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The Fear Effect

Team Creature – Bhushan Kumar, Vikram Bhatt and leading lady Bipasha Basu – in conversation with team Box Office India

Box Office India (BOI): T-Series and Vikram Bhatt have had a successful joint venture with Hate Story 2 being one of your latest hits. How did Creature come about?

Bhushan Kumar (BK): After Aashiqui 2 released, we started making a number of films and realised that we had a very good understanding of music. So when we started listening to scripts, Aashiqui 2 was the first film where we heard the entire narration, with dialogue and so on. We realised it was an apt script to remake and the story fit the bill. That’s how our journey into film production began. We also realised that we should make more films on a stipulated budget, like Vishesh Films does, which makes films with relative newcomers. Hence, we figured it would be a good idea to team up with Vikram Bhatt. We were also very impressed with the fact that he not only directs but also writes, does the screenplay and dialogue. He is creatively involved with both direction and production. I approached him with this thought in mind. Together, we wanted to make a good film with a good story and screenplay and a budgeted production.

Hate Story 2 was the first film that came out of our collaboration. One day, he said he wanted to make a 3D creature film that would be directed by him. That came as a surprise and we wondered if it might turn out to be tacky, jisme mazaa nahi aaye logon ko. I told him it was a nice idea and I found the title exciting. To absolutely convince me, he promised to show me some sketches to familiarise me with the concept of brahma rakshasas. He said he was inspired by mythical creatures and I grew confident about his talent.

Considering his work on Haunted, I agreed to do the film with him. But I said that the creature had to look real and not generic. Vikram was very confident as it was his dream project. When he showed me the first shot of the creature and what he had created, I was totally confident that I too wanted to make this film. Abhi toh you might not feel ki international level ka quality hai ki nahi but when you watch the film, will you will agree that it is a quality product.

The run time of this film is over an hour and it is the story of how this creature is destructive, tamed and then transformed. The 3D impact is phenomenal. I guarantee you ki aap 10 baar bhi dekhoge aapko jhatka lagega hi lagega.

BOI: Is that the reason you are showing clips of the film to the media?

BK: Yes. We are showing the press these scenes because we want them to write about how good the 3D effect is and how realistic the creature looks. The storyline is very simple. Any thriller about a creature where the creature is killed is very simple. These movies have a thrill and you are constantly on the edge of your seat.

BOI: How would you classify this film in terms of genre? Horror or thriller?

BK: It’s not a horror film, it’s a thriller. How would you describe a film like Godzilla, Jurassic Park and The Lost World? Science fiction thrillers? It’s a 3D creature film.

Vikram Bhatt (VB): No, actually, I would classify it as a film which has never been made before in India. It’s a ‘creature feature’. While Hollywood has made a killing from this genre, no one but this man (Bhushan Kumar) here had the courage to back this film. All he said to me was, ‘The creature won’t look tacky, na?’ And I assured him it wouldn’t. The only other thing he asked me was whether the movie would have music. I said, of course it would! (Laughs)

Hollywood has been making films like this from a long time. They have had Godzilla, Gremlins, Jurassic Park, Anaconda, Aliens. These are among the most successful franchises in the world. We have the wherewithal to make films like these as we do VFX work for Hollywood. So we have the indigenous talent, we just don’t have the vision. So it’s a new genre, a creature feature. We are aware that our responsibility doesn’t end with producing a good film but we have a responsibility to the industry as well. If this film doesn’t work out, we could be closing the door for everybody. But we think we have done a very good job and will open the genre for everyone.

I showed 10 minutes of the film to Bhushanji and he said he asked me why I wasn’t showing it to the audience. So that’s how we are promoting the film. A film of this kind will look nothing short of grand on the big screen. It doesn’t have the same impact on YouTube. Ek mental calibration hai, but you have never seen a creature film in Hindi, so you don’t have a reference point. So when you watch it on YouTube, you wonder, yeh kaisa film lag raha hai yaar? The trailer is not even in HD but the film is in 4K. And that’s a huge difference! So we decided to show 10 minutes of footage to everybody, like the makers of Avatar did. Aisi film bani hi nahi hai toh kaise promote karein?

BOI: Bipasha, how did the journey of the film begin for you?

