A big Sanjay Dutt deal
The ninth floor of a building under construction forms the sets of Plan
Sanjay Dutt swaggers around in a white jacket, shirt and trousers. His hair styled to stand up in spikes is partly white. He looks tired. But he's on the top of the world.
"My dream [of becoming a producer] has come true!" he exclaims, of his debut home production Kaante, to be released December 6. His second home production Plan is on the floors.
Which is where we are. On the ninth floor of a building under construction in Mumbai's suburban Bandra, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Beyond the beautifully maintained, tree-lined road is the vast blue sea fading into the horizon.
The flat is not painted, the flooring is incomplete and the walls have holes for windows. Two worn out couches and a few plastic chairs and tables constitute the furniture. But the room is full of people, cameras, lights and wires. Pictures of Amitabh Bachchan fill the walls. And the sound levels are very high.
Dutt is oblivious to the chaos around him. It's past 3 pm and the actor has not had his lunch. He gets ready for his shot.
Debutant director Hriday Shetty (son of late fight master Shetty) explains the shot to him and other members of the cast, Dino Morea, Sanjay Suri, Bikram Saluja and Rohit Roy. They take their places. Dutt sits on a chair with his hands tied, while the four younger actors surround the chair.
'Action!', is called, and the four grovel at Dutt's feet. "Aap Musa bhai hai? Agar hame yeh pata hota, hum aapko yahan kabhi nahin laate!" they plead together. Suri fumbles with his lines.
The second shot is canned.
This was also the mahurat shot when the film was launched at the IIFA Awards at Sun City, South Africa, April 2002.
Plan is about four young men who come to Mumbai. They land up in the same compartment of the train and meet. Each has a unique personality, and the four shack up together and plan ways to make quick money. One of their plans is to kidnap a businessman. Unfortunately, they kidnap the city's most powerful don Musa bhai (Sanjay Dutt). The scene mentioned takes place when they realise their mistake.
Dino is Bobby, a struggling actor and great fan of Amitabh Bachchan. "Initially, life is very tough for me, but later, it improves," he says.
Sanjay Suri plays Lucky, a man who loves to gamble. In fact, he takes life as a gamble and always wins. Which is why the name. "But at one point, my luck runs out," Suri says. "That's a turning point of the film."
Bikram Saluja is Jai, a mature, cautious thinker. "I come to Mumbai in search of my love. I play a level-headed guy. I am also very fun-loving."
Though quite busy with other projects, Suri is very happy to be part of this [approximately] Rs 100 million film. He says, "I wanted to change my image [the soft-spoken homely man as seen in Daman, Filhaal]. Sanjay [Gupta] and I had a lot of discussions about my looks and image."
Besides Plan, he has Jhankar Beats, Pinjar and Insaaf lined up.
Dino's last film, Amol Shetge's Gunaah bombed at the box-office. But Dino is equanimous: "A lot of things went against the film, the primary being that I, the hero, should not have died. Besides, people claimed that it was not a family movie as the actress used a lot of foul language. Then, we had to compete with Boney Kapoor's Shakti [released on the same day]."
Morea has Tinnu Varma's Baaz, Rajat Rawail's Woh, V Shantaram's Hum Saaya, Dheeraj Pathak's Ghaar, and a Mukesh Bhatt film.
Bikram Saluja did not quite have an ideal launchpad in Khalid Mohamed's Fiza. But he landed the prestigious LoC, by J P Dutta, Karan Razdan's Roshni and Sanjay Upadaya's Chaahanewale, besides Plan.
"Fiza did not really help my career, but I learnt a lot from that film," he says. "My character was edited a lot, yet I managed to make an impression in the film world."
Co-producer Sanjay Gupta conceived the plot. Director Hriday Shetty, who has worked with Gupta for the last 11 years, loved the concept and felt that it would be his ideal launchpad. "I have worked with Sanjay in films like Aatish, Khauff, Ram Shastra and Jung. We have been friends and neighbours for a long time."
Gupta agrees with him. "Hriday is very smart and talented. That's why I asked him to direct my film. I cannot waste millions on a friend!" Initially, Gupta was to direct the film himself. "But Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) was keen to do it soon. I did not have the time, as I was busy with Kaante. After that, I wanted to take a long break."
Shetty says that films were always in his blood, being the son of veteran fight master, Shetty. "As a child, I would always accompany my father on the sets during weekends. I have been on the sets of Victoria 203, Bombay 405 miles, Kala Patthar, Trishul and lots more." Though Shetty did not officially assist any director, he learnt filmmaking from quite a few of his friends.
"The film is called Plan because while scripting, we realised that the word 'plan' kept popping up. These four boys keep coming up with a 'plan'. So we thought it was most appropriate," Shetty explains. The film is slated for a March 2003 release.
Interestingly, the film was to introduce model Cleo Issacs. Though the director claims she is still in the film, her name does not appear in the list of credits. Nor does Sanjay Gupta mention her in his star cast. As of now, the female cast consists of Priyanka Chopra and Isha Koppikar.
Shetty insist Plan is not inspired by any Hollywood film, and says working with Gupta is a dream. "There is no pressure or interference from him at all," he says. He echoes the same about his actor-producer Sanjay Dutt. "He is fantastic in don roles! A brilliant actor, with great comic timing!"
Gupta claims that his films, Kaante and Plan, are as different as chalk and cheese. The only similarity is the Western culture that both films adopt. "I am alien to the typical Ganga Jamuna kind of films. I was brought up in Mumbai with a modern outlook to life. My films do not cater to any particular audience. I'm just doing what I do best"
"I carried the Kaante script with me for eight years because I could not find a producer," he says. He finally produced the Rs 300 million film.
Kaante is touted to be one of the most awaited for films this year. The film industry hopes that the multi-starrer (Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty, Mahesh Manjrekar, Lucky Ali, Kumar Gaurav) will end the Bollywood depression. "It is not fair to put so much pressure on Kaante," Gupta states. "But given this reaction, Kaante should have a good opening."
The film, slated for release in August 2002 has been pushed to December 6. Gupta shrugs aside views that his controversial phone conversation with gangster Chhota Shakeel caused the delay. "Those are rumours and heresay. The media loves to hype situations and play judge." He insists that an official release date was never given before.
The film which was shot in Los Angeles, has an all-American crew. "People abroad work in a nine to five shift. We may take 60 days for postproduction, working odd hours. But a Hollywood film takes 15 to 18 months. Since everything was done in LA, it was out of my control. The film was not delayed as we took only eight months for post-production."