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December 12, 2000


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Snip is not a festival film. It is a fun film

Sunhil Sippy, 29, is the new kid on the block, as far as Bollywood is concerned.

Sunhil Sippy He is different and his film, Snip, is so way out and wacky that no one quite knows how to deal with him.

Pritish Nandy met the youngest Sippy to find out how he responds to the war that the critics have launched against him:

Why is there so much outrage against Snip? Did you anticipate it?

I did, I guess. It is not a typical Bollywood film. That I knew from the very beginning.

I was quite clear that I wanted to make my first film my way. And I must say I am very heartened by the way the audiences have responded to it.

But, yes, the critics have not been particularly kind.

Maybe they were not expecting a film like this from a Sippy. Their astonishment could have resulted in this outrage.

Why did you make such a way out film? No one quite knows where it is going...

Simple. Because I had no message to spread, nothing to say beyond what I did in the film.

I had no intention of changing the world. The film is complete in itself. There is no ulterior message, no vision, no earth-shattering world view. Nothing to preach to anyone.

The objective was plain and simple: To entertain people. Young people.

People are accustomed to seeing a particular kind of cinema. Now, they want to break away from it and see something different.

Have you noticed how much India has changed over the last five or six years? People dress differently, talk differently, eat differently, they even read different kind of stuff.

Why shouldn't they have a different kind of film to watch as well?

Sunhil Sippy My idea was to put their bums down on the seat for an hour and 45 minutes and watch them have a great time. Pure entertainment. That was my motto for the film.

Those who were watching this film's premier in Delhi were roaring at all the right points. That's how I knew I had got it right.

If you got it so right, why are the critics cribbing?

Because they want everything serious, everything the way it is.

The best praise I got was from Ramesh Sippy, who told me (after watching the rough cut), that I had got the language of cinema right, that I understood what the medium was all about. That was, for me, high praise. I couldn't ask for anything more than that.

After all, I was not making a conventional film. I was quite prepared for the unconventional response to it.

Even someone like Ramgopal Varma, who was such a great help and inspiration to me during the making of the film, was not exactly enthusiastic when he saw it in its finished stage. Frankly, I was not expecting everyone to stand up and applaud.

This is not a festival film. It is a fun film.

Sophiya Haque was an unusual choice for the lead role?

Absolutely. She looks also very different from the typical Hindi film star. But that was the moot point.

And the fact is that she got into the role almost instantaneously.

In so many ways, the film was written for her. She is a very, very talented person and she was so excited by the script that I chose her. Her voice was just right for the film. She is also very, very bright.

Saurabh Shukla was a scream. He brings the house down.

Makarand Deshpande, who plays this egg salesman who aspires to own a rickshaw, provokes extreme reactions. People in Delhi came up to me and said how much they loved him. Others out here hated him.

How much did you finally spend on the film?

I cannot really talk about the budget, but let me say that I began the film with the idea of making it within Rs 50 to Rs 60 lakhs, but that kept growing as we kept adding new things to it. Sunhil Sippy

Like Bharat Shah wanted some songs. So we bunged them in. Luckily for me, he allowed me to put in the songs exactly the way I wanted to.

The song videos are deadly...

Yeah, and unlike the usual songs in Hindi films which cost Rs 70 or 80 lakhs, if not more, mine were shot on budgets of Rs five lakhs. You cannot make out the difference.

They have the same look: Dynamic, alive, very, very bright.

Lots of people noticed that but they also turned around and said: Fine, it sounds good, looks good, but what the hell is it all about? What's the point?

I give them a typical Gen X answer. But the real issue is that we must look for a new cinema, a different kind of cinema, outside the predictable language of popular cinema as we have known it for so long.

I had no intention of making a typical film. My idea was to do something different. I think I have succeeded to an extent. Maybe 50 per cent. Maybe my next film will be 75 per cent closer to what I want to do.

What is your next film about?

It is still in the scripting stage but it is equally weird. In fact, more so.

The story is not yet ready but the idea is there, the concept.

I am sure it will again be knocked around for being frivolous, shallow. It revolves around this hitman who is a virgin. He is told by this big kingpin don to come for a party and that he must bring along a date.

How he manages to find a date to take along to the underworld party is what the film is all about.

It is a wild little story and I am still in the first draft of the screenplay. Yeah, I know it is bizarre. But then, those are the kind of films I make.

I do not want to slap a message on anyone's face. I want people to have a great time watching the film for what it is. Sophia Haque and Nikhil Chinappa

This time, the film will be a little more hardcore. A little more edgy, perhaps.

How will it be different in treatment?

To begin with, it will be entirely in Hindi. For Snip, English was important.

For the new film, Hindi is important. It will also add to the integrity of the plot and its treatment.

Who are your favourite filmmakers in India?

Those who are ready to take a risk. Someone like Ramgopal Varma.

I remember how I was astounded when I saw Rangeela. I was mesmerised. And I did not even understand Hindi all that well in those days!

What I like so much about Ramgopal Varma is the fact that all his films are so different. He takes risks.

I also think Dev (Benegal) is cool. I like the way his work has grown over the years.

Also Ramesh Sippy. No one film of his is alike. He is not like Yash Chopra, who keeps making the same romantic films again and again.

Any international influences?

Robert Altman; the Spanish filmmaker, Pedro Almodovar, Mike Lee from Britain.

And, of course, Quentin Tarantino. Everyone knows that by now.

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