Guest Editor David Dhawan in conversation with Team Box Office India
Judwaa 2 is a huge success. Are you happy as a director or as a father?
I am happy as a director. And obviously as a father too. Frankly, I would not have made this film so well if Varun was not there by my side. That boy has stood with me through everything. And argued a lot too. It’s not like I tell him to do something and he does it blindly. You have to reason it out, explain it to him. Sometimes, he would not listen. I would tell him to do it once my way and then see. Later in the evening, he would say, ‘I enjoyed doing it this way and it’s working.’ The actor needs to have conviction in what he is doing, it is very necessary. We’ve had a great time making this film. I had a great producer also. Sajid (Nadiadwala) has been my junior for so many years. The original Judwaa was the first film we did together. Then we did Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and Rohit (Dhawan) also did Dishoom with him. Sajid is like family. It is because of him that I could make the movie the way I wanted.
How different is it for you to direct Varun as opposed to other stars you have worked with?
Not very different. I have enjoyed working with other stars and I have worked with a lot of them. I have worked with everyone from veterans like Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Rishi Kapoor, Raj Babbar, etc. to the younger generation like Govinda, Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt. I am an improvising director. If you ask for a script, I will never give it. There is no script. This the scene, I will narrate it.
My scripts keep changing. I change them even when I am on the set. Nahi yaar, yeh scene nahi jam raha hai, isko aise kar dete hai. A weak actor cannot last with me. I don’t spare them, I have lots of issues. I will push them from a moving bus. Don’t spoil my career (laughs). I want a good actor and I have worked with many. And character artistes have always been with me. My favourite is Anupam Kher. Then there is Amrish Puriji, Paresh Rawal and Rajpal Yadav (who is in Judwaa 2). When I signed on Rajpal, people were not convinced. But he is brilliant in the film. Now, everybody is talking about his role. Your team is always your team. You have to work with people that are close to you.
You have given so many hit movies in the past. Why did you decide to remake Judwaa?
Varun has done so much work, apne bete ke saath abhi kya banaun? I have made double role movies with everyone, be it Bachchan saheb, Govinda, Salman or Rishi Kapoor. I kept thinking about the kind of movie I would like to make with him. I was getting very confused. So I asked Varun if he would do a double role and he said yes. Then I met Sajid and he said it was a very good idea. He suggested that we make Judwaa with Varun. He felt that Varun would be the only one who could do it. So baat jamne lag gayi. But I was still confused as to whether I should make it or not. When I started to write the script, I retained the main plot but made other changes. The scenes, locations and several other aspects were changed. But the main angle about the reflex action between the twins is the same. The premise in the beginning is also similar to the previous film, with a few tweaks here and there. Then the process continued.
Today, people say the audience has changed. However, Judwaa 2 has received the same kind of love that the original film got two decades back…
(Cuts in) Nothing has changed. The audience has given a lot of love and they are still the same. They are the best because they have the ability to laugh at the small things. While editing, we wonder how something could be seen as funny but the audience actually enjoys it. Once the audience is with the hero, they will support anything he does. Our audience is the best.
Did you feel pressure considering it is your own iconic film and your son was playing the lead?
In the beginning, during the first schedule, yes. But when I got into the making of it, the madness of movie making took over me. Then it was just work for me. I was in London for 50 days. I would get up at 5 am every day, make my tea, sit with a pen and paper and just write about the scenes of that day. I would never be prepared or anything. It was all about improvising. It could change in the car, it could change after seeing the location, I keep doing that. That is one thing which God has gifted me with.
You started your career as an editor. To what extent do you think your editing background has helped you in direction?
Editing is the only thing that has helped me. My confidence in filmmaking is because of my editing foundation. I can cut from anything. I have my own edit pattern, I don’t follow rules. I can remove stuff from a running shot too. What happens is that somewhere, things get boring in between conversations when an actor takes a long pause or says an extra line which doesn’t hold properly. When I see this I feel, ‘Main toh barbaad ho gaya’ (laughs). Frankly, I am very ruthless when on the editing table. I edit anything that is boring. It might be the biggest actor but I can edit his shot according to my pattern. Everybody knows that. If someone tells me that this is a perfect film, I can edit something from it and give it to that person. I have an editing room in my office itself. I do all this work there.
You started with an action film Aag Ka Gola. How did you switch to being known as the king of comedy in Bollywood?
