'I'm obsessed with Ayesha Takia!'
Director Nagesh Kukunoor's latest release, Mod, is an unconventional love story starring Ayesha Takia and Rannvijay Singh, and is inspired by a Taiwanese film, Keeping Watch.
The critically acclaimed director, who had said that he would never make a love story, tells Sonil Dedhia the reason behind making one, and why flops bother him.
Are you upset that your last few films haven't fared well at the box office?
I make films that I believe in and that will entertain the audience. I don't make movies to get awards. Bombay To Bangkok, Aashayein and 8X10 Tasveer didn't do well and, yes, it did upset me a lot. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not promoting the films as they were being made. I have realised that it is very necessary to make noise about your film.
At the end of the day, I would also say that no director in this industry can have a 100 per cent successful track record.
What's easier, directing a film that you have written or, as with Mod, working from an adaptation?
I guess directing a film which I have written myself is better because when you are adapting a film, you become very conscious, you already have in mind the film you are inspired by or are adapting. With Mod I have taken the basic element of the plot from the Taiwanese film Keeping Watch and have changed it in my way.
Why did you say that you are never going to make a love story?
That surely is one of my biggest mistakes and I have learnt my lesson! In Bollywood they say never say never. I saw this Taiwanese film at a film festival in Singapore and was floored by the story. I realised this is the kind of love story I would like to tell. Mod returns to the space I dealt with and enjoyed a lot of success with, like Dor. Not only are they three-letter words but I'm using the same tag line as well: How far can you go to save your love.
Image: A still from Mod. Inset: Nagesh Kukunoor
'I don't like predictable stories'
What kind of love stories do you like?
I don't like stories that are predictable and cliched. Very few movies manage to capture the journey of love. The end is not really important; it's how you reach the end that is vital. A lot of people enjoyed the romance between Dharmendra and Hema Malini in Sholay, but I loved the way Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, without saying anything, expressed their love for each other. I also subscribe to romantic movies like Frankie and Johnny and When Harry Met Sally. I enjoy them.
Any particular reason to take Rannvijay Singh in the lead?
My producer, Elahe Hiptoola, and I were looking for a fresh face. My production team was thinking of a lot of names and Rannvijay's name also came up. Until then I just knew he was a VJ as I had met him a few years ago. I had never seen Roadies.
The one thing I always look for in any actor is honesty and that is what I saw in him. He has the image of being adventurous and has this rugged look. But let me tell you that Rannvijay might be the surprise package of the film. I am sure post-Mod his macho image will get a makeover and he will be seen as a soft, shy and sensitive guy.
You are obsessed with Ayesha Takia...
Oh, totally (Laughs).
Jokes apart, Ayesha is a wonderful and talented actress. Every time I have worked with her, she just keeps improving. She is very spontaneous and we understand each other's work. I don't need to tell her what I want. When I went to her with the script I was aware that she had not done a movie for the last couple of years but her urge to do a movie confirmed by belief that she would give her best performance, and she has done it in Mod.
Image: Nagesh Kukunoor and Ayesha Takia
'Criticism is not in my contract or job definition'
The beauty about his field is that there is no lesson to be learnt and I am saying this with no arrogance. Bombay To Bangkok flopped, so should I stop making a comedy about two mismatched people? I already have a whacky comedy about two mismatched people that I might just make after three years.
It's not that after Aashayien I should stop making films on death. These are broad and irrelevant strokes. The only lesson to be learnt is: are you being true to what you are making? The success and failure at the box office cannot be pre-determined. I don't think I need to prove anything.
How would you take criticism?
It depends from where it is coming. For some reason people assume that because you are in the field of making movies, anyone can come and criticise at any point of time. I find it shocking. I agree it's a free world, but that doesn't mean people can just come and criticise when I am having dinner or hanging out with my friends in a restaurant. Criticism is not in my contract or my job definition. There are lots of public forum where people can voice their opinion.
How would you define your journey from Hyderabad Blues to Mod?
There are lots of changes. I am changing as a person and my likes and sensibility is also changing. The audience is changing and there is so much change going on around us.
All these years, I have kept my eyes and ears open and have made my films and have tried to adapt to the change. My earlier movies had certain innocence about them, but I don't find that innocence in my films any more.
Image: A still from Mod
'I would not be open to scripts from other writers'
Don't you go by the trend in the industry? These days, out-and-out action films are what the audience enjoys.
I might make one. I have a couple of action films already written and with me. I thought I would make one last year but things didn't work out. I don't play with trends or follow them because from the time of inception to the release of the film, the trend might have changed. I go by what I enjoy making.
What do you have to say about the new filmmakers?
Udaan is one film that I can't stop raving about. I saw it at the Cannes film festival and it was amazing. I recently saw the movie Bubble Gum and I loved it, but the problem with it was its title. If it had been aptly titled I am sure it would have reached the audience it had targeted. I have not seen Shaitaan, but have heard a lot of good reviews about it.
Would you be open to scripts from other writers?
No, and I'll tell you why. Earlier, Mukta Arts would send me 20-page treatments or 10-page outlines and then I had to write the script. Since the last three or four years, things are different and complete bound scripts come to me, but the problem is that during my free time, I keep writing. I have around eight scripts ready to be made.
Image: A still from Mod
'I have a story ready for Rockford-2'
What is happening with your film Yeh Hausla?
Yeh Hausla was to release in 2010 but Aashayein came in. I thought I would keep a gap between the two movies but somehow it has got stuck. We are still trying to release the film.
What about Rockford-2. There are a lot of rumours going around about it.
It's interesting you say that because the first time I mentioned it in a public forum was when I was at IIT-Madras. I have an idea but the only problem for Rockford-2 is that it is set in the 1980s era.
From the cinematic point of view, I love the world that existed before television was accessible and the pre-internet era, and the story would be set at a time when kids enter junior college and suddenly sexual awakening takes place. It is just fascinating and this is just a brief outline. To get that kind of money to make the film is difficult because it is almost like a period piece and people perceive period pieces to be way too much in the past. Lets see I might be able to pull it out.
Any plans of getting back to acting?
I think I might get back to it. The problem is I have to be very careful how I do it. With me, the story matters more than the individual characters. It cannot be a personal trip and I never put myself in a part where I feel the film would be compromised. I feel the urge and I think in my upcoming film I might have a larger role than I did in Aashayien. I'll have to prepare myself as I haven't done it in a long time (Smiles).
Image: A still from Mod