A vehicle for Ms Preity
Kundan Shah on the art of making films and his latest, Dil Hai Tumhara
Filmmaker Kundan Shah made waves with his directorial debut Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (starring Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri). His second film, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (with Shah Rukh Khan, Suchitra Krishnamurthy, and Deepak Tijori) was also a hit, with excellent performances from the cast.
His next hit film was the Preity Zinta-starrer Kya Kehna (also starring Saif Ali Khan, Chandrachur Singh). Zinta received rave reviews for her performance.
His latest film, Dil Hai Tumhaara, (released on September 6), starring Rekha, Zinta again, Mahima Chaudhry, Arjun Rampal, and Jimmy Shergil, is about the relationships between a mother and her stepdaughter and between two stepsisters. Unfortunately, the film has not fared too well at the box office.
Shah discussed the movie with Subhash K Jha.
After making films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, why did you make commercially compromised films like Kya Kehna and Dil Hai Tumhaara?
I have signed an exclusive contract for five years and five films with [music company] Tips. The pre-condition is that all my films will be made out of my own scripts. Dil Hai Tumhaara was supposed to be made by Rajkumar Santoshi. I took his story and made it my own. You'll see a reflection of my sensibilities in the film. There's no getting away from that. As you know, a filmmaker makes the same film over and over again.
But doesn't he have to be clever enough to conceal the similarity...?
I don't think filmmaking is about being clever. Take Guru Dutt's works. No matter what he made, his protagonist was always a tortured soul. In his most commercial film Chaudhvin Ka Chand, he was the tortured lover.
Every individual has a vision and personality. And they're bound to reflect in his work. Dostoevsky wrote a book called Insulted & Humiliated early in his career. The same love triangle repeated itself in his last novel The Brothers Karamazov. A filmmaker matures as he makes his films. There's a filtering process that every creative person must go through. Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity.
Tell us about your next film.
I haven't signed any other film, but I'm working on some subjects. My next film for Tips will be experimental. It's a musical comedy with a sutradhar (narrator). Every Hindi film, including Dil Hai Tumhaara, is a musical because it has songs. But the credit for the music in Dil Hai Tumhaara goes to my producers. I had very little to do with it. Of course, they gave me the freedom to picturise the songs my way.
I've tried to make a departure from the normal commercial cinema in Dil Hai Tumhaara. In Rajkumar Santoshi's script, the romance dominated. In mine, the mother-daughter relationship dominates. The climax is devoted entirely to Rekha's character. It's a ten-minute climax where she doesn't speak at all.
What is it like working within the star system?
I haven't worked with big stars. Kya Kehna was one of Preity's first films. None of Arjun's films had been released when we signed him. As for Rekha, we needed her to do the mother's role. She was our first and last choice. Even Shah Rukh Khan wasn't a star when I worked with him in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa.
Why do you think your last comedy Hum Toh Mohabbat Karega failed?
I take the blame for its failures. To cast stars (Karisma Kapoor, Bobby Deol) was my decision. If I felt they weren't right, I should've walked out of the film. Now I have learnt to put my foot down. I have another comedy (Ek Se Badhkar Ek) ready for release. But again it isn't my story. It may work on some level, but it doesn't say anything.
Is Dil Hai Tumhaara your biggest film to date?
Budget-wise, yes. Let me tell you something. If you look for Guru Dutt's Pyaasa in Chaudhvin Ka Chand, you won't find it. The difference between Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Dil Hai Tumhaara is even more pronounced. Guru Dutt produced Chaudhvin Ka Chand himself whereas I did not produce Dil Hai Tumhaara.
The resemblance in Dil Hai Tumhaara to Bimal Roy's Sujata is uncanny.
That's a classic and bound to have an impact on every filmmaker's mind. But that film dealt with untouchability. My film deals with another issue.
But the similarities to Sujata are uncanny...
Not really, I had made a statement that my film is about a mother-daughter conflict and the only film similar to it is Sujata. Soon, the media started writing that Dil Hai Tumhaara was another Sujata.
What attracted me to Santoshi's script was the relationship between the two sisters. As far as similarities with Sujata are concerned, the scene when Rekha apologizes to Preity has shades of Bimal Roy's film. [But] Sujata is far more powerful because its basic premise --- untouchability --- cut across the film's interpersonal relationships. Dil Hai Tumhaara is not a Sujata because I'm not Bimal Roy.
Dil Hai Tumhaara will benefit Preity more than you.
Yes, I agree. I'm prepared for that. In commercial setups, I'm never likely to get benefited in a mainstream film. It happened with Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and Kya Kehna. Now it will happen with Dil Hai Tumhaara.