'I won't compare Poonam Pandey with Bipasha'
After directing Bipasha Basu and John Abraham in the 2003 hit film, Jism, director Amit Saxena vanished from the scene.
Even when Jism got a sequel starring Sunny Leone, the original director was nowhere to be seen.
Ten years later, Saxena has re-surfaced again with a film titled Nasha, starring Poonam Pandey.
Saxena discusses his new film with Patcy N, and tells us where’s he been all this time.
On how he became a director:
I was born and brought up in Delhi and came to Mumbai when I was 21 to do a film production course at the Xavier Institute of Communications. I specialised in editing.
I met Vikram Bhatt and started editing his films (Kasoor) and later edited eight or nine films for Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt (Zakhm, Sangharsh). The last film that I did for them was Raaz.
Pooja (Bhatt) had opened a new production company called Fish Eye Network. We were very close friends. I was scouting for directors for her when she suddenly asked me to direct.
I said I can’t direct as I have never even assisted any director, but she insisted.
I had never even been on the sets. The only time I had gone on a set was to eat lunch with Vikram or with the Vishesh Films unit. I didn’t have time with Mukeshji keeping us always busy. I was editing three films a year.
On Pooja’s insistence, I decided to direct a pilot episode for a television serial. It was a comedy serial. It turned out very good. But television had become regressive. We showed the episode to lots of channels and they told us we can’t air the episode now because there is too much of gender equality in the show! So, please, make your women more docile and subservient and then maybe we can use it on our channel.
Pooja and I decided we couldn’t do television, so we decided to do a movie. We knew what kind of film we wanted to do though we did not have a script in hand. We wanted our female protagonist to be strong and bold.
Image: Poonam Pandey in Nasha
'Mahesh Bhatt always wanted more people to get into direction'
On how Jism took shape:
Mahesh Bhatt gave us the CD of Double Indemnity. He said this is the kind of femme fatale that the Indian audience has never seen, and that got both Pooja and me excited.
It was a noir film -- an unheard of genre then. I was told to direct the film as Bhattsaab always wanted more people to get into direction. He often told me I was too good to be a film editor. So I directed Jism.
Image: Amit Saxena explains a scene to Poonam Pandey in Nasha
'Everyone wanted me to make a film just like Jism'
On life after Jism:
I got many offers after Jism but all of them wanted me to make a film just like Jism. And I didn’t want that.
Many people think I didn’t do anything after Jism, but I did direct two other films. The first was Take 2 -- which unfortunately we didn’t finish -- with Shiney Ahuja and Vidya Malwade in the lead.
At that time, there was a sort of self-awakening. I said to myself that if I actually want to make a film, I should tell the story I have. Cinema is about story telling and giving your point of view, and if I don’t have a story inside me, I shouldn’t do a film.
So I wrote a script called Tina Ki Chabi. It took a year. I shot the film, a comedy, and completed it. It was produced by a group called Cosmic, but the film got stuck again. It stars Ranveer Shorey. It was a wonderful experience doing the film from scratch.
I remember a conversation with Bhattsaab and Pooja where I said I am just not finding myself. I really need to find myself and see whether I can write my own story. It was a platform that very few people walk away from.
I remember it was January 17 when Jism released and on February 5, I was to leave for Moscow to shoot a film called Moscow for Vishesh Films. But nothing was working for me. There was a voice telling me from within that this is not happening. Pooja and I were friends so the Bhatts had no problem with my walking out of the film.
After a year, I got the opportunity to make Take 2. While shooting for this film, I was out of the country for a long time. It was then that I realised that I did not want to direct a film that was not written by me.
Finance was not a problem in those days, because I got paid well for these films. Also, I was doing production design and film editing. But I was depressed as things were not working out for me. I was going through a lot in my personal life too. I lost my parents during this time. So it was a very turbulent time, and I felt all alone. But my friends supported me really well.
People may think that after Jism it took me 10 years to do Nasha, and I have lost 10 years of my life. But actually I have gained. I wrote and directed a film called Tina Ki Chabi in 2012. I have come of age. I really think I needed to find myself, grow and understand things.
Image: Shivam Patil and Poonam Pandey in Nasha
'When Jism 2 was made, I never felt that I should have been on board'
Nasha is not my script but there was something there that resonated in me and something which is my point of view in life and therefore I wanted to tell the story.
The producers Aditya Bhatia, Surendra Suneja and script writer Ajit Pal found me on Facebook. When we met and they narrated the story, I really loved it.
I made a few conditions-that I would tweak it a bit, that I would not add an item song and it would not be a Jism-like film.
In fact, even when Jism 2 was made, I never felt that I should have been on board.
The producers already had Poonam Pandey on board.
I know people will say that years back I made a film that was a skin flick and now I am back after 10 years with another skin flick, so what did I achieve?
I would say that Jism was a noir film and Nasha has traces of noir because when you talk about noir you talk about grey. The skin flick thing is just another tag the media gives.
Image: Poonam Pandey in Nasha
'After Nasha Poonam's career will take a leap, just like Bipasha's'
On his actresses, Bipasha and Poonam:
I have absolutely no doubt that after Nasha Poonam’s career will take a leap, just like Bipasha’s career took a leap, because Poonam has the talent and the oomph to carry it off, if she makes the right choices.
Bipasha planned her career well and made the correct choices. But I won’t compare the two actresses because that is ridiculous.
I knew Bipasha just as a co-worker and here too I hardly know Poonam off the sets. All our interaction happened on the sets.
Bipasha was brilliant playing Simran in Jism and Poonam is brilliant playing Anita in Nasha. Both have been able to do justice to their characters. Beyond that, I really don’t care.
Image: Bipasha Basu in Jism