Sunday, 29 June 2008

Imran Khan, the new kid on the block talks about his debut film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na in this interesting chat when I met him in London on the weekend.

Exclusive by Devansh Patel

He is definitely not muscular and popular in the Indian Film Industry. But he is for sure a spectacular bachelor. I'm talking about the newest entrant in Hindi cinema, Imran Khan. On meeting this shy guy in London last weekend while promoting his debut film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, he came across as a person who has no airs on being Aamir Khan's nephew, a true lover who has no qualms in talking about his relationship with Avantika, a bit of a pessimist who thinks that he has not done justice to his role in Jaane Tu, his fascination with the pubs in London and why is he not looking forward for the lavish premiere of his debut film. In this special interview, Bollywood Hungama's Devansh Patel brings to you some not known startling revelations about Imran, Jaane Tu and much more.

I know it's too early to ask you this question but looks like the Khan brigade isn't stopping to dominate. Where do you you see yourself after the release of Jaane Tu?
I honestly have no idea. You know, as you said that I am not muscular and popular. These are part of the reasons I never really saw myself as an actor. All this is so different for me. And even the film that we've made is pretty different from that. It's the people who will decide my future after the release of Jaane Tu. My future is out there.

It's strange where your career can take you. You've studied direction but we now see you as an actor. Why don't you pursue what you've actually studied?
One word answer to that man, Abbas Tyrewala. Its just that simple. I wanted to be a director. I've studied in L.A. And worked there for a while. I came back to Mumbai and was meeting people to find work. And throughout all this, I met Abbas. We just really clicked from day one. I loved the script and my character and he was so convinced that I was the right guy for it that I went with it. Abbas just shifted me away from direction but that is not to say that I won't go back to direction. It's on the cards but just don't know when.

All the video interviews you've done have shown that you've been brought up in shadows of your mamu, Aamir Khan, but in films you need to break away from that shadow.
You're absolutely right. Having said that, I haven't' shot a single interview with Aamir (laughs). Of course, you have to create your own identity and that is happening in the film as it is. Aamir has no presence in the film and ultimately if people like the film, they will hopefully like me.

You've thanked your girlfriend Avantika and have felt no harm in disclosing your relationship to the media. But was that necessary?
I feel it was necessary at a personal level. To me, when there is someone who is a major part of your life, to hide that, personally, it is a dishonest thing to do. Secondly, it is very disrespectful. When I've been seeing her for the past six years and then to pretend for the sake of my career that she is not my girlfriend is a very impolite thing to do to a woman.

We've seen your childhood pictures now where Aamir combs your hair and you're sitting on his lap and many more. Are at all worried of letting your mamu down?No I am not. It's not that he has certain expectations from me. He just believes that you have to find your own way. He made his own destiny and I have to do the same, not for anyone else, but for me. He's there to support me as my uncle and will always wish the best for me. But somehow down the line I know that I want to keep his head up and mine through Jaane Tu. Tomorrow if nothing works out for me, he is not going to feel let down.

We've also seen you mention in a light hearted way that Aamir used to use you to impress girls. Do you think he can still do it now that now you are a handsome hunk?
Not a chance. He doesn't have a hope now.

There have been quite a few college capers in the past which haven't clicked at the box officein the U.K but have worked well in India. What are Jaane Tu's chances in both the markets?
We haven't made Jaane Tu primarily for the Indian market and nor have me made the film for the overseas market. The aim is to make a film that people will like generally and when I say generally, I just don't mean the Hindi film audience. Ideally, the film should appeal to anyone because it speaks about universal emotions. It speaks about the time when you're young and you're in college and you think that if this girl doesn't like me, my world is over. That's a universal thing. And again, once you graduate and get a bit older and a little more mature, you realise that it wasn't such a big deal. You get over it. That again is universal.

Every Aamir Khan coming out since Lagaan have given a meaningful message. Will Jaane Tu continue along the same level?
No, not at all. Aamir has said so in as many words that not every film has to have a message. Some of them do and it's always great. But a lot of films are just entertaining films. They just tell you a nice story and that's really what Jaane Tu is all about. There is no social message to it.

