it was a matter of life and death. Fifty years ago, love was passion. Ten years down, it may be out of fashion.
Is it because Mukta Arts is a corporate company now that you’re making so many films a year?
In 25 years I’ve directed 16 films. In the last five years I’ve produced 15 films. Over the last couple of years we’ve had four releases every year. In 2009 we want to go up to six. Upping the scale is important. I guess that’s why Yash Raj Films and Rajshri Productions haven’t turned corporate. But it was my dream to set up a filmmaking institute so I had to go to the market to raise funds.
But corporates seem to have lost some of their shine. Even Mukta’s share price hasn’t risen..
In 1996, 600 companies went in for IPOs. Barely 10 per cent survived. Today, everyone is trying to cash in on the corporate boom. The difference is that while these companies are lead by financiers Mukta is headed by professional and experienced filmmakers who know their job. I can hike up the share price tomorrow by announcing a movie with Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan even if it never gets made. But I’ll never fool my investors. <b2>
If you’re such a professional outfit how did an inane comedy like
Bombay To Bangkokget made?
, Nagesh Kukunoor narrated three stories to me. I didn’t like any. The next day he was back with the story of a deaf and dumb boy who wants to play for the Indian cricket team. He was on. Nagesh wanted the title
. I knew it wouldn’t connect with North Indians and suggested he name it
after his hero.When he showed me the final edit I advised him to trim the film by 25 minutes and add a close-up of Iqbal’s mother and sister crying at the end because it was their victory too. He didn’t agree with my inputs, but at the time he needed Mukta and complied. The film didn’t add up on the balance sheet but
is a film Mukta is proud of.
We were talking of Bombay To Bangkok.
I’m coming to that. After
Nagesh wanted to make
. I pointed out that it was a good subject but not a hit subject. And he took it to Percept. I held no grudges and even fixed an appointment with Ayesha Takia for him.
Then he met my son-in-law Rahul Puri and convinced him that
Bombay To Bangkok
was a surefire hit. His only condition was that I should not interfere. I was a guest at the launch of the film. After the shoot in Bangkok, Nagesh didn’t even have time to see the rushes or sit in on the edit because he was busy with an Akshay Kumar movie ( 8X10) that he was making for Percept.
Bombay to Bangkok
released six months late and overshot the budget by Rs 1 crore. When a director starts going for quantity, quality suffers.
So you’ve now roped in seasoned directors like Anees Bazmi, Anurag Basu and Abbas-Mustan?
These directors have been around for decades and understand show business. They may be able to start work only after a year but I don’t mind waiting. Atleast, I’ll be assured of quality.
Will you insist on overseeing the projects now?
I only give inputs when I’m asked. Abbas-Mustan had consulted me on the script and the final edit during
but I’ve never dropped in on the sets. When I was making
even I would go to GP Sippy for advice. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort.
You’ve had fall-outs with several stars in the past.. Shatrughan Sinha, Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Deol, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. But today the attitude seems to be let’s forget and be friends again.
(Smiles) Maybe we’re all more mature now. Maybe we missed each other’s company. As the head of a corporate company it’s in my interest to work with big names. <b3>
But the buzz is that Salman Khan has been giving you trouble during the shooting of
Nonsense! Salman may behave and react like a kid but deep down he’s an intelligent boy with 21 years of experience. Once he realises a director knows his job, he surrenders completely. I’m the one who sometimes turns to him for his take.
Your latest protégé, Anurag Sinha, sees himself as a star after five years?
Then he’s an intelligent boy. I know actors who after just five months and one hit proclaim themselves as the next superstar. There’s a queue of producers wanting to sign Anurag. Yet, he wants to take off to the U S for three months to learn dance and grooming. He’s not in a hurry to sign films and endorsement. He says he’ll cash in after five years.
Anupam Kher once described his acting school as a small restaurant and Whistling Woods as a five-star hotel. Going by the exorbitant fees you’re charging, he was right.
If you can splurge Rs 10,000 at the disco in one night, I’m sure you can afford to spend on quality education that offers training in nine disciplines.The Dean of UCL was at WWI recently and was most impressed.We need six Whistling Woods and 200 small restaurants to train the talent on hand.
There’s a court case pending against WWI for land illegally acquired..
(Interrupts) That’s a problem between Film City and a guy who after our institute came up, discovered he owns one of the 20 acres over whichWWI stands.We have a legal agreement that clears us completely.
You had a dream.. to make a film with Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. What happened to it?
I realised it was better to make a film like
Black and White
than chase a dream.