'Multiplexes and producers cannot live without each other'
His Bhoothnath might not have done well at the box office inspite of big names like Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. But that hasn't deterred director Vivek Sharma from making his next -- Kal Kisne Dekha, starring newcomers Jaccky Bhagnani (producer Vashu Bhagnani's son) and Vaishali Desai (filmmaker Manmohan Desai's grand-niece).
Nithya Ramani finds out more about the film.
How come you are promoting Kal Kisne Dekha despite the strike?
We are promoting only the songs since we have put money in it. After a week, Kal Kisne Dekha will be everywhere. We haven't played all our cards yet. Right now, we are only showing how Jaccky lost weight. We haven't revealed the USP of the film yet.
What is happening on the strike front?
Multipex owners and producers know that they cannot live without each other. It is a very mutual profit-based situation. Once they finalise on something concrete, we will go ahead with our promotions.
Come to think of it, every time I go to a multiplex, I end up spending about Rs 600 to Rs 700. I personally prefer single screen theatres.
What is Kal Kisne Dekha about?
It is a commercial romantic entertainer for the youth. The story is about a small town boy who has a vision of the future. I created Nihal Singh because I can see the future. I get visions. I think everybody can see the future but only a few realise it. So the film is about about the consequences you face from people, who critise you for the gift you've got.
Image: Vivek Sharma
'The script demanded fresh characters -- not that I couldn't get Hrithik or Ranbir'
Why did you take newcomers?
The script demanded young and fresh characters -- not that I couldn't get Hrithik Roshan or Ranbir Kapoor. But I wanted to make a new Nihal Singh. In 2000, I had wanted to make Kal Kisne Dekha with Abhishek Bachchan. I hadn't narrated the script to him but was looking for producers. But it didn't happen.
Then I met Vashuji during a film shoot. I was assisting Mahesh Bhatt in those days. He saw the script and was ready to produce it. He said his son Jaccky was ready for Bollywood and wanted to launch him in this film. Jaccky suited Nihal Singh's character perfectly. Then I conducted auditions for Meesha Kapoor's role and decided on Vaishali Desai. Meesha is a very snooty brat, who thinks that small town people have no place in big cities.
I chose Jaccky and Vaishali because I could mould them the way I wanted to. I remember when I met Jaccky, I told him it would be difficult if he didn't know how to dance. He took that seriously and signed up for Shiamak Davar dance classes. Earlier, I had only a couple of dance numbers but when I saw him dance, I added more.
I don't sign an actor just because his father is producing my film. I am not judgmental. I am a passionate filmmaker and will work with any producer, who can relate to my ideas and support the quality of my film.
I have some big names in this film, playing prominent roles. But that's under wraps for now. Rishi Kapoor plays a character that he hasn't played in his entire 30-year career. He plays a science professor, who talks about relevant and irrelevant things at the same time. In fact, I had got a vision of working with Rishi Kapoor and that's come true now.
What visions do you get?
I had seen the Tsunami but didn't know what it was. I saw myself working with Amitabh Bachchan when I was eight-years-old. I see Kal Kisne Dekha doing very well -- almost on the lines of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I can see someone sending me a message.
Let me tell you an instance. During Bhootnath, I was waiting outside Vishal-Shekar's studio with a friend. I told him that Amitabh would come in five minutes, wearing a white kurta pyjama, and the studio gate would be opened by an old man walking by. Mr Bachchan would come in and hug me. When it happened, my friend was shocked and didn't speak for hours.
Aa Dekhen Zara and 8x10 Tasveer dealt with a similar subject. How different is your film?
Kal Kisne Dekha has nothing to do with those films. But I am glad people are thinking they're similar. They will be in for a shock when they watch the movie.
I have treated this film very differently. I have tried visual narration. Every frame is new and fresh. I believe human emotions form the crux of cinema and it is important that I maintain that. My cameraman [Johnny Lal] was surprised when I told him how I wanted each frame.
Image: Vaishali Desai and Jaccky Bhagnani in Kal Kisne Dekha
'I call Vaishali junior Madhuri Dixit'
How was it working with Jaccky and Vaishali?
It was fun working with them. I asked them not to act, not to pretend. I have never seen a newcomer like Vaishali. Right from day one, she hasn't given a single retake. Something happens to her when she comes in front of the camera. I call her junior Madhuri Dixit.
The only issue she had was her costumes. She was very uncomfortable with her dresses but I assured her that I wasn't doing a nanga punga film and a certain amount of glamour quotient is necessary for a film to sell.
