'Films don't bring about change in society. People may watch a film, and want to live life like the actors on screen, or want to wear the same outfits or live in the same house...'
'Films can affect a person's mind for an hour but after that, they will think about something else.'
R Balki prepares us for his new film, Ki & Ka.
R Balki's back is in a bad shape but that doesn't stop him from giving interviews to promote his new film Ki & Ka.
He shifts in his awkward-looking chair until he's finally comfortable. Only to get up to open a window, so that he can smoke a cigarette.
The director chats with Patcy N/Rediff.com, and tells us why he chose Arjun Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan for his new film, and why he loves working with Amitabh Bachchan.
Do you think Ki & Ka will bring about a progressive change in society?
In India, it is very easy to break stereotypes.
Films don't bring about change in society. People may watch a film, and want to live life like the actors on screen, or want to wear the same outfits or live in the same house... Films can affect a person's mind for an hour but after that, they will think about something else because information is very fast.
No film can effect a change of life.
How did Arjun Kapoor came on board on Ki & Ka?
I wanted a hefty beefy hunk, who doesn't have an ounce of feminity in him. I wanted someone totally masculine to do the most gentle things.
When he came and met me. I asked him if he sweeps floors and cooks. He said no, and I thought he was the perfect guy.
Likewise, I wanted a woman who was totally feminine.
Looking at these people, nobody should say he is feminine and she is masculine, so that they just notice their roles.
Were Arjun and Kareena your first choice?
I was working on two ideas. I spoke to Arjun about one idea, and he was very excited.
The other idea was with Anushka Sharma but that was not working out.
Arjun kept telling me concentrate on Ki & Ka, and do the other idea another time.
He also tweeted, saying, 'I went to Balki's office.'
I am not on Twitter but (wife) Gauri is. Some fans sent pictures of Arjun with Kareena, saying they looked good together. I saw their pictures on Gauri's IPad and thought it looked good. So I wrote Ki & Ka first.
Do you know any husband like your character in the film, who goes out of his way to help his wife?
I am sure there are a lot of people like him but I did not meet any.
I want to show the life that people aspire to live, and that had to be from my imagination, not from real life.
Why would I make a film on something that I have already lived? I don't want to write a film on my life.
Did you discuss the idea with Gauri to know how working women are?
No. We don't work like that. We read each other's script only when it's ready.
Plus, I did not want a womanly touch in my film. I wanted it to be my imagination of a woman.
I did pick up a lot from her behaviour, like she never lets me keep a glass without a coaster. If I arrange something on the table, she will rearrange it as she is the master of the house even though she is working. The territories are very clear.
All people who believe that their home is their territory are very clear about it. I have noticed that in my mother and my sister as well.
Your films always have a commercial appeal. How do you get that right?
Nobody manages that.
What is commerce? When maximum people go and watch a film, that is commerce. That is the kind of film I want to make. I will not make films like European cinema, as I don't believe in that kind of cinema.
Filmmaking is a very laborious process. It should be an original idea to the best of your knowledge, only then is it worth spending one and a half years on it. Otherwise, it will become a painful process.
I like movies like Talvar, Rowdy Rathore and Neerja.
Other films are not commercial because they have not reached people, like Angry Indian Goddess. It would have been a stupendous commercial success if it had been promoted well.
Shamitabh did not work at the box office. Did you have anything in mind when you made Ki & Ka?
Yes, that nobody should die in the film. It should not be a sad film; it should be a happy film.
I realised that all of us need to feel good about life. There is no problem with people dying. In Paa, Amitabh Bachchan dies but there is an element of positivity as he has brought two people together (his onscreen parents Abhishek Bachchan and Vidya Balan).
But in Shamitabh, their death was a hopeless cause. Hopelessness of life is not something that audiences like. They cannot digest it. It took me a long time to accept the fact that I was a fool.
There is an usher in PVR theatres, who is my best critic. He is the only person I follow because he tells me the exact mood of the audience when they come out.
He tells me if the audiences say, 'Kya mast film hai, full entertainment hai, touching film, what special effects...'
But when they come out of the theatre and don't know what to say, you're doomed.
After Shamitabh, he told me that people were saying, 'Kya hua yaar? Kisske liye mara? Kyun mara?'
People watch a film to feel better about life. That doesn't mean you come out of the theatre feeling happy. It can be a lovely sense of sorrow, like what Neerja gives you. You learn from the most unlikely quarters what you should do in life.
You wanted to do Shamitabh with Shah Rukh Khan but that did not work out. Are you looking forward to working with him in future?
I don't look to work with somebody and then write a film. I should get an idea for that to happen.
But he is doing Gauri's film. I know him and he is a very good friend.
Why do you work with Amitabh Bachchan in most of your films?
I am a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan. There are so many things to admire about him.
He is weightless, he is charming.
You can watch Namak Halal and Dostana today and you will think he is still cooler than any young actor. Even with bellbottoms and a dog collar, the way he acts is cooler than the other actors of today's generation.
He is an eternal specimen in mankind.