'Alia is brighter than me. I am extremely happy and proud that without her father’s help, she has had a successful journey.'
'People didn’t think that a girl who was danced to Radha (a hit song in Student Of The Year) could do such serious acting as well.'
Mahesh Bhatt, in a candid chat.
An interaction with Mahesh Bhatt is an experience by itself.
The maverick filmmaker is known to speak his heart out and that's what happened when we caught up with him recently.
Bhatt, who turns 68 today, spoke at length about filmmaking, his daughters and of course, the Raaz franchise. Jahnavi Patel/ Rediff.com takes notes.
Was turning Raaz into a franchise always the plan?
When you have a successful space with a combination of romance and horror, you present that to the audience and you realise that they enjoy it.
One and a half decade is a pretty long time span. A franchise which performs for 15 years, should be kept as an ongoing process.
We didn’t go about creating it but once it was created, we felt we should milk it.
Like in cricket, when your innings staggers, you send your best batsman to play. Just like that, even our innings was a little unsteady and we thought we should send in our batsman to make us triumph.
You went back to Raaz as your other releases didn’t do well?
They didn’t do well at all, they bombed.
We green lit Raaz because one, the story is good. Without a good story, a franchise won’t work.
What do you think went wrong with your films?
We have reached here with our set of struggles.
If you see our history, we have fallen more and won less. I have failed my way to success. That’s the reason I am not scared of failure.
You have seen the film industry change at large. Today, what difficulties does one face while making a film?
I was telling this to Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, when he had come to Mehboob Studios that when I had joined the film industry in 1971. I was just 20 then and the films made during that time were totally different.
Films were made on celluloid.
Since the time we have entered the digital space, everything has changed -- not only in the way films are made and received but also in our lives.
Today, it has become easy to make films in many ways. It is easy to exhibit as well. But to get people to cinema halls has become difficult. There’s a sea of entertainment but to reach the audience and convince them to watch a film is also difficult.
This is a big challenge for us.
Do you feel the audience has become more selective about what they watch?
A person doesn’t only give money to watch a film, he also gives his time.
When you watch a promo, you give it some seconds or minutes of your life. If you don’t like it, you close it halfway.
There was a time when the audience was offered substandard products. Fortunately, in this time of competition, the consumer has varied choices.
Today, if you have brilliant content, the chances of it becoming a success are also much more.
Do you think the high ticket prices at multiplexes is a challenge?
Money isn’t a major concern for people, who watch films in multiplexes.
We are living in a time of attention economy, where you have to make your presence felt to the audience.
People are not aware about your existence only.
Your life has seen a lot of ups and downs. Would you like a biopic on yourself?
I've heard my daughter Pooja (Bhatt) is making a biopic. She is my daughter, it is her right, who am I to tell her anything?
She has seen me, and will make it based on her experiences.
She will try to tell my story. But first, I should understand my story.
How do you view Alia Bhatt’s career growth? She has a good balance of commercial and content-driven films.
Alia is brighter than me. She was fortunate that she started her journey with Karan Johar. He is an A-lister, a director of contemporary, young and modern India. He is also very intelligent.
I am extremely happy and proud that without her father’s help, she has had a successful journey.
After Student Of The Year, Highway released and she gave her life to a new director with that film.
People didn’t think that a girl who was danced to Radha (a hit song in Student Of The Year) could do such serious acting as well.
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania was next with David Dhawan’s son Varun and it was a very good film. There was good comedy.
Then her fourth film Shaandaar came out. Thank god it came ka ehsaas toh hua ki flop bhi bohot important hai (she realised that a flop is very important).
Kapoor & Sons and Udta Punjab were very good films. She surprised me with her performance in Udta Punjab. A girl who is born and brought up in Juhu (a posh suburb in Mumbai), how could she portray a girl from Jharkhand?
When I had gone to Ranchi, the ladies there told me, 'Your daughter had played a role of a girl from our village. Congratulate her and tell her that she spoke well and did a good job.'
Featuring on the cover of magazines like Cosmopolitan or Vogue will make the westernised and overseas mind happy but where our roots are, Hindustani, she reached there also.
That was one of her biggest achievements, I believe.
Udta Punjab is the peak of that journey.
She is only 22 years old, her journey has just begun.
A true artist is one who even after doing a lot, he reminds himself that he hasn’t done anything. We have made her understand this from our side.
As a filmmaker, what do you think is Alia’s strengths and weakness?
Her strength is that she completely dedicates herself to her roles and directors.
After seeing her in Udta Punjab, I was like, 'Who is she? Meri bacchi toh hai hi nahi (She's not my daughter).'
That's one big thing about her -- she can become someone completely different.
Her weakness is that itni shiddat se har role ko agar vo baar baar deti rahengi toh kharch ho jayengi (if she puts in so much for every role, she'll be spent).
To experience life and live it is also important.
If you keep on performing in front of the camera, you will let go of whatever is there within you.
Life experiences cannot be learnt on the film set or in front of the camera.
During Highway, she slept in tents and saw the India from a 1 star hotel experience. That (after effect) showed in Udta Punjab.
That’s not only her weakness but of all celebrities.
Who is a better actress: Pooja or Alia?
Pooja was never a full-hearted actor. Her heart wasn’t totally there.
Whatever she has delivered was good but Alia is more committed as an actress.
Pooja is a filmmaker.
Can we expect you working with Alia in the near future?
I don’t work with stars.
And why would I interfere in her flight? She is already playing so well.