The media has spoke a lot about you, Abbas, Aamir, A.R.Rahman. But no one seems to see the other four college goers on the posters. They haven't got due credit I guess.
That is really the nature of publicity. Sadly, my name will carry a lot more weight despite my having as much experience as the rest of them. They are all first timers and people are just more interested in hearing about me. It's good you have pointed this thing out. But I do feel that once people see the film, they'll realise how talented the rest of them are. Abbas put a lot of care, thought and effort into casting every single one of these actors. Their characters at a screenplay level are very well edged. They are not caricatures or junior artists.

Did Abbas do anything different with you guys in terms of preparation for your individual roles?
You guessed it right man! Abbas took all six of us plus Manju, who is not in the poster, to Panchgani and we spent about a week or ten days there doing workshops. He stuck the boys in one room and the girls in a seperate room. He told us to live together and learn to deal with one another and wanted us to come out eventually as a team. We did scene breakdowns, team building exercises and came out of it as one unit. We were like a team which works perfectly and the chemistry was just remarkable.

It's not only a debut for you in Jaane Tu but a debut for you in London too. Have you been to London before? Anything you like about London? Any where you go for your shopping?
London has always been kind of in transit for me. I spend a day or two everytime I come here. Even today as we talk, I'm flying to Dubai for the next leg of promotions world wide. I've never spent enough time here to know the places properly or go to the places where people usually go. But the one thing that attracts me to London is it's Beer. I do love the British Pubs. I love its ambience. I am not a night club person but I love pubs and bars. They are really chilled out, comfortable and more sociable.

Genelia is the most experienced of the lot. Any advice or tips you got from her as a senior?
No. Our working styles are very different. Genelia tends to approach things a lot more spontaniously. She doesn't really put that much thought into it but I do. She would learn her lines and she would do the scene as it came naturally. I'd tend to figure out things like how I'm going to sit, then get up, then take two steps back, etc. But that's what I learnt from Genelia by observing her act, by observing her moves on the sets.

What's next in the pipeline?
I've finished my second film which is called 'Kidnap' directed by Sanjay Gadhvi. It's a suspense thriller and I'm playing a grey character. I hate saying grey character because it's so over used. It's now in the editing process and post production. The release date is the 2nd October. My third film which I've just started is called 'Luck' directed by Soham. The one who made Kaal. It's an action adventure type of a film which stars Shruti Hassan, Mithun Chakraborty, Danny Denzongpa and Sanjay Dutt.

Has Aamir, your mamu, ever approached you for a role in any of his forthcoming productions? We all know that he likes working with new comers who've got bundle of talent.
He does really look at it from a script point of view. So he'll look at what film he's producing at that time and think that if Imran fits the role well, he'll first have to audition for it. He will not think to take me on for any film just because I'm his cousin.

Let's talk about the big premiere night everyone is talking about. Looking forward for the biggest day of your life?
I am not looking forward to it at all. Premieres are scary things. I've got my suit made which I'll have to wear for the premiere. I mean, I've never in my life put on a suit. My sylist is Harmeet. I don't go for any designer brands. I did try it on. Looks good but I can't move after wearing it. I am a more jeans and a t-shirt kind of a guy. So I am a little apprehensive about spending the entire evening like that.

Is Shammi Kapoor saab also attending the premiere?
No, I don't think so. He is not very well. We did ask him but he said that he will not be able to make it. We will be organising a special screening for him somewhere near his house because he lives in South Mumbai and the premiere is a two hour journey from his house and we wouldn't make him come a long way for that.

Is there anything you'd want to share with us as you're in London for the first time for your first film as an actor?
Yes. I just recalled that the tie which I'm wearing in the song 'Pappu can't dance saala' was purchased from London. It's a zip tie and that's what I am wearing. Infact, if you see one of my pictures in the promotions and in the small booklet inserted in the cd cover, I'm seen wearing a white shirt with a yellow striped tie. You know what? That is the same tie which Aamir mamu wears as a Model college student in the film Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander. It was his tie but I have now taken it. Even the crew cut blue t-shirt I wear in the posters including the belt and the jeans are mine. They're my personal outfits, and so are the canvas shoes in the film I wear. Many of the outfits in the film are my own because Abbas didn't want any branded Dolce and Gabbana kind of outfits.

