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I believe in making happy films

Shashank Khaitan is the 13th lucky director to be launched by Dharma Productions, a production house with the midas touch, and his first film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania proved to be a big success story at the ticket counter. In conversation with Soumita Sengupta, here’s the director on life after his debut film

Did you expect the film to get such response?

Yes! The echoing promotions, the hit pair, a banner like Dharma Productions and also I had faith in the script so there was a certain expectation that the film should open and do well. Today, we are overwhelmed with the kind of response we got from the audience and the industry. Everyone liked the film, the plot, the performances and the simplicity.

Was it easy to convince Karan Johar to back the film?

I narrated the film with dialogue to Karan. It was my first interaction with Karan and I never worked with his production house before. He read the film and felt the script had potential; he wanted a few changes in the second half, which he addressed, and within one and a half months we started working on the film. I won’t say it was difficult to convince Karan but reaching him was a big task.

Why so?

Not many are aware that this was my sixth script, which I pitched to the creative team at Dharma Productions. It has been a long wait before I got a positive nod from Karan’s creative team and also got a chance to meet and convince Karan myself.

Was Dharma Productions the only production house you pitched your script to?

I had directed a feature film, Sherwani Kahan Hai?, earlier which I produced along with my uncle. It was a very small budget film. Many people from the industry saw the film and appreciated it but no one came forward to help to release the film. This experience taught me that whatever I plan to do next, should have a good release and someone strong to back me.

Post Sherwani Kahan Hai?, I was is no hurry to make my next film. I was very clear that if I approach anyone it has to be the top three production houses because they know how to bring out the best from you. My debut film taught me to be patient and calm.

Was it your idea to have Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt as the lead pair?

The creative head of Dharma was impressed with the screenplay and the title of the film. And he did ask me if I have someone in mind, to which I replied, ‘Varun and Alia as they are the current fresh jodi’. The next step was to narrate the script to Varun and Alia. They loved it and everything fell in place.

Was it easy to get the Delhi flavour as neither you nor your cast belong to Delhi?

It was neither easy nor hard. Instead of working on the accent, we worked on body language plus Varun picked up the lingo from the people on the sets who were from Delhi. We did acting workshops and even Ashutosh Rana attended it and that’s how we created the chemistry between everyone.

You’re also an actor. Does that help you as a director?

I have done theatre and I totally believe it’s my theatre knowledge that helped me direct better. When I think as an actor for a particular scene, I can judge it better from the actor’s perspective.

Why is it that of late we don’t get to watch path breaking love stories like earlier?

I genuinely feel a good film clicks at the ticket counter. When we started working on Humpty Sharma... , we knew we’re not offering a new story so we decided to work on the character and wrote scenes differently. And I think we did it successfully. Today, every Friday we see a good film releasing, which makes the competition very tough. Even a film like Andaz Apna Apna, wasn’t appreciated in its time but today we look at it as a cult film.

Also today it is all about the weekend collection. The business which we are seeing today can be doubled if all movie lovers step out and watch films on the big screen rather than downloading it.

Now that the film has been declared a big hit, what is your state of mind?

I was very relaxed prior to the release but post the release, I was very nervous. There’s more pressure on me now, as my first film has done well. Now I have to deliver something better. No one expects much from you when you’re making your debut, but once your film works, there’s huge expectation from your forthcoming movies.

Would you like to carry on making love stories or try different genres too in future?

Personally, I believe in making happy films. But if a good script comes my way, for instance, an action film then surely I will take up the project.

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