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July 7, 1999


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Hit Man

Indra Kumar. Click for bigger pic!
Indra Kumar is one of the most successful directors in the industry today, a man truly with the Midas touch. He has made very few films, but every one of them has been a hit. Dil, Beta, Raja and Ishq have had only top performers starring in them -- Aamir Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor...

Despite his good run, Indra Kumar hasn't turned flamboyant and flashy as some successful directors are wont to; he prefers a low profile.

It could have something to do with the fact that he isn't very articulate, but he knows exactly what the audience wants and how to get his actors to deliver it. And sometimes you wonder if he just has a secret formula for a hit film.

Younger brother of veteran actress Aruna Irani, Indra Kumar didn't come up the hard way. He began comfortably enough by producing films. His first production was Mohabbat, which starred Anil Kapoor and Vijeta Pandit. The film did well and so he made his second film, Kasam. But now he had an idea that he could do the thing much better all by himself. And so he took to direction with Dil, a runaway hit.

Now he awaits the release of his latest film, Mann. Indra Kumar agrees he has been inspired by various incidents and films he sees. Mann, for instance, has its roots in the 1957 film, A Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Excerpts from a chat with Entertainment Correspondent Sharmila Taliculam.

What is Mann about?

Mann is about one's inner feelings. When I started this picture, I thought I'd work on it with all my heart. And for once I wanted to make a film for myself. Till now, I catered completely to the audience.

This is the first time, despite keeping the audience tastes in mind... This film is something that I always wanted to make according to my taste. We thought of many titles, but then it struck us that since this film is made with so much heart, we named it Mann.

The story is about two people who are poles apart and how they fall in love with each other.

How different is this film compared to your other films?

Quite different. It has more of emotions.

All your films had strong emotions. How is this different?

A still from Mann. Click for bigger pic!
In this film they are stronger.

Why did you choose Manisha Koirala? Madhuri Dixit has been your favourite all this while.

I wanted a very vulnerable face and Manisha has that. Madhuri looks stronger, more self-assured. Manisha has a softer personality too. And she is brilliant in the film.

You have always made romantic films. What about a complete action-oriented film?

I don't relate to action very much. If the action is not backed by emotion, then it becomes a fight. Human interaction is much better and I have that in all my films. So I feel that instead of hitting the brains, I should just touch somebody's heart.

How do you choose a subject for your film?

When I hear a subject or write one, I always see that it should have lot of scope for music. It has to have lot of emotion, comedy. It has to be a mixture of all and finally in all this there has to be a message too. This message, according to me, has to be there to make a film very good.

In all my films we had some message. In Dil, the story was about a greedy man who always wanted money. So much so that he even tried to sell his son without caring that the son is also a human being with feelings. Finally he does realise it, and he regrets his actions.

In Beta, I said that love conquers all. There's the vicious stepmother. Her son's love wins her over finally. She accepts defeat in the face of her son's devotion towards her. Love can melt even a stone, and I went by that proverb.

In Raja, it was again about this younger brother looking after his older, handicapped brother. In Ishq, there were the rich and the poor clash.

Even in Mann, there is a strong message, but if I tell you that, then I will be revealing the story of the film. So see it first and then we will talk about that.

Mohabbat was your first film, wasn't it?

I produced Mohabbat and Kasam. Dil was my first directorial venture.

Why did you get into direction? Did you always want to be one?

Click for bigger pic!
I was very fond of writing. I was good at it. Necessity is the mother of invention. So I got into production. When I was the producer and I had a director to deal with, I felt that I had given my child away to someone else. Believe me, the effort was there still to make a good film, but it was not that I myself would make one.

My film was my baby and I wanted the best for it. So I decided to become a director. I didn't train under anybody, but I knew that I would give it my best shot. I never planned to become a director.

I always had the knack of creating a scene because I liked writing. So that confidence was there. So I thought there was no need for me to learn direction. I understood films. The conception of the story is most important.

You conceive all your stories?

Yeah, I conceive my stories and then ask my scriptwriters to do the scripts. All the stories in my films are mine. The stories stem from some incident, or some film or anything such thing. When I worked on Dil I thought that in our films it's the parents who oppose the children's marriage.