Any regrets after doing the film? Anything you'd change in your performance now that you see yourself on the television?
As a personality, I tend not to like any of the work I do. I still don't. I don't like the work I've done in the film. When I see it, I see it for the small mistakes I've made which should have been avoided. But that's my take. It's upto Abbas and Aamir to judge me at the end of the day. I'm never really going to be happy.

Being your debut film, it seems as if you're not at all excited about it?
Yes, you are right. I'm not excited at all. But that's for another reason. It's just because I'm kind of numb on this whole front. It's not that the film is bad. I do think that it's a good film. So let the film release and we'll see what excitement remains.

What is that one advice of your mamu which still lingers in your mind as we are talking?
I will never forget his personal yet professional advice - Find your own way. From choosing your director and script, learn everything the hard way. He has never read my scripts of Kidnap and Luck, nor have I approached him with it.

Read Abbas Tyrewala talk about his big premiere plans, the quintesential airport climax & lots more. Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na??

Exclusive by Devansh Patel

There is enough said and done about Jaane Tu in the Indian media but a last minute decision to release the film in the overseas took many by surprise, especially me, because I had carried a column in my papers (Harrow Observer) in May about quality films not being released in the overseas. Jaane Tu was one of them along with Johnny Gaddar, Manorama Six Feet Under and many more. Now the overseas audience will get a fresh flavour from the same old repetitive love stories being churned out, or will they? as Bollywood Hungama's Devansh Patel met Abbas Tyrewala last weekend to find out whether it was a wise decision to release a film like Jaane Tu in the U.K, the films quintessential airport climax, Aamir Khan's midas touch, his big premiere plans, a touching dedication to the late Jhamu Sughand and lots more in this very special but a rare interview all the way from London.

You've said in your earlier interviews that marketing isn't your cup of tea. But being the jack of all, don't you think it's important for you to know a bit of what your audiences want?
Yes, you are right. It's important for me to know what my audience wants but frankly just five days ago I have given the final 'Yes' to the post productions as a director. The film is finally locked and it hasn't really left me too much time to get involved with the marketing aspect. We have a whole team to look after that aspect right from day one and as a result we are here in London giving interviews to the media.

When we talk of audiences, its not like films. They are many times unpredictable. Having said that, why release a film like Jaane Tu in the overseas which has no big names attached to it except the producer Aamir Khan?
Well, I guess, having the name of Aamir Khan attached with it compensates to some degree for not having any major stars in the film. I guess the reason to do it is because we've made a pretty unusual film. It takes every cliche of a Hollywood film without all being spoofy or farcical. It's a very emotionally engaging story telling. It's got the drama, it's got the laugh and yet it speaks the language that typically Bollywood film don't tend to talk. You watch the film and will say - Hey, that's what my group in college was like. And once you're true to something, the language becomes a lot more universal and I think that is true of Jaane Tu. It's a journey from the hormones to the heart. I think the audiences world wide will have great fun.

You've written in your directors note that it took you three years to complete a film and a completed film no longer needs a director. Do you then think that coming to the overseas for media interviews is not worth it?
I don't think that at all. Whatever part I can play in taking this film to as many people and viewers and encourage them to sample it is worth it many times over. What I meant was that I can no longer feel that sense of association with the film. When I'm watching it, it's almost like I'm watching somebody else's film. So what I was refering to was a very very personal sentiment of the way I felt for the film which took three years in the making. Everytime I see it, I don't remember the time that I planned a particular shot. It's justa blur. But there is never a point where you'd stop caring about your film.

Over the years we've seen you write for many hit films like Maqbool, Munnabhai and Main Hoon Na to name a few. But what new discovery did you make as a writer for your debut film Jaane Tu?
When the audience sees this film, very few will realise this that the best approach to any technical field, be it cinematography, be it special effects, be it production design, is where it does not draw attention to itself. It is so good and yet it is so effortlessly integrated into the story telling that you never notice it. The moment you can step back from a film and say that it's a great shot, you've broken the illusion of it being a world and people. What I've managed to do in this is really write what I think is a far more complex narrative than any film I've come to before. Only a few people that are technically adapt at evaluating script writing will realise what it takes to write a film that has so many narrative pieces and yet at the end you'll feel that you only saw a simple film and as a writer I found that very exciting.

