BOI: From your first release Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani to your upcoming Krrish 3, can you take us on your journey and the milestones along the way?
Rakesh Roshan (RR): I started my career as an assistant director with Mr HS Rawail who was making Sunghursh with Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala. After working on Sunghursh, I joined Mohan Kumar on his films Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee and Anjaana.
It was during this film that Narendra Kumar told me that a producer called Nagi Reddy had come to Mumbai from Chennai, to look for a new boy. Narendra Kumar was a family friend and I took his advice and met director T Prakash Rao. That’s how I got my first break as an actor.
The next day, I signed Man Mandir. The director Mr Chanakya was also from the South, and once again Mr Narendra Kumar introduced me to him. The very week that Mr Nagi Reddy signed me, he called me to the Taj Hotel and gave me a cheque for Rs 5,000. From there, I went to meet Mr Dhondy, who had made Farz. He too signed me and gave me a cheque for Rs 5,000. The same day, I was to meet Mr Chinappa Dewar, who had made Haathi Mere Saathi. He too signed me and gave me a cheque for Rs 5,000. I had just signed three films in one single day and was on top of the world. That was the beginning of my acting career.
There were good days and bad days, good films and bad films. I did Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani. Later, I also did films like Paraya Dhan and then Aankhon Aankhon Mein, which did well. But I felt I was not getting the roles I was looking for.
I used to call producers and directors and tell them I wanted to work with them and they respected me because of my father. They would ask me to meet them but that was about it. I was still not getting the roles I desired. Maybe I wasn’t destined to become an actor. But I didn’t give up. I was doing either negative roles or parallel roles but I was not about to give up.
Finally, I decided to become a producer and eventually I also became a director. I think direction was in my destiny, and from Khudgarz to date, I have been at it.
BOI: Very few people make a successful transition from an actor to a producer to director but you have excelled in every field. Do you think your experience in acting helped you as a producer and subsequently as a director?
RR: Yes, I think so. Even when acting, I never left the sets after I delivered my shot. I would hang around and watch the director and the proceedings. Sometimes, I would point out little things that could be amended in the shots and the director would get a little upset with me but he would still make those changes. I was that keen on having my own banner, like Raj Kapoor or Dev Anand.
BOI: The transition from Rakesh Roshan the producer to Rakesh Roshan the director was not for Rakesh Roshan the actor?
RR: Yes, I made four films as a producer – Aap Ke Deewane, Kaamchor, Bhagwaan Dada and Jaag Utha Insan. Kamchor did very well and ran for 50 weeks in cinemas and celebrated its golden jubilee. But Jaya Prada got the most out of it and soon landed a role opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Sharaabi. She succeeded but I stayed where I was, even though it was my film and it was also a hero-oriented subject.
BOI: And it was a successful film too.
RR: Yes, that’s when I thought that acting was not in my destiny. I thought I should change track, but I still didn’t give up. So when Khudgarz released, it did very well and gave me a good reputation as a director. Many directors would have made the same type of film again but I chose a completely opposite subject and made a heroine-oriented film, Khoon Bhari Maang. That also did very well and further boosted my reputation.
After that, I made Kishen Kanhaiya and then King Uncle. The latter had been written for Amitabh Bachchan but he was taking a break from acting for two to three years. Since the script was ready, the film had to roll and so I made it with Jackie Shroff. After that, I made Karan Arjun and then Koyla. Every subject was different from the previous one and it was a challenge. I loved it!
Then I made a romantic film Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai with Hrithik and it had lots of twists and turns. For instance, there was two men who had the same face but they were not twins. Then I made Koi... Mil Gaya. At the time, people said things like, ‘Paagal ho gaya hai, success dimag pe chadh gaya hai. Koi apne bete ke saath pagal wali picture banata hai kya?’ But my intention was to showcase Hrithik’s acting talent.
BOI: Also, the alien that featured in it was a weird concept.
