Comedy has come into its own as a profitable business venture
This year marks my silver jubilee year in the film industry as a director. How time flies! People ask me what it takes to sustain oneself here, and that too, successfully. I attribute it to God’s grace and the support of my family. I am also grateful to my inspiration, the late Manmohan Desai. He is my guru.
The maverick director was my source of inspiration when I stepped into the directorial profession. And though his films had a good dose of comedy, they were wholesome entertainers for the family audience too. It was since then I realised that comedy would always click at the box office.
I was one of the first directors to make comedy films in India, and Govinda and I were the first actor-director pair to start this trend. I even made comedy films with other actors like Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan and now Ajay Devgn.
My first big comedy film was Aankhen (1993), which is counted as a blockbuster. During those days, I was only a director with a passion for cinema. I was young and did not realise how significant the success of the film was. I became smart after Aankhen. I got into the groove and learnt what comedy and masala Hindi films were all about. During that time, there wasn’t much television aur Aankhen ka poster bhi itne nahin lage thhe (there were scarcely any posters of the film).
Other directors have not only followed me but have even lifted scenes from my earlier films. Copying and how! This means I am an inspiration to them. And even though today, comedy films are made at the drop of a hat, I don’t feel threatened by the competitive market. In fact, it brings out the best in me.
As far as the business aspect is concerned, comedy films pehle bhi banti thi (were made earlier too) but they did not do that much business. It was the typical masala and dramatic film that scored at the ticket counter.
It is only in the last six years that this genre has come into focus and is a leading genre today. They have become potential business propositions as they have gained respectability.
I remember when I used to make comedies in the ‘90s, people would shrug and say, “Comedy bana rahe ho!” (making comedy) Even critics didn’t take them seriously. As if it was the easiest thing to do! But let me tell you, it is not easy to extract a comic performance out of an actor. He either has it or does not have it in him to do comedy. Thankfully, all our stars, Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Sanjay Dutt and even Ajay Devgn are remarkable in comedy.
In fact, Sanjay and Ajay are outstanding in Rascals, where they keep you in splits throughout the film. But comedy alone does not spell success at the box office. A comedy must have superb music, where at least two numbers are chartbusters. The film must also be peppered with a light dose of emotions. If you have all this, you have a hit in hand.