October 12, 2001


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Priyadarshan was making final touches to his latest Hindi film Yeh Teraa Ghar, Yeh Meraa Ghar when Shobha Warrier met him in his studio in Madras.

He seemed quite excited about the way his career shaping up -- a Hindi film based on Malayalam hit, Thalavattam starring Shah Rukh Khan, an English film on Chandrasekhar Azad and commercials for various multinationals.

Despite all that he says: "I'm still in the learning process".

Your new film, Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar is based on the Malayalam film, Sanmanassullavarkuu samadhanam….

It is not based on that film alone. It has parts of two other Malayalam films too; Minnaram and Vandanam.

The plot has been adapted from Sanmanassu…, but I wrote a fresh screenplay transplanting the story to Maharashtra. In the Hindi film, the problems are what a landlord faces in Bombay. The thread in Sanmanassu was too thin for it to work in Hindi. I had to include the other stories.

Do you think that's the safest way to make successful Hindi film? Your earlier films were remakes too.

It is not because it is 'safe’. We have made films on some interesting plots in Malayalam, which only we have seen. The plots are interesting and they deserve a wider audience.

Except Thevar Magan, I have not remade any film.

For all the others, I wrote fresh screenplays. How many remakes are really successful? From 100, 98 are failures. That's because those films are remade without taking into consideration the sensibilities of the audience. I don’t do that.

I take only the plot and write a fresh screenplay and dialogues because what happens in Kerala is very different from what happens in Bombay.

In Kerala, we prefer slower films unlike the Hindi audiences. Here they want fast films with action in every frame. Also, we don’t have too many songs.

Do you get creative satisfaction making a film based on an old plot?

It is very challenging to make a fresh screenplay based on a used plot. You remove portions that won’t go with the culture of the north; you also add new sequences in tune with the sensibilities of the audience.

These days, many Hindi film directors want the rights of my old Malayalam films. I have decided not to sell any of my stories to anyone. I will rather make them myself in Hindi.

Does reworking a film script improve the film?

Definitely. Take for example, my own film Thalavattam . I rewrote the complete script. In the case of Thalavattam, I just took the plot, that’s all. Although it is my own screenplay, I changed it completely. Not a single scene from the original is there in the new script.

I made Thalavattam in 1986 so I had to rewrite keeping in mind the attitude and thinking of people now.

In an earlier interview you said you'd change the look of Hindi films. Do you think you've succeeded?

I have. I do not know the fate of YTGYMG but a lot of people tell me that they like the promos because they see ordinary people ‘loving each other’ in India. Otherwise, they see only 'love in Switzerland or England'.

I believe in making films that look real. That was my success in Malayalam also. I never exaggerate the subject. I use real life humour.

Were you apprehensive about the success of Hera Pheri?

I was never apprehensive about the success of Hera Pheri . I didn’t want the film to look like a typical Hindi flick but the producer added a song without my knowledge because he was insecure.

Even today, people love Hrishikesh Mukherji's Golmaal ? Why?

The humour in his films is real. You saw an undercurrent of social issues in them. If you look at some of my films like Vellanakalude Naadu or Midhunam , you will see that I have picked up some real problems that people face. But the treatment was laced with humor. I am fascinated in the satirical way Charlie Chaplin dealt with serious issues.

I know I will never be able to make Vellanakalude Naadu in Hindi because here nobody's interested in watching the real problems of the middle class or the lower class.

Cinema has only one aim these days--entertain people. Today, you cannot make a film on the coolies of Bombay.

They don't want to see a film in which people cry. They have more than enough problems at home. So, films will be made to only entertain people.

Cinema is a creative medium also, is it not?

Even in Kerala where there is 100 percent literacy, things are not going well for serious cinema.

The classy films do not come to the theatres. Today’s generation lives on MTV and Channel V, and they like to see only colour and life in films.

Even in Kerala there is limited crowd who are interested in classy films.

Serious cinema is for your own satisfaction; entertainment cinema is for the people.

Take Mohanlal’s play Karnabharam for instance. People go to watch only because Mohanlal is doing it.

The play would not evoke the same kind of response if someone else was doing it. In Bombay, a lot of people bought the tickets because they wanted to see Mohanlal perform on stage.

Only commercialism combined with art sells these days .

If you want to sell a film, you have to make it in an exaggerated way. Otherwise, you have to make it for your own satisfaction.

Just because Shaji kailas’s film (Narsimham ) is running to packed houses does not mean that he is a better director than Adoor Gopalakrishnan. There are those who appreciate Adoor’s films but they are a minority, unfortunately.

Do you still yearn for critical acclaim?

Very much. The film that I am planning to make on the weavers of Kancheepuram is going to be very different from my other films. I have an ambition to be appreciated by the critics. I also have this ambition to enjoy the appeal that a commercial filmmaker gets by making commercial films.

As I am one person who understands and enjoys both kinds of cinema, my mind yearns for appreciation too.

I can proudly say that I am learning all the technical aspects of filmmaking too. Today’s films have become totally technical. Today’s director has to be an excellent technician. It is totally electronic and software based.

My next film based on Thallavatam , will have live sound. I know both Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai had live sound but I also know how bad their tracks are. I don’t want to do my film like that. These problems can be rectified.

The problem is, those who are good at scripting are not good technically. And, those who are good on the technical side are not good at story telling.

You once said that making films in Hindi was a hobby. Is it still true?

I now look at it as a stepping stone. I want to cross the borders and reach a wider audience.

You have taken on a lot of ad films lately. Has this helped you as a feature filmmaker?

It is a left hand job for me to shoot commercials, but shooting feature films is a right hand job. I had problem in telling a story in a short span of 20 seconds or 30 seconds.

I couldn’t communicate properly. I learnt to tell even a short love story in a commercial, like the Coke ad with Aamir Khan and Jyothika or the Kinley ad.

Making commercials have helped me do flashbacks in feature films; it has also improved my ability to communicate effectively. I can now narrate a flash back at a faster pace which I couldn’t earlier. But I have taken up the commercials of only multinationals.

Is it only for money?

I started shooting commercials only for money. But now I like to experiment while making commercials especially the graphic parts. I enjoy shooting commercials because it is my lab where I can experiment bravely. I am sure I can try those experiments in films later on.

You said you wanted to cross the borders as a filmmaker. Are you a very ambitious filmmaker?

I am. Ambition is not the word. I am a greedy filmmaker. Greedy for fame. I want recognition from all quarters.

I wrote my first screenplay when I was 19, and I made my first film when I was 22 and I have so far made 51films. That is no joke.

I don’t think there is anybody else in the country or the world who has made his first film at such a young age. Yes, Spielberg started his first film at 22. And so did I! *laughs*

Do you want to be a Spielberg?

No, I want to make films like David Lean.

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