A freewheeling Mahesh Bhatt on his next venture Jannat 2 and the business of sequels
Jannat 2 is about the heaven man is looking for in this world. Is this the story of Mahesh Bhatt who had set out to make his brand of films?
We all are looking for our own heaven in the hell we live in. But Jannat 2 has a contemporary background of illegal arms. I have a letter from the Home Ministry which says there are eight illegal weapons for every legal weapon in Delhi, and 90 per cent of crimes involve illegal arms. We are only second to America in the number of illegal arms.
Against this background, our writer Shagufta has written a fascinating story of a small-time arms dealer who is up against a formidable cop with loads of angst in him. The cop is out to stop this illegal arms menace as his family was the victim of a crime involving illegal weapons. There is a beautiful love story woven into it. The film is about urban violence.
Has Vishesh Films turned into a sequel-making machine?
Ever since the blockbuster mentality took over, we have been following the same mentality that is followed in the Hollywood. Your film has to deliver on the opening weekend or you are doomed, regardless of how good your film is. In the West, some experts say that a sequel guarantees at least 40 per cent of the original film. This happens because a franchise has a recall value.
A franchise gives a sense of security to everyone involved from consumer, to producer to exhibitor and even marketer (marketing a film has become so difficult today). This trend will continue till it starts giving negative results.
Vishesh Films has tasted success with Murder 2 and Raaz 2, and the pre-release buzz on Jannat 2 is phenomenal. We had called the film Informer earlier. But with this name, it was not getting the kind of buzz we wanted. The moment we said we would call it Jannat 2 (the story was the same), suddenly the entire media latched on to it. If a franchise opens the door to a market space which is very difficult to access, then why should I not use it? We use it to the hilt and we are not apologetic for it.
Is it very difficult to make a stand-alone film for Vishesh Films?
Why? We just delivered Blood Money. It was a stand-alone film and we sailed home safe. When you combine box office, music and satellite, we are in the green. We will keep making sequels as I want to create a sense of safety for my investors, a safety for the opening weekend.
So you’re looking for safety?
The stakes are very high today and times are so difficult that if your opening weekend doesn’t deliver, you will break your back and you will die. I myself moved away from the kind of films I was known to make like Arth, Saransh, Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi etc, and began making films like Jism and Murder. We did reinvent ourselves in the beginning of the century which was a risk but that risk paid off. Also, it was we who decided to work without stars. Wasn’t that a risk? Even today, I am not averse to taking risks. Blood Moneywas a risk but we did well. Emraan Hashmi is a star today, but when he was a newcomer, people used to laugh. Look where is he today. Today we are going to invest in Kunal Kemmu and Randeep Hooda, he is outstanding and he is someone who is not yet discovered by our industry. We are also going to create a host of new directors.
You were not present for the music launch of Jannat 2 but were present the success party of Blood Money. Are we looking at a rift between Emraan Hashmi and Mahesh Bhatt?
I couldn’t attend the music release as I had to be with my daughter Pooja Bhatt, while she was shooting Jism 2 in Jaipur. I came for Blood Money as all of us and Kunal had to be applauded for the success we had achieved with the film. Emraan is our blood, our flesh. But if you ask me who I would support between Kunal Khemu and Emraan Hashmi, I would say Kunal. Emraan is a huge star today.