'I’m Sanjay Gupta, not Mahesh Bhatt'

Updated on May 21, 2007 02:00 PM IST
A week away from the release of Shootout at Lokhandwala, director Sanjay Gupta speaks to Nilufer Qureshi about his film.
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None | ByNilufer Qureshi, Mumbai

He's identified with cinema of the cool variety... he has made eight films in 12 years. A buddy of Sanjay Dutt, infallibly outspoken and linked with practically every heroine under the sun.. he has his own movie production company White Feather Films. A week away from the release of Shootout at Lokhandwala, Sanjay Gupta answers a volley of questions fired by Nilufer Qureshi

Apparently, Sameera Reddy and you are back together. True?
Who’s Sameera Reddy? You mean the actress who worked with me in Musafir. I don’t know what’s happening with her after that.

Are you in love?
Not with her. I’ve always been in love with the only one woman in my life, ex-wife Anu. She is my true love. Everyone else will come and go.

What is your equation with your former wife?
We are very much friends. I’ll never give up on her, I always tell her, “You can get married, have grandchildren but I will still be waiting for you to return to me.” She has always been the one for me.

If I buy any property it is with her approval. If I buy a bike, she gets the first ride. There is no happy or sad moment in my house.. because she has not been there. We are not together but still very much together.

Weren’t you writing poems to Sameera at one point?
Rubbish! Puhhleeze, I know from where this is coming. Everything I write is for Anu. Anyone who reads my poems will know that.

What about your romance with Dia Mirza?
Dia is a very dear friend. As an actress, she has always been sincere. She has led her life with dignity. It is unfair to say that she is doing three films with me because there is something personal between us.

Why three films?
She will do the next 30 films for us. That’s the equation we share and that’s the equation I have with most of my actors. Almost every actor is doing multiple projects with me. But the media is generous.. they give me a new girlfriend every week.

Is Sameera Reddy also doing another film with you?
If a right script ever comes along..why not? We will never close our doors on anyone except Neha Dhupia.

What happened?
I don’t want to work with Neha Dhupia ever again. We were to do a TV concert for the promotion of Shootout at Lokhandwala.. the contract for this was signed in January. The telecast date was May 20 and the performance date was April 11.

She backed out 48 hours before the show because she wanted to go walking some stupid ramp with some Paris Hilton who is sitting in a jail today. So much for the obsession of our stars with white trash.

Neha is highly unprofessional. When she says some people in the middle bungled it all up, she’s lying. My staff never bungles up. And her secretary, Jatin Rajguru, has never bungled up in his entire career. At a notice of less than 24 hours, both Koena Mitra and Isha Koppikar cancelled their prior appointments and stepped in. What’s more they didn’t charge me a single rupee.

Has Neha tried to clarify the incident with you?

There have been apology sms texts.. but who cares? On May 25 when the film releases, Neha is the only one who’ll be doing a Bollywood award show abroad.. instead of being with the entire team which is travelling all over the country for the film’s promotion. Now which middlemen could have bungled that up?

You’ve also had a spat with Sikander Kher.

Both of us were drunk. He said something..I misunderstood what he had said. I lost my temper, that’s okay. Sikander is like my kid brother, I can lose my temper on him. We both sulked for a night. The next day we were normal, we had lunch together.

And Maya Dolas’s mother has sued you for defamation. Right?

In an interview, Amrita (Singh) got carried away and spoke about what sets her character apart. We have written a very strong character for her.. a very pompous lady who worships her son.. he had rescued her from her alcoholic and abusive husband. She could never see anything wrong with what her son did.

But Shootout.. is not Maya’s story, neither is it his mother’s. I’d like to apologise to Maya’s mom from every platform, including this one. The film is based on a true incident but the characters are fictional which is well within my rights as a producer, director and writer. A notice came, we replied to it. It said to apologise which we did.

Didn’t you want to direct the film yourself. Has Apurva Lakhia made the film the way you had visualised it?
Hitchkock once said, “Give one script to 10 different directors and you will get 10 different films.” Everyone has their own interpretation.

I’ve written the film but yes in a lot of places Apurva has surpassed my expectations. The film isn’t conventional at all.. the second-half is one long climax which keeps moving back and forth.

Did you ever intervene when he was shooting?
I didn’t go on the sets even once. I’ve had my share of idiots for producers. I’ll never be like those guys. Once the script was locked, Apurva was on his own.

Didn’t you insist on being present when the songs were shot?
That was made clear before we started shooting. I take an active interest in the songs in every film I produce. Song picturisations are my speciality so why shouldn’t I .. be there?

Since Aditya Chopra writes well, he helps out in the scripts of all the films he produces. Does that make him the writer of his films? Doesn’t a Vidhu Vindod Chopra collaborate on Munnabhai? There were six writers in the credits of Munnabhai.

Don’t you miss direction?
I’ve directed five of the 10 short stories for Dus Kahaniyan. It’s a new concept and the stars had only condition, “Gups if you’re directing, then we’ll do it.” I’m very possessive about the stories, I didn’t want to part with them.

Are they autobiographical?
No, I have no illusions of grandeur. I haven’t led a phenomenal life that can be made into a movie. (Grins) I’m Sanjay Gupta, not Mahesh Bhatt.

Have you shelved Shyam Benegal’s Chamki?
It was our most exciting and ambitious project. The film is based on the famous Spanish opera Carmen. It’s a pity that most of our top actresses are not even aware of what Carmen is all about. It is the greatest role that an actress can portray .

I don’t want to take names but all the five top actresses we approached felt that the role was negative. Someone called her a vamp, another one a bitch. That broke my heart. Shyam babu has done a tremendous amount of pre-production. I only wanted to add to his vision.. which I can’t unless I have stars.

Are you planning to make Kaante 2 ?
I am. The sequel will be so in its spirit. The characters died in the first Kaante, so I’m not making a sequel or a prequel per se. I’ve decided on a handful of the cast.

Lastly do you pay Sanjay Dutt for the films he does for you?
White Feather Films was the first company to double his price after Munnabhai. Ask him this. Whoever says that we don’t pay him should get his head examined. Honestly, I would have been nobody, I wouldn’t have been anywhere if I hadn’t met this man. I wouldn’t have a fancy car parked outside an office.

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