RR: That was also not the main issue. The talking point was ‘main apne bete ko paagal bachche ka role de raha hoon’. But I knew Hrithik’s strengths and I took the chance. By God’s grace, the film was accepted in a big way. We won all the awards and the media, which had written off Hrithik as a one-film wonder, endorsed him, finally!
I thought of making Krrish after watching Lord Of The Rings. I liked the concept of a trilogy. I had the story of Koi... Mil Gaya, which had the potential for its story to be taken forward. People had shown faith in the story with the alien Jadoo. So I thought, why not pass on his powers to the son and make him a superhero?
When I showed Krrish to a few friends and filmmakers, they said the first half was not as good as the second half. But I didn’t react to that because I felt they were coming to watch a superhero, and they wanted to see him right from the first frame. As a filmmaker, I thought of first establishing the story of Krrish.
RR: We don’t have a comic-book culture in India, so it was important to establish his background. When I made Krrish, there was no super-villain in the film and he fought with a normal guy who’s a calculating businessman played by Naseeruddin Shah.
So when I started working on Krrish 3, I had to build a story with a super-villain who was pitted against the superhero. So Krrish 3 has three or four super-villains in it. Superheroes, either in Hollywood or in our country, are all the same, whether Spiderman, Superman or Krrish. The difference is only in the way we present them. We worked on the script for a year, with dialogue. Eventually, I junked the script because it seemed absolutely superficial.
BOI: After an entire year?
RR: Yes, and we started working on another plot. I worked on it for five or six months and, again, I dropped. I told Hrithik there was no point going ahead with it. We made Kites in the meantime. After Kites, I was developing another story, a love story, and suddenly I was struck with a concept. Krrish was always at the back of my mind, so I thought of this story. As I started working on that story, everything began to fall into place because the foundation of that story was very strong.
This was two and a half years ago. Then my job as a producer started. We had to think about the mutants that feature in the film. We call them ‘maanvar’. They look human but they have the powers of insects, ants, frogs and chameleons. Then the design team produced around 10 looks for every character. We thought of using prosthetics to make them look human.
We finally selected five different costumes and looks that looked real. Then we thought about this character, also a mutant, called Kaya. We were wondering how to make her look different. She shouldn’t look the way Kangna looks in her other films. We worked a lot on her costume and her look. Gavin, a designer from Italy, got this material from there which was very expensive. Each dress cost me Rs 4.5-5 lakh. We had to make four of those costumes and two for the duplicates.
BOI: All this just for one costume?
RR: Yes, because the shoot was to last eight to nine months and the material for the costumes wouldn’t be available later. So I had to buy it in one go. Also, Kangna had to train so that she would look like a natural during the action scenes. I knew what Hrithik would look like but creating Kangna and Vivek was a challenge. We have made this film for the Indian audience. The biggest challenge was to make a story that was not really believable, believable.
Thus, in the first half, Vivek has his own look and his own den, a very modern facility which is visible in the trailer. He then changes himself in the second half. Here, he has extraordinary powers and he doesn’t know why he has them. He is handicapped and is able to cure himself. He is pitted against this world, against human beings and there is reason for this. He is not a villain who says, ‘Ha ha, I want to destroy!’ There is a reason for his hatred.
Designing his costume was also a huge challenge. We called in designers from around the world, and one day, Sabu Cyril sketched something that we loved and locked. It was not really a costume; it’s a collection of iron pieces that are screwed together. It took around 45-50 minutes to wear it every time!
RR: When I feel something is going over-budget, I change it. I control the cost of the film by making 70 per cent of the film in animation. All my sets are miniatures and then I shoot them on my iPhone. Then I started doing short division, and then I animated my action as my action director had designed the action sequences in animation. This was done to save time on the sets.
Also, the 7 o’clock shift means I take the first shot at 7.10 am. Punctuality for everyone is very important. All the actors are expected to be there on time, ready with their make-up. They would have to arrive well before time do get their make-up done.
