Patcy N in Mumbai
Suparn Verma, who debuted as a director with 2005's Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena, is ready with his second film, Acid Factory.
Set for release this Friday, Acid Factory boasts of an all-star cast, featuring big names like Irrfan Khan, Fardeen Khan, Dino Morea, Aftab Shivadasani, Manoj Bajpai, Danny Denzongpa and Dia Mirza.
Varma, who in the past has written films like Chhal, Qayamat, Zameen and Karam, spoke to rediff.com's Patcy N about working with such a huge star cast, and what audiences should expect from Acid Factory.
He also discusses Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena, and explains why the film was poorly received.
It's been over three years since your first movie. What took you so long?
Not actually. I was writing this script for more than a year, and after that I started shooting.
Fardeen is always in your films. Why is that? What is the equation like? Does it worry you that Fardeen's box office value is quite low?
This is my second film with Fardeen. I love working with him, as I have comfort zone with him. In this film, there are seven actors apart from Fardeen. They are Irrfan, Danny, Dino, Aftab, Dia and Manoj.
My last movie did not do well, so it is okay. You can work with the biggest actor on the planet, who has given a lot of hits in the past. But when he does your movie, maybe it flops.
So there are no such mathematical equations that 'This movie will work' and 'This movie will not work'. You just have to go back and start again, because everyone is here to make a hit movie. Ultimately it depends on the audience, whether they like it or don't like it. And, of course, we learn lessons from our mistakes
So what was the mistake in Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena? What did you learn?
Avoid a very twisted complicated storyline because you might tend to confuse your viewers.
'Each layer of every character unfolds as Acid Factory progresses'
How did you get a chance to work with Sanjay Gupta? Who made the first move, he or you?
Sanjay actually called me after he saw the trailer of Ek Khiladi on television, as he really liked it. After that we were constantly in touch and one day he offered me Acid Factory. He had the idea in his head, and then we sat down and wrote it in the course of a year.
But after watching EK Khiladi, was he disappointed?
No. Actually he saw the movie and liked it. Some people liked it and some hated it. But the only difference was that the number of people who did not enjoy the film was more. But this time around we are making a mass entertainer.
What is Acid Factory about?
It is about bunch of characters, who are brought together under strange circumstances and how they have to deal with each other in the situation that they are in. Each layer of every character unfolds as the film progresses.
'We took Dia Mirza and transformed her completely'
Not actually. Ek Khiladi is inspired by 14 con films -- Confidence and House of Game are among them. Chhal was not inspired. Qayamat was inspired by The Rock. Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai was marketed as American Pie but it wasn't inspired by American Pie; not one gag of it was from American Pie. Zameen and Karam were not remakes.
Bipasha was supposed to be in Ek Khiladi, but she opted out. She's back in your next. Is Bipasha your favourite actress? Why do you always zero in on her? Was it easy convincing her this time around? Was money the issue the first time?
Yes, Bipasha was supposed to do Ek Khiladi. But she never opted out. We could never work out a date with her. At the time, she had five films and I could not work out a date. In this film also, she had a full fledged role but her dates did not work out this time too. We had dates for six actors; it was only her date problem.
Both Ek Khiladi and Acid Factory are thrillers and dark films and I find Bipasha's looks and body language blend well to a noir film. She is a femme fatale, so when we did not get her, we took Dia Mirza and transformed her completely. Plus Dia wanted to break her sweet girl image.
Why do your films have to be dark films? Why can't you make colourful films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or Kuch Kuh Hota Hai?
The question is: Why can't Bhansali makes thrillers? More than dark, I enjoy grey characters because they surprise you more. But that does not mean that I don't like such characters. I love Bhansali's films, and Karan Johar's films. And it is not that I will not make that kind of cinema.
'The big revelation will be Dino Morea'
It was great fun. They are all different, interesting people. With Fardeen, it was like coming back home, as we have worked together previously, so we have a comfort zone. Manoj Bajpai is one of my favourite actors and I wanted to work with him for the longest time. I have liked Satya, and I wanted to work with him for some time. I had reviewed one of his films, Tammana, and I had written very good things about him. So actually he had been in my heart even before Satya happened.
