Rohit Shetty: South is making Indian films

As the popular comedy franchise Golmaal brings on its fourth instalment, the man behind this entertaining series – Rohit Shetty – in a freewheeling chat with Vajir Singh and Shweta Kulkarni reveals that Golmaal was nothing but an accident. Shetty also shares some interesting nuggets about his upcoming film Golmaal Again!!!, and his thoughts on the evolving audience. Read on

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We should start with 11 years of Golmaal. It was 11 years ago, in 2006, that the first instalment from the Golmaal series released, from then to Golmaal Again

Rohit Shetty (RS): (Laughs), 11 years of Golmaal, yeah it’s like a full circle. While making Golmaal, we never thought this would turn into this series. We were just making a comedy film, we didn’t know it would become a cult film one day and we would be making so many parts. It was just a regular story. And even that

had happened accidentally. I was working with Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Ltd, I was making a thriller with Ajay Devgn, and Neeraj Vora said to me, ‘I want to narrate a script to you.’ He had done a play then and he narrated the play to me. I liked it. Then, Neeraj gave the same narration to Ajay, who also liked it and said, ‘Haan, let’s do this.’ So the thriller was set aside and Golmaal was made. That’s how it started. So Golmaal was actually an accident, which turned out to be a fruitful accident for me.

When you decided to make Golmaal Returns, sequels were not really a trend. What prompted you to make a sequel?

RS: I just felt like it. People were saying I should continue with this franchise and when I got a script, I was, like, ‘Okay let’s make this and see what happens.’ So we made Golmaal Returns, and when that did well, we thought ab isko nahin chhodenge.

It’s the only franchise that’s going really strong and steady…

RS: I think Munna Bhai is also very strong, Dhoom is very strong too, and Golmaal is like a household brand. Everybody loves it.

But this is India’s first fourth…

RS: Officially, yes, first fourth franchise (Laughs).

Does that make you feel more responsible?

RS: Not really, I am not thinking from that point of view. For me, it’s like trying to tap into the audience’s mind, what they want and their expectations. In this film, there will be fun, there will be music and all the rest of the Golmaal elements. This is also the first time after the first Golmaal 1 that all the characters will be there in the film. Somehow we have tried to incorporate all the other characters like Vrajesh Hirjee’s character, Mukesh Tiwari’s character, Sanjay Mishra’s character or for that matter anyone’s character… everyone has solid and pivotal roles in Golmaal Again.

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It must have been challenging to put all of them together and make sure that everybody had good screen presence…

RS: More than that, what was challenging was shooting with them. 18 actors multiplied by 4, just imagine in one frame there are 100 people standing, then you shout at them and run around. Throughout the shoot, I was doing just that, shouting at them and running around. You will rarely come across a film with so many characters and so many favorite characters. They know who is Pappi Bhai, they know who is Vasooli Bhai, who is that snake guy… so I wanted to bring everyone together.As it is, we are coming back after a long

time and luckily the way we have written the script and the way it turned out, everyone has a great role.

Over the years, all these characters acquired their own fan following, apart from the lead characters there are fans of Vrajesh Hirjee’s character, Mukesh Tiwari’s character, Sanjay Mishra’s character… You have to fulfill all those people’s expectations too.

RS: Yeah, that’s true. In Golmaal 3, Hirjee was not all that strong, Mukesh Tiwari was not all that strong but in this film everybody has a strong character. I would say, in Golmaal Again, they are stronger than they were in the first Golmaal. Whether it is Mukesh Tiwari or Sanjay Mishra or Johnny Lever… Johnny joined us in Part Three or Vrajesh Hirjee, for that matter, all of them have strong characters.

If one goes by the Golmaal trailer and the way it has been accepted, it is pretty clear that people are excited about the film.

RS: (Laughs) As if the film has already released and all the decisions have been made…

What was your reaction before the release of the trailer and what is your reaction now?

RS: I am more confident since people love it. It is a 3-minute trailer and it’s almost the film we have shown the audience. It’s been a long time since a good commercial film has released, so you know that people want to watch this kind of film. I think this film will give them what they want and what they are expecting. So, obviously, you are happier and more confident that haan chalegi.

…Especially, this year, given that we haven’t really seen a big film click.

RS: It happens. Every 5-7 years, there comes a phase when films don’t do well and we go through this lull period and then everything goes right.