Jaccky is very hard-working and natural. He never gives up. When he knows he hasn't done a scene right, he will try it again the next day. The more he works with different actors, the more polished he will get. He is going to make it big, his smile will be a killer. I enjoyed working with them. I don't if they feel the same [laughs].
Did you have any visions about the film?
There were many instances. I had the vision of working with Rishi Kapoor when I met him in 2001. When Kal Kisne Dekha script was ready, Vashuji and I were shortlisting actors who could play the professor's role. Somehow I had the feeling that it would be Rishisaab. When I went to him with the script, he made it very clear that he wouldn't play the actors' father. But when he heard the script, he said that he craved for this kind of a role.
Can you tell us any anecdotes on the sets?
During the romantic scenes -- especially a very hot bike sequence -- Jaccky and Vaishali would feel awkward and wouldn't want their parents around. But Vaishali's mother would always hang around, making her feeling weird.
There was a bungee jumping sequence with Jaccky, and he had to fall off a cliff too. We didn't inform Vashuji about it. We made something up so that he would not freak out. Jaccky wanted to do all the stunts himself.
Another very memorable incident involved Rishi Kapoor, who said he wouldn't do two things -- work in the morning and lose weight. Surprisingly, he broke both his rules. He was working from 8 am to 2 am. He would make faces and tell me, 'Agar tu mere gaon ka nahi hota tho mein yeh kabhi nahi karta' [if you weren't from my native place, I wouldn't be doing this]. Apparently, his mother Krishnaji and I hail from the same town, Jabalpur.
He lost nine kilos because he felt hesitant to work with Jaccky, who was so slim and fit. One day I asked him what he had done to himself as he was looking different. He said, 'beta isko different nahi, slim kehte hai.' [My son, you don't call this different, you call it slim].
Then, there was a romantic scene beside a pond. Vaishali was supposed to fall into the pond and Jaccky had to save her. It was freezing. We had to keep them warm with hot water bottles. I was wearing four layers of clothing and still felt cold, so you can imagine how it would have been for them. But they did a commendable job.
Image: Vaishali Desai in Kal Kisne Dekha
'Bhoothnath could have been another Munnabhai'
What do you think went wrong with Bhoothnath? Why didn't it do well despite having stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan?
Just 10 days before the release, I remember telling Ravi Chopra that the film will not open well. Our publicity and marketing strategy went for a toss. After the release of the first promo and the music release, we didn't do anything for a month. We didn't have any print or electronic publicity.
Shah Rukh called me five days before the film's release. He wanted to know if we're releasing the movie on schedule. He felt we weren't promoting enough. I told him and Amitji not to expect anything great from the film. Every production house has their strategy so I can't do anything about it. It was a new concept of showing a friendly ghost and it was treated differently. It could have been another Munnabhai.
How did you react to the criticism it got?
I have a major detachment power. I can move on and not think about the past and brood over it. It affects me sometimes but since I anticipated it, it was okay.
What are your next projects?
My next film Dil Can Fly Idhar Udhar is a romantic comedy produced by Ashtavinayak. The film is about two couples and their relationships. I have also started my own production house Film Zone. The first release is Buddham Sharanam Gacchami, which might star Bachchan saab and Shah Rukh Khan. I have about 67 scripts ready over a period of 10-15 years.
Image: Vaishali Desai and Jaccky Bhagnani in Kal Kisne Dekha
'Mahesh Bhatt's budget for an entire film is the budget of just two songs in my movies'
Why Mr Bachchan and Shah Rukh again?
The script demands powerful actors like them. The film deals with sharpshooters and violence. It is a very intense film about why people take to violence and think they are not answerable to anyone. But there will come a point when life will corner you and make you answer several questions.
Shah Rukh Khan has that kind of intensity. I haven't narrated the script to him yet. I have narrated the script to Bachchan saab but he is yet to say yes.
How did you come up with the title?
I was mixing Shah Rukh's Asoka. In the climax of the film when Asoka kills everyone, a monk chants 'Buddham Sharanam Gacchami.' I had immediately decided that this would be the title of my film. I am fighting for this title because someone else has taken it, so lets see.
Since you have assisted Mahesh Bhatt in many films, why didn't he produce your film?
I think big but they make small budget films. Their budget for an entire film is the budget of just two songs in my movies. I might do a film for him in future.
Image: Vivek Sharma