First – and the most obvious – question: after 5 decades in the industry, how would you sum up
It has been very interesting. I joined the industry at the age of 16 and have been working non-stop since then. I still work hard today, just as I used to back in those days, and that’s what keeps me and my mind alert. I do everything with sincerity and honesty.
Earlier in an interview to Box Office India, Sanjay Gupta had said that both of you were working on something else and that he had narrated Kaabil to Hrithik quite by chance.
Yes, Sanjay has been dropping into my office for the last two and a half years, and we have discussed a lot of stories. Then he got busy with Jazbaa. After Jazbaa, we didn’t meet and, one day, Hrithik told me he had heard a good subject from Sanjay. Hrithik said it was an interesting story and that I too should hear it from him. So I called up Sanjay and asked him, ‘Bhai, tum do saal se aa rahe ho but ye kaunsa idea hai jo tumne mujhe sunaya nahi.’
He said it was a new idea that he had just heard. I asked him to narrate a two-liner of the story to me, as I believe you should be able to summarise a story in just two lines. He narrated the story of a blind man and a blind woman who fall in love, get married and then something happens with the girl. The man had promised that he would never let her get hurt. Hence, when he sees her hurt, the blind man takes revenge on the wrong-doers.
I listened to only this much but it was an instant yes for me. I realised that the storyline was very powerful. The USP of the film was how a blind man finds the culprits and takes revenge. Then and there, I said we will make the film.
We worked on the screenplay for six months. Sanjay and I sat together and built the script, brick by brick. And when we heard the final script, screenplay and dialogue, I knew we had a very good film. With Sanjay’s ability to shoot the film in a very savvy manner, my emotions in it, and Hrithik and Yami (Gautam) working in it, I knew it was going to work. How well it will work is a matter of destiny but I am sure that Kaabil is one of the best films FilmKraft has made.
How much of your treatment as a director do you see in Kaabil?
When we were discussing things, I didn’t teach him anything. But he understood my way of adding emotions and turning a very niche film into a box-office film with songs, good locations… the entire presentation of the story. But to tell you the truth, I was in awe of his technique as a director, for the way he has shot the film and made the film. I believe if I had directed this film, I wouldn’t have made it the way he has. It is a visual treat for the audience.
Sanjay has said… ‘If I were to do another film without Rakeshji, it would be like a child going out without a parent…’
(Laughs) That’s so nice of him. He really believed in me and I also believed in him, when a producer and director gel together they can do wonders. Usually, the ego comes between the two and that should never happen. I make sure that ego never gets in the way, in any field, in any atmosphere, and in any relationship. Ego is the most dangerous thing and I try to avoid that route. Unfortunately, we get trapped sometimes.
Kaabil was made on a very controlled budget…
Yes, a controlled budget, and I have also sold it at a very low price. So even if my film does business worth Rs.100 crore theatrically, all my distributors and all my investors will be safe. And if the film does more than that, they will earn and even I will earn something.
Today, people are obsessed with making and breaking records, and entering the `200-crore and Rs.300-crore clubs…
(Cuts in) You cannot plan for a film to make or break records. You can only plan to make a good film. So I have sold the film all-India for Rs.42 crore. If the film earns Rs.90 crore, it would be more than enough for me. And I am sure the film will earn that much. What God has written for me after that, we don’t know.