In these last three months of the year, October, November and December, expectations are really high from three big releases – Golmaal Again, Padmavati and then Tiger Zinda Hai

RS: (Cuts in) Even Judwaa 2 this week which has opened big. I think Judwaa 2, Padmavati, Tiger Zinda Hai… I hope all these films do well along with my film. And why only these biggies, I want others movies also to do well. It’s not that I just want my film to do well. Padmavati should also do very well and Tiger Zinda Hai should also do very well. These films should break all the records so that we are even, at least at the box office. Nobody thinks of the exhibitors and distributors… if all these films do well, it will make for financial stability.

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South movies are doing very well at the box office…

RS: Because the South is making Indian films, they are making South “Indian” films. Here, we don’t know what we are doing. We are confused whether to make Iranian films, Hollywood films or films that cater to social media or that media or this media… everybody is confused.

In such a confused scenario, you continue to make comedies, which is already a difficult genre to deal with and ensure that each film is better than the previous one.

RS: All we can do is try and work hard. The rest is up to the audience. All we can do is try and take a risk. Even though trends have changed, you can’t suddenly imagine that all these characters have become serious. Then what will happen to Golmaal? All you can do is try hard and see that you are giving the audience what they want. You try to tap into the audience’s psyche… if they are coming to see a Golmaal, what would they want from Golmaal? There has to be good humour, there had to be camaraderie between all the characters, we need all the character artistes, the film is not just about those five heroes. It’s about all those other characters as well. And how to introduce a new element to the film? We have tried all this and I have a gut feeling that people will like it.

Going by the trailer, the movie is looking very colourful too. Is this because the film is releasing on Diwali?

RS: Golmaal has always been colourful. Look at any of the Golmaals or even All The Best… all my films are colourful, except for Singham, because it belongs to the cop genre. I try to have vibrant colours in my films because the film demands them and because rarely do people make that kind of cinema. It is like a trademark. There is so much negativity all around that if I can just give two and a half hours of positivity, and if people feel good and happy watching it, that’s all I need. If you watch the film and someone asks you, ‘Kaisi lagi film?’ And you say, ‘Timepass hai, bahut mazza aaya,’ I am done! I am happy. I couldn’t ask for more.

Golmaal Again has this interesting ghost element…

RS: The ghost is the new element and because of the ghost, we could expand the genre and the visuals. I think the kids will love it, everyone regardless of age will like it. We were wondering what we could do with Golmaal Again. We tried to crack different stories but we couldn’t come up with something satisfactory. It was not like ki, okay, it is going one notch up but here we are very confident that it has actually gone one notch up and people will like it.

Judging by the trailer, these five characters are playing orphans and it feels like this film is Golmaal 3 meets the first Golmaal.

RS: You guys are not the first one to say this. Jabse shooting shuru hui hai na, everybody has been saying it looks like the first Golmaal, that it has the flavor of the first Golmaal, which I think is a very good thing because it is like one’s first love. Two has been made, three has been made but one is like the first child, for us as well as the audience. We have tried to bring in a few elements, like the Jamnadas orphanage, that were there in the first Golmaal. I wanted to bring back that flavour.

Again, there is no love angle?

RS: There is but there is not. (Laughs)

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You are known to work with the same core team. How do you manage to keep them excited about every project and ensure that they don’t fall into a rut or get too comfortable to be creative?

RS: We try to upgrade ourselves with every film. People assume that since it is a commercial film, it’s not taken very seriously. But there is six-seven months of work that goes into it. Like, how can we change the visual; how

can we change the special effects; since we have so many facilities, how can we make it bigger? Tickets are so expensive, and for a middle-class guy watching my film with his family, it would cost him almost 10 per cent of his salary. So how can I give him that 70-mm experience? For me, film is 70-mm cinema, what I used to watch as a young kid, so how can I deliver that? I am the producer of the film and I could have made a small film out of Golmaal and saved a lot of money. But, for me, I believe the audience should experience what I used to experience when I was small and watch movies in Gaiety, Galaxy and watch 70-mm cinema, which is rarely made now. Very few directors make that kind of cinema. That’s why you should make such a good film. When people watch it on their laptops, they should say, ‘No, yeh toh theatre mein dekhna chahiye.’

You often work with Ajay Devgn, who is a dear friend of yours. While it can be comfortable working with a friend, the equation could also get awkward when you have to instruct them on retaking shots or when you need to tell them that you did not like something they have done.

RS: No, we have never felt any such awkwardness. During Singham Returns, we shot a whole scene on the first day and edited it that same evening. I showed it to him and we agreed that it was not working out and did it again. After so many years of working together, I trust that if he has something to say, it is coming from his vast experience and nowhere else.

From the first Golmaal to Golmaal 4, how much do you think the audience has evolved?

RS: I think the audience will keep evolving but that doesn’t mean that tastes and preferences will change. They will not boycott commercial films or comedy films all of a sudden. They are evolving because today we have so many means, we have Amazon, we have Netflix, TV, digital media, etc, but films will be films. Give them a good film, prepare them for what they are coming to watch and don’t cheat them.

Going by the business of the Golmaal movies, part two did better business than one, and part three did better business than two. Hopefully, part four will do more than the third. This shows that even if the audience is evolving, they still like this genre…

RS: That’s exactly what I am saying. There are takers for every genre; you just have to make the right film. Today, because of social media, a lot of new directors and actors are apprehensive. Times may have changed but good films will always work. I think every director, every new actor, and especially new journalists, shouldread and learn from the history of cinema.

If Amar Akbar Anthony was being made, a Rajnigandha and Chitchor was also being made at the same time. If Naseeb was being made, Ardh Satya was also being made. If Manmohan Desai, Naseer Hussain were there, Basu Chatterjee and Shyam Benagal were also there. So nothing has changed, it’s just that… if three films don’t do well, we suddenly start saying that times have changed. It’s not like that. Obviously, you need to upgrade your quality. If you are making a commercial film, you need to change a few angles that are a little outdated, but it’s not that a genre or a medium like commercial films will ever die. I don’t understand ‘commercial’ and ‘art’. Earlier, it was ‘art’, now it’s a ‘multiplex’ film. A film is a film, small or big. If it’s a small cast film or a big cast film, if a film is good, it will work. Maybe a few people will not like commercial cinema, or a few people may say ,‘Oh, it’s too dark for me, I don’t want to watch that kind of cinema.’ But cinema is there, and you have audience for that, it’s just that a perception gets created and everybody gets scared just like that.

Speaking of perceptions… Do you think that if a film like Newton gets international validation from doing the festival circuit of getting an Oscar nomination, it becomes more acceptable back home?

RS: There’s been an audience for that kind of cinema for years; it’s not as if films like these have suddenly started releasing and people are beginning to appreciate them. There is an audience for every kind of cinema. I think we should stop segregating them. But publicity has become so expensive that it’s a good thing that there are now so many means for films like Netwon to get publicity.

You are so busy with your work, how do you keep yourself up to date with what the audience wants?

RS: I watch movies in cinemas, I read a lot, I have young kids working with me and you get to know what they want from their reactions. I make sure that I watch every film that releases in cinemas and I use the opportunity to watch audience reactions. I made Singham because of Wanted. I went with my wife to watch Wanted in PVR and those were times when people were saying that times had changed, everybody was doing a romantic film or an art film, or something like that. I was sitting in PVR, Juhu, and watching the film and there was a group of college girls and they were whistling. I was, like, now is the time to make something like this. So, because of Wanted, we made Singham.

When did you come across the idea of Golmaal 4?

RS: After part three, we were making Bol Bachchan and then we started working on Singham. It was then that we wrote something but were not able to crack it. We couldn’t take the story forward. But we had this idea since I think Golmaal 3. And then we made Singham and Bol Bachchan, and then Shree Ashtavinayak faced some issues and we had to wait for those to get resolved. Then we bought the rights and started working on it. We cracked the story and we felt it was time we made this mfilm. We would have made it earlier but Ashtavinayak had the rights, they were our producers earlier and they went through a bad phase. They are still going through a rough patch, otherwise we would have been making Golmaal but we had to stop because of it.

Have you cracked the idea of Golmaal 5?

RS: (Laughs) No, but if this does well, if people like this film, then we shall. We will decide whether we will make Golmaal 5 or not on Friday night.

Two movies are releasing this Diwali – Secret Superstar and Golmaal Again. One is releasing on the 19th and the other on the 20th.. Was this mutually decided?

RS: No, I always wanted to release on the 20th. Aamir (Khan) must have had his reasons for releasing on the 19th. I don’t want it to happen that, by evening Laxmi pujan hogayi, and char log phone karenge ki arre itne log nahin aayein and again everybody will get depressed. I don’t want to get into that. That’s why I want to open on a Friday. The best part is, the two films are of very different genres. Golmaal and Fashion both released on Diwali and both did really well. I would say, sab picture chale, Superstar bhi superhit hojaye, Chef bhi superhit hojaye… paise aaye industry mein, humara hi balha hoga. All films should work. We are going through a very bad phase and we want movies to work.

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