Box Office India (BOI): After The release of The Xposé, how are you feeling?
Himesh Reshammiya (HR): I’m feeling good that the film has received good reviews and has made money also. You see, after Aap Ka Suroor, there was this question mark about whether a film of mine would work or not at the box office. I am relieved and happy that a film of mine has worked.
BOI: How confident were you on the eve of its release?
HR: I was confident from the moment I decided to give it all I had. The character of Ravi Kumar had to be performed with… I mean, the whole focus was that it was Ravi Kumar’s film. That motivated me and I was completely committed to the project. I even lost 20 kilos. I did about 8-10 months of workshops. My earlier films didn’t have the kind of commitment that I give my music. That’s why I decided to give it my best.
Then, of course, as a producer, I focused on the budgeting of the film and we shot the film in a schedule of 39 days. We also shot in Paris and we launched a new cameraman and a lot of new talent. That is why we were able to make this film so quickly. Each one of us was determined and there was a hunger for success. It was my experience as a producer during Khiladi 786 that there is a lot of wastage while making a film. I used that knowledge while planning and executing this film. We worked on the Mahesh Bhatt module.
BOI: There is a very old cliché in the trade that films don’t fail, budgets do.
HR: (Cuts in) I agree. But, today, I think everyone is aware about budgets, yet they try to give their films a rich look. So the class, aesthetics and look have to be up to the mark. If a big film overshoots its budget, it is not really a problem but it is when a small film exceeds its budget. We have to make sure we work within our budget.
HR: It was but then we didn’t have the budgets. We worked on the budget knowing how much we could recover. Music is a very important part, then satellite rights, and we knew that if we got around Rs 8-10 crore lifetime box office, we would sail through and make profits. So the proposal was planned in advance.
And then the character Ravi Kumar came into play. So the budget and the quality of the film were both important. Working with new technicians was a risk but, as a director, Ananth Mahadevan has superb aesthetic sense. There was a lot of detailing that went into production design because it was a small-budget film and we wanted to make it look grand. Sunil Jaiswal, who worked as the production designer, did a lot of ground work with us and this took 8-10 months of planning. We used just one set but it looks big because it was grand. That’s where we spent our money. Most of the other scenes were shot on location and they were not very grand locations. Then we went to Paris for eight days and we chose a local unit and shot with barely any lighting equipment because we had beautiful light there.
BOI: So, this time, you worked backwards?
HR: Completely!!! Otherwise budgets would have failed. The audience liked the trailer thanks to the songs and music of the film. The music was on top of the charts and that’s why the film worked.
HR: I started as a producer on television at the age of 16 so it was easy for me to wear the hat of a producer. I had produced many TV serials before becoming a movie producer. Music is in my blood. Acting happened to me naturally and since my first film was a hit, it completely changed the line of action for me. But, again, my other films didn’t work so I went back to music and relied on it and did five films for music and they did well. After that, I produced Khiladi 786, and then I did four films. With this film, I felt the characters had to be brought to life and I had decided that if few months of planning can be done, I could come back as an actor also besides, as a producer or a composer. So everything fell into place. It took around a year for me to do this. As an actor, I want to do one film a year.
BOI: When you’re getting ready for a shot, are you also thinking ki kal ke permission ka kya hoga?
HR: No, no, I have my team in place. My production team is very efficient. We made even Khiladi 786 in record time. I believe a film should be made in five to six months even if the planning takes over a year.
BOI: Usually, actors decide to beef up but you decided to lose weight. Why was that?
HR: Because I was quite plump before this. In Khiladi 786, my role didn’t require me to look a certain way. But, here, I had to play an ex-cop-turned-superstar. I wanted the transformation to have shock value.
BOI: Most people said your character was an amalgamation of veteran actors Rajkumar and Rajinikanth.
HR: Yes, Rajkumar but not Rajinikanth. But since he was a star-turned-ex-cop, this character was inspired by Rajkumar. He was known for his dialogue and that is what has worked in the film. Bunty Rathore worked very hard on the dialogue and retrieved all those lines used by actors of that time.
HR: Not all of them but most of them were used by Rajkumar saab and many other superstars. Dialogue like this is larger than life and we don’t speak like that nowadays.
BOI: It is not unusual for a writer to become a director but not for a composer to turn producer, actor and writer. How does music help with this transition?
HR: I don’t know, I think I am blessed to be able to do all this. I want to act in one film a year, compose four to five projects and produce a few films. Direction is not on my mind as it’s a tough job. So, apart from that, I am doing everything else.
BOI: Production is time-consuming and acting requires one to be present on the sets full time. Do these other roles take away from your quality time when composing?
HR: As a composer, my capacity is a minimum 35 films a year. But today I do not more than four or five films. I work on a song for 20 days till I am satisfied and have options at hand. Expectations are very high and I have to deliver every time. Like the Caller tune from Humshakals is very different from the Hookah Bar in Khiladi 786. I keep trying out and doing different kinds of songs.
BOI: How different will you be with Sooraj Barjatya’s film?
