As Team Badhaai Ho celebrates winning the National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, director Amit Sharma talks to Bhakti Mehta about achieving this milestone, the positive energy it provides for him to work harder and his next sports film with Ajay Devgn
Congratulations on winning the National Award! It has been a couple of days since the announcement so what is the feeling like now?
Firstly, thank you so much! I actually got very emotional when I heard the news. I am ecstatic right now and very happy. In the simplest way I can tell you that this is the feeling I have now. It is a dream come true for me.
What was your first reaction?
I was on call with Surekha Sikriji as I got to know about her win first. And between my conversation with her, I was getting a frantic call on my phone. I was getting that call again and again. I was congratulating Surekha ma’am and when I ended that call, someone came and told me that the film has won the National Award in the Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment category. I asked that person if she was sure because I thought that there was confusion between Surekha ma’am’s win and this win. And she kept asking me how I was feeling to which I said that I did not how I was feeling but I was definitely feeling dizzy. I told her that I needed some time for it to sink in and that I would call her back in 15 minutes. It took me sometime to gather that information and bring myself to realise that this has actually happened.
And also, when it is your first production because Badhaai Ho was the first film that my company, Chrome Pictures produced, there is nothing like it. I am more than happy about it.
To achieve so much success across the nation with your first production is a big deal especially since you have transitioned from making ads to films.
The thing is that I started working when I was 18 years old. At that time, I did not know that I will make a film which will win the National Award. But when you do achieve that, when you have it, your production venture especially with partners like Hemant (Bhandari) and Aleya (Sen), the happiness just goes to the next level. The recognition that has come with it is amazing. And especially since the recognition has been through the awards, and also the audience and the business of the film, it is very special. The film has achieved all three things. Generally, people say that if a film is critically acclaimed then it will not make money or vice-versa. But now, for this film, we have been successful from all avenues, awards bhi mil gaye, critically acclaim bhi ho gayi aur business bhi acha kar liya hai.
With the recognition that has come with it, do you also think that expectations from you have gone up a notch? Does that become a responsibility or add pressure for your next film?
I would say that yes, the pressure is there to make a good film. But this pressure is not troubling me because it is good pressure. It is something that is good for my next film. I have to work harder. And the thing is that once you have tasted blood phir aap khud bhi chudail ban jaate ho. (Laughs). You want to keep drinking that blood. So, I am that Dracula right now. There is good pressure and I am happy with it.
Will there be a more conscious method in how you select your scripts going ahead?
I will not say that because whichever idea I like, I will work on making that film. If I like the idea of a film then I will make it without thinking about how much money it will make. Obviously, it needs to be a fantastic story. And I have been careful about following that from my advertising days till now. After you have done your first film which has not worked very well at the box office, you do know somewhere about what you what want to do and what you don’t want to do.
Last year, we saw Baahubali: The Conclusion win the National Award in the same category that you have won this year. From a visual spectacle film to a slice-of-life comedy-drama, there is a huge shift in the names that are being considered for this category. Do you think the term entertainment is being redefined now?
Of course, the audience has changed drastically. Filmmakers have been making the same kinds of films, using formulaic concepts again and again but films like these were not being made because there was no market for them. These films, if they would come out, they would be called off-beat films. But Badhaai Ho is not an off-beat film anymore. It has a bigger idea. The actors have worked hard for this film and the audience has loved and appreciated them. I think the mindset of the audience is altered now and they know exactly what kind of content they want to see on the big screen. They decide that at the time when they see the trailer. For sure, there is a slight shift in the term entertainment and what it used to mean earlier. You can see that last year, whichever films released and did well were AndhaDhun, Stree, Raazi or Badhaai Ho and all of them were not really big-budget films. They were films made purely from a story standpoint. This shift that has happened is great. It started very well in 2018 and I hope that it continues. There are sensible stories working now and as a filmmaker, what more can you want.
We spoke about the pressure you feel for your next film. Can you tell us more about it?
I can tell you that I start my shoot on August 19. The film is going on floors then. It is a football film based on the golden era of Indian football. Ajay Devgn is playing the lead. It is an extensive shoot and we will release it sometime next year. We will be shooting at many locations in India and abroad. I think we will be shooting for it till the end of 2019.