Here, in the first half, they are trying their level best to get the children to marry and when the children agree, the fathers end up fighting. It was a fresh angle to the story. I thought this was a novel idea -- different. So I took it up. So this way I was good at conceiving stories which were a little different from the rest of the films. I did learn later how to conceive a scene or a shot.

All your films have done well at the box office. Would you agree if I say that you have a Midas touch?

By the grace of god, yes, all my films have done well. I will repeat myself by saying this again -- somebody up there likes me. I have the blessings of the elders in the family, the goodwill of god and my hard work. I guess, my films do well because of these factors.

When you make a film, whose satisfaction is foremost in your mind? Yourself or your audiences?

When I make a film, I keep both our satisfactions in mind -- that of the audience and myself. But those in the audience are more important because they pay money to see my films. So I can't only think of my satisfaction -- or of myself. If they are satisfied, only then am I satisfied. I always think like that.

You have been with Ashok Thakeria for a long time. How did that association start?

Click for bigger pic!
Yeah. We have been together for very long time now. Like me, he also gets totally involved in the story. He is an excellent producer and a good friend too. I have a great advantage with Ashok being with me as a producer.

Ishq was the only film, which wasn't produced under your banner. It was an outside project that you accepted. Why did you do that?

You are right about Ishq. Like a frog that wants to see the outside world beyond his own well, I thought I should try doing outside banners. It was a good experience but one which I wouldn't want to repeat. I have come back to my well and am very happy there. Govardhan Tanvani is a great producer. I couldn't have asked for a better person to work with.

The reason why I don't want to do outside films is that I want to do less work than I do now. Also an outside banner is an outside one. It isn't yours. So there are limitations and you are not at liberty to do as you please. Govardhan Tanvani never made me feel like that, of course, but then your film is yours. There are some things you are left out of. And you see that when the film goes up on the screen. I didn't want to get upset about that. So I am happy doing my films at the moment.

Do you still get offers to do outside films?

Yeah, I do get offers still and I politely refuse them. I wouldn't want to name the films I have refused and others have finally made. It's not nice, you know.

What is the extent of your involvement in your films?

I am totally involved in the film. I want to be everywhere. If it is something to do with my film, I am there. Even if I am just listening to what others are saying, I am very sure of what I want for my films. I can get dictatorial about it too. But this happens only when I am sure of what I am doing. I might be wrong too but most of the time when I have put my foot down, I have been right.

Why was Rishta with Amitabh Bachchan shelved?

I don't know who gave the film the name Rishta. As far as I know, it was an untitled film. People just named it and it caught on. It never took off really. It was a film with Aamir, Madhuri and Amitji. It didn't happen because I was busy making Ishq then. I thought I couldn't manage two films at the same time. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do justice to Amitji's role.

Indra Kumar directing Aamir Khan on the sets of Mann. Click for bigger pic!
I told him that and he made a film with Mehul Kumar. Finally, when I wanted to start the film again, things had changed. So we got busy again with our commitments and didn't make the film. It was unfortunate that I couldn't work with such a great actor. But I definitely plan to make that film. In fact I want to make it desperately.

It was my bad luck that despite the film generating so much interest it fell through. There is a saying that god always keeps one bit of all good luck with him. I plan to grab that too and make it happen.

Do you feel Amitabh's comeback film might have had a subject you chose?

No. I didn't mean that. Amitji made his film with Mehul Kumar with Mrityudaata. He decided that if Rishta wasn't his comeback film, then Mrityudaata would be.

Have you struggled a lot in the industry?

Nope. I don't even know the spelling of struggle. But I am struggling now. It's worked in reverse for me.

So how do you think Mann will fare?

With Mann I feel the audience's expectations has gone higher. I only hope the film meets their expectations. For when your films become successful, the audiences start expecting a lot. Hopefully they should like the film. But this expectation, this interest generated over this film, is very scary.

The industry is going through a bad patch too...

In fact, I feel this year has been very good for the industry; I hope it ends on a good note too.

So what are your plans after Mann?

At the moment nothing is on really. No films. I want to relax, breathe fresh air. There are a few stories in mind, which I will work on after I take some rest. But I won't start anything immediately.

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