After months of deliberation, Subhash Ghai is ready to launch his new venture, Homeland, featuring Dilip Kumar and Akshaye Khanna. Shah Rukh Khan is expected to join the cast.
"Homeland is about the battles soldiers fight within themselves," says Ghai cryptically. "Farhan Akhtar, who just started shooting for Lakshya in Mussoorie, can breathe easy. His war is more overt."
Two of Ghai's productions -- Anant Balani's Jogger's Park (set in Mumbai's well-known suburban park) and Suhail Tatari's Chandni Chowk (set in Delhi) -- are being readied for release this year. Next, Abbas-Mustan and Vikram Bhatt will direct films for Ghai's banner, Mukta Arts, while he gets busy with his directorial venture.
Ghai's decision to open the door to outside directors has taken many industry watchers by surprise. "Earlier films [by outside directors, like the Mukul Anand-directed Trimurti and the Prakash Jha-directed Rahul] for my banner have not worked. Now we are very clear about the mode for an outside director. He cannot treat our resources as an all-expenses paid holiday. I have demarcated responsibilities within our organisation so I can concentrate for a year on my film."
Ghai admits he is anxious about Homeland, "If I stopped being anxious, I would be creatively dead. Am I going to score next time? That haunts me. You see, the more you grow, the more you evolve, the more you understand the world. Sometimes, people who come into your life are teachers; sometimes they are students. It is always a give-and-take of perceptions.
"As for living up to expectations," continues Ghai, "let me give you an example. Recently, when the Indian cricket team lost to Australia in the qualifying matches of the World Cup, there were news reports that 95 per cent of the people refused to buy products endorsed by cricketers. Then, a week later, when India won against Pakistan, 86 per cent of the people changed their mind. If people can change their minds so drastically, how can I spend my time worrying about their perceptions? You have to look within yourself to see whether you are getting where you want to."
The filmmaker, who has given the industry such all-time hits as Karz, Hero, Vidhaata, Karma and Ram Lakhan, feels the definitions of Hindi cinema are changing fast. "When you go to cities like Kanpur and Lucknow, you see Baristas [the coffee bar], and young boys and girls hugging on motorcycles. Definitions of a metro audience are changing as fast as the metro audiences themselves. My young friends in the metros call the typical potboilers filmi. They do not want clichéd films with mother, mandir [temple] and daakus [robbers]. They want films that can be compared with international cinema. My next film will be a big responsibility and a challenge. At the same time, it has to be Indian in content. In terms of presentation, it must be of international quality. I will not call my next film expensive, I will call it my most responsible film."
Meanwhile, Ghai is working on his pet project -- the film school he says he has built to nurture the Mumbai film industry out of its current crisis: "Things cannot get any worse for us. Over the last few years, I did not concentrate my energies on making movies or being visible in the media. I decided to focus setting up a talent school of international standards after travelling extensively to pick up ideas. I want to create a pool of cinematic talent for the coming generations. Tomorrow, there will be 200 movie channels and various genres of films -- crossover, mainstream, etc. Where is the talent to feed the growing need for software? There is an acute shortage of creative people in our film industry. The last really remarkable batch of filmmakers were Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Sooraj Barjatya, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar. That is not enough."
Ghai feels a plethora of filmmaking talent is necessary to see Hindi cinema attain international success. "We need 10 to 12 filmmaking voices every year to fit into the expanding scenario. We are taking on 200 students in our school. At least 20 out of them should be creatively rewarding."
A product of the Film And Television Institute Of India, Ghai feels the Pune-based institute's syllabus is founded on an outdated European model. "It has produced avant garde filmmakers like Mani Kaul and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. There are filmmakers who are qualified from the institute but are unemployed in mainstream Hindi cinema. We [Ghai's school] will train potential filmmakers from the perspective of Indian mainstream cinema and in the nuances of European and American cinema."