RR: I pre-sold the film because I didn’t want to worry about finances while shooting and it was important that I complete the shoot on time. I started in December I finished in June, except for two songs, which we shot recently. I didn’t want anyone saying, ‘Iss mahine aapko paise nahi milenge, agle mahine denge hum aapko paise.’
There were distributors in each territory, and if one backed out, I had another distributor to give me money. So I pre-sold the film and took the money from the best distributors in India. I would have probably got 40-50 per cent more for the film if I had sold it today. But I have good distributors and I know they will pay me if the movie does well.
BOI: Krrish 3 is the third part of the trilogy and the audience has sampled the best of special effects in Western films. What were your thoughts about this while making this film?
RR: We have done the best we can. We didn’t have budgets like $ 400 million; we had a budget of Rs 50-60 crore. I had to figure out how to make a film as massive as this with limited money. So I gave more weightage to content, and the action sequences are not as grand as I would have liked them to be. They are comparable to other action sequences but they stand apart.
BOI: You mention an alien literally being an alien concept in India. You also talked about mutants for Indian audiences. You have indeed made this film compatible with the Indian audience as it has a very Indian soul. How powerful is Krrish 3?
RR: Krrish 3 is a family drama, a story about a father and a son and the wife, and how the super-villain enters the scene. They don’t meet till the interval. How circumstances make them meet is the story, keeping emotion as the base.
BOI: You have always been ahead of your time. You made films like Khudgarz, Khoon Bhari Maang and Karan Arjun at a time when no one else thought of making films like these. How easy or difficult it is to convince the audience today? Was it difficult to do this back then?
RR: Karan Arjun would have been appreciated by the audience today too. Every human being has emotion. Every Hollywood film that does very well at the box office has emotion. Emotion is not synonymous with crying. It helps you take the story forward. So in Koi... Mil Gaya there is this alien who heals the hero. So it has got emotions. In Karan Arjun, the mother hopes that her sons would return one day. That has got emotion. In Kaho Naa.. Pyaar Hai, Ameesha Patel’s character spots a guy similar to her boyfriend, at the signal and that guy falls in love with her. That is emotion. You have to make things believable. Like in Khoon Bhari Maang, the audience wanted Kabir Bedi’s character to die. So I made my female protagonist kill him at the end.
BOI: All your films have fabulous screenplay. Can you take us through the kind of writing that goes into a film?
RR: Basically, I watch every film that releases and I watch them in cinema halls. I don’t watch films at home or at private screenings. So when I write the screenplay, I think like the audience. I don’t believe in repeating myself.
BOI: You have worked with stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff but Hrithik Roshan is your son. Is shooting with your son any different?
RR: There is one difference when shooting with Hrithik. Since I know his strengths and weaknesses, I know exactly how Hrithik will perform. That gives me the liberty to think of out-of-the-box stories. You know the actor is ready to perform and testify. If he stands like a superhero, he looks like a superhero. He is a great dancer. When he plays Akbar, he has the dignity to look like Akbar and he proved that in Jodhaa Akbar.
He has proved this over the last 10 years. In a film like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, I loved his performance because he never showed that he was Hrithik Roshan in the film. That was his greatest achievement in that film. When I told him I loved the film, he said, ‘Papa, everyone is saying I was NOT Hrithik Roshan in the film!’ I told him it was clever to play a regular guy and not Hrithik Roshan.
RR: A good actor is always a good actor. Hum kyun bolte hain ki iss actor ne iss film mein achcha kaam kiya, uss mein nahi? An actor is an actor, and the role is also the same. Why they didn’t do it right is because the director didn’t help him, the script didn’t help him. When the time is right, you do a good film; when the time is not right, everything goes wrong. There are so many filmmakers who were once very big but are nowhere today. It’s destiny.
