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'People will compare Aashayein to Anand'

Last updated on: August 25, 2010 17:28 IST

Image: A scene from Aashayein
Nithya Ramani in Mumbai

A degree holder in Chemical Engineering, Nagesh Kukunoor took to filmmaking because of his addiction to watching Hollywood films in school. Thanks to those days, we have some wonderful films like Hyderabad Blues, Iqbal and Dor.

Now, the director is ready with his long-delayed film Aashayein, which stars John Abraham, Sonal Sehgal and Anaitha Nair.

Nagesh chatted about a variety of subjects over a hot cup of coffee, like how he lost touch with the Tamil language, how he hates the Mumbai rains and what the government should do to make India a superpower like the US.

And of course, he spoke about his film as well.

This is what he said to Nithya Ramani:

Aashayein is finally releasing. It's been a long three-year wait.

Aashayein was supposed to release before Tasveer 8x10. That was one of the distractions. It was only after it released that I started feeling restless and wanted Aashayein to release.

It was a very frustrating period because it took a while before (producer) Percept and (distributor) Big Pictures could resolve their differences. Unfortunately, I couldn't do anything to push it one way or the other. I could only wait.

Usually, I distract myself by writing. That keeps my mind occupied rather than think about things that are beyond my control.

People don't understand that every film is important to a director. Bombay to Bangkok was as important to me as Iqbal. The film's outcome might not justify the effort that went into making it but for me, it is important that the film releases.

'This is the first film where I have tried to work the music into the film as part of storytelling'

Image: A scene from Aashayein

When we spoke about Aashayein two years earlier, you were very gung-ho about it. Now, it's just relief.

Very true. But this gap has helped me make some changes in the film. I have been able to go back to it and tweak it because I had the luxury of time. I have always believed that you can never stop editing. I was able to watch the film from a different angle, and make slight changes accordingly.

We made more music, and released new music videos.

The film has wonderful music by Salim-Sulaiman. But the promos and music videos don't reflect the essence of the film.

True. But that is completely T-Series' decision. As co-producers, it is their right. So I let them be. I just wanted the film to release.

It has four songs, which are untainted when you watch the film.

This is the first film where I have tried to work the music into the film as part of the storytelling. Instead of using the songs as a sequence breaker, they are in sync with the storytelling here.

'I refuse to follow the conventional way of filmmaking'

Image: A scene from Aashayein

Weren't you afraid the buzz about the film would have died because of its delay?

Absolutely. But I am glad we started the promotions three months back. I didn't have this luxury in any other film. The word of Aashayein had been spreading quietly and effectively, and I think it's much better than the first time. People's reactions have been positive.

This is the first time I've taken to tweeting. It's something I don't do. I don't even use Facebook.

Aashayein has a sad story. Won't it be too heavy for the audience?

It depends on what emotions you are tapping. The crux of the film is that John never becomes a patient in spite of being diagnosed (of cancer). He wants to live life to the maximum for however long he is alive. There are people who curl up and die and then there are those who take the bull by the horns.

I have always tried different stuff with my films. I refuse to follow the conventional way of filmmaking, which is a mish-mash of emotions, songs, dance, comedy, tragedy... everything put together.

I am leaving it to the audience to take whatever they want from the film. I am giving them a platter of emotions. It may or may not live up to their expectations but when they leave the theatre, I want them to have felt every emotion.

'Hrishikesh Mukherjee is India's top filmmaker'

Image: A scene from Aashayein

What have you tried differently?

I have taken a topic that many wouldn't take. Hrishikesh Mukherjee could not get Anand made for the longest time. The notion then was that the hero should not die. Distributors didn't want to take up projects that dealt with dying. But 40 years later, don't you think that's one of the best films of those times?

It is always a challenge to walk the road less travelled. It has been eight years since I wrote the film. Getting the film to see the light of day was a challenge. It may not work but I know I have done my bit to make a different film and touch a topic that others won't.

Do you think people will compare the film to Anand?

Hell, yes! Since I am so fond of Hrishida, you will find a reference of him in all my films. That's probably the best I can do for the man I think is India's top filmmaker.

What made you want to do a film on cancer?

My brother is an oncologist and I have never gotten tired of hearing the tales of cancer patients -- right from diagnosing it, to revealing it to the person concerned and his family, and seeing how they deal with it. He has told me about instances where people have broken down, but come back and fought the disease bravely.

I believe life is a series of events. I believe there is magic. My film is irreligious but I believe in the works of the universe. I've used it in Iqbal also. That is what faith, fate, magic is all about. I have explored that. My film is more magical, as opposed to fate.

'Like Akshay Kumar, John is a no-nonsense guy'

Image: A scene from Aashayein

How was it working with John?

Like Akshay Kumar, John is a no-nonsense guy. You don't have to deal with the trappings of the star. He comes on the sets, finishes his shots and goes home. I prefer working with people like that. I like actors who work with the same lever of commitment as me.

I think an actor should come out of his comfort zone and do something he hasn't done before. From there on, I can take over. But that first step must come from the actor. If I had my way, I would cast every actor out of his/her type. I did it with Juhi Chawla in Teen Dewaarein, Ayesha Takia in Dor and Akshay in 8x10. It is a very exciting for me to make the actor believe that they can do something outside their comfort zone.

Why did you decide to cast John?

We wanted an actor who was willing to give us a certain degree of freedom on the budget because the subject was such. Many names were tossed around but I cast John because of the innocence and honesty on his face. I hadn't seen any of his films, nor had I met him before casting him. I only saw his photograph.

Do you think he will be able to carry the film on his shoulders?

The story is said from his point of view. I guarantee that you will bind yourself to his character by the end of the first half.