Movie writer-director Sanjay Chhel is readying his project Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam starring Mallika Sherawat and Rahul Bose. Catch him in a talkathon with Aamir Hassan Ayubi.
When are you kicking off Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam?
Very soon. I'm directing it. I've also written the script, dialogue and the lyrics. The cast has been finalised. Rahul Bose, Mallika Sherawat, Paresh Rawal and K K Menon.
Why pun on Mughal-e-Azam?
I have the greatest respect for the classic. The title's for instant recall value, I'm not demeaning Mughal-e-Azam in any which way.
Won't the title invite trouble?
<b1>No, titles don't make a difference, they're just value additions.
Did the success of Pyaar ke Side Effects prompt you to cast Rahul Bose and Mallika Sherawat?
No, I had them in mind for a long time. They suit the characters. They're both competent actors.
Essentially, you're a writer. So why this sudden interest in direction all over again after Khoobsurat and Kya Dil Ne Kahaa?
I've been waiting to restart for long. But I couldn't find the right subject and I was busy handling writing offers. I don't focus on writing alone.
Whatever happened to your project Patel Punjabi?
Percept is producing it. It's a cross-cultural, romantic comedy which will start next year. I'm also directing a crossover film for iDream Productions. And I've written Aziz Mirza's Lucky Charms.
Weren't you signed by Subhash Ghai to direct?
Yes, but the film didn't materialise.. although I wrote Shaadi se Pehle for Subhashji.
Why do you write mostly for David Dhawan and Priyadarshan?
That's not entirely correct. I've been a part of films by Aziz Mirza, Ram Gopal Varma and Santosh Sivan.
I've learnt about the trade from David, craftsmanship from Ramu, heartwarming storytelling from Azizji, comic timing from Priyadarshan and the art of cinematography from Santosh Sivan.
You dialogue writing has been remarkable for its one-liners..right?
Really? I'm surprised when I'm told that. I don't find them funny. I'm capable of much more. Dialogue writing is just an extension of feel-good scripts. If I were to rate myself as a dialogue writer on a scale of ten, I'd generously give myself one star.
Come one, I'm overrated as a dialogue writer. I'm being forced to write dialogue. Given a chance, I'd prefer writing a script – that's a well-rounded vocation.
Isn't your writing hyper commercial?
Yes, I'm a commercial writer, but the audience has loved the films I've written. Like Halo for Santosh which won the National Award. I wrote the TV serial Nukkad which became a cult. I've been a part of Saeed Mirza's documentaries.
In fact, I come from the school of Saeed and Aziz Mirza and Kundan Shah. I'm actually a serious writer, I have written serious films but no one talks about them. They're more interested in comedies.
I'm not the snooty type who'll chafe at critics. I'm open to constructive criticism.
At the risk of sounding immodest, I'm perhaps the only writer after Gulzar saab who writes scripts, lyrics, dialogue and directs. I'm not comparing myself to Gulzar saab but I do want to make a point that my writing isn't frivolous.
Go on please. ..
As a director, I aspire to make films like Woody Allen's. As a writer, I want to be flawless.. the best. But sometimes you have to cater to the market demands. Comedies sell.
I'm offered astonishing amount of money to write comedies. I can't say no to the trade which still bets on me as a bankable writer. Trust me, my best..
Please please, don't say it.
(Laughs) Sorry, I have to complete the sentence..my best is still to come.