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Javed disapproves of Sholay remake

The lyricist sees little point in remaking a "flawless film" like Sholay, but says Don can definitely stand a second making.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 12:45 IST

Lyricist Javed Akhtar sees little point in remaking a "flawless film" like Sholay, but says Don can definitely stand a second making as it was made on a shoestring budget the first time round.

"I fail to understand where there is the room for any improvisation in Sholay. If you cannot do anything new or different to the original, then what's the point of it?" Akhtar asks, referring to Ram Gopal Varma's remake of Sholay, which was scripted by him and Salim Khan.

"Don was an interesting script but suffered because it was made on a shoestring budget. Producer Nariman Irani somehow managed to complete the film. Don can definitely be made on a much larger scale," Akhtar, whose son Farhan is remaking the film. 

"Salim and I did what we had to with Don. Now let's see what Farhan does," he adds.

Excerpts from an interview:

You have reached a pinnacle as a lyricist. Don't you think you need to move upward?
If I start believing I have written it all, it would be very pompous of me. Lyricists like Shailendra and Sahir (Ludhianvi) who were my role models - have achieved that pinnacle. They are mind-blowing. So are poets whom no one remembers today like SH Bihari, Bharat Vyas, Pradeep and Raja Mehndi Ali Khan.

Lyricist Javed Akhtar sees little point in remaking a "flawless film" like Sholay, but says Don can definitely stand a second making as it was made on a shoestring budget the first time round.

I have reached a plateau as a lyricist. After a long time I have gone back to my first love - screenwriting - without reducing the number of lyrics I write. As it is, I don't write too many lyrics.

I intend to write at least one screenplay every year. I am in the process of writing one script. After I complete it, I'll give it to any producer who wants it. I recently wrote one screenplay, which was Lakshya for my son Farhan.

Will this lead to direction
Right now there are many interesting developments in my career. But direction would require me to give up all my other activities.

Perhaps your wife Shabana (Azmi) also strives to reach that centre through her performances."
I loved her performance in 15 Park Avenue. I wept in that film, as I did in Khandhar. I know the girls that Shabana and Konkona Sen (Sharma) played in Khandhar and 15 Park Avenue. I connect with them. I know their hopeless lives.

I have celebrated them in the lines Dekhiye to lagta hai zindagi ki rahon mein ek bheed chalti hai. Sochiye to lagta hai bheed mein hain sab tanha.

You have made poetry accessible to the common man.
Isn't that what poetry is supposed to do? If you can't communicate your lines to the common man, then why are you making your art public? Some artistes say they don't care if their art is not understood. There should be some difference between your diary and shairi  (poetry).

What is your opinion on a Hindu fundamentalist organisation issuing a threat against painter MF Husain?
You know this is nothing but unsavoury competition between fundamentalists from different communities. Instead of learning desirable things from one another, the bigots choose to indulge in a spirit of competitiveness.

We the civil sections of society are too tolerant of these reactionary elements. There is no reason to be scared of them. When I stand up and speak in Muslim gatherings against fundamentalist elements, the audience claps. Likewise in Hindu gatherings. May be they can't say it aloud but when somebody bells the cat, they approve.

We haven't been able to fight communalism because we choose to target such elements in one particular community. Let's not take sides. It doesn't matter whether the colour of communalism is orange, green or blue... we need to get colour blind to oppose reactionary elements.

Please believe me, our junta (people) needs apolitical right-thinking responsible citizens who stand up against any kind of fundamentalism. One fatal mistake of secularists is their rather condescending attitude towards minority reactionary attitudes.

The moment we differentiate between minority and majority communalism, we are guilty of a reactionary attitude. Those who want to cut off Husain's hands should be condemned. But what about the minister who offers Rs.510 million to anyone who kills the Danish cartoonist (who made cartoons of Prophet Mohammed)! You cannot speak up for one and criticise the other.

What about the bullying that Aamir Khan faces? 
It is totally stupid. I was surprised when Aamir said on TV that he knows nothing about the construction of the Narmada dam. He says he is speaking up for those who would be rendered homeless. What's the meaning of protesting about that? Are you saying the homeless shouldn't be rehabilitated?

The whole thing is totally bizarre. The trouble is in their keenness to prove their existence people don't listen.

What do you think of Farhan remaking Don
Remakes aren't a new phenomenon. We tend to forget that Mehboob Khan's Mother India was a remake and Cape Fear was also remade by Martin Scorsese. The original film featuring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck was set in a decent middleclass family. The remake was set in a truly complicated family.

Mughal-E-Azam and Anarkali took the Salim-Anarkali romance into different treatments. And you know Shakespeare's plays weren't based on original ideas, but he took those stories to a new level. Bimal Roy gave a new interpretation to PC Baruah's Devdas.

But I fail to understand where there is the room for any improvisation in Sholay (the Ramesh Sippy film that Ram Gopal Varma is remaking). If you cannot do anything new or different to the original then what's the point of it?

As for Don, it was an interesting script but suffered because it was made on a shoestring budget. The producer Nariman Irani somehow managed to complete the film. Don can definitely be made on a much larger scale.

So would you want to see your son's Don?
Of course! I have written three of the songs. He has worked on the script. But I have left him alone. Salim and I did what we had to with Don, now let's see what Farhan does.