RR: I don’t know. Maybe because I kept on working. I didn’t repeat myself. When you don’t take things seriously, they tend to get out of hand. I kept working on new scripts.
BOI: When you look back at your career, is there any film you think you could have made differently?
RR: This is a very artistic field. Every film can be made in any one of many different ways. It’s like an artist who can paint a tree; he can paint a waterfall; and he can add some more elements to the picture. But he can’t paint the same picture over and over again. So the films I have made were okayed from my side. I put a full stop there and moved on.
BOI: You are very tech savvy and shoot your films with the latest technology. Does this aspect reflect in the way you market your films? The digital poster of Krrish 3 was marketed in a very innovative way.
RR: Yes, I have a team who is very good at this. I am busy with Krrish 3’s post-production so they come up with ideas and tell me what we can do and then I give it the green signal. But the ideas and plans are theirs as I have been shuttling between VFX, sound, DI and interacting with media as well.
BOI: From the audience to the trade, everyone is waiting for Krrish 3. But the trade expected you to start the promotions well in advance. Instead, you launched the promotions only three months before the film’s release.
RR: Every film should be released in a way it deserves to be released. There is no point promoting a film eight months prior to its release. Promotions have needlessly become an expensive contest. People who want to watch Krrish 3 will watch the film anyway. What matters is that the promo, trailer and songs of the film are good. The rest of the marketing gimmicks are not important. There is no point going all out to promote a film if it doesn’t have a solid base. Its first promo or the songs speak louder than promotions.
RR: Monday. My distributors do not agree with this decision but I feel I should release my film on Monday as Sunday is Laxmi Pooja. The Mumbai circuit might not get affected but other circuits like Delhi-UP, East Punjab, Rajasthan and the interior circuits, which have family gatherings during Diwali, will not watch a film on that day. Why take the hit in collections on the first day?
BOI: You mention that marketing and promotions have become a very expensive contest. Looking back at the way things were in the 1970s, can you take us through the fundamental changes in the industry?
RR: I am talking about my last Krrish. I didn’t do anything in terms of promotions, nor for Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai. In fact, for Kaho Naa… I had instructed distributors not to release the movie before the 12 noon show as I was launching a newcomer, Hrithik Roshan. I got a call in the morning from a distributor saying, ‘Maine picture release kar di.’ I was furious but he said, ‘The first show was in the morning at 6 am and it was house full.’ Immediately after that, I got another call saying the same thing and my phone kept ringing and ringing. With Koi... Mil Gaya, I took it in writing that they would not release the film before the noon shows but they did the same thing. (Smiles)
BOI: Among the new brigade of actors, who do you think has potential and whom would you like to direct?
RR: They are a very fine breed of actors. Ranbir Kapoor is immensely talented and I see a lot of Hrithik in him in terms of his growth. The other new actors too are very good. Every film has its good points and bad and I watch films to see their good points.
RR: No, Kites didn’t do well and it didn’t teach me anything. Ab nahi chali picture toh nahi chali. I don’t know why a film runs and I don’t know why a film doesn’t work. Sometimes, a good film doesn’t generate good business and sometimes a bad film does.
BOI: Your banner Filmkraft is not making as many films as other production houses are. Is that a deliberate decision?
RR: I like making films that are commercial and that the audience can connect with, from Manhattan to Jhumri Telaiya, and that takes time. If I want, I can make experimental films with other directors but that doesn’t satisfy me. I cannot churn out films like some filmmakers do. With me, baar baar khayaal jata hai yeh shot usne kaise liya hai. Picture chale ya na chale doosri baat hai but picture buri nahi honi chahiye.
BOI: Will it be a boutique kind of banner that makes one film a year?
RR: Maybe one film a year or maybe one film in two years. Kisi doctor ne thode hi kaha hai ke saal mein itni picture banani padegi. Filmmaking is fun and when you get the chance to make a good film, you should seize it. There is no hard and fast rule about the number of films one should make. You have to enjoy the process.