'There was no role for John Abraham in Blue'
Anthony D'Souza is indeed a lucky man. After all he got to direct a multi-starrer as his very first film.
The film in question is the very much hyped underwater thriller Blue which stars Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar, Zayed Khan, Lara Dutta and Katrina Kaif.
The 35-year-old B.Com graduate talks to Patcy N about the film and how he convinced his producer and the entire cast to risk drowning.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get into films?
I was 13 when I started working with a company called Far Video. I was paid Rs 2000 per month which I thought was a big amount at that time. Slowly I got into direction and did music videos with Silk Route, Bombay Vikings, remixes of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. I also did ad films like Nokia, Videocon and Airtel. Soon after I went to the US and shot 56 episodes of Ripley's Believe it or Not. I never really planned them... things just happened.
I was in India when I learnt that Michael Bay was making Armageddon. He needed help to shoot in India so I helped him out. I am still in touch with his office. I keep going to US for work.
What made you think of Blue?
Though my mentor is Michael Bay, it is cinematographer Amir Mokhri who has been my source of inspiration. Amir even helped me shoot one of the scenes by explaining me how he shot Transformers and Bad Boys.
I wanted to make an action film which is larger than life. Most of my music videos were also shot underwater. I love the ocean so I tried to imagine a big action film involving water. It is inspired from two films -- Bad Boys and Indiana Jones.
How did you convince your producer to make a lavish film like Blue? The film has Rs 90 crore riding on it. Did it ever give you sleepless nights on whether you will be able to give a hit or not?
I had this script with me for about two and half years, but within six months I got a producer. It was John Abraham who introduced me to Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Ltd. They liked my story and the homework that I had done for it. I told them the cast I wanted and they fixed up meetings with them. I don't think it is tough do something if you believe in yourself. Anything is possible if you work hard. I didn't suffer from jitters. As it is, my sleeping patterns are different -- I sleep in the daytime.
As it was John who introduced you to the producers, why didn't you cast him?
There was no role for John in this film.
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Image: Anthony D'souza, Sanjay Dutt
'I wanted someone who can carry off a swim suit well so I picked Lara'
How did you manage to get such a big star cast in your very first film?
I first met Sanjay Dutt at Asthavinayak's office. Before meeting Dutt I had done my homework well. I had two scripts with me and read them out to him. He agreed to both the films within half an hour. Dutt asked me who else I have in mind for the film and I told him 'Akshay Kumar'. He told me to contact him if there was any problem speaking to Akshay.
Meanwhile, Akshay's agent fixed my appointment. But on the day of our meeting, his agent passed away. I thought I had missed my chance. But Akshay called me the next day and said that as his agent had fixed an appointment with me, we should go ahead and meet at Filmcity. We met up and I narrated the script to him. He asked me if I was going to do exactly what was in the script and I said yes. He asked me to promise him so I did. Only then did he get onboard.
For Lara's role, I wanted someone who can carry off a swim suit well. I decided on her as she is a great looker as well as a great actor. I told Akshay that I like Lara and he fixed up a meeting with her. She did not know how to swim but she learned it in three months. Now she is a very proficient swimmer.
I like Zayed's work in Main Hoon Na and Dus so I approached him.
How did the actors prepare for underwater shots?
Everybody had to know scuba diving. Zayed was the only person who knew scuba diving. Akshya and Dutt went for a course. Akshay went to Bangkok and learnt it in two weeks. Dutt learnt it in the Bahamas.
Image: A scene from Blue
'Akshay had a close call while performing one of the underwater stunts'
Did you have any references for doing underwater scenes?
My underwater director of photography is Peter Zuccarini, one of the best in the world. We brainstormed for a month. He kept throwing ideas while I had certain notions about the ocean. It took about six months to prepare the entire story board. Only then did we approach the actors. I am not good at romance and emotions so I would rather stick to something that is my forte, which is style and action.
It was reported that Akshay suffered from a head injury while performing a stunt. What exactly happened? Was he upset? What was his reaction?
Yes, Akshay suffered a very bad head injury. It was a very close call. Akshay was supposed to go 150 feet down into the water. I wanted him to take his oxygen mask and tank. While doing the stunt he hit the side of the ship and started bleeding. Normally, in such cases you take a deep breath. He did not but somehow he survived. At the same time around 50 to 60 sharks started swimming towards him. Tragedy was averted when the underwater team diverted the sharks by throwing fishes at them. Akshay was then safely brought back to the ship.
His face was completely covered with blood. Despite the injury, he looked at me and said whether the scene was okay or whether I need one more shot. I said it was okay. Later that day we shot scenes on land. You wouldn't even know that he suffered an injury. Akshay is a thorough professional.
Didn't he have to get stitches?
Akshay does not believe in stitches or medicine. That man is incredible. In the two years I have known Akshay, I have never seen him take any medicine. He has his man Friday with him who applied some ayurvedic lep (paste) to stop the bleeding.
Image: A scene from Blue
'We did not party at all. It was work all the way'
Did the incident scare the others from doing their stunts?
No. They all wanted to do their own stunts. If you eat hot food and burn your tongue, you don't stop eating food, right?
How was it working with Sanjay Dutt?
Sanajy Dutt is very fond of me. He considers me like his own brother. He has always been there for me. I know a lot of things wouldn't have been possible if not for him. If he had not accepted the film, it wouldn't have started at all. I am very grateful to him.
What did you guys do to unwind?
We were shooting the whole day -- about 14 to 15 hours -- on the boat. We all suffered from motion sickness so all we wanted to do after the shoot was to return to our rooms to sleep. We did not party at all. It was work all the way.
Since there were many 'big' actors on the sets, were there any clashes? Is it true that Sanjay Dutt had a problem with Akshay getting more attention?
None that I know of. I don't think my actors had any problems. Even if they had you should ask Akshay or Dutt if they had any problem with each other. I did not have any problem on my sets.
Problems happen when people have egos but both these actors are so humble and down to earth. The only person with ego was me with my pre-conceived notions.
Image: A scene from Blue
'I am thinking of a project with John and the rest of the Blue team'
What made you think of getting Kylie Minogue to sing in the film? Was it tough getting her?
I have always have been a fan of Kylie's. I told the producers that I wanted her and they sanctioned it. If somebody is ready to fulfill my dream, then why not fulfill it? It was not tough getting her on board. All I had to do was speak to her manager and she was on.
Why sign Katrina in a cameo only? Why not a full role?
Because the role was meant to be that way. It was never intended to be more than that.
What was the toughest part about making Blue? Why Blue and not a Hindi title?
The toughest part of Blue was fending off questions about Akshay and Dutt's alleged fight.
I chose to go with Blue because in the Bahamas everything out there is blue. Plus the sunken ship in the film is also called Blue.
What are your expectations from Blue?
Like every director I hope my film is a huge success and that my producers make good money. I hope that people enjoy the film.
You said you will have Akshay in all your movies...
I am a massive fan of Akshay's and hope that he works in all my films. In fact, I would love to work with the entire cast of Blue again.
What is your next movie? Is it true that it will have John and Akshay?
I still haven't decided on my next film. I will think about it only after I see the response to Blue. But, yes, I am thinking of a project with John and the rest of the Blue team. It will be an action film.
Image: A scene from Blue