I had decided on the actors even as I was writing the script; so the only actor who changed was Bipasha. The rest were all the same. Aftab, he listens to narration and then he listens again. You have to tell him the exact tone and emotion of the character and that particular scene, and then he gets the whole graph and he works around it. You will enjoy him in this film. He has not done too many thrillers.
The other big revelation will be Dino. Dino is the most trusting actor that I have seen. He puts himself completely in your hands and he tells you, 'I will do whatever you want me to do'. Dino surprises you. His role is very interesting and challenging. If he makes a bit mistake in his role, he will start hamming. He is totally a director's actor.
Irrfan for me is one of the most peaceful actors. He is the most chilled guy. He is on the sets humming a tune, but then he is a brilliant actor. I have seen the way he uses his eyes, especially in the scenes were there is silence. His eyes play a lot.
I had heard a story about Danny, that he is a very temperamental guy. But I realised that he is the most emotional person that I have met. He connects well. If he loves you, he can do anything for you.
These six guys bonded well on the sets. Every single night was a party, yet everyone would be on the sets on time. We had a 9am to 9pm shoot everyday. (Usually) six actors in the same frame get insecure, but there was nothing of that sort here.
'Manoj's wife Shabana has a special appearance in the film'
Irrfan's family came down when he was in South Africa. During the Hyderabad schedule, Fardeen's wife Natasha came along. And Manoj's wife Shabana has a special appearance in the film, so she was also there. It was a family affair. The White Feathers Film family has the tradition of partying, so now we are all party animals.
Tell us about South Africa schedule?
We shot actions for 18 days and I worked with Tinnu Verma for the first time. Working with him was a very interesting experience. We have pulled off great action scenes -- blowing up cars, etc.
Plus, we worked with 60 per cent of foreign technicians and crew when we were in South Africa. We got to see a different culture.
My action choreographer and few other people had done Blood Diamond and Lord of War. We exchanged stories and got to learn so many things, but we don't lack anything here in our country anymore. We are on par with them.
'Sanjay Dutt is a rock star'
I thought Koena [Mitra] had very good role in Ek Khiladi. She was like the second hero of the film. She was part of the whole con.
You have been lucky to get a good production house to back your projects -- first Rangiita and now Sanjay Gupta. How do you do that?
Most producers tend to see whether you have passion for cinema or not, whether you are willing to give your life for the film or not. I feel I have been lucky because they have managed to see that in me. Same with Sanjay, we both are mad about movies.
Do you think if Sanjay Dutt and Sanjay Gupta had not fallen apart, you would get to work with him?
Actually Sanjay Dutt was in my film. But Irrfan was cast instead when they both parted.
You just said that you had actors in your mind when you were writing the script...
But the Sanjay Dutt and Sanjay Gupta split happened during the early stages. So when we wrote the character of Irrfan, we wrote keeping Irrfan in mind. Having Sanjay Dutt would have been absolute pleasure; it would have been terrific. He is a rock star. He is Munnabhai. I love him. But then with Irrfan in the film, the film has gone to different level altogether.
'I never had to cut down sequences because they were huge and expensive'
Sanjay would come on the sets at four in the evening. He sees a shot taking place then he chats with the actors for 15 minutes and then he announces the party for that evening, and then he leaves. Sanjay being a director understands exactly what I wanted as a director.
I would want to talk about him in two stages. First is the writing stage, when we co-wrote the script together. Sanjay Gupta as a producer never stopped me from writing any scenes, which would have been expensive, like a helicopter scene. I never had to cut down sequences because they were huge and expensive. He backed everything that I had in my script.
Secondly, as he director he also understands that I needed space and he called me on the very first day of the shoot and said that, if you need me for anything, you call me at two in the morning. I don't mind. He was always there whenever I needed his help.
After the failure of Ek Khiladi, how did you get back to work? What keeps you going?
I have no regrets about Ek Khiladi. I was happy with the film. If I have to make it again, I would make it all over again in the same way. Audience did not approve of it, so of course it made me sad. I spoke with friends and relatives about what they did not like about the film. But my producer had made money on the film, so that made me happy, as nobody lost any money. I was sad and alone for a week, but then I started meeting people and started writing my next script.
When will Acid Factory release?
It will release later this year.