My story begins with you when ‘Kalicharan’ hit the theatres. It was my first outing with my friends…
(Smiles). Why praise me? Let me jump over to tell you a khaas baat about that film.
I had written the script of ‘Kalicharan’ with dialogues but when I was offered to direct it, I went and asked for two more dialogue writers. A director tends to become obsessed with the medium; he/she needs a couple of writers around him/her to correct him if and when he’s getting obsessed and thereby going wrong.
You always worked with big stars…
Let me correct you. Tina Munim in ‘Karz’ was new. Shatrughan Sinha in ‘Kalicharan’ was new. Rishi was a star when I started with him in ‘Karz’. I asked him if he will come on board as a star or as an actor. He told me that he wants to hear the script. The moment that happened, he told me he would do that film as an actor.
Even ‘Vidhaata’ had no star. Sanjay Dutt’s ‘Rocky’ hadn’t even released when I cast him for ‘Vidhaata’. Dilip Kumar was hardly doing films those days. I told Gulshan Rai I don’t need two big stars but just Dilip saab and Sanju. Did I take any star in ‘Hero’? Did I take any star in ‘Meri Jung’?
Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar in ‘Vidhaata’, then Dilip Kumar in ‘Karma’, then Dilip Kumar again and Raaj Kumar in ‘Saudagar’?
Those senior actors had become character actors by then. I am telling you about the lead stars. I knew from Day 1 that if an actor is going to join my team, the film shall succeed.
Aaj ka star aapko apni team mein lena chahta hai. He tries to bring the director on board.
The result is a big zero…
You said it! If a child starts teaching his parents how they have to behave, how will they progress in life? Ek bewakoof doosre bewakoof ki tareef kar raha hai aur doosra bewakoof khush ho raha hai. LIke you told me in an off-line chat before our interview that new generation actors are being cast depending on the number of followers they have on Instagram.
That’s right. Many newcomers have told us that they are cast like that…
Sometime ago, I did a film ’36 Farmhouse’. The actors started telling me about the number of followers they have. Social media gives great exposure but you surely can’t decide anybody’s personality and acting talent based on his/her Instagram following. Woh producer aur director hi galat hai jo unko Instagram followers ke aadhar par cast karta hain.
Why do most TV actors not become stars? Their personality is different. Their world is different. We need to understand what the medium of cinema actually is. Theatre is an actor’s medium, a film is a director’s medium.
Actors of today are demanding very high fees. Producers are succumbing to their demands…
I know. It’s like a teacher asking the fees from his student before the teacher has told him what he’s going to be taught.
But the canvas of the film was very huge when you too directed it…
That’s what cinema is. You need to define the motion pictures’ grammar precisely. I never made pictures for the mobile phone.
Do you tell the young directors of today who are going wrong?
Why should I tell them? It’s certain personal decisions that they take in life, it’s their life. I cannot be telling them individually. I am answering this because you are asking me.
Many South films are however working…
Look at the South films. Those movies look that they have been directed by the director. You can make out that the actor has surrendered to his role. Our industry is industry of stars.
I remember the days when I worked with Rajinikanth. I cannot forget his dedication for his work, his belief in God and his respect.
Do Bollywood actors of today respect the director?
The actors of 90s still understand the importance of the story- be it SRK, Salman or Aamir. They want the job to be done well and they know that the money will follow. But today’s generation wants the money to come first; they are just bothered about their personal branding and fees; they feel they have become big brands, they are surrounded by an entourage who even tells them to look left or right.. They look like sabun tel waale log jo apni shooting chhod ke ad karne ke liye chale jaate hain. Gone are the days when actors did not sleep for two days if they had a challenging scene coming up. But today’s actors leave a film midway for 2/3 days if a commercial comes along; they shoot it and then return on the set after a gap.
And that induces a disconnect?
Of course, farak padega na? Did you ever hear about Rajesh Khanna or Anil Kapoor in his hey days do ads? Aap theatre se ghar aao toh actor tel bech raha hai, you begin to wonder that what happened to him/her since you just saw him/her on the big screen talking about patriotism?
Don’t forget their over-exposure, today. These guys are constantly on TV talking even about his personal life. This easy accessibility dilutes the whole thing. I wouldn’t say they are over-exposed actually. I would rather say ‘exposed to the core’.
You must be aware that today’s actors hardly work with their counterparts. Can multi-starrer films then happen today?
I was told Shammi Kapoor won’t work with Dilip Kumar. Shammi told me that he has no issue as long as I an directing it. You respect actors, he said. Ditto for Raaj Kumar; he said he knew I will justify his presence. I never focused cameras on my friends and brought them to the fore if the story/scene didn’t demand it.
Didn’t that lead to a bit of a cold war on the sets?
All stars are like kids. A director needs to be the mother on the set. Apna kaam nikalna aana chahiye. Actors are very insecure.
That reminds me of the scene in ‘Karma’ which had Naseeruddin Shah apologising to Dilip Kumar after Dilip Kumar gives him an earful. Buzz was Naseer had asked for that scene. A similar thing we had heard when Amitabh requests Rishi to go home in the ‘Chal Mere Bhai’ song of ‘Naseeb’…
Yeh individual cases hote rahten hain. hote rahenge. I can speak for my ‘Karma’ scene. That was in the original script. It wasn’t written later. I won’t bow down to the pressure of any actor, I would rather shut the film otherwise.
Your funniest dance? You often did that in your songs.
I enjoy every moment of life. Like I am enjoying talking to you now. You haven’t changed. I did get into songs but only where the space for it existed. I never got into the story and spoilt it (smiles)
I think your best was in ‘Meri Jung’…
Really? I still dance well. Call me home. Host a party. I will dance.
Let’s hear it from you about the Mukta Arts’ 44th anniversary…
It’s been 44 years. I have performed many roles in it. It has been a very long journey with several successes. I never lamented a flop.
What’s the remedy pill for the present state of Bollywood?
Jabse Bollywood naam rakha, problem shuru hua. Inke faces turned towards Hollywood. Films are being written by people who think in English. How will such films reach the masses? They do talk about God and family, but where’s the connect?
We are also becoming too Westernised. It’s great to know the world through social media but you can’t think like a foreigner when you are making a film for India. Don’t get the outside narrative here. It won’t work. Take leaps in technology but the DNA and emotion has to be from India.
Your most difficult film till date?
‘Black and White’. I was making it with ‘Yuvraaj’. I had decided that I wanted to make a film which was not a typical Ghai film. It was an experiment. We made it in Chandni Chowk. I would say I succeeded because people came out and said that this doesn’t look like a Ghai film. Mind you, it wasn’t easy to detach from myself.