I am a very big fan of one person, mera guru hai woh. I happened to meet him, I have worked for his company too. I think there is nothing better than him. That person is Manmohan Desai. I have followed him everywhere. If you see Taaqatwar, you will see a lot of things that will remind you of Manmohan Desai’s style. When the movie released, his son Ketan (Desai) later told me that Manji would ask, ‘Who is this boy whose film is inspired by so much of my work? Dialogue bhi use kar leta hai, kuch bhi kar leta hai, hai kaun yeh?’ Then I got a telegram from him that he liked me so much. It was so great because I had learned from his films. One day when I was shooting for Eena Meena Deeka at Mehboob Studio, a close friend who is no more, Prakash (Pange), came to me and said, ‘Manji has come to meet you.’ Although I was very busy at that point with the shot and everything, I was so shocked that the earth trembled beneath my feet. I was like, ‘Why has he come here? He is such a big man, he should have called me.’ But I went to see him. He had a vanity van just like Amitabh Bachchan had. I entered and touched his feet. I told him, ‘Sir, why did you come, you should have called me, I would have come to your office.’ And he replied, ‘Kaam mujhe hai, so I came.’ What a great person he was! He said that he wanted me to do a film for his production house MKD.
I was like there is nothing bigger than this for me and agreed by saying, ‘Anytime, anywhere.’ We talked about the film and what had happened was that he had planned a film before with Anil Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan or Sunny Deol, but it didn’t work out. So we decided a time to meet after my current shoot. I went to meet him and took my sons Rohit and Varun with me. They were very young. We went to his office in Khetwadi to sign the contract. We were sitting in his office and he asked me about my last film and how much I got paid. I told him the amount and he said, ‘I will pay you more.’ He had such grace, it was unbelievable! We signed the contract and he gave me a signing amount too. Unfortunately, he developed some back problems. We were working on the script, it was almost ready, the artistes were also on board. Then he passed away. That is the time all the press came to me and Ketan was left alone. And I told the press that it is my duty to start this film as soon as I can.
That’s how Deewana Mastana started. He was a great guy, my guru. Every time I give an interview, I always mention him because there is no bigger hero than him in entertainment. The way he made his larger-than-life films, paved the way for my films to work today. My films are successful because Manmohan Desai’s movies showed kuch bhi ho sakta hai.
For someone who was exposed to so much artistic cinema at FTII, how did you zero in on making commercial, massy movies which work so well?
I have seen a lot of good films. But aaya toh Mumbai se hi tha na main. It is very simple. You have to make movies according to the place you live in. In our times, the 90s was huge. It had great cinema and entertainment. I knew, since the beginning, that this is what I want to do. I used to like those (FTII) films. I still like and watch these films that are made by the new generation. I enjoy these films because I am a student of cinema. But the thing is chalti gaadi ka bonnet nahi kholna chahiye. I have done entertainment right from the beginning. Of course, my films do have emotion in them too. You look at movies like Swarg, Biwi No. 1 or any other film. Even Judwaa 2 has many emotions in it. But entertainment has its own angle. We need good songs, good comedy and good comedians which are there in my movies. Another thing is that, right from the beginning, my movies have heroism. The hero is always a hero.
Don’t you crave to see 5-star ratings for your movie?
(Laughs) And what would I get at the box office? Yes, there are issues when you read the critics’ reviews. You feel it for one day, two days, etc. But your collection is also rising. So I tell myself that I have won again. I remember when Biwi No. 1 came out, it had 100 per cent collections in the theatres during the first week. And it released during the cricket world cup! A big journalist from the Times Of India or some such paper thrashed my film in the review. I was very upset because the movie was a hit. But I never held a grudge against anyone. I am very good to critics too. It is their job to write. They get their respect by pulling someone else down, what can one do? The public knows everything.
Today, if the critics have not written good things about the movie and despite that the movie is doing well, then what is the value of critics today? The public hasn’t heard them at all. Where do these critics lie? The critics’ job is to warn the public about a film they find bad. They should be able to influence the audience, but that is not happening. The audience always gets a whiff of good cinema. When a movie is a hit, it is because of its repeat value. Judwaa 2 collected more than 16 crores on the opening day, around 20 crores on the second day, 22 crores on the third day and again 18 crores on the fourth day. It has a relatively new boy in the lead who has given 5-7 hits till date. He is a star today no doubt. But it has become the biggest hit in Bihar today. So, I am very happy that I have satisfied the masses with the film. It is working in the metro cities too. But the masses have liked it, that is my victory. I am from that era and I have given it back to them.