HR: Soorajji’s film takes you back to your roots after a long time. As the title suggests, it is a very traditional, family film. It’s going to be one of the biggest films ever made in our industry and the emotional connectivity will be very strong. It is a very universal film and everyone will be able to connect with it. And I don’t think anyone can carry a film like Salman bhai can.
HR: I take criticism as someone’s point of view. If I agree with it, I work on it and if I don’t agree with it, I evaluate it in terms of success. If someone is saying something and it’s not workings then he or she is right but if someone is saying something and still if it is working then you know that he or she is wrong. Everyone, including myself, has a point of view on someone else’s work.
BOI: How do you keep track of what the youth wants and what’s working as a trend?
HR: Every year, I look at which song is a big hit during that year. Like, when Pritam’s Tum hi ho bandhu from Cocktail did very well, I knew I had to do something on that level. So I created Hookah Bar. When Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Jiya dhadak dhadak was topping the charts, I wanted to do better than that and I created Main jahan rahoon. It’s not the same tune or and the lyrics are different but it’s in the same zone. That’s the formula my dad used to talk to me about …Laxmikant–Pyarelal used to follow Shankar Jaikishan so it becomes very challenging. Agar kisi zone mein koi gaana bahut popular hua hai toh usi zone mein create karna comes as a challenge. So I always try to create songs in the same zone and, to date, they have all become hits. During my entire career, I have never gone back to what I have created before. Every song and melody is very different.
BOI: It’s very difficult to predict a song with lyrics like Ice cream khaungi, Kashmir jaungi becoming a chartbuster. Do you get an inkling about which song will become a superhit?
HR: When the song Monica oh my darling was created, no one thought it would become a superhit. And Ice cream khaungi is a very cheesy line, Monica oh my darling jab bani thi uss waqt bhi waisa hi laga tha… jis tarah woh cabret ko create kiya usi tarah we wanted to create Ice cream khaungi. Just like Vishal-Shekhar created Ooh La La, we didn’t intend to make a song that was a spoof but I had to create the same era. That’s what made the song a chartbuster.
BOI: The Dard dilon ke reprise version is a very interesting combination of melodies.
HR: Dard dilon ke is an all-time melody and once can never go wrong with it. We used to hear melodies like this 20-30 years ago, even Nadeem-Shravan used to create music like that. Only the voice and arrangement changes, the rest remains the same, the soul is same. We use a fresh voice and unplug it. I think it’s a timeless melody. Years later, a song like that still has a lot of appeal.
BOI: You spoke about voices changing. There is quite a controversy about performers’ rights. What is your take on it?
HR: Javed (Akhtar) saab told me was interpretation of singers rights has to be understand well. I don’t know, as I am not really aware of it. Maybe Sonuji (Nigam) will be more aware of this. It’s the interpretation that has to be worked out and I believe it will be sorted out easily because, like music rights mein, jitney bhi queries thee woh solve ho gaye. I don’t think anyone will object. Because nothing is clear and that’s why music companies and singers have their own queries.
HR: Like with my music, I used to do around 300 songs and 35 films, now I do 400 songs, progress is constant. Similarly, I will keep on making films. I will do more films as an actor and will concentrate on quality. I think script, budget and music are the only three elements that have to be striking in a film, apart from the look of the film. The Xposé, was spot-on with its look, music and script although the budget was very low.
BOI: How clued in are you to the trade?
HR: I am completely clued in. I believe that the numbers are on the decline because we have so many more films releasing. 2015 will be a much better year as 2013 saw a big dip. If Khiladi 786 had released six months earlier, it would have done Rs 30 crore more of business and it would have done Rs 30 crore less if it had released four months later. 2012 was very good as it was the year the cinema was changing and even hardcore, single-screen entertainers were accepted by multiplexes. Things are very different now.
BOI: Your movie has done well but, before its release, do you think The Xposé was a make-or-break film for Himesh Reshammiya as an actor?
HR: 100 per cent! And by the grace of God, I have got a very positive response from the audience and critics. Some of the top critics have liked my work a lot. Ravi Kumar stood out in the film and people liked him unanimously. That was very important from the day we started. Varna kya ho jata ke I would have become a liability for the film.
HR: Honey Singh is a friend and he was the perfect choice when we were casting for the role of Kenny Damania. We wanted a lovable villain. Anyone else would have been very routine. The story was based on the film industry and the setting and characters in the film, which was a murder mystery, needed to be very different. That’s why, when we were casting for Kenny Damania’s character, I felt Honey would be perfect for the part.
BOI: You mentioned that you had taken inspiration from yesteryear actors for the dialogue of the film. Where did the inspiration for holding a cigarette and not lighting it come from?
HR: I got that from Salman (Khan). He had quit smoking but used to hold a cigarettes between his fingers. I used that for Ravi Kumar’s character.
BOI: But you too used to do the same thing.
HR: Yes, I used to do the same thing after I quit. I do that even in real life (Laughs).
BOI: What next for Himesh as an actor, as a producer and as a music director?
HR: Right now, we are working on scripts but I am still composing one song every day. Music is my core competence, and there are expectations that I have to fulfill. Films can be made in four to five months, it’s all about planning.
BOI: Will we see Ravi Kumar on the big screen again?
HR: Absolutely! 100 per cent! And, next time, we will take it to another level.