'I promise to change the look of Hindi films'
Priyadarshan is the latest success story from the south in the Hindi film industry. His Virasat was a hit. Naturally, he is spending more time in Bombay than in the south these days.
Priyadarshan. Click for bigger pic!
Like pal Mohanlal, he has also settled in Madras, but lives in modest flat. Shobha Warrier caught him when he was in Madras for a day.
"Can we have an interview," I asked him. "Why not? Let's meet today itself; from tomorrow onwards I am shooting continuously". So we met that evening itself.
Last time he made her wait for more than two hours. He is better now. I had to wait for only 45 minutes. But throughout the interview, I felt he was in a hurry. He talked as if his mind was elsewhere. He had changed over time, Warrier noted. He who talked ardently about the literary works of M T Vasudevan Nair and Thakazhi, the fun-filled school and college days, his dreams about becoming a cricketer, talked only about films, that too Hindi films. Warrier, naturally, was a bit disappointed.
Last time we met, you said directing Hindi films was only a hobby. Now that your film, Virasat is a hit, have you changed your opinion?
I have not changed my opinion. What attracts me to Hindi films is the monetary benefits connected with it. Also, what I cannot do in the south with the limited budgets there is possible only in Hindi. I can experiment a lot in Hindi, that too in a very big way. I am experimenting, at least in commercial films.
What exactly do you mean by experiments, that too in a Hindi commercial set-up?
See, I am an ardent fan of David Lean. I cannot do a shot like David Leans' in a Malayalam film because the budget does not permit me. Those dreams, I mean the glossy dreams of mine, can be fulfilled only in Hindi films. At least in the song sequences. These experiments are great experience for me.
Priyadarshan with Mohanlal Click for bigger pic!
I feel it doesn't matter whether I experiment here or there in Bombay. I admit I get job satisfaction only here as I get to do a lot of original works. Kerala is one place where you can make a realistic film like Nakhakshathangal, Panchagni, etc and make it a commercial success. You may know that those films ran for 200 days in Kerala.
So, you get a lot of satisfaction while making them and later on too. But you get recognition only when you make a realistic film. Nobody recognises a hit commercial film-maker.
By recognition, you mean critical acclaim?
Yes, I mean critical acclaim. Without critical acclaim, you are just a successful commercial director, and nothing more. These are the differences between being in the south and in Bombay. I am lucky to be in the south. At the same time I am getting chances to try to make some large-scale movies, rather visuals, nowadays.
Are you getting a chance to experiment on realistic stories in the south, In Bombay, things are a little different...
I experiment on the commercial aspects of films. They are like the American and the French films. American films look at films with a larger than life attitude while the French films look at life as it is.
Likewise, you see only larger than life characters and situations in Hindi but we see life as it is in Malayalam. Let me stress one thing, this attitude is not there in the entire south, but only in Malayalam.
A still from his Kalapani. Click for bigger pic!
Now that you are doing a lot of Hindi films, you must be seeing only larger than life characters, at least when you look through the lens. In that context, will you be able to see life as it is, say, after sometime? Won't your vision get affected?
No, not at all. I used to watch a lot of "Jyothilakshmy action films', at the same time I watch Goddard, De Sica, Paul Muni etc too. I enjoy watching Bicycle Thieves even today. I can condition my mind according to the film. I don't go to see an Amitabh Bachchan film with the same mindset as I see a De Sica film.
But watching films and making films are different, are they not? What I asked was, won't you lose touch with reality?
I don't think so. I have no problem at all to adjust to both kinds of film. I always attune myself to the kind of film I am making. I am trying to alleviate the gap between the fantasy that you see in commercial movies and reality. Even in Virasat, I tried to do that. Even though it is a commercial movie, I tried to make the characters, their emotions, their behaviour as real as possible. Some of the shots in Virasat look better them the 'art film' shots.
You mean technically?
Technically and authenticity-wise. It is more real than an art film. The flood scene might look like a documentary but it is a shot in a commercial film.
Earlier you used to make Malayalam films about very ordinary people and very ordinary situations.
A still from his Virasat. Click for bigger pic!
I am trying to do the same thing in Hindi now.
Like you yourself said, everything in Hindi films looks quite big and not ordinary at all, even in your own movies.
They look big only on canvas. I am trying to make everything look ordinary and real even when everything looks big in a real way.
Even the characters?
But you see only larger than life characters in Hindi.
It's true. But I am trying to make them move a little towards reality. That is going to be the new look in Hindi films which I promise to bring.
Do you think you will be able to change the look of Hindi films?
Yes, I promise to do that. I can make things look more real in a bigger way.
Which type of movies do you enjoy the most, the realistic Malayalam movies or the commercial Hindi movies?
I enjoy making both. Sometimes you even enjoy making an ad film. As long as you are working with some conviction, you feel happy.
You once told me that your introduction to movies was through watching classic films made by directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan. When did you drift away from that kind of film?
I'm not drifting away. I'm trying to make films in my own formula. I am trying to build a bridge between an Adoor Gopalakrishnan movie and an Amitabh Bachchan action film. Yes, my canvas is commercial, but in a new, different format. It may look like an art film, at the same time the content is that of a commercial film.
'I felt bad when I learnt I was not taken seriously and ridiculed'