'Rani has been part of our family since a while; never seen my brother so happy'
'My family was broken after my father passed away. After Adi and Rani’s marriage, it feels we have bonded again.'
Uday Chopra talks about his reclusive brother Aditya Chopra and his famous wife Rani Mukerji, and his big fat Hollywood production, Grace Of Monaco.
Yash Raj Films’ first Hollywood co-production, Grace Of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth, opened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last month.
Although the critics panned the film, Uday Chopra, who walked the red carpet with the cast at Cannes, is confident that the film will do well.
Grace Of Monaco releases on June 13 in India, and Uday admits that he is not expecting to make money on the film here.
In this interview with Sonil Dedhia, Uday talks about his experience at the Cannes Film Festival, meeting Nicole Kidman, his plans to remake Yash Raj Films in Hollywood and most importantly, his fondness for the new member in his family, Rani Mukerji.
Your brother Aditya recently got married to Rani Mukerji.
I have been continuously travelling with Grace Of Monaco and I haven’t spent time with them.
I have known Rani for a long time. We worked together in Mujhse Dosti Karoge (2002) and we bonded right then.
She is a great person; it is great to have her around. She has great Indian values. She is a homemaker.
My family was broken after my father passed away, and she was a great support.
After Adi and Rani’s marriage, it feels we have bonded again. In fact, her entire family has been supportive and now they are a part of our family too.
Does she advise you on your career?
She is very supportive. We often joke around. She tells me that I am going to be a big man and that I will be buying private planes etc.
She believes I am going to do very well in my work. She always wishes the best for me.
Have you seen any changes in your brother?
Rani has been a part of our family since a few years and I’ve seen changes in my brother since then (laughs). I have never seen him so happy.
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Image: Rani Mukerji and Uday Chopra
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'Grace Of Monaco is a commercial fairy tale, feel good kind of film'
Tell us about your experience at the Cannes Film Festival.
I had an amazing experience at the Cannes Film Festival. It feels great that we could present the film at such a prestigious film festival.
When the film was premiered, it got a standing ovation which was like an added bonus that people also liked the film.
But at the same time, a lot of critics panned the film.
Yes, the critics did not respond well to the film. I think the reason for that is that they were expecting something else.
Grace Of Monaco is a commercial fairy tale, feel good kind of film, whereas the critics at Cannes were looking for art house cinema.
Also, the director of the film, Oliver Dahan, is known for character-driven films and a lot of people expected Grace Of Monaco in that space.
At the same time, some reviews were good. So there is definitely a disparity in the way the critics have seen the film.
Image: Olivier Dahan, Tim Roth, Nicole Kidman, Parker Posey, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Arash Ame, Paz Vega and Uday Chopra
Photographs: Ian Gavan/Getty Images
'I couldn't show Nicole Kidman that I was a big fan of her'
Have the negative reviews affected the business of the film?
I won’t say that the negative reviews haven’t affected the business of the film. Business in France has been affected a lot.
At the same time, the film is doing pretty well in Italy and some other parts of the world.
We have already seen decent business and we haven’t released the film in all the markets as yet.
We are releasing the film in India on June 13.
The film is yet to release in USA, which is the biggest market.
You walked the red carpet with Nicole Kidman.
It felt surreal. I felt like a kid in a candy shop.
I couldn’t believe that I was standing next to Nicole Kidman whose movies I have grown up watching.
I felt really proud. I couldn’t show her that I was a big fan of hers as I am one of the producers of the film. I had to contain myself and was pretending to be calm.
Image: Nicole Kidman in Grace Of Monaco
'Films like Grace Of Monaco do not really create a buzz in India'
What are your expectations from the film in India?
Honestly, films like Grace Of Monaco do not really create a buzz in India.
Our audiences prefer superhero films or Oscar nominated films.
It’s great that the film is releasing in India. Since we have the resources, we are trying to release the film in more than 70 screens.
I think the film will do well in India provided the reviewers review it well.
I am not looking at making money with the film in India. We are releasing the film here as a prestige issue.
We hope it recovers the money that we are spending on marketing it in India. I am still testing the waters with this film and hopefully with my forthcoming films we will do better.
The film would have definitely created a buzz had you got Nicole Kidman to promote it in India.
I had plans to bring down Nicole Kidman to promote the film in India and she was also interested in it.
The reason it didn’t happen was because she is currently attending the Shanghai Film Festival.
If we waited for her to be available, we would have had to push back the release by two months. By that time the audiences here would have already downloaded the movie and watched it.
Image: Movie poster of Grace Of Monaco
'I would have loved to make my father meet Nicole Kidman'
Your father Yash Chopra had voiced his reservations when you decided to go to the West to produce films.
My father was concerned. He told me that I had the biggest company and I could approach the biggest stars in the industry and they would willingly do a movie for me.
He asked me why I was venturing into a territory where nobody knew us.
I explained that I wanted to do something on my own.
In India, I would never be able to escape his and my brother (Aditya Chopra)’s shadow. I couldn’t have excelled beyond what they have already done.
If things don’t work out, I can come back and join my brother here.
What was his reaction to the script of Grace Of Monaco?
He was really happy. All his doubts and concern about me had cleared.
Unfortunately, he passed away too early or else I would have loved to take him on the sets to meet Nicole Kidman and even walk with him on the red carpet at Cannes.
I am sure he would have loved to see the company’s name on the big screen.
Image: Yash and Uday Chopra
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar
'Adi wants to make a film in English'
Does your brother also intend to produce films in Hollywood?
Actually it was Adi’s thought. He was the one who sat me down and told me to think about exploring opportunities in Hollywood.
I was a little reluctant as I wasn’t aware about anything but he gave me that push and told me to figure things out on my own.
As far as directing is concerned, Adi wants to make a film in English.
He told me that he wanted to make a small film but I told him to wait for some time.
He asked me why and I said, ‘When you are in India, you pick up the phone and everybody will come to talk to you. In America, nobody knows you. You are a nonentity. You aren’t used to the set up so give it some time and venture after we establish ourselves.’
Are there any plans to remake any of Yash Raj Productions’ films in the West?
Yes, there are plans to remake some films.
When I started out, I would get scripts from agents that weren’t interesting. I realised I wouldn’t get the best scripts as they would go to the biggest producers.
That’s when I thought that the way I could get good material is by remaking the films our company has already made in Bollywood.
I took a few of those ideas and got them re-written with western sensibilities in mind.
One of the movies was Bunty Aur Babli. I have the script ready and it has come out really well. Unfortunately, the budget is too high so as of now I cannot make it.
If you had to make a film directed by your father, which one would it be?
It’s an interesting thought. My father is known for his romantic films.
I would like to remake Deewar in Hollywood and cast Will Smith and another black actor, maybe Don Cheadle, and maybe set the film in the 1970s era when there was a lot of industrial revolution happening in USA.
Image: Uday Chopra in Cannes
Photographs: Uday Chopra/Twitter
'Indian actors are given small roles in Hollywood films'
You are good friends with Abhishek Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan. Are there any plans to offer them Hollywood films?
No, I have not thought about it. I am an independent producer; it’s very important that I cast actors who have international value.
Though Abhishek and Hrithik are big in India, internationally they are not known.
Yes, there is a possibility that the script might demand an Indian actor who is of equal stature to the rest of the cast in the film, and then I would love to make an offer.
Most of the time Indian actors are given small roles in Hollywood films and I know Abhishek and Hrithik wouldn’t take them.
Image: Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra in Dhoom 3