SG: Yes, we had done Karz, then I said khud banata hun. Mukta Arts launched in 1982. I wanted to make it a private limited company, and that meant we would have to mention details of expenditure in our accounts. Before that, I was making a film called Sangeet with Kamal Haasan, this was after Vidhaata. I had seen Kamal Haasan’s film Ek Duuje Ke Liye in a trial show and I liked it a lot. The film hadn’t yet released. I told him I had a musical film and since he danced and acted very well, I would like him to be part of it. He said yes, I signed him for the film and within three weeks, I was ready with the story. In the fourth week, his film released and it became a huge hit.
The next morning, there were 10 producers in the lobby of the hotel where he was staying. My film went on getting postponed, and when it was postponed to nine months, I wrote him a letter, saying we were not making the film. I was sad but then I wrote the story of Hero. Now I wanted new actors. The job of a producer is not only to direct people but also to gauge them, treat them, and command them with your work. I learnt all this with Hero.
BOI: Was Hero made out of vengeance, to prove a point?
SG: First, to prove a point that star ke saath nahi banani hai. This happened twice – one time I won and the other time I lost. I made Kisna out of anger and it didn’t work. But when Hero released, Coolie ka zor itna tha that for initial two weeks Hero baith gayi. In the third week, I said, ‘The film is not going to work.’ But from the fourth week, Hero’s collections started increasing from 65 per cent to 80… it started rising so much, that in the ninth week, it was 92 per cent. So this is my journey as a producer. The film worked and I think it is a big high for a director to make a big hit with a newcomer. It is the true test of a director.
BOI: Most of your films picked up only a week after their release. Why?
SG: But most of them live more than 30 years. Quick films have a very fast energy, they have great collections, but they decline in the third week. On the other hand, a film made with detailing, patience and the right attitude might have a few pauses and grow slowly, usme theharav hota hai, like water. I have never made a film purely for the initial numbers, and that’s why I have never worked with superstars. I have always worked with rising stars or actors who are just three or four films old. When these actors enter the stardom space, I believe I shouldn’t work with them as my script and my work as a producer will follow them. A film like that will have a value of two or three years, not 30 years.
BOI: You just said that a star can guarantee initial but when you worked with Shah Rukh Khan in Pardes, he was a star yet the film did not take off in a big way. It started to grow after two weeks.
SG: Shah Rukh had only one big hit, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Before that, he had Darr and my film Trimurti. He was having ups and downs in his career and that is when I signed him. So, for me, he was a rising star, I had signed him for three films, Trimurti, Pardes and another film which was never made. The biggest problem with my films is that there were too many expectations attached to them. Our work as a writer and a director is that you make a film with honesty and it all depends on luck after that. Sometimes, a story works and sometimes it doesn’t. Mehboob Khan has made the best film ever made in India, Mother India. The next film he made was Son Of India, a super flop. Can you believe that the team that made Sholay also made Shaan, within just three years? So things like this happen as you want to grow and make a film that has a little more than the last one. In Hollywood, no one asks (Steven) Spielberg how many of his films were flops or hits. They know he is talented.
Kabhi aap audience se piche reh jaate hai aur kabhi aap audience se aage nikal jaate hai. Now you will ask me what happened after Yaadein. There are three reasons for that. I would earlier take a year and a half to make one film but when you go into corporatisation, your mind goes into the business aspects of filmmaking. Second, after making 11 hits, you want to grow. And that is when your creative involvement increases as you want your films to be more international. That’s why I made Kisna in English as well as in Hindi. Chal jaati toh woh bhi Lagaan thi, but times had changed. Then in Yuvvraaj I had Salman Khan, who is an action hero, unke haath mein violin de diya, and our sweet doll Katrina (Kaif) was in the film. So you want to experiment like I did in Pardes where the second guy was to be played by Salman and there was also Shah Rukh and Madhuri Dixit. We then came to the conclusion that these two characters should be played by newcomers. In fact, Madhuri loved the role of Ganga but I wanted people to connect with her so I wanted a new face.
SG: No, I wanted to make an action film with Salman. He liked the script but said, ‘Sir yeh toh Karma se milti hai.’ Maine use 15 picture ke naam de diye on the same concept but he didn’t agree I wanted to do a film with a star as Kisna didn’t work. Then I came up with Yuvvraaj and he liked it.
BOI: Subhashji, around the time you became a brand and Mukta Arts became a brand, and there was an aura around your films, an aura of large-scale grandeur, was it a burden?
SG: I was a huge burden. I had written the movie called Jogger’s Park before Kalicharan, when I was young and new ideas and thoughts were flourishing in my mind. Since I was making these commercial movies, I could not make Jogger’s Park. Then I told this FTII guy that I had a script I wanted him to look at. I told him I will rewrite it as it was my favourite subject.