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Oops, it's Deepak Tijori
The one-time character artiste now turns director on a controversial note

Ronjita Kulkarni

Deepak Tijori leans forward. He has a dreamy look on his face. As the corners of his mouth twist into a tiny smile, I ask, "Why Oops?"

Tijori breaks out of his trance and answers, his smile broadening. "I named my film Oops because that's the most natural thing you say when you make a mistake. And the film is about certain mistakes that three people commit in their life."

The actor-producer who has taken a step forward into scripting and directing his first feature film watches two of his songs (Yaahe, Bharak de) on the monitor. He cannot hide his happiness. He looks on with pride till the last strains die down.

"I wanted to make a film that I would like to see. I want to see dance, colour, young stars, entertainment and sex. So I blended these elements in my film. Why must I always see some heroine dancing in Switzerland or Australia? If the story is based in Mumbai, why not stay here and finish the whole film? I can't handle seeing a bhai [goon] in Vaastav suddenly singing in New Zealand!" Tijori says.

An ex-student of the Narsee Monjee college, Mumbai, Tijori did amateur theatre and some odd jobs (a space seller in Cineblitz magazine, front office manager in Hotel Searock) before he ventured into acting. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in life. My friends (Aamir Khan, Paresh Rawal, Ashutosh Gowariker, Vipul Shah) were in the same theatre group, college and locality as me. They were always talking and breathing films. So naturally, I got sucked into it."

Tijori had no 'godfather' in the industry. And he was kicked around from one office to another with no one to guide him. "For three years, I sat outside offices trying to get a word with producers," he says. "I managed to do some tiny roles, which were very pathetic. In Krodh (starring Sanjay Dutt and Sunny Deol) in which I was one of the many henchmen standing behind the main villain. I had only one line in the entire film."

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Disheartened, the actor nearly gave up on films. Then Mahesh Bhatt's Aashiqui (1990) came along and gave him his first big break. The actor reminisces. "One of the coactors Aftab Gill told me that Mahesh Bhatt wanted to talk to me. Robin Bhatt had recommended my name. I met him and he narrated the friend's role. I had played ridiculous roles like this before in Afsana Pyaar Ka, Parbat Ke Us Paar, Kaun Kare Kurbani. And I wondered how much worse could Ashiqui be? But I had faith in Mahesh Bhatt, so I agreed. Things changed a lot after that."

After Aashiqui, Tijori went on to do Sadak, Naajayaz and Ghulam with the Bhatts.

Lead roles, however, were hard to come by. The ones that did come did not work at the box-office. He produced the film in which he starred as solo lead. Directed by debutante Ashutosh Gowariker, Pehla Nasha (also starring Raveena Tandon and Pooja Bhatt) worked in the metros and overseas market. It was not a box-office hit.

D Rama Naidu's Santaan, with Tijori in a negative lead character, also failed. "It boils down to destiny. The box-office rules your career. After this, people put me down. That is how things always work in the industry. So I decided that unless I got a great role, I would not do the film. That is why I did Ghulam, Angaarey and Vaastav, which had tiny but good roles for me. I started doing characters which were important to the film."

Now when Tijori selects his films, he listens to the entire film, not just his character. "I need to know where my character fits in. I know from experience that when you are not the hero, the character role is the first to be edited. I did not want to take chances."

He cites an example. "Dharmesh Darshan offered me a big role in Dhadkan. But I realised that if the film became lengthy, my character would be the first to be edited. I refused. Later, when I saw I film, the role was much smaller than what he made it out to be."

But the roles were not good enough. He wanted more. So he set up a production company, Tijori Films, producing television serials for Zee, Sabe and Star TV.

He started working on scripts which became popular with the audiences and sent the TRPs soaring. He also knew how to execute action sequences better than television directors, as he was used to them in films. "Slowly, I felt that I could do a lot of things well and that I should now direct my own film," says Tijori.

The film revolves around two boys (Kiran Janjani, Vikas Sethi) and a girl (Adyahsa) who are background dancers in Hindi films. The boys are picked up by an actress (Mink) to do a strip show. Wanting to make big money fast, they agree. The film goes on to show how their life changes after that. "It deals with the right and wrong choices they make in life," says Tijori. He elaborates, "Most career-minded men who want fast money leave relationships aside. They forget about their families and concentrate on churning in money. This boy in my film is poor and his need for money makes him do what he does. He loses a lot of friends in the bargain. The film is based on relationships. It involves emotions and sex because this is a guy who is involved with a lot of women."

Tijori is confident that he will not face any problems with the censors despite his bold subject. "I am not showing vulgar sex. It's a very modern version of portraying sex. It's got the elements of sex but is not a sex film."

Nor does he care about controversies. "Anything becomes a controversy nowadays. Sex, in our country, is a controversy. I'm not making a film on sex, I'm making a film about background dancers who become strippers and sex comes in. It's a subplot, not the content of the film. Since sex is considered taboo, people may think I'm making a controversial film."

Choosing his cast --- all newcomers --- came easily to him, he says. "Being an actor, I can see the potential of an actor by just making him read or rehearse something. I knew these boys as they worked out in the same gym as me. But I did not know their potential as actors. I auditioned them and felt they could be trained well. They were very enthusiastic, but they were shocked, initially on being offered a role in a film."

Tijori reflects on his own career. He talks about his favourite scene in Mahesh Bhatt's Naajayaz. "It was a scene where I come home drunk and my father (a don, played by Naseeruddin Shah) tries to explain to me that what I have done is wrong. I do not agree with him. I confess that I have just hired someone to kill my brother [Ajay Devgan]. He gets a rude shock and asks me, ironically, who had taught me these things."

This, incidentally, was Tijori's first scene in the film.

The music for Oops has been scored by Ravi Pawar of Tum Bin fame.

Tijori hopes the audience will like his Rs 60 million film. "Independent producers should be encouraged to make good films. Then we can break out of the old boring formula films with a 'hero-heroine' or where the couple is running around trees. Any kind of cinema --- be it Chinese, Japanese, American and even Malayalam --- deal with different concepts."

This film is made in Hinglish for the Indian audience and English for the overseas audience. Tijori elaborates, "I feel that the Indian audience abroad enjoys Indian cinema in the English language." He cites the examples of Fire, Earth, Monsoon Wedding and Bend It Like Beckham, which have done well abroad.

He confirms that Oops is not inspired by Bombay Boys or The Full Monty, as 'the stripping element is just an aspect of the film, not the content'.


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