I’ve been in the industry for 21 years, and have never been part of any controversy. But now…
Anshul Chaturvedi (BOMBAY TIMES; November 8, 2012)
Where is this legal fight heading?
Whatever happens to my film, Son Of Sardaar, as a result of this doesn’t really matter anymore. I am fighting the practice; I am not fighting a battle only till Diwali. I will fight the practice and perhaps, after six months, the industry will have reason to thank me. There is a lot of support from the industry; many people face these issues but can’t muster the courage to fight. As far as the film is concerned, I am very confident. It is a complete Diwali entertainer and I have no worries about it clicking at all. What’ll happen at worst if we don’t have enough screens? The business we would have done in three days will take us six days, that’s about it. Ultimately, a film that’s entertaining WILL run.
There are very sharp divides in the fan fraternities online, if you notice.
Yes, but that is now happening for every film, every few months, it’s not necessarily linked to the legal battle. It happened around Ek Tha Tiger also. There are sections of fans that vocally and blindly support the stars they idolise. I think it’s their honesty — they are supporting the person they like, irrespective of all else. Having said that, 90 per cent of people aren’t checking what the facts are before reacting to the dispute.
There are many comments on the lines of ‘It’s just been days since Yashji passed away, and look, yeh kya kar rahein hain.’
Kar rahein nahi, kar chuke they. This dispute precedes Yashji’s illness and unfortunate demise. Technically, speaking also, emotions have their place, and facts, theirs. My respect for Yashji is no less than that of anyone in the industry. But if an organisation is doing something that I consider wrong, it’s important for me to fight it out and not step aside on emotional considerations. And it’s not just me — there are too many people involved. Does a newspaper stop printing as a mark of respect to anyone? The show has to go on.
I have no personal fight. My fight is with this system, which was not part of our industry. And I see it affecting many people adversely in the future if it is accepted and left unchallenged.
What happens if it is left unchallenged?
Independent producers maare jayenge. So many people are now talking about how they were arm-twisted. The issue is about what is right and what is wrong. If someone chooses to ignore this basic fact, and listen to four people around them who keep repeating ‘sir aap sahi hain’, that doesn’t make it right, even if they believe it.
You are portraying the big cine corporation as a sort of marauder. For some time, the media has been talking about how the dominance of large corporate players in the industry is leading to greater professionalism. Is this the flip side?
There’s definitely more professionalism. And not all big players will be predatory. But where there is power, there is hunger for more power, there’s the tendency to arm-twist — it’s not just in cinema, it’s in every industry. But what’s the law there for, then? To curb and control such things.
Why should I spend sleepless nights wondering how this will turn out? I have been in the industry for 21 years, and have never been part of any controversy. Why would a person like me do it? Only when he’s pushed to the wall.
I am feeling the pinch because I am the producer also. It’s not the actor who’s fighting. It’s me, the producer, fighting the producer.
There’s a frequently heard line these days — take away X and Y movies, or take away A and B directors, and what has Ajay Devgn done? What’s he creating all this fuss about?
(Laughs) I have been in the industry for 21 years. And for 19 of those years, I have had at least one hit each year. People can say what they want, but that’s how it is.
When you make films like this one, isn’t the pattern of taking approvals from religious leaders, holding screenings, placating people a fairly recurrent one?
Dekhiye, mostly, religious leaders don’t actually have any issues. It’s just a few people who like to raise things, who are looking at some importance for themselves, and when THEY bring complaints to religious leaders, they have to at least acknowledge it and ask us, we hope you ‘aren’t hurting anyone’?
On a couple of things, they said, ‘Could you perhaps remove this, because they could be misunderstood?’ It didn’t impact our film in any significant way, so we agreed.
A lot of filmmakers we speak to seem concerned about the trend of having to keep everyone happy, of letting everyone have a veto on what a movie can have.
That is a problem in our society. I have not really faced it upfront, but I have seen and read of other films going through this really bad. It cuts both ways. Sometimes our filmmakers bring in things without adequate research or homework. And India is a very, very sensitive country. Who will balance it out?
A lot of people, from political to religious leaders, talk the language of ‘we won’t let this film release’.
What is the law for? The law needs to safeguard things. Court kachehri kis liye hai?
But like your petition in the CCI said, a film is a highly perishable commodity. And the legal system is not exactly known for its speed.
Yes, the flaw is in the whole system. We need to tweak it, improve it, step by step.
What’s the lesson you take back home from this battle wearing the producer’s hat?
From this one — the SOS screens issue? What I am left feeling is that you can’t just leave it at hum honestly picture bana rahein hain. It’s like driving now — you can’t simply say, I will drive properly and within the rules, you also have to watch out for the possibility that another driver may come and specially bang into you. You have to be cautious. Your confidence in your own driving does not stop someone else from banging your car. So you have to watch other cars rather carefully.
Many of your recent movies are what are defined as mass entertainers, and while they do make money, one can’t but help notice the contrast between sort of movie you made as a director — U Me Aur Hum — and the sort that you regularly are appearing in as a lead actor.
See, to make that sort of a film you have to hear a fabulous script, like, for instance, a Zakhm. Not too many people bring you a script like that anymore. A script where you think, well, I don’t know what this will earn, but it will give me satisfaction, it’ll give me a reputation, it’ll give me awards. And the second thing is that finally, it’s a business, and you have to do films that will recover money. Right now I’m doing that, till I get a script like that.
People from the industry have been very non-committal in this fight.
See, they discuss it in their drawing rooms or in private, but nobody wants to be caught up in someone else’s battle or come on record on such issues.
Leading cine stars in Hollywood have worn their political affiliations on their sleeves in the build-up to the elections. But Bollywood stars won’t take a public position even on an internal industry issue?
The biggest problem in our industry is that we keep saying the government has not done this or that. Our biggest problem is not that the government is indifferent — it’s a problem of our lack of unity.