You have made so many hit movies. Do you still feel the same nervousness a day before your film releases?
100 Percent. This time (before Judwaa 2) I wasn’t that nervous. Somehow, when I was making this film, even while editing, mera confidence badh jata tha. I was just feeling right about it after working for so many years, and it actually worked the same way I thought it would.
This year, 3-4 big films prior to Judwaa 2 didn’t do well. Was that ever a concern?
Yes. When I found out that the films are not working… Not everyone can pull off this genre. You need to perform with a lot of conviction. Dharamji, Bachchanji, they are big actors. Now, it is very natural to feel nervous during the first day first shows. We even track shows in Dubai — they have their shows on Thursday. We have had bumper collections there. That gives me a lot of confidence. We all know the 10 am show has the entire youth watching the film. I was confident that the youth will go and watch the film. Morning shows aapko kabhi kabhi hila deta hai. But I got really good news about the morning shows from everywhere. And if the film is good then the 6 pm shows will witness more footfalls. It keeps growing on Saturday and Sunday.
In India, comedy is looked on as something inferior to drama. Why is that?
Humare time zyaada tha. Today, it is not like that. In fact, every film has humour. Humour is necessary for any film. Even if there is no comedy, there is humour, it makes the character light-hearted. The biggest directors… you see PK, 3 Idiots, they all have a comedy element. Earlier it used to be worse. Now people don’t look down upon comedy. Even Golmaal 4 is on its way. Industry poori change ho rahi hai.
Varun is already a superstar. But after Judwaa 2 people can’t stop gushing about the fact that he might be the next Salman Khan. How does that make you feel exactly?
I don’t look at it like that. He has his own individuality. Obviously, he is a good-looking guy. He respects his body, health and everything. He is very committed and is more committed than me. He will sit and discover mistakes in a shot till the last minute. He might find something about the background and will ask for a retake. Sometimes, even in songs he ends up fighting with me. Of course, it is all part of our work.
Also, I feel Varun can do any kind of role. Earlier, people would say ‘This actor copies Dilip Kumar sahib.’ Today, these young actors are very committed. We have a lot of talent among the yesteryear stars. And it is just unmatchable. These guys have to work very hard to reach there. Humare purane actors hero lagte the! Darwaza khula, Dharamji chal ke aye, you just start sinking. It is just too much. To get that is not easy.
Now, things have changed, cinema has changed, journalists have changed. We are so influenced by the West. People are busy making biopics. Some of the biopics are very well made, like M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story was outstanding. Even Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was very good. But they were very big people and they are still alive. People sometimes feel they have got a story. But to search for a good script is difficult.
We never made a script. Song sequences or dance numbers — everything was impromptu. Now things have changed. But the restlessness in the theatre is mad. Whenever there used to be a slow song in a single screen, groups of 5-6 people would get up and leave the theatre, maybe go to the loo or go for a smoke. It was actually dangerous to witness such stuff. We have to be careful of this. Toh apna music alag hone lag gaya! I have also seen people scream and throw money at the theatres. People used to dance as well. If you go to Chandan theatre or Gaiety-Galaxy you will still see — sahi picture hai then they will enjoy.
Ultimately, it is a creative field and money is also a factor. We have to earn the money for the producers, distributors, financiers. I have been to theatres where 4-5 people are sitting, it is very disheartening. They are dried up, and they wait for a big film to come. People love films. Even the South film industry is doing a good job. Humse bade budget hai unki. When you talk about Bahubaali, you remember one thing about it. The film has done 500 cr, a film dubbed in Hindi. We can’t even think of something like this. How have these films done so well?
We can’t crib about the audience not coming to the theatres. The biggest thing in a film is that we get the smell of it through word-of-mouth. The film will run at the box office if it is good. Hindi Medium is a small budget film but look at the business it has done. People send people to watch. Kuch bhi ho sakta hai !
Even after so many decades staying in Juhu, how do you keep in touch with audiences from small towns?
My song Sarkailo khatiya was such a big hit. People loved it when that song would play. People had it on loop! UP-Bihar is still the same. They love our films. Unka pyaar toh alag hi hai. But it is not easy to cater to all kinds of audience. I always try to cater to everyone. Single screen mein bhi aur multiplex mein bhi. However, multiplexes have definitely helped our business grow.