Bipasha Basu (BB): It began with just one line – Vikram telling me let’s do a creature feature! And I have been a huge fan of films like these. I wanted to be a part of a film like this and I knew that Vikram was quirky and would achieve his objective. I trusted him and, very simply, that’s how it all began for me. He said it would be a one-of-a-kind film, the first of its kind. So, as an actor, it’s going to be exciting.

BOI: From the marketing perspective, since there is no reference point, will you be simplifying the film?

VB: Since there is no reference point, we felt that the media would be able to communicate what the film is all about only if they watched a clip of the film. We will be showing them 3D shots on the big screen, complete with Atmos sound, so the naturally have huge expectations of the film. Marketing ends on Friday.

VB: Let me narrate an anecdote. When I was telling Bhatt saab about the film, there was a man in a blue suit running in the stills. I was trying to tell Bhatt saab that yeh scene mein aisa hoga. And all he said was that par yahan toh ek blue aadmi bhaag raha hai. So I tried to explain to him that there would be VFX in this shot. And he told me, ‘Tu aliens ko gud ka swaad sikhane ki koshish kar raha hai.’ So woh gud ka swaad woh 10 minute ke showreel mein hai. Toh jab tak woh gur ka swaad aap chakhoge nahi, aap samjhoge nahi kya hai.

BOI: Since you have worked with 3D before, was it easier to make this film?

VB: It was very tough. I don’t want to get into that because it was so tough. It’s been almost a year since we finished shooting and I am still not happy with it. It’s gone back to the lab and we are still correcting. And we have not cheated with point-of-view shots. Many filmmakers use point-of-view. They blur the edges and ab yeh creature aa raha hai ghaas ke andar se. So after half the scene has run, they shoot the hand, the legs and suddenly koi jhopde ke picchhe chillata hai aur uska body out aur baat khatam. We haven’t done this with our film as we wanted to make a path-breaking film. The creature is on screen for almost an hour and 10 minutes, continuously. The film is about two hours long.

BOI: What techniques did you use?

VB: A lot of techniques. One of them is called expression capture. Here, you take anybody’s face and make notations for every muscle of the body and and computer reads it. I did the expression for the creature. When the creature is scared or angry, he starts shouting. After all, he is a living thing and experienced moods. So we had to give it different expressions. Then we used sound software, which has been used for the first time. It’s called dehumaniser and was used for films like Avatar and Lord Of The Rings. The Gollum voice used in Lord Of The Rings was created using this technique. We spoke to these people and got the software from them. A lot of research and development went into the making of this film.

BOI: Bipasha, how difficult was it to act in front of a creature as opposed to a human being?

BB: It was really tough. It is much easier when the reference point is human or even a well-defined animal. We had to imagine the creature. Vikram helped us a lot because he gave us a lot of references, in terms of the creature’s dimensions; we had pointers and crackers and a stunt man mimicking the creature’s movements. So we had an idea of what was going to happen. It was left to the imagination. The first three to four days were quite unnerving because I didn’t know what exactly was in front of me. So, whether to go a little higher, or a little less? That is a challenge for any actor.

People say Bollywood films are not really difficult to do as they follow a very simple formula. Here, suddenly, I was thrown into a place where I needed to react and act differently. It takes a lot of team work, patience, imagination and focus. When I went to dub for the film, it was amazing as the creature has been placed in the sequences, and that changes everything. Before we started this film, he had created every sequence with these little toys. He had little figures of wrestlers, and I was, like, ‘Vikram, why have you used such an ugly woman?’

VB: I was showing her the sequence, what we were going to do.

BB: (Cuts in) And I was, like, why am I like this?

VB: Yeah, and she is, like, why am I looking so bad? And I am, like, abhi woh mat dekh.

BB: It was very beautifully done. And the creature sequences were so much fun. And he had done all the homework with those little toys, which is so good for an actor.

VB: (Cuts in) I showed it to Fox Star Studios and they sent it to Los Angeles, saying these guys are doing some crazy thing with toys. Look how they are doing it because, in Hollywood, they spend millions of dollars on narrations and that was my pre-narration.

BB: That bit they had shot helped us a lot and it was amazing. It became easy to know what each character was going to do. It was a first-of-a-kind for me. The film is very dynamic. And it’s definitely a step forward for the business.

BOI: Bhushan, you’re very particular about the music that goes into your films. How did you reel in the music for a film like this?

BK: That was my first question to him (Vikram Bhatt), when I heard the script. But there was a storyline which was romantic, apart from the sizzling part about the creature, Bipasha and everybody. There is a storyline on the film that takes care of the music.

