Priyadarshan has made some of the best comedies in Hindi cinema, but the director says none of it would have been possible without the cult success of Hera Pheri which completed 20 years on March 31.
The National Award-winning film-maker was roped in by Producer Firoz Nadiadwala for an action film Raftaar, starring Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Paresh Rawal and Karisma Kapoor.
Priyadarshan said he was not confident about making an action movie so he decided to go ahead with the script of Hera Pheri, a remake of the Malayalam movie Ramji Rao Speaking by Siddique and Lal.
At the centre of the film are three men -- the gullible Baburao Ganpatrao Apte (Rawal), con man (Akshay) and unemployed do-gooder (Suniel).
They find an answer to all their financial problems when they receive a call from a kidnapper but things don't go as planned.
"I was extremely confident that it will work. I appreciate Suniel Shetty who believed this film will be a cult film. It is not that Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal didn't have the confidence, but he (Suniel) was more confident. Even after another 10 years or more, you can relive this film because humour can never die," Priyadarshan told PTI in an interview.
The director, best known for films like Hera Pheri, Hungama and Bhool Bhulaiyaa, said most of his comedies are about the "humour of poverty", inspired by Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy.
"Hera Pheri is inspired by Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. It is about the humour of poverty. I have made films on the humour of poverty because I have lived in a lower middle class family," Priyadarshan said.
The idea of the story, however, came from the 1971 film See the Man Run, which revolved around a wrong number, a ransom call and a struggling actor.
"The film is a remake of a Malayalam movie Ramji Rao Speaking. Most of my films are tried and tested in Malayalam cinema and then made here, except Malamaal Weekly. The idea was the South has enjoyed it so let the North also enjoy it," he said.
Speaking about Raftaar, Priyadarshan said, "A lot of times, projects happen just to influence the distributors or buyers. This was one such project where I was unaware what I was going to make. I was not interested as it was not my cup of tea. Rather I narrated this idea (Hera Pheri) to Neeraj Vora (actor-writer), and thanks to Akshay, Suniel and Paresh fell for it. The producer had no choice but to make it because the actors loved it."
Akshay and Suneil were known as action heroes at that time and Rawal was primarily seen in negative roles.
"Everybody had the same doubts, I believe as long as the actors are good and the script is in right then things fall in place," Priyadarshan said about his 'against the image' casting.
The director said Rawal took a lot of trouble to play Baburao Ganpatrao Apte, a character that became popular the viewers later.
"He changed his body language and wore soda bottle glasses, which was challenging as you go completely out of focus. He would count his steps as he couldn't see anything."
Hera Pheri turned out to be a massive success and Priyardarshan credits Vora for contributing a lot to the film and his lead actors for believing in his vision.
The film gave a boost to Akshay's career and the director said he is thankful to the superstar for acknowledging it.
"Akshay has said it quite a few times that Priyadarshan taught me how to act in comedies. Today he is a big star, not many people say it. I am very happy Akshay said this. Before Hera Pheri, he had 16 flops. I enjoy working with Akshay because he believes in me. We have had 90 per cent success ratio."
Priyadarshan said he did not return as a director for the sequel as he did not enjoy working with the producer.
The sequel was directed by Vora.
"The experience of working on the first one was disappointing as they (producers) never believed in my film. He went and shot two songs without my knowledge, which I got to know when I saw the film. The songs were removed later."
"I decided not to work with those who do not believe in me. He did ask me if I will do the second part, I said, I am not interested. I feel the first part was born, the second one fell sick and the third part will die."
The director, who is a fan of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee, said the success of Hera Pheri encouraged him to make more light-hearted movies in Hindi.
"When I made Hera Pheri, there was a huge poverty in Hindi cinema for comedies. My first experiment here turned out well. It is the success of Hera Pheri that made me do more comedy films like Hungama, Malamaal Weekly and Bhool Bhulaiyaa.