'Many Rs 100 crore movies are actually losses'
David Dhawan returns to the marquee with another comedy. But this time, he takes on Sai Paranjpe's 1971 classic Chashme Buddoor, and remakes it with a younger cast of Siddharth, Ali Zafar, Divyendu Sharma and Taapsee.
David chats with Patcy N, and tells us why he chose to remake a classic, why he worked with relative newcomers instead of his favourites like Govinda, Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt, and why his last film Rascals failed.
What was the reason for a re-make?
No reason at all. I was signed by Viacom to make a film. We were finalising ideas when they came up with the idea of remaking Chashme Buddoor, as they had the rights of the film. I always liked the film, and when I saw it again, I loved it again.
After eight months of working on the film, I was not happy with the script so I was not sure whether I wanted to make it. There were no stars in the film as well.
So I called my dialogue writers, and they wrote the dialogues of the first half of the film. I loved them and decided to make the film. Day by day, I started enjoying the film more and more.
I have a strange connection to the old Chashme Buddoor -- (actors in the original film) Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Baswani were my good friends. Rakesh and I studied together at FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) and stayed together at a paying guest accommodation. In fact, this film was made in front of me. Rakesh is still a good friend. I have edited Farooque and Deepti's Saath Saath. (Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval acted in the original film).
The new film is different. I have changed it a lot. I have added new characters but the thought is the same: two idiots and a good boy trying to woo the same girl.
Image: Siddharth, Ali Zafar and Divyendu Sharma in Chashme Baddoor. Inset: David Dhawan
'The new actors are obedient, they come on the sets on time'
You have used new actors in the film.
The new actors are obedient, they come on the sets on time. Plus, they are good actors. The script required new actors. Had I taken even one big star, the focus would have shifted onto him.
This is a commercial film but it is still realistic because such things can happen.
My first criterion for any film is that the actors should be brilliant. In all my films, my actors have been great, whether it is Salman (Khan) or Govinda.
Why are Bollywood filmmakers making remakes?
It is done abroad as well, not just in Bollywood. It is not that there is a dearth of scripts, but sometimes you don't get good scripts.
Himmatwala, Don, Agneepath are also remakes. Even Sholay was a remake of a Hollywood film.
Besides, there are so many who have not seen the old film because it is 30 years old.
Image: Siddharth, Taapsee, Divyendu Sharma and Ali Zafar in Chashme Baddoor
'I will not do any more remakes'
Sai Paranjpe (the director of the old Chashme Baddoor) is reportedly unhappy that you are directing the remake and Rakesh Bedi said he doesn't like the idea of a remake...
I know her very well but she never told me anything. As I told you, my friends worked in the old Chashme Buddoor so she knows me.
I have not robbed the film. Viacom has officially bought the rights to the film.
Rakesh Bedi is a very dear friend of mine. We are back-slapping friends, so if he says something, he can. Even I can say lots of things about him -- we are that close to each other.
There is a problem of content in the film industry; it takes a lot of time to write a script. To write a good script it takes anywhere between one-and-a-half to two years.
There are so many of my films that I can re-make. Raja Babu is a fantastic film which can be re-made and so are Shola Aur Shabnam and Aankhen.
Salman Khan's last few films like Wanted and Ready are remakes of south films and they are a hit here. Akshay Kumar's Rowdy Rathore is a shot-to-shot remake.
Even south filmmakers remake our films and we are definitely influenced by the west. But now you can't copy a film; you need to have the rights of the film. You can get inspired by a film but you should not copy it scene-to-scene. If you like a film, you should make it in your own style.
This is not the same with Chashme Buddoor. It's a totally different film. If I had not named the film Chashme Baddoor, there wouldn't be any discussion. People would not know it is a copy, though some would think this looks a little similar to Chashme Buddoor.
The title has created this discussion. And the best part is that now they (the makers of the original film) want to re-release their film.
So many scenes have been copied from my films but I don't open my mouth. If you see any comedy, I can tell you exactly where my scene is used.
Apparently, you are also doing a remake of Chupke Chupke.
No, I will not do any more remakes. I just did this one film and there is so much discussion about it. I won't do it.
Image: Taapsee and Ali Zafar Chashme Baddoor
'Today's cinema is casual, the actors do the scene too casually'
You made comedies but your films were different from the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee.
My comedies are different from Hrishida and Basu Chatterjee. They had brilliant actors, Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt.
But when I came into the industry, comedy had changed. I had Govinda and Kader Khan. There was the influence of South Indian movies, mainly Telugu films, on Bollywood. My comedy was not realistic but it was made with so much conviction that it looked believable.
(Filmmaker) Manmohan Desai made three heroes donate blood to their mother at the same time -- from three different bottles going to one bottle, and from there to the mother (Amar Akbar Anthony). How is that possible? Everybody must be laughing but still people loved it.
I was a huge fan of Manji (Manmohan Desai) I followed his legacy. My cinema was connected to Manji. He was my guru. I was going to work with Manji but he fell ill and passed away and then I worked with his son. I made Deewana Mastan and Yeh Hai Jalwa for them.
How has today's cinema changed?
Today's cinema is casual, the actors do the scene too casually. Earlier, there was drama in every scene in the films that Raj Kumar and Dilip Kumar acted in. Every line of dialogue was said with weight.
Image: Salman Khan and Ameesha Patel in Yeh Hai Jalwa
'Salman and Govinda are very good. Nobody can be like them'
Do you think any actor in today's time has the potential of a Govinda or a Salman Khan?
Salman and Govinda are very good. Nobody can be like them.
Govinda was so good that he could dance, act, emote, do comedy and action. He was good looking. There are very few actors who are like him. No one can replace him.
What is your take on Rs 100 crore films?
Let me tell you this: when a filmmaker says the film made Rs 100 crore business, it means the producer will only get Rs 50 crore and the rest of the money goes to the theatrewalla (distributor).
There are so many Rs 100 crore movies, but they are actually losses. Because of the actors' price in that film, and the high budget it was made on, the producer doesn't recover the money that he put into the film.
Vicky Donor and Kai Po Che did very well because there were new actors involved in the movie so the actors' price was less and recovery was more.
Image: Govinda in Partner
'Rascals was a bad film'
Why do you think your last film Rascals failed?
It was a bad film and it required younger actors. Two actors were shown wooing a girl -- Sanjay Dutt and Ajay (Devgn). It was wrong to pitch them in that role.
I put in lots of hard work but it was a mistake. The wrong script ruined the film. But hits and flops are part of the game.
Has it happened that you are halfway through a film and you know the film is not going to work?
Yes, it has happened. And you know it is actually suicidal. It's the worst feeling.
Image: Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt in Rascals
'Raju Hirani is the best director'
When will you be working with your son Varun Dhawan?
I am doing my next film with Varun, Main Tera Hero. I will direct it and Ekta Kapoor will produce it. It is a remake of a south film.
Can he be the next Salman Khan?
He has to prove it.
Do you want Varun to work with any specific director?
Raju Hirani is the best. He has comedy laced with emotion in his films. Even Anurag Basu is very good.
Does Varun come to you for advice?
When he asks me for advice, I give him. But when I ask him anything and want to advise him, he says 'I know what I am doing'.
This generation is different, but I will still tell him my point of view whether he listens or not.
Your son Rohit Dhawan is a director. Is there any competition between father and son?
No, there is no competition. He helps me with my work. He is a sensible boy, learnt from abroad. Our filmmaking is different. There are differences of opinion, but he thinks I am wrong (laughs).
Image: David Dhawan with sons Varun and Rohit