And what did you mean when you write that the film has a quintessential airport climax? There are bound to be surprises in an Aamir Khan produced film.
This has been such a cliche of not just Bollywood and Hollywood cinema but cinema in itself. I guess there is a certain drama to the urgency of the airport that the person you love will be taken away from you unless you reach there in time. That's been used and abused and over abused in films for many years. But then I thought that what if one had to revisit it. We have a character called Mala, who really to me, represents the audience. She starts out as a complete cynic who doesn't believe in romance and nothing. She talks about the fact that she hates airports and she thinks its ridiculous that all these airport climax happen by people just walking in and stopping the plane as and when they like. They would probably be shot down as a terrorist for doing that. So I really wanted to explore that fact. As I said earlier, I've done everything what a Bollywood film has but just turned it around a little bit.

It took you three years to direct Jaane Tu and just three days ago you've given the final Yes to the film. But during the whole process, did you take up any other project other than Jaane Tu?
To start with, it wasn't a journey of three years. Yes, direction took three years but I started writing two years before that. So actually it's a five year journey. I did a bit of horsing around where I had a long period when nothing was happening. Mr Jhamu Sughand opted out of production due to whatever reasons best known to him. Then Aamir Khan stepped in. Inbetween the production hassles, I did some work. I wrote a pretty major film which got released recently but because I was unwilling to do certain things that the director wanted to do that I didn't agree with, I chose to take my name out of the film and because that film does not carry my name in the credits, I don't think it's fair to refer to which film it was. As soon as Jaane Tu kicked in again, there was never a single day I took up any other work. I've just lived Jaane Tu for half a decade.

In the overseas market, many distributors believe that the name of the film is of a vital importance for its success. The title is as important as the script. Do you agree?
I think it's crucial. One of the most important things that you do for your film is get a title that makes people react, that has an interesting suggestion of an interesting story without being so clever that it alienates and disorients the viewer. Whether or not I've got that with this title, I don't know. But I'd love to know what the overseas distributors think of my title Jaane Tu..Ya Jaane Na. I'll be curious to know.

Did the title Jaane Tu came up in a spur of a moment to you?
I knwe that Jaane Tu is going to be the title the moment I started writing the film and the basic idea started to fall into place. I knwe it had to be Jaane Tu. But there were lots of reasons behind the title. The film is about when you know that you're in love with someone. Also, I love the song - Tera mujhse hain pehle ka naata koi...and that is also integrated in my plot line. Given all this, it was pretty much the only title I ever considered.

In 1999, Raj Kaushal made one such college caper Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi which was a light hearted romantic drama which gave us debutants such as Rinke Khanna, Dino Morea and Sanjay Suri who are all well established now. I'm not comparing Jaane Tu with Pyaar Mein...but the earlier film did not work. Are you ready to face failure if and when it comes?
People make romances everyday and a lot of them do not work. That doesn't mean the ones who make romances are worried that their film will not work. The film does not work for various reasons and I've never believed that it's genre driven. It could be anything ranging from perception, promos, marketing or it just simply not being a good film. I am anxious and nervous about the film period. Whether or not a prior film did or did not do well is not adding or subtracting from that anxiety at all. You could show me ten films exactly like Jaane Tu which did really well and I'd still be anxious. You show me five films that have tried the same thing and have failed, I will not be any more anxious than I already am.

First time with A.R.Rahman. First time with Aamir Khan. Two of the deadliest combinations you'll ever find to make a blockbuster film. Is that luck or hardwork?
I think it's a good script yaar! I think both of them got attached to the film because of the script. I didn't have to work hard to get Aamir and Rahman. But I got one shot and that one shot I got was a chance to tell them my script. That really made the process so smooth. People just kept getting attached because they loved the script.

But having said that, was there any back up? What if Aamir Khan said 'No' to Jaane Tu?
After a year of having interacted with Jhamu and done the preparations and then the film was not happening and we were waiting, I was fast getting to the point where I was going to say - You know what, forget it. I always wanted to do some crime noir. Jaane Tu is not working out and it was getting out of my system. But there were two people who just did not lose faith and hope and who really wanted to see this film made. One of them was Imran. For someone who wasn't keen on taking up acting in Bollywood, he had found the script that got him excited towards the idea of acting. The other was my wife Pakhi, who was my girlfriend at that time. She said that this film is going to happen and no way it shall be shelved. I just had to hang in there. I've got a notoriously short attention span. I can't hang in there for very long and the fact that I saw this film through for all this time was to a great extent because of these two people.

