Sangeeth Sivan is nervous and excited.
His first directorial venture Zor (Sunny Deol, Sushmita Sen) was a box-office turkey. Sangeeth -- not to be mistaken for his younger brother, director Santosh Sivan (Asoka) -- hopes to wipe out that debacle with his romantic thriller, Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne, which releases March 21. The film stars Esha Deol and newcomer Zayed Khan.
Sivan's second Bollywood venture, Sandhya, starring Raveena Tandon and Jackie Shroff, is also ready for release. But the focus, for now, is on Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne, he tells Vickey Lalwani:
You have shifted to Mumbai, haven't you?
Yes, it is easier to operate from here.
I want to leave Zor behind and start a new, successful innings in Bollywood. Today, Bollywood is opening up to interesting subjects.
In the south, I did about eight Malayalam films. But Malayalam cinema is deteriorating right now. The market is flooded with films replete with crude and crass humour.
How did Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne happen?
I met Vivek Singhania [from Pantaloon, who are producing the film] on the sets of his last film, Na Tum Jaano Na Hum [Hrithik Roshan, Esha Deol, Saif Ali Khan] through cameraman Nataraj who happens to be a common friend.
When we got talking, I realised he was a great Alfred Hitchcock fan. He asked me to direct a film for him on the same lines as a Hitchcock film. I agreed.
Is CLHT a remake of a Hitchcock film?
No. It is just a Hitchcockian, edge-of-the-seat thriller. It is basically a treasure hunt where a lot of murders start happening around the heroine. She cannot trust anybody, including the hero. You won't guess the identity of the killer (smiles)
We wanted a newcomer as a hero so he could devote dates at a stretch. I zeroed in on Uday Chopra. As the shooting schedule drew close, Uday got busy with his home production Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai. Apparently, he could not say no to his brother [Aditya, who produced the film under the Yash Raj Films banner].
Sandhya also started happening around that time.
It was a readymade script developed by Shadab Khan (son of the late Amjad Khan). Uday recommended Shadab for a role in CLHT. I could not assign him a role, but we got talking and he told me he had a script ready.
We heard him out. Then Singhania said, "Till we finalise the hero of CLHT, why don't you and I do Sandhya together?" Shadab said, "I have already given it to Jackie Shroff. You will need to ask his permission."
Jackie was very passionate about Sandhya and refused to part with the script. He asked me if I would direct it.
How did Zayed get into Uday's shoes?
Singhania spotted Zayed on the sets of Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage. He had dropped in to meet Vikram Bhatt, who was toying with the idea of casting him in his forthcoming Aitbaar.
At the time, I was in Bangalore. Singhania called me to come and see the boy. I was struck by Zayed's smile; it can floor anybody. It turned out that he was under contract with Universal who were making a film with him.
When they kept him waiting, Zayed approached me. His contract forbade his first release to hit the theatres before December 2002. We decided to start shooting in September. Meanwhile, I went back to Sandhya.
How do you rate Zayed?
Excellent. He is very clear about what he wants. Such people rarely fail.
What about Esha Deol?
Esha had already been chosen by Pantaloon for their next venture after Na Tum Jaano Na Hum. She was their choice.
People discouraged me, saying Esha is unlucky. I always discount superstition. I think Esha has selected roles that were too mature for her age. I decided to give her a new look. I got her a new costume designer and asked her to lose some weight.
She took some time to understand a new look was the need of the hour.
What is the film's USP?
CLHT has something for everybody -- thrilling suspense, sweet romance, lilting songs, rocking dances. It is a Vijay Anand kind of film. And, of course, it has actor-filmmaker Sanjay Khan's son Zayed who has generated quite a bit of curiosity.
We shot in Bangkok [80 per cent of the film is based in Bangkok], Mumbai, Goa and Kerala.
Why has the release been postponed?
It was to have released a few weeks ago but I lost my mother. I didn't want to rush into things and make a mess.
What is Sandhya about?
It is a story of one night, one location. In the two-hour film, there is absolute silence for one-and-half hours. It is a psychological horror thriller, revolving around Dr Singhania (Ashutosh Rana), a psychiatrist who finds himself a lunatic in his own asylum. The cause for his present medical condition goes back many years when his family was ruthlessly slain. Years pass, and he is finally cured. He returns home.
He decides to renovate his place into a nursing home and name it Sandhya.
But his well-being is short-lived; his condition deteriorates and he decides to join his deceased family. He hires a killer, Jaggu (Jackie Shroff), to murder him.
At this point, something goes wrong. Jaggu finds himself a victim in this bizarre scenario. He must now fight for his own survival.
Why did you cast Jackie and Raveena in Sandhya?
My first choice for Jackie's role was Vivek Oberoi. But he did not want to experiment with a non-commercial role before establishing himself in mainstream cinema.
Raveena was originally supposed to do Sophiya Haque's role [in Sandhya]. Raveena's role was to be done by Alam Khan, Shadab's sister, a theatre artiste. But Alam was not too sure about joining films.
So we asked Raveena to don the heroine's garb.
As for Jackie, Ayesha [Shroff, Jackie's wife and the film's producer] was not too keen on him. But he was free during that period, since a film he was acting in had been shelved. Thus, Jackie got in.
I'll see the response for these two films and then decide the future course of action.