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'I ran after Ram Gopal's car...'

September 19, 2005 18:23 IST

Rohit Jugraj comes from a middle class background. His father and sister are both doctors. He also started off with medicine, but realised it wasn't his thing while doing a documentary for the BBC at Corbett National Park. It made him realise that filmmaking was what he wanted to do.

Patcy N spoke to the debutant director of James about his Bollywood experiences...

"I don't believe it is a Ram Gopal Varma camp. I like to think I subscribe to the ideology of Ram Gopal Varma. I have done my medicine from Maullana Azad Medical College New Delhi. I don't like to mention that though, which is why my screen name doesn't use the title of Dr.

I did only four and half years of medicine because, by then, I became sensible enough to realise I had just one life to live. For me, the only thing that made sense was to make films or at least get into the medium of cinema. I believe I have stories to tell and I have the form of expression to tell them.

My father still refuses to speak to me. In my third year of medical school, I began going to Corbett National Park. There were a few people doing a wildlife documentary on tigers for the BBC. I went because I wanted to earn some money. I soon realised this was what I wanted to do. I loved just sitting there on the machan. The most beautiful thing I did was film a pair of tigers mating. I began to understand how powerful the medium was.

I was preparing for my GRE (Graduate Record Examination) simultaneously, to join a filmmaking course in New York. In order to finance my course, however, I needed sponsorship. The BBC gave me a recommendation and I got it. I then did everything to complete my course -- from being a flower delivery boy to construction labourer.

I came to India because I can express something only in an Indian way. When I came, I had four directors in mind as I believed they were the only ones worth it -- Ram Gopal Varma, Mani Ratnam, Shekhar Kapoor and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I tried them all in that order, but all of them were full. This is where the concept of a camp comes in, as nobody will allow you to break into it. This is why I hate these so-called camps.

RGV was already working on the post-production of Company then, Shekhar Kapoor was not in India and the only person I could contact was Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I got on to Devdas but, after the first schedule, I realised it wasn't my kind of cinema. I told him so and I remember what he told me -- 'You will relate only to your film.' I didn't relate to Vidhu Vinod Chopra's film either, when I was with him.

When RGV came to the sets with Urmila once or twice, I ran after his car. I told him I had been waiting to meet him but wasn't being allowed to enter his office. I gave him four short films I had made and said I would love to assist him. He asked me to leave them at his office. I did, but, till date, I don't know if he has seen them or not.

Then, his editor Chandan Arora -- who made Main Madhuri Dixit Bannna Chahti Hoon -- recommended me to him for Bhoot. I was among the last assistants, yet he saw me and gave me a film like James. I respect him for that. He once told me that he had given me a film because he felt I was talented enough. What he liked about me was my focus and conviction.

James is about a young man who comes to Mumbai from another city. Looking for a job, he finds one as a bouncer but gets into a small tiff that escalates. As a story, it is not earth shattering. Here you see the hero like a child sees one. I will not say it's a different film. And let me tell you that this film has nothing to do with underworld.

Ram Gopal Varma never tried to interfere, and it takes courage for a producer to trust one totally. Everyone was afraid it was a new team that would collapse, but he had trust in us. After we shot the introductory scene, everyone was taken aback. When RGV saw it, he shook hands with me for the first time. He has shot two songs, but it is to package Mohit and Nisha as stars.

I was not at all apprehensive that Mohit was a newcomer because, by that logic, my producer should have been apprehensive about me. Fresh blood always brings in fresh insecurities and anxieties, which is why nobody wants it. Everyone in the team is new. There was a saying about the team -- 'James mein kutta bhi naya hai.'

Nisha is an extremely dedicated actress. I have never seen someone who is so born for camera. People say Shah Rukh Khan changes in front of the camera. I truly believe the only person who reacts like that is Nisha, because she is otherwise a simple girl. Mohit is like James in real life as well. He has amazing screen presence. People say he is arrogant, but he just doesn't like to speak. He is a very straightforward man. Despite the fact that he comes from a well-off family, he is a simpleton. If he doesn't like anything, he will tell it to your face.

Patcy N