Honey Irani is very nervous.
In three days, on May 16, her directorial debut, Armaan, will hit the screen.
Armaan is being viewed as a 'big' film, one that could turn out to be Bollywood's first major hit this year.
Honey's association with films is decades old. She began her career as a wide-eyed, bubbly child-actress in films like Chirag Kahaan Roshni Kahaan and Bombay Ka Chor and has acted in over 72 films.
As an adult, she took to writing scripts and has successful films like Aaina, Darr, Lamhe, Kya Kehna! and Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai to her credit.
Returning to the screen after a long hiatus, she made a cameo appearance in the Abhishek Bachchan starrer, Shararat.
Now, Honey -- who is Dil Chahta Hai director Farhan Akhtar's mother and scriptwriter-lyricist Javed Akhtar's ex-wife -- has donned the mantle of director.
Honey is quite satisfied with her debut film. But, as she told Kanchana Suggu, what matters in the end is that elusive box office hit.
You've been involved in films for a very long time -- as a child, you faced the camera; as an adult, you wrote screenplays. Now, you are directing a film. What was the experience like?
It was great. It was something I always wanted to do. Around 1979-80, I was assisting Ramesh Talwar and I worked with him for three films Zamana [Rishi Kapoor, Poonam Dhillon], Duniya [Rishi Kapoor, Amrita Singh, Dilip Kumar] and Basera [Shashi Kapoor, Rakhee, Rekha].
After that, I started writing short stories hoping someone would want to make a film. It was only by chance that Pam [filmmaker Yash Chopra's wife, Pamela] heard the story of Aaina [Jackie Shroff, Juhi Chawla, Amrita Singh] and the film was made.
I never intended to get into script-writing. Getting into directing a film fulltime took me so long because, if you are doing well in a certain field, people always tell you not to change tracks. But I know I also want to continue writing my films.
Did you have the cast in mind right from the beginning?
I knew I wanted Amitji [Amitabh Bachchan]. But people told me he is always busy and he has never worked with a woman director and stuff like that. That was my first hurdle. It has always been my dream to work with him. So I took an appointment and met him. He immediately agreed. I was really happy.
Initially Tabu agreed to play Gracy Singh's role, but said no later. After I saw Lagaan, I met Gracy and we worked on her clothes, hair and make-up. We wanted a fine actress and Gracy was that. She is playing a doctor, so she cannot be too glamorous.
Everyone looks very different in the film -- Preity Zinta, Amitabh Bachchan...
Why are people talking so much about the looks in the film? They are all playing doctors, so they have to look different. Mr Bachchan is playing a 60-year-old, who has had to make many sacrifices in life. Obviously, he can't have jet-black hair. Amitji agreed. As for Preity, she herself loves to look different so she immediately agreed. In fact, I think every director should do that to his actors.
What were some of the major hurdles you faced during the making of the film?
Fortunately or unfortunately, there were no hurdles. I had planned the film a year-and-a-half ago. I had taken dates much in advance and finished shooting the film in 92 days. We used sync sound. Each and every actor was given his scenes in advance and we would rehearse and discuss it. I had very good assistants; the organisation was perfect. The art directors [Yunnus Pathan, Kiran Khanna] and cinematographer [S Ravi Verman] were perfect. Clothes were designed in advance [costume designer Arjun Bhasin] and trials were done. Nothing was left for the last minute.
You said it was your dream to work with Amitabh Bachchan. Was he good at taking instructions from a woman director?
It was great. Our first day of shooting was at Filmistan [an outdoor studio in Mumbai] and I was very nervous. Everyone around me was nervous. My staff were a bunch of girls in the 18-20 age group and they were worried. But the moment he came, he immediately broke the ice and spoke to everyone. From then on, things were okay. He handled the situation very well.
Is Armaan is similar to the Raj Kumar-Meena Kumari-Nadira starrer, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi?
Yes. I'd say it is similar to an extent because it [Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi] is also based in a hospital. But there is no father in that film. The background is the same, but there's no similarity. Not a single scene is the same. So I wouldn't say my film is inspired by Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi.
Were there times when you were surprised by your own ability?
[smiles] Yeah. I did quite well. I would remember every scene by heart, I'd be the first person to arrive on the sets. I used to read out the scenes, break them down, print them out and hand over a copy to each and ever person. In that way, everything was organised.
What do you think about the performances in Armaan?
The performances! Amitji, you just have to see. You would have never seen him like this before. Also, you would never have seen a father-son relationship like this. The scenes are so emotional and their bond is so beautiful. There were times when I'd see the performances and start crying and I'd look behind me and everyone would be crying. It was great.
As a first time director, what kind of feedback did you get from your cast?
All of them have loved the film. Everyone said they wanted to work with me again. They loved the organised unit and the freedom they got. I am always open to suggestions, but I put my foot down when necessary. They have seen the confidence in me.
How is your family involved in Armaan?
My daughter Zoya has done the casting and Javedsaab has written the lyrics and dialogues. I had given the script to everyone, including Zoya and Farhan. They have all written their notes and comments on it. I do the same for Farhan's films. That's how we function. We are only involved till that level.
Once the script is finalised, nobody says anything. Everyone gives each other space. It's not like I go on Farhan's sets and say, 'Beta, camera yahaan rakho [Son, place the camera here]'. But I even take opinions from my actors. Whenever we all sit together, we have a reading.
Are you nervous?
I am very nervous. I know I have done my best. I'm very satisfied with the end product. I believe the audience is quite intelligent. These days I think the industry has lost touch with the audience. I must say I feel people will come and see Armaan. I don't think people will say it's a shit film and think I have gone mad. This is a clean, sensitive, honest and dramatic film and the audience should like it. After all, box office success does matter. Of course, I care about it.
You've been associated with so many films for so many years. How is Armaan unique?
You will identify with each and every character. The performances are very real and very nice. It's the kind of film you'd want to go to watch with your family. So far, everyone who I have shown the film to has said it's not a bad film. Trust me, the people who have seen the film are very honest, straightforward and critical.
What about your future projects?
I have a few ideas. But nothing that I've sat down with and finalised. I'm too tense about Armaan right now to think about anything else.