Rohit Shetty: Shah Rukh and I were called the worst combination
The president of the Rs 100 crore club.
The director with the Midas touch.
As proved, once again, by the spectacular opening that has welcomed his latest film, Chennai Express.
Over the weekend, it has already entered the Rs 100 crore club -- the first film to do so in a such a short span of time.
Rohit Shetty continues to remain the man everyone wants to get near to, to shake hands with, to brush against, in the hope that a bit of his luck will rub onto them.
The fans continue flock around, telling him how much they love his work.
Then there are the others, the kind he dislikes intensely.
The kind who will make sure that he is always controversy’s child.
The kind who will scrutinise, and attribute motive to, his every act.
The kind who will predict his downfall even before he takes his next step towards success.
In the second part of the interview with the superhit director, Rohit Shetty shares this take on controversy (This interview was conducted before the release of Chennai Express) with Savera R Someshwar.
Why do you think the audience loves you so much?
Because of my honesty.
I don’t try to cheat my audience. I know that 25 per cent of the audience will want to know why Shah Rukh Khan did a film like Chennai Express.
And I know Rediff.com will give my film one-and-a-half-stars as usual (laughs). I am sure of it.
But there is a segment of the audience which loves my films. They come to see my films because they are clean. They come with their family and want to have a good time.
What connects them with me directly is their reaction when they see me. When they message me and tell me how much my films have meant to them. When they let me know they were going through a low, or bad, phase in their life and my film made them laugh.
When I see their love, and it is an honest love, I want to make films for them.
Image: Shah Rukh Khan and Rohit Shetty
'If I tell you the budget of Chennai Express, nobody'll give me work again'
People love to criticise you, don’t they?
It will happen all my life (laughs).
It doesn’t matter how much my films succeed.
There was so much speculation when Shah Rukh and I came together. When Chennai was about to start, they said Shah Rukh aur Rohit ka toh jamega hi nahi (they won’t get along!). It is the worst combination.
Shah Rukh goes overboard when he does comedy, how will Rohit handle him?
Arre, Rohit’s making a love story… what kind of a love story will he make?
They reacted based on what they thought the film would be. The reality is that only I know what I am making.
There are reports that Shah Rukh Khan is banking on you to deliver the hit he desperately needs.
No, I can’t say that.
I would say I’m lucky that Shah Rukh did this film, both as an actor and as a producer.
If the film does well, and it is appreciated (this interview was conducted before the release of Chennai Express), I will get credit as the director. But it is equally, if not more, important to have a producer like Shah Rukh Khan for a film like this.
Chennai Express is a very expensive film and the popularity it is enjoying before its release is because of Shah Rukh Khan and not because of me alone.
If Chennai does great business, I will be happy because Shah Rukh is happy. He’s been a great producer.
Till today, I don’t think he knows the budget of a film; he’s that great a human being.
What is the budget of the film?
It’s huge. If I tell you, nobody’ll give me work again (laughs). It’s almost double or triple the cost of any of my other films.
Image: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and Rohit Shetty
'You can't humiliate me. You don't have the right'
How much does the star rating for movies really matter?
I’m a living example. I’ve got one-and-a-half stars all my life (laughs). I don’t care.
But does it hurt at some point?
I always told journalists -- including Anupama Chopra (her review show, The Front Row, airs on Star World) and Rajeev Masand (his review show runs on CNN-IBN) that, if you don’t like a film, you don’t have the right to throw popcorn or rotten tomatoes on the screen, on the camera.
We respect that camera.
I don’t have a problem with your criticism but you need to use the right language. You are free to say you didn’t like Rohit Shetty’s direction. That the screenplay was bad. That the performances were loud. That the film was loud.
But you can’t humiliate me. You don’t have the right. You do that and I’ll come to your office and thrash you.
A lot of hard work goes into the making of a film, whether I do it or another director does it. At least credit us that much. Don’t make us look like buffoons.
Tomorrow, if we don’t make films, how will your channel will run?
If the industry stops, what will you do? What will you write? What will your show consist of? Which songs will you play?
Image: Deepika Padukone and Shah Rukh Khan in Chennai Express
'When Zameen bombed, no one was ready to work with me'
You are called the president of the Rs 100 crore club.
I know nothing is permanent.
I’ve seen a lot. We had four SUVs in my house at one time (when he was a child) and there was a time when I was travelling in the local train to reach my school.
You’re running because of your luck and it is your karma that takes over when luck is not in your favour. If your karma is good, then it will take over your bad luck.