BB: (Cuts in) And it comes in at a very good time. So the music actually gels with the storyline, what’s happening between the boy and the girl. It’s very emotional and melodious, and it comes exactly at the point where it should have. It kind of gels with songs like Naam-e-wafa and Ik pal. It doesn’t seem forced into the story at all. The songs take the story forward.

VB: To be very honest, I was worried about what would happen to the pace of the film with the songs. Bhushanji and I have a deal he takes care of the music and I take care of filmmaking. I just didn’t have the mind space to take care of the music or anything else at that time. And he understands music very well. So when the songs came, I simply put them in. Everything looked fine with the first half of the film. But there was a song at the end, just before the climax… My editor and I decided to chuck it out. I thought I would tell Bhushanji later, after I was convinced of what I had done. So we removed the song. We ran a trial where we called some people and everyone said, ‘Uss point pe, na, ek gaana hona chahiye tha, pata hai kyun? Bahut creature ho gaya.’ So sometimes you need emotion to break the tension, so we inserted the song there. And now it looks perfect!

BB: (Cuts in) You tried doing that to Ik pal. It’s so well done, it’s such a lovely song.

VB: But I have to say the promotion does not do justice to the film.

BOI: T-Series is on a roll, especially after the massive success of Aashiqui 2. Does that put pressure on you as the music opens your film?

BK: Yeah, there’s more pressure after Hate Story 2.

VB: I keep sending him text messages saying ‘Once the audience comes, they will love the film but to get the audience to cinemas is your responsibility.’ But they are doing everything possible to promote the film. I have also been taking this 10-minute clip to every city and showing it to the media there, so that everyone is aware of what we have made. I have a feeling that the first show will be a game-changer.

BOI: What kind of response did you receive from the media when you showed them the clipping for the first time?

BB: A good response. Clearly, no one knows exactly what we have made. Since my name and Vikram’s are attached, they assumed it is a supernatural film, or a horror film. But after they watched the clip, they were blown away. We are showing the creature as a protagonist. Moreover, it has not merely been created with special effects; it is like a live thing, a proper character. He is the main villain in the film, a beast who needs to be tamed. That’s the basic plot of every creature film worldwide but you need to see how we have presented it.

BOI: When your horror films have become super hits, why did you make a creature film? Why didn’t you stick to the success formula of horror films?

VB: Look how little you know of this genre. After 1920, we successfully did Raaz 3 in 3D. And after Raaz 3, one could only do more of the same, and more of the same is good business but not good creativity. When a filmmaker does something different, especially when he knows he is working on something very different, he is scared. You can only succeed when you’re frightened of failure. When you feel a sense of completion and you know yeh toh kiya hai yaar, ab bhoot aayega, then you can even direct a film over the phone. So why would you do the same thing over and over again? It doesn’t give you a thrill.

BOI: We were talking about not playing safe and sticking to horror.

VB: I had a bad run before 1920 and I needed to reinvent myself. Horror allowed me to do that and it got me success. Now that people know I can make successful films, they give me the money to make a film of the kind I like. They know it can work and they can bank on my reputation. Someone once asked John Lennon why they made a song like Yellow Submarine when they could deliver one like Imagine. Lennon said, ‘At first we gathered the audience by giving them what they wanted to hear and then we gave them what we wanted them to hear.’

In the same way, I had to get my audience back. Since that has happened, I have the capacity to do the work I want to. In fact, Creature was to be made in place of Haunted. But nobody had enough faith in the film to invest in it. First, 3D was being done for the first time, and on top of that, it was a creature film. People thought I had lost my mind.

BOI: Bipasha, you have done your fair share of films in the supernatural genre. Do you personally like the genre?

BB: Yes, I do. I am scared of it but these films are entertaining and the stories are fantastic. The films I have done honestly have given me a lot of meat as an actor. Every character has been different. People assume that for a horror film, you don’t need to act; all you need to do is get scared. They couldn’t be more wrong! Also, every supernatural film has offered me a great challenge, whether Shanaya in Raaz 3 or Sanjana in Raaz 1 and even in Aatma, where I got to play a mother. Creature is very different from the other supernatural films I have done in the past. Vikram put it very beautifully in an interview, when he was asked… ‘A supernatural film with Bipasha again and again? Now she is known for such films.’ He replied by saying that an actor or any creative artist is always looking to make their mark and when the mark is made, why would you shy away from it? It’s not easy to make a mark, especially for an actress.

We are at the right place here at Box Office India as we talk about collections and being part of the ` 100-crore club. For me, that is not the benchmark of success as an individual. It is great to have those and it is very comfortable for an actress as you have the hero doing everything for you. You are always a supporting actor, just look pretty, which is not very difficult for anyone because everyone is very pretty. But I am fortunate to get my own standing in a film. Also, this is a genre that is very new and it has tremendous potential worldwide and in India. It is getting the credibility it never got before.

So for a person like me who has done a lot of everything, it is very interesting that I am still getting opportunities that excite me. I am doing something that makes me happy. I am getting new experiences every time I walk onto the sets. I am driving films and that gives me a sense of responsibility. I love Salman Khan but when I do a Salman Khan film, it’s Salman Khan who is driving it. I have built a reputation by doing different kinds of things. I have gone by my gut during these 14 years and it kind of pays off for me. I am very proud of myself for the choices I have made. I am very happy to make a mark in supernatural films and push the genre.

BOI: Vikram, you have known her for a long time. Tell us about her journey.

VB: Bipasha started with an unconventional film. I don’t want to name the person but when I was doing Raaz, I was simultaneously doing Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage, which got Hrithik Roshan and Ameesha Patel back after the success of Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai. This guy came on the sets and said to me, ‘Arre, yaar, kya woh flop Dino (Morea) aur Ajnabee ki vamp ke saath choti picture bana raha hai. Ek taraf tu ye badi film bana raha hai, dekhna wohi chalegi aur ye flop hogi’.

BB: (Cuts in) I too remember this person because he was on our sets. (Laughs)

BOI: And Raaz became the biggest hit of 2002.

VB: Yes, so there are no rules in this industry. The only rule is conviction and you have to work on that conviction. Bipasha has always done that. I think her journey has not been very different from mine. I think we have both been emotionally manipulated. Both of us emerged from that and found our way back.

BB: (Cuts in) And we didn’t even know each other very well then. It’s so odd. (Laughs)

VB: Yes, so you do a film only when you feel you absolutely must. As an actor, Bipasha has always been spontaneous. She is not one of those who ask for their lines five days prior to the shoot. If you give her the right emotional chord, she will pick it up really fast. I believe Bipasha has a fabulous EQ (Emotional Quotient).

BOI: Bipasha, tell us about his journey.

BB: I am not in a capacity to say much about… I can talk about his growth. But when I started, I was an emotional little brat who wanted to go back to college. When I was doing Raaz, I told Vikram that that was my last film. He sat me down and said, ‘This is your second film, you are really talented and all you need to do is focus. Stop running away from things.’ I have to say that he got me to focus on my career. That is why I trust him. When you’re 19, you don’t really know what to do next. I did Ajnabee because I was bored of modelling. Also, the film didn’t sound like a typical Hindi film. I thought I would get a chance to visit Switzerland and travel, so I should do this film. That is how I did Ajnabee and Raaz. I did out of a strange kind of pressure. My then boyfriend was doing this film with Lisa (Ray), they were actually shooting the film, and I used to go on the sets.

I was offered Malini’s (Sharma) role and I said I didn’t want to do films and that I needed to think about it. Suddenly, there was an issue with Lisa and I was told by Mukeshji (Bhatt) that I had to do the film. Like I said, I have been drawn to emotions all my life. I thought, what if my boyfriend’s film gets shelved? I’ll do just this one film. I was scared of ghosts and the narration was so scary, I will never forget it. I fell backward from a rolling chair. While shooting for Raaz, I realised that I had a lot of emotions that I could showcase in my films. I learnt so much on the sets and every year I feel I am becoming a better actor.

Raaz 3 has been the most challenging film for me. I have always had a happy cloud over my head but this film took me to the dark side of me. I went through a very low phase in my life and that’s when they offered me Raaz 3. They told me it was a film that mainstream actresses would not touch as it was about the decline of a superstar, a star that would go to any lengths to get what she wanted. I really liked that idea.

I had no idea how to approach the scenes and I would keep asking Vikram for advice. I used to ask Bhatt saab too. At that time, he told me a very beautiful thing... that self-doubt was the best thing as it is a road to discover oneself. When you are anxious, it is a good sign because it means you want to learn. And I am that kind of person, I am always learning.

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