Was it a deliberate move to cast Imran, knowing that he is Aamir Khan's nephew? I mean, you could have gone with any new comer like Ranbir or Neil Nitin Mukesh?
I did not want new comers but freshers who've never done acting before. Imran fitted the bill. I tested pretty much every new guy and when I met Imran, I made up my mind that he was the one to star in Jaane Tu. Not for a second will I pretend that I was unaware that he was Aamir's nephew. That would make a great difference in how much interest it would generate. But at the same time, people who know me will know that I'd never cast him for that. A certain number of actors were made available to me even while Jhamu was a producer. But they weren't right for the part. I'd also like to state that Imran made it a lot easy to take the film to the people but you can't make the people like the film more because Aamir is Imran's uncle. You can get away with the promo but for two and a half hours, you can't tell a lie. Imran was God send.

But where did you meet Imran? Who recommended him to you?
Well, Pakhi was my casting director. We were getting very frustrated about whether we would ever find somebody appropriate for Jaane Tu. A while back, Imran had done some acting courses with Kishor Kapoor where briefly he had considered acting before he gave it up and went to study direction in L.A. One of the teachers that he encountered happened to be Pakhi's mother. She is an ex- NSD teacher and trainer. She teaches diction, acting, etc. She remembered having met Imran at some point and then went out to find him where this guy is and is he still interested in acting. And luckily for us, he had just come back from L.A. all prepared to direct a film. He got this call and was very hesitant on acting in a film. When I met Imran, he didn't think of me as a Safari clad, white shoes, gold chain, rolex in the hand type of a director. We spoke the same language and that's what clicked.

It's true that Aditi is the talk of the town at the moment more than Imran, Abbas and Aamir. Does one great song make a difference in the success of a film?
I suppose so. Like I said, everything that goes into creating excitement about the film is only valid till Friday. Whether it's an Aamir Khan production film, whether it is a hit music or any kind of publicity we do, all of it lasts just for a day. Success comes much later.

We know that Aamir's got a midas touch. Lagaan went to Oscars, Rang De went to the Bafta's. Taare Zameen Par won more accolades than any other film. Where will Jaane Tu land up?
You know what's going to happen? If it works, people are going to say that it was Aamir's midas touch. But if it doesn't work, the same people will say that you should have got him to touch the film a bit more. He should have acted in the film and so on. We hope the film does well because Aamir has shown a very sound judgement on the kind of scripts that he chooses to come to and we hope the midas touch continues.

Quality films like Johnny Gaddar, Gangster and many more were not released in the U.K. Do you think Jaane Tu will make the U.K audience aware that there is much more than just the same Swiss Alps and Big Ben? Will they accept the change in quality?
You can never ever say what the audiences should or shouldn't do. They are paying to watch the film. They don't owe anyone anything. If you want them to accept the change then we need to do something. We need tell better stories, we need to find a better way of taking our film to them, we need to find ways why it is worth their while to sample films a bit more. Any film maker who thinks that the audience owes them anything is completely deluding himself or herself. If you fail them, they will reject you. You make it worth their while and they will love you.

What's the big, lavish premiere plan of Jaane Tu happening in Mumbai?
I think a lot of energy is going to go in helping my wife what she wants to wear because she is driving me insane. When I'm done with that, then the family members kick in. Everyone seems to be a lot more excited about the premiere than me. I'm in a state of - I hope it just goes well. So much work has gone into it. But the primary activity once I get back to Mumbai is going to be about helping people what to wear for the premiere.

Why should one go and watch Jaane Tu?
If you've ever been to college, if you've ever had a group of friends that you remember with nostalgia, if you've ever had feelings for each other, liked each other, things went wrong, things happened on the rebound, you've had your heart broken, you've discovered joy and sorrow and you felt that life will never be the same again after this tragedy and then come back a few years later and say that it was lovely, those were the best days of my life and relive those're never going to come across a film like Jaane Tu.