When Zameen (his debut film) bombed, no one was ready to work with me; it’s the way the industry functions.
Ajay Devgn stood by me then. If Ajay was not there, I would have not got my second film.
Then, one day, out of the blue, (actor-director-writer) Neeraj Vora came to my office at Ashtavinayak and said he wanted to narrate a play that he had done. The play was called Aflatoon. It became Golmaal.
I was an action director. He was narrating the plot of a comedy. The fact that I decided to make a comedy at that stage of my career (after an action film, Zameen, and a thriller, Sunday) makes no sense at all to an intelligent person (laughs). But it worked.
If Neeraj had not come to me and Ajay had not stood by me, I don’t know where I would have been today.
My success is not mine; there are many people behind it.
For example, when I showed the first cut of the trailer for Chennai Express to my office boy and assistants, they rejected it saying it did not look like the promo for a Rohit Shetty film.
In two days, we remade the promo and the new promo proved to be very popular. How can I take credit for it?
Image: Ajay Devgn in Zameen
'Backbiting in the industry is getting worse by the day'
Do you think the industry has changed? Has it become more selfish?
Not more selfish. It has become more practical.
When we were assistants, we would see stars, directors and technicians visit each other’s sets. There was a lot of camaraderie. Everybody knew each other. Now it’s not like that.
There are very few star directors or technicians today.
There is no star cameraman like a Baba Azmi or an Ashok Mehta or a W B Rao or a Thomas Xavier… Or a star director like a Manmohan Desai or a Mukul Anand. The sense of awe that juniors felt when we saw a director like that no longer exists.
Is that why relations are affected, that there is so much more backbiting?
Yes, it’s very bad and it’s getting worse by the day.
And -- I’m sorry -- but I have seen many journalists bitching about one star to another, then carry tales back. I have seen many distributors and so-called trade pundits doing it.
It’s sad that the actors are entertaining them.
You sound very-anti media.
The media is important. Journalists are very important and many of them understand what is right and what is wrong. But few of them have gone crazy. They look like devils.
And they say, ‘Humko karna padta hai. Hamare editor ka pressure hai (We have to do this. Our editor is pressurising us).
I think they are competing between themselves. There are so many channels, so many newspapers… it is their competition which is ruining everything.
They want breaking news. But how can there be breaking news every hour?
A girl is sitting wearing a mini skirt or a short dress and her undergarment can be seen… Why are you clicking these kind of pictures and putting it in the newspaper or in any other media? Can’t you just ignore it?
You talk about respecting women but what the hell are you doing? It is shameful!
You click a photo of a girlfriend and boyfriend coming out of a hotel -- how can that be news?
How can somebody sleeping with someone be breaking news?
People are scared that a journalist will write bad things about them or give their movie one star, so they feel they have to be good to the journalist.
Image: Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in Chennai Express
'Nobody can take my destiny'
There were rumours about your having an affair…
Yes, with Prachi Desai (who starred in Shetty’s Bol Bachchan).
I also heard I had shifted to a house with her (laughs).
This was the first time you and your family had to face something like this.
Yes, it was strange. But it’s okay. I know that since I am in this industry, all these things will happen.
The funniest part was that I was watching the news and a camera was going inside this beautiful house.
I caught the journalist and I used language that I don’t want to use in front of you. I told him forget Prachi Desai, give me that house now. I want that house.
Initially, I thought the whole thing would die down, but it didn’t and people were taking advantage of it. The day I started picking up the phone and telling people that they had to prove their allegations in 24 hours or I would come and break their office, it stopped.
I am not scared of anyone. You can put me in jail for two days, I don’t care. I’m a road chaap boy who has gone to school from Dahisar (a Mumbai suburb) in a local train, who has seen all kinds of goons from his childhood.
I am not scared that it will affect my image. I work hard. Nobody can take that from me. Nobody can take my destiny.
Image: Prachi Desai and Abhishek Bachchan in Bol Bachchan
' If I fail, I will fight and come back'
You’ve had so much success. Does it bother you that everyone’s eye is on you?
Half of them want to cut me down. Why? I don’t know.
And, looking at the kind of films I make, I have to be prepared that 25 per cent of the audience or the intellectuals are going to trash me (laughs). Seventy-five per cent taali padegi, pachees per cent gaali padegi.
Are you scared of failure, if and when it happens?
I am a human being. It will affect me one hundred per cent. But I know one thing. If I ever fail, I will fight and come back.
I am ready for failure whenever it happens; some day or the other, it will. Nobody has given 100 superhits in a row.
