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The Rediff Interview/Priyadarsan

Comedy is very challenging: Priyadarsan

Syed Firdaus Ashraf | August 01, 2003

Filmmaker Priyadarsan has come a long way as far as Bollywood is concerned. He earned the respect of the industry with films like Virasat, Hera Pheri and Sazaa-E-Kaala Pani.


However, his last attempt at comedy -- Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar -- received a lukewarm response. Yet his new film, Hungama, is a comedy starring Akshaye Khanna, Aftab Shivdasani and newcomer Rimi Sen.

He tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf that he has made Hungama to make people laugh.


How did Hungama happen?

It is easy to make someone cry or scare them. But making someone laugh is not easy at all.

If you can make anyone laugh, it is the best punya [good deed] you can do. When I was making Hera Pheri, people told me the film wouldn't work. But I felt that when films like Amol Palekar's Golmaal can work, why can't Hera Pheri? To everyone's surprise, it worked. I made comedy films in the south that worked. So I wanted to make comedy films in Bollywood too. I have made Hungama to make people laugh.

Where do you think Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar failed?

It was a satirical film. It was not affecting people's lives at large. It was more of a satire on the Bombay Rent Control Act. That's why it didn't work.

Why do you only make comedies?

I don't want to get stamped. I want to do so many things. Comedy is very challenging because it is very difficult.

The biggest problem with Bollywood is that if a horror film works, there will be hundreds of horror films following it. Ditto for love stories.

This trend stops only when someone makes a different film which works at the box office. This is the right time to break this trend [of horror films] and make a comedy.

Tell us about Hungama.

The best thing about Hungama is that there is no story. The film is about misunderstandings. There are 29 characters in my film. Everyone misunderstands the other. I have written the story and screenplay, so it is very difficult for me to narrate it to you.

Akshaye Khanna and Aftab Shivdasani don't have much star value. Why did you decide to cast them?

I've never made any film with superstars. I always believe the script is the most important factor in a film.

I went to Akshaye Khanna because he is fit for this role. He has lot of energy. I wanted a character that is a little crooked, but smart.

Rimi Sen's character is that of a liar. She tells one lie and to cover that lie she tells other lies. I made this film in one schedule.

How long did it take you to complete the film? How much did it cost?

 It cost Rs 4.5 crore and I made it in 47 days.

Isn't that a very short period of time?

Like I said, there are 29 artists in Hungama. If one person is not there, my entire schedule stops. So, I needed those 47 days from everyone from start to finish. The script was very clear in my mind, so I could shoot smoothly. Plus, I hate re-shoots. I think if you re-shoot to improve, you make more mistakes.

Why Paresh Rawal is always there in your films?

Paresh Rawal

Critics used to say the same thing when I took Tabu [in Virasat, Sazaa-E-Kaala Pani, Hera Pheri]. Now they are after Paresh Rawal. Actually, I find humour and spark in his eyes. Hungama could not be made without Paresh.

Is he the main character in the film?

Yes, he is the main character and the central pillar in the film.

What is the story of Hungama?

The story is about three stories coming to one end. If you see the film, you won't be able to narrate it to someone.

Why did you choose the title Hungama?

There is total chaos [in the film]. Like It's a Mad Mad World.

How comfortable are you making Hindi films?

I am very comfortable now. I have made films in Malayalam and Telugu too.

Language is no barrier. I am very comfortable. The only thing I don't want to become in Bollywood is a producer [laughs].

Tell us about newcomer Rimi Sen.

I saw her in an advertisement [Coca Cola] with Aamir Khan. I liked her and that is how she got selected.

I don't believe in taking still photographs and screen tests. I work on my gut feeling.

The publicity for Hungama has been very low-key. Not many people know about the film.

It is a quickie. Therefore not many people know about it.

Isn't publicity important?

Promotion is as important as making of the film. At the same time, no amount of publicity will help if your product is stale. When this film hits the theatres on August 1, it will be hot.

The best thing for any film is word-of-mouth publicity. Take Hera Pheri for example. For the first three days, there was no one in the theatres, but then the word was spread by the few people who initially watched that film. And the film did well. Publicity can hold a film for a week. Now, all over the world, the trend is that if you get good initial your cost is covered.
Are producers more important than directors?

Let me put it this way, good producers always survive because they choose the right director and a good script.

Lately, most Bollywood films aren't performing well at the box office.

We lack content. We don't have writers. The new generation does not read. When you read, your imagination grows. Television is killing this generation. I am very thankful to my father from whom I inherited the reading habit. Thanks to the Harry Potter books, children have started reading.

What I read in twenties is helping me even now. Hungama is based on Charles Dicken's play called Strange Gentleman. When I talk to people, they don't even know Dickens had written a play.

Do you feel your films lack originality?

If you see Virasat, it is exactly like Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather. It is the same story. It is inspired. But nobody says it is Godfather. There are only seven plots in the film industry -- father-son, brother-sister, enemies, etc. The adaptation is very important. You cannot call that lifting.

A still from Hungama

Name your favourite comedy.

Padosan... Golmaal... I love Charlie Chaplin, but my favourite is Laurel and Hardy. I never missed a chance to watch them. David Lean is my Dronacharya [Dronacharya, the guru of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, refused to teach Ekalavya the art of warfare because he belonged to a lower caste. So Eklavya taught himself, after accepting a statue of Dronacharya as his teacher] when I made Kaala Pani. Whenever I do a comedy film I feel I am doing a great job like any international director.

Are you a humorous person yourself?

I am very serious person. I cannot look like a buffoon anyway [laughs].

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