Mahesh Bhatt: Emraan doesn't need me anymore
Mahesh Bhatt is a man who believes in making convential cinema.
He says, "We try and make films which take the audience to a space like this, they watch the film and are also studying a situation which is relevant to their lives."
He also takes pride in launcing new faces to the industry and one such is Esha Gupta who was seen in Visheh Film's latest film Jannat 2. Bhatt also admits that sequels and franchsie does give an illusion of safety and there is nothing wrong in making sequels.
In this conversation with Sonil Dedhia, Bhatt explains why he is betting on Kunal Khemu more than Emraan Hashmi, why sequels are a safe bet and why he didnt find it necessary to launch his own kids in the film industry.
The trigger for Jannat 2 is quite interesting. Tell us about it.
I was sitting in my old office at Juhu when a young man came and told the receptionist that he wanted to meet me. When she refused to let him in, he took out a country-made pistol from his bag and fired one shot at one of the doors.
This is something we enact on the sets and enhance it for cinematic experience, but it was happening in real life!
Then, the writer of the film, Shagufta Rafique, was a victim of illegal arms. Her brother-in-law Brij Sadanah (who directed the film Victoria No 203) got drunk one day, killed his wife and daughter, and ultimately shot himself dead. These incidents became the trigger.
The character and the plot are different from Jannat so why call the film Jannat 2?
We had earlier called this film Informer. That got an ice cold response from the media. It was not generating the kind of anxiety amongst the audience. The truth is that the blockbuster mentality has taken over. We have the same mentality as Hollywood. The opening weekend has become very important.
A franchise gives a sense of security to everyone -- the director, producers, exhibitors and even the audience feels that they are watching something close to the first part.
We tasted success with Murder 2 and Raaz 2. As soon as we changed the name of our film from Informer to Jannat 2, the pre-release buzz has been astounding. People are eager to see the film.
I am sure what Jannat 2 will do at the box office it would not have done if the film had been called Informer. Just recently I experienced this with Blood Money. Though we managed to sail home safe, I had to work 20 times harder.
Image: Esha Gupta and Emraan Hashmi in Jannat 2. Inset: Mahesh Bhatt
'Kunal Khemu needs me more than Emraan Hashmi'
Of late, your production house has only done sequels. Won't that kill the chances of coming up with a stand-alone film?
Blood Money was a stand-alone film but we worked double for it. We realised how difficult it is to sensitise people to anything new especially when you don't have a star.
But there's a comfort level that people see in a sequel. There are too many people involved in a film -- the music label, the distributors -- so it's a cumulative need to feel safe.
All said and done, a franchise does give you the illusion of safety.
So that's just succumbing to public demand?
I think that is uncharitable. We have never succumbed to a star system and we have stood alone and made films on our own terms.
We use our own brand that we have created to our advantage in these times when everybody is obsessed with brands.
People with 12 actors are making Housefull 2, while we work with only one actor. In our case the star of our film is the brand we build.
Image: Emraan Hashmi
'Esha Gupta has a very refreshing face'
What made you cast Esha Gupta?
She is a girl of substance. It is heartening to see a new girl who has got some good Indian features. She comes from a North Indian family. She is not a sexual woman who wears her femininity on her sleeve, but she is feminine.
There are girls who look like an assembly-line product. She is not one of them. Once she ventures out she will be moulded into one, or she may succumb to it, but as of now she is a very refreshing face.
In most of your films you introduce a new person, be it an actor, lyricist or music composer. How do you feel when they fail to deliver?
We produce a lot of films. We have an unusual record of a lot of people working with us. I just have a simple thought: If you want to succeed, just double the rate of your failure.
We work without stars and we proudly proclaim it. People come to Vishesh Films to work with us and not because we can create a star.
Do you also feel that you have a responsibility about the person that you are introducing?
We work with a lot of new people but I don't take myself so seriously as to believe that I must deliver fresh talent to the industry.
All kinds of people come to my office, some get a chance and they are successful and some are not.
Image: Esha Gupta
'We will move away from the safety of even an Emraan Hashmi if it cripples us'
Do you feel in a safe zone when you are casting Emraan Hashmi in your film?
After Murder 2, Emraan may look like a very safe proposition, but as I had mentioned during the promotion of Blood Money, having created this monster we won't let this monster devour us.
What's the point of saying that you won't work with stars and you wait for your own in-house star to dictate the terms? He has other people to work with which would make him richer and just because he is the flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood, we have agreed. Emraan doesn't have to work only with us. That's why Kunal Khemu is one of our major assets. We are going to invest in him.
Randeep Hooda is another great actor whose potential hasn't been tapped by the industry.
We won't lean only on Emraan Hashmi; we will move away from the safety of even an Emraan Hashmi if it cripples us.
I decided when I would stop being a director. My brother was very anxious as to who will direct if I stop directing films. I said we will create new people and we did create new people. Today, we have Kunal Deshmukh, Shagufta, Mohit Suri, Vishal Mahadkar, Vikram Bhatt.
Emraan Hashmi has now entered the league of actors who are charging more than Rs 10 crore per film. How would the equation work with Vishesh Films?
The world is not a static place. People change, evolve. I am not the same and neither is he. I have never felt that he should limit his flight to my understanding.
I was wrong when I advised him that it would be suicidal to play the role of Dawood Ibrahim in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. My protective parental instinct said that it would be bad for him to play the role of the most demonised terrorist in India but he had the guts to say no to me and he did it.
Even when he was nobody he had rejected films like Woh Lamhe and Dhokha. Today he is a force to reckon with. He isn't my destination neither am I his destination.Today, Kunal Khemu needs me more than Emraan Hashmi. And if you ask me, between Kunal Khemu and Emraan Hashmi whom do I support, I'll say Kunal Khemu, as Emraan is already a star.
Image: Emraan Hashmi and Esha Gupta in Jannat 2
'Emraan doesn't have to work only with us'
Vishesh Films is known for launching new talent. But was it a deliberate decision to not launch your own son and daughter?
No, the doors aren't shut on Sunny (Rahul Bhatt). It's just that he is too fussy. He was offered Kalyug and said no to it, he was offered a film by Pooja, he said no to that as well.
There is no need to obsessively weave a film only for him. I don't owe him a break. If he gets a break outside, so be it.
Aliya is lucky to get a break with Karan Johar. He is an A-grade filmmaker who has passion and who has the platform and makes the kind of movies that the masses like.
She is a young girl, just 18 years old, just out of school, and that's the right kind of vehicle for her. She didn't have to work towards it; it just happened.
Is there a chance of you getting back to direction?
It's been 11 years since I last directed. I am not a tired man but I am done with direction because I am aware that every person has a limited period of time. We sing a song, it gets accepted, but it has a wearing down period and the audience is continuously looking for a new experience, a new star and a new interpretation of life.
I think the young filmmakers are doing a good job.
Image: A scene from Jannat 2