Rakesh Roshan and Anurag Basu Interview on Kites

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Rakesh Roshan

This long wait for Kites, is it good for the film or is it a tad too long?
No, no, the film was always scheduled for a release in May. Some part of the media spread the wrong news that the film was releasing in October and then December last year. But we had never officially announced the release date. We were always working on two versions — the English and the Hindi ones. It’s like completing two films and that takes time. We finished our shooting last year in April-May but the post-production took time because we were aiming for the simultaneous release of the two versions. And while we are now ready with the films, we are not releasing them because of the IPL matches and then the T20 World Cup. So it will be May 21.

Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai in 2000, Koi… Mil Gaya in 2003, Krrish in 2006 and now Kites in 2010. Why these long breaks between Hrithik Roshan-starrers at Filmkraft?
It’s not a conscious thing. It is because I take my own time in working. When I select a subject, scripting takes me a long time… 10 months… then come the locations. See, you have to remember that I make big films. I like to spend money on my films, money that can be seen. I don’t like wasting money. People otherwise just go to any location, they shoot, they don’t like, then they shoot again… I don’t work that way. I like to choose my locations carefully and shoot there. For Kites, I have shot in New Mexico and Las Vegas. Then after the shooting is completed, I take a lot of time in post-production. Re-recording, background music… I don’t rush things. It takes a lot of heart and a lot of care to make a good film. On our part, we try to give the audience the best possible film. Then it’s up to the audience whether they like it or not.

Your combo with Hrithik has a 100% success rate. Why didn’t you direct Kites yourself given it was your story?
I was supposed to direct it. Then what happened is when I used to go to every award ceremony to collect awards for Krrish in 2006-2007, besides the big films like Lage Raho Munnabhai and Rang De Basanti, I spotted another film called Gangster. I had never heard about this film. So I was like why is this small film called Gangster coming in all nominations? I got hold of the DVD, I saw the film and I loved the film.
I called Anurag Basu to the office and I told him that I want Hrithik to work with you… do you have any subject? He said, no I make small films of Rs 3 crore and I don’t have a big canvas subject ready. Then I told him that I have a subject and if he liked it, he can direct it. Because for me, it didn’t make any difference. I had nothing to prove to anybody. Just that my production house has to make a good film with Hrithik. Whether I made it or he made it, it didn’t make a difference.

Do you regret your offer given what’s happened between the two of you?
No, not at all. They are all baseless rumours. I am very, very happy with Anurag. He has done a very good job and if the film does well, he will be one of the most sought-after directors around. See talents like him need to be promoted. Otherwise Anurag would have been making small-small films throughout his life. And then one day he wouldn’t have been there. He was, in fact, initially surprised that I offered the film to him. He asked me, are you joking that you are giving this film to me? I had told him straightaway that don’t worry about the big canvas because I will be there and whenever you are stuck somewhere, you can always ask me. My only thing was that once the script was locked, you cannot change anything. And if you have to change anything, you have to ask. So, from my side, everything was clear. I used to go to the shoots for an hour or two just to see that everything was okay from the production side. I have always tried to give him confidence and told him not to worry.

You went to Cannes last year and now you are releasing an English version of Kites. Why this desperation to launch Hrithik internationally?
I went to Cannes with a very raw film. We finished shooting in April and we just cut it roughly and took it to Cannes in May. We wanted to show it to two-three studios over there. As for the English version, the story of Kites is about a boy and a girl and their love story. And a love story is accepted all over the world. So I thought since we are making the film with an Indian boy and a Spanish girl and it has such an international look, we can go the distance. This is the right time for Indian cinema to put a step forward and go global. The world is becoming smaller… their technicians come here to work, we take their heroines. A day will come when the West and Bollywood will all make films together. I think Kites is the first step towards that. Even if I succeed by 5%, I would have landed there and opened the doors for other filmmakers.

Why not release your Indian film there? Why did you have Brett Ratner make a separate cut?
When Brett saw the film, he said the film needs to be cut from its two-hour length and made closer to 90 minutes. So I told him I don’t know what to cut and that’s how he came on board.

So, what is the difference between the two versions?
There are four-five songs in the Hindi version which are not there in the English one. So 20-25 minutes are gone there itself and some scenes here and there which have gone. Just to make it more fast-paced. Otherwise the content is the same, the emotions are the same.

From Kaho Naa… to Kites, what kind of growth do you see in Hrithik?
He is not only growing, he is shocking me with every film. He is growing in leaps and bounds. The more challenging the role, the more he gives in. Just like me. When I make a film with him, I look for a challenging subject which can give me sleepless nights. I would not like to give any number to Hrithik, that he is one, two or three. But I believe he is a very powerful actor and he is capable of doing any role.

Do you miss directing Hrithik?
No. Because for me, when I am producing a film, I am as deep as the director is. Just saying “start sound” and “cut” is not everything. I looked after every aspect of Kites.

Since the story is credited to you, would you like to clarify whether Kites is copied from Woody Allen’s Match Point?

No no, not at all. It’s basically a love story between two people. Their goals are different but they are in love. When they are very close to their goals, they fall in love. What to do? And they opt for love.

Anurag Basu

Kites is finally releasing…
Haan, ghuri-ta finally urbe! Actually I think I have a black tongue. I always wanted my film to release in May because all my films have released in May. Gangster, Murder, Metro… they have all released in summer, around April-May. So I wanted Kites too to release around that time. Whenever I did mention May, I always meant 2009 May, not 2010 May. But now it’s finally releasing, even if it’s a year late.

Have you had any creative role to play since the shooting got over last April?
Hmmm… Well, all I can say is that a lot of stories have been floating as to how the film is being re-edited without my presence. How Rajkumar Hirani has been re-editing the film without my knowledge. But that’s entirely untrue. Raju Hirani and me had a huge laugh over this. You cannot re-edit the film once the print is out and the mix is done.

What about Brett Ratner supervising the English version?
As for Brett Ratner, he is presenting the film. He did make a few editing suggestions. But he didn’t edit anything without my knowledge. I would have been the happiest person in the world if that would have happened. I would have just sued him and become a crorepati! It’s a very common thing in Hollywood. The suggestions he made were very valid given that he comes from the western sensibility. And I was part of this journey all along.

Let’s put it this way — are you happy calling Kites your film?
Yes, it’s my film, it’s my baby! My editor Akiv Ali, who has worked with me for the last five years, he wouldn’t touch a frame without my consent. We have worked on the film together. Our edited English version was taken to Hollywood and shown there. They found it a bit long and they wanted to shorten it by 10 minutes for distribution reasons. Which is fine. I have a lot of respect for Brett Ratner. I love his work. He is a very fine filmmaker. And while it’s true that we never met, we spoke on the phone and he sent me a version of the film with the suggested changes. I sent across my suggestions and it was all done with a lot
of mutual respect. See, he loved
the film that’s why he decided
to present it.

So, what is your equation now with the Roshan family?
Rakesh Roshan and me are two very different kinds of people. Our approaches towards filmmaking are so different. So it took time for him to adjust to me and it took time for me to adjust to him. Eta toh mantey-i hobe that he is a veteran. Seventeen films, all commercially hit. Emni toh Rakesh Roshan hoye jaaye ni… kichhu byapar toh achhe. He understands the pulse of the audience and what he understands of the audience took time for me to understand. But he didn’t come to the sets all that much. It was always Duggu (Hrithik) and me on the sets.

We also heard that father and son would not agree on things and you would be the scapegoat…
There wasn’t so much chaos really. I mean, if things were so bad, the film wouldn’t have reached this stage. Naa? And there is no such talk within the film industry, where you can’t keep a secret.

Will you make another film for the Roshans if they ask you?
No. See, I want to be successful. And a big thing about being successful is doing things on your own terms. That thing was missing on this film. For me, money is not that important. It’s about creative independence. Here, in Kites, I had to go for a democratic approach. Shobai miley, katha boley… Usually, I write my films and I direct them and so every creative decision rests with me. Here I had to ask around. That was the difference.

Has Kites taught you which people you want to work with?
I came from television and then I did small films. So I don’t have such a big attention span for one product. That’s the way I am. But with people like Rakesh Roshan, Karan Johar and Sanjay Bhansali, they spend three years on one single film. I cannot give so much time on one project. Aami holaam story lekho, film banao, release koro… My thing is why wait? If you have your film ready, why wait? But they have their own reasons. When you have Rs 120 crore at stake, you think differently. I am sure they know more than me.

Are you comfortable with the hoax publicity stunts like the one with the Hrithik-Barbara affair?
As long as people are talking about my film. I am very selfish that way. Initially I used to get a little disturbed. Then I realised it doesn’t matter. The film is gaining. But there’s also a perception that Kites is a sex film. I don’t know how that got circulated. It’s a simple love story. People shouldn’t come in expecting steamy scenes after seeing the hot pictures of Barbara in the papers and on the Net.