But I’ll fight back. I know that.
I have seen so much in my life; very few people know about it.
That’s why I’ll get hurt, not scared. I will not blame anyone. If my film does not do well, I’m the director and it is my fault. Simple as that.
When you get hurt, how do you react?
I don’t. I just work hard.
Will you withdraw? Will you disappear?
No, I’ll stand and say I made a bad film just like I have said Golmaal Returns was a bad film. What’s wrong with that?
Image: Shah Rukh Khan in Chennai Express
'Golmaal Returns is the worst film I made in my life'
Do you have any quirks as a director?
I insist on narrating my films.
When you are reading the script, you are the director. You visualise the scenes. I want the actor to see it from my point of view.
If an actor insists on reading my script instead of listening to the narration, I won’t do a film with him. They are welcome to keep the script after I narrate the story.
My films are over-the-top; they are huge. Nobody can visualise like it that (laughs). It’s so whacko that I have to narrate my script to the actor for him/ her to understand what I want.
What have you learnt through the process of making each of your films?
When each of our films is released, my team -- my writers, my cameramen -- and I sit with the audience in the theatre and figure out what parts of the film are not working.
That’s the way we learn. That’s the homework we do.
If you ask me, Bol Bachchan is a Rs 100 crore film but it is not like Golmaal 3 or All The Best or Singham.
Golmaal Returns was a film that took a terrific opening. People wanted to see what I had made after Golmaal. It is the worst film I have made in my life.
If you ask me, Sunday was a better film than Golmaal Returns.
Zameen was a better film than Golmaal Returns.
Sometimes, when you are making a film. you don’t realise it’s bad. At the same time, you should not get carried away because it is successful. Aapka luck tha woh film chal gayi (It was my good luck that the movie succeeded).
Every Friday is a new test. The audience may fall in love with your film or hate it.
You have to learn from your own films. And you should be honest.
I know I am not getting any awards because I have not made a Rang De Basanti or a Rock On!! or a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara till now.
I must have seen Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara 12 or 13 times. I’ve told Zoya (Akhtar, the film’s director) that as well. It is such a beautiful film.
When I seen Rang De Basanti, I wonder why I can’t do this kind of work… they’ve made such a great film. Maybe I am not educated enough to make films like that.
You have to have an open heart and an open mind and you have to appreciate a good film irrespective of whether it is an art film or a multiplex film or a hardcore commercial film.
Image: Movie poster of Gomaal Returns
'Deepika is very hard-working and focused'
As a director, what do you think about movie tickets being so exorbitantly priced?
Everything is getting more expensive; you can’t help it.
But when times are tight, the first thing that people will cut out is entertainment.
In India, whatever happens, we will always watch films.
Indians will make other adjustments, but they will always watch movies.
I make films for this kind of audience, films that are worth the price they have paid for their ticket so that they can see cars being busted, they can see bright colours, they can see dances, they can see a happy film.
What is Deepika like to work with?
Deepika is very hard-working. She has come into this industry with an aim.
You can make out there is a fire in her; she wants to reach somewhere.
She is very hard-working and very focused. Whether it is my film or somebody else’s film, whether she is shooting or promoting it or doing a photoshoot, she gives it her 2,000 per cent.
And I really appreciate people like that… you know, no stupidity, no faltugiri, just work…
I really love that kind of person. And Deepika is one of them.
Image: Deepika Padukone and Rohit Shetty on the sets of Chennai Express
'I'm not making Golmaal 4'
You fond of sequels… Singham 2 is in the pipeline. What about Golmaal and All The Best?
I’m not making Golmaal 4. I don’t see it happening for years now because I don’t have the right script.
I can make a film because I have a franchise, but that will mean bringing the audience into the theatre on a false premise and cheating them!
We begin shooting Singham 2 in December.
Do you think there is a certain advantage attached to making sequels?
Sequels definitely work; I just don’t know why!
Your films are visually bright. You love colour.
My films have to be happy. There is much stress in life. Something or the other is always happening.
But, for the two hours the audience watches my film, I want to make them laugh. If I can just make them happy, it’s means more than anything to me. It’s more than winning an Oscar.
Do you think there will ever be a Rohit Shetty film without busting up cars?
I would love to do that some day. And when I do, and the promo comes out, people will say he’s gone mad again (laughs). Yeh toh nahi chalegi.
And I will surprise them again (smiles).
Image: Tusshar Kapoor, Arshad Warsi, Kunal Khemu, Ajay Devgn and Shreyas Talpade in Golmaal 3