Showman Subhash Ghai and Rahul Puri, MD, Mukta Arts in conversation with Team Box Office India on their banner’s 37th anniversary
Box Office India (BOI): Cut back to 37 years, when you were about to launch Mukta Arts. What was the vision behind the banner?
Subhash Ghai (SG): 37 years ago, when we started Mukta Films with Karz, there was a man behind it with 10 years’ experience. He was a writer then he became a director. So his birth as a producer in Mukta Films was not as a corporate guy or a man from finance or business. The spinal cord of Mukta Films was a creative man, a writer and a director, who then became a producer.
You will notice that banners that have existed for 40-50 years were launched by directors or writers, whether Yash Chopra or Raj Kapoor. When there is talent behind a banner, it has the potential to go the distance.
I never wanted to become a producer as I was not comfortable with accounts. I was always a writer and am still a writer; and I was a director and am still one. But when I made two films – Kalicharan and Vishwanath – I had senior producers who would teach me how to produce a film. The second film was also Shatrugan’s (Sinha) film so I had control over it. But there was a third and fourth film called Gautam Govinda and Krodhi, which didn’t work as they took three to four years. That’s when I realised why a producer is so important in making a good film. Trust me, the moment I narrated Krodhi’s script to Dharmendra, he said he wanted to produce the film. I actually went to sign him as an actor. And the moment Gautam Govinda’s script was narrated to Shashi Kapoor, he called his brother Raj Kapoor and said he had just heard a fantastic script. Both scripts were wonderful but why didn’t they work? I learnt that you have to become a producer to control, to allow your creativity to express the story. Phir mujhe laga ke yeh jo producers hote hain, every last hit would influence them so much that they would try and convince me to introduce elements which were popular. Mein tang aa gaya, aur joh puri script thi woh aahista aahista derail hone lagi. There is no producer who thinks, let me take a bad story and make a film. Why do 90 per cent films flop? Because the journey from story to final print, story to screenplay to dialogue to direction to camera to artistes to lights, to casting to music to marketing… It is a huge process par woh derail hoti jaati hai joh script hai.
So, a financer who was very fond of me said, ‘Subhashji, I will finance the film, you produce it.’ And then I met Rajendra Kumar. These two people, they say beta sahi picture bannani hai na producer ban ja tu, and I was like there are a lot of liabilities that come with producing. But the financer said to me, ‘I will finance the film, you don’t worry. And when the film works, give me the interest then.’ Itna bada trust. So I thought mera kuch faayda hoga. So in my innocence, I started Karz.
I watched the film Reincarnation of Peter Proud. I didn’t understand the film. There were around 1,500 flashes in that film, and there was this one scene that kept haunting me, the scene where he goes to his mother after reincarnation and the mother says, ‘Peter has come.’ That scene kept haunting me…
BOI: Karz has that scene.
SG: Yes. I thought, suppose I died today and was reborn after 25 years, and my wife and my children were servants in somebody’s house. How would I see it? This created a story in my mind and I left for Ooty, for 20 days. I narrated the story to Sachinda (Sachin Bhowmick), and he said, ‘Okay, leave it to me, I will write it for you.’
I came back and started discussing it in detail and I said it is a murder mystery but it is very important to include music. Dada asked me how that would be possible and I said, ‘Okay, let’s do one thing, let’s make the hero a pop singer and let’s use a haunting tune that will be the theme of our movie.’ Dada agreed, so I approached Laxmikant-Pyarelal. If you see the culture of Karz music because I wanted to make a modern film, Panchamda suited that culture.
Everyone said I should take Pancham’s music, but I refused. I said that I had worked with them on Gautam Govinda, toh mere tunning unke sath jaami hui hai thodi and since I was producing a film for the first time, let me work with someone with whom I feel comfortable working with. But he said, ‘Arey, woh toh dholak wale log hai.’ But I met Laxmikant-Pyarelalji and narrated the story to them. I told them it was a murder mystery and I wanted Indian music with a Western orchestra. Pyarelalji said it was a big challenge but that he and Laxmikant would handle it. I narrated the whole script to Pyarelalji and he was inspired and agreed. When I started Karz, I deposited the first cheque of `10,000 in Mukta on October 24, 1978. After that, we started the production. When I released the film (Karz), everybody said it was a flop. I enquired why, and they said the UP cinema halls were saying, ‘Agar film mein mara Raj Kiran hai, toh Rishi Kapoor ko kya taqlif hai?’ They didn’t understand the concept.
BOI: Please continue.
SG: Then Krodhi didn’t work. The stars who wanted to work with me after Karz started avoiding me. Ahista ahista woh ‘bathroom’ jaane lagey. Uss time pe ‘bathroom’ hota tha abhi mobile phone hi nahi uthate hai. I was signed by Gulshanji (Rai). He said that he makes films with big star cast. I told him the big star cast that I had had left as my last film didn’t work, everybody thought ki maine sirf pehle do movie achi banayi.
Then I called and said, ‘Gulshanji, tell me one thing, films work on stories or stars?’ He said, ‘Films work on the story but the initial comes due to the stars.’ Then I asked him whether we were making a film for initial sake or the film’s sake. I told him I would first narrate the story to him.
I wrote the story in a week and that story was Vidhaata. I told him that there is no need of star cast because I haven’t kept any character in it. There is one elderly person from Pali Hill, he has dates and then there is a 17-year-old boy, Sanjay Dutt, who is ready to work with me.’ He was, like, ‘Yes, I know him I am financing Rocky.’ I was, like, ‘Bas, he loved the story. He said, ‘Okay, one more thing, you direct the film and produce it.’ So, practically, I produced the film. He gave me a cheque book, saying, ‘Mujhe at least ek territory ka profit chahiye.’ I said, ‘You will get that.’ Maine jitna Karz produce karte waqt nahin sikha utna maine yahaan sikha. Because this was the responsibility as producer. So I used to jot down the daily expenses, I used to see how the pricing should be. Gulshanji was a financer-distributor, so while sitting in his office I learnt about the whole film market. Brokers and I learnt the entire trade language. Even today, the language is the same, nothing has changed except that you have technology now. Earlier, people use to hide information, now there is transparency. Earlier, nobody used to reveal how much a film earned. The film celebrated its silver jubilee and I thought that a film can be a hit even without a star.