We know that Jhamu Sughand is not a part of this film and is now not a part of our Indian Film Industry because of his sad demise. Anything you'd like to convey through Bollywood Hungama for this man who has produced memorable films for Indian cinema over the years?
The day after he passed away, the Mid Day in Mumbai carried an obituary about Jhamu written by me. I said everything I needed to say. He let go of Jaane Tu even though he really loved it because he knew that he was not being able to make it and he wrote off a lot of money he had spent on it just to make a feasible film for another producer to come to. He had a tough time and needed every ruppee he could find to complete his films that were already on the floor. I don't know if I have encountered that much generosity in a man and even thought the film will not carry a dedication to him, I know that in my heart Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na will always be dedicated to Jhamu Sughand.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Shilpa Shetty talks about her sexy figure, her Big Brother days, about Big B's dance moves and lots more in this exclusive interview with me.

Exclusive by Devansh Patel

No matter how many films this slim, sexy and sultry beauty has been a part of, but Shipla Shetty will always be remembered as the proud winner of the Celebrity Big Brother, at least in the U.K, and seconds after being crowned, her Life in a Metro changed for good. From the lavish red carpet premiere of her film in the U.K to her perfume launch, she is now an international figure. Last seen with her boyfriend Raj Kundra in the U.K a couple of months ago at the Zee Cine Awards 2008, she is all set to return with the Unforgettable Tour on August 24 at the O2 Arena to do what she does best, dancing. In an exclusive interview with Devansh Patel, Shilpa sounds ecstatic about the London leg of the tour, why she thinks no one can match Big B's dance moves, her Big Brother days, how she maintain her perfect body, her newly formed production company and much more.

Looks like Big Brother has blessed you again. I mean, we will now be seeing you live at the O2 Arena on August 24. What's going through your mind right now?
(laughs). Well, a whole lot of excitement and the oppurtunity to actually get to connect with the audiences in the U.K who've given me so much love. It's now my time to reciprocate that love back and show them that this is what I actually do for a living.

You're a guest performer in the London leg of the tour. Don't you feel left out on not being able to be with the Unforgettable Tour in Toronto, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and New York?
Not really because I have so much work on hand at the present moment. Yes, Wizcraft did ask me to be a part of the rest of the tour as well but I couldn't make that time. I am committed to finishing 'The Man' which is my next release opposite Sunny Deol who is producing and directing it. So I decided that I could take out those couple of days and fit in the O2 Arena.

You all seem to be wearing the colour red to promote this tour which symbolises power. But what power are we going to see from you in your performances?
Dancing I think has always been my USP and whether people watch my films or not, I don't know. But they definitely watch my dancing (laughs). This is definitely going to be a performance to watch out for because Shiamak Davar and I are getting back together again. Whenever he choreographs something for me, he always makes it really special. The last time he did something for me was at the IIFA Yorkshire in the U.K last year. The IIFA performance was pretty unforgettable so this one will be a few notches higher.

So how different is to be rehearsing your steps you perform on the tour from what you perform while shooting a song for the film?
We normally try to keep it a little similar. But when we perform on stage most of the numbers are re-mixed. So that they become slightly more fast paced. I may not be necessarily performing on my numbers. It may be a Punjabi number which is very popular in the U.K. So there is a mix of everything. Ofcourse, we only get one chance to give it our best on the stage whereas we can go on and on till we don not get our steps right if we are filming a song for the film. So there isn't really a big difference.

We've seen you shake a leg with Mr Amitabh Bachchan many years ago in a forgetful film titled Lal Badshah. Having said that, what's so really special about a 65 year old man dancing with a women half his age?
(Laughs). I think when it comes to Amitji, nobody even considers his age. He is so charasmatic and he has such power over his audience that they don't care for his age. I definitely for one don't. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He is a stalwart in Hindi cinema and just to get this oppurtunity to share stage space with him is such a huge honour. We actors are meant to entertain the audience, so no one thinks of age as a primary concern.

Here's an entertaining question for you. The word 'figure' is synonymous with you Shilpa. I mean, you are the fittest actress around in the Indian Film Industry. How on earth do you maintain your body and have you figured out the sort of reception you will be getting at the O2 Arena?
(Laughs out loud) I love your question (laughs again). It is very well worded I must say. Thank you very much for the compliment. Well, I do work out and I'll be lying if I say that I don't work out. But I also eat a lot, contrary to what the people think and imagine. I do weight training and Yoga on a regular basis and that's what keeps me fit. And to answer your second question which was pun intended, I don't know what kind of reaction I'm going to