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For Hollywood's eyes only
Subhash K Jha | May 23, 2003 18:00 IST
In 2002, Vipul Shah made a splash in Hindi films with his directorial debut Aankhen (Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal, Arjun Rampal, Sushmita Sen).
Currently, Shah is on to his second project -- Waqt: The Race Against Time. Produced by Manmohan Shetty, the film features the Big B and Akshay Kumar as father and son.
On the family front too, Shah is a contented man. Married to actress Shefali Shetty (Satya, Monsoon Wedding), he is the proud father of two boys -- Aryaman and Maurya. "We now have a complete family," he says. "Shefali can get back to her acting career very soon. We both share the responsibility of looking after the boys. Even when I start directing my new film, I will make sure that I lend a helping hand at home."
Shah plans to cast Shefali in his new film. "But I don't want people to think I cast her because she is my wife," he says. "I genuinely consider her one of the finest actresses in the country. There are two strong female characters in my film. One of them is opposite Amitji [Bachchan]. Shefali will be perfect for that role."
Originally, Waqt was to be made with the real-life father-son duo of Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan. "I would have loved to cast them together," says Shah. "But Amitji and Abhishek are both very busy, while I wasn't doing anything. I would have had to wait for a year for that dream combination to happen. I begged off. I was working simultaneously on two scripts. I gave Amitji the option to choose any of the two scripts [to do with Abhishek]. Both were two-hero projects.
"The one that I will make with Amitji and Abhishek is an espionage film. I didn't want to do that right after Aankhen. I didn't want to be typecast as a thriller director. Once you get typecast in Bollywood, it is very hard to get out. I want to experiment with various genres at the beginning of my career."
When reminded of his bitter experience with Aankhen producer Gaurang Doshi, Shah dismisses the issue, "I come from a theatre background, where the discipline is entirely different. We never cross certain ethical limits. Cinema has its own rhythms and ethical patterns."
"It is okay," he shrugs, recalling the time when his name was omitted from the DVDs of Aankhen. "The producer needs to be involved in the process of filmmaking. It encourages the director. But that participation shouldn't become interference. I never experienced any interference. Even the decision to have two endings in Aankhen, one for the overseas market and one for India, was entirely mine."
The decision to have a moralistic ending in India was dictated by the more conservative demands of the native populace. Now, Vipul wonders if it was the right decision. "If I had kept that [overseas] ending in India, it would have fared much better. We realised our mistake when we saw the final print. The two-ending option was an experiment, maybe not too successful."
Shah is apologetic about Aankhen, adapted from the Gujarati play Andhalo Pato, not doing too well in rural India. "I was too inexperienced to understand the needs of the audiences in the so-called interiors," he says. "If I made Aankhen now, I would do it very differently. [But] on the whole, Aankhen did well. It created awareness in Mumbai about the potential of stage plays to be adapted on screen. Now Aankhen is going to be remade in Hollywood!"
A production company in Hollywood will rework the entire script over a period of nine months. "It is being done in the same way that we adapt South Indian films into Hindi," says Shah. "I feel like a father giving away the bride. Only, I am happy. For the first time in the history of our cinema, an Indian film will be adapted in Hollywood instead of the prevalent reverse trend."
Shah is quite open about his script being altered by the Hollywood company. "They have the freedom to do what they like with the script," he says. "When I made Aankhen, I looked at the bank robbery within a crowded area of Mumbai. The bank in Hollywood will automatically shift to New York or Chicago. The whole scenario will change accordingly. It would be foolish of me to expect them to make Aankhen the way I did. I want to see how they relocate my film into their culture. I have a lot to learn from this experience."
The financial benefits of this deal will be shared among Doshi, writer Aatish Kapadia and Shah himself. "The artistes should also get a share of this unusual Hollywood deal. But that won't happen," says Shah, shaking his head.
"Our stars are supposed to be money-minded. But when I approached Amitji, Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal for Waqt, I requested them to lower their prices in keeping with present-day conditions. And they did," says Shah. "Mr Bachchan even said there was no need for me to pay him immediately. Akshay has done so much for this project. He kept calling to ask how far I had progressed with the script -- Jitna hua hai mujhe suna [narrate the incomplete draft to me]. Even while shooting in Canada, he kept calling."
During the making of Aankhen, Shah faced a casting crisis. Actresses Raveena Tandon and Rani Mukherji were finalised for the role that eventually went to Sushmita Sen. "These changes were distracting for me as a screenwriter," he says. "For Waqt, I am doing all the casting myself. I don't want to create any ill-will." Waqt has six main characters.
Post-Aankhen, Shah took a voluntary break to understand the mechanics of filmmaking. "Out of insecurity, producers started behaving weirdly. I decided to be a co-producer in my new film. It is important for me to shoulder the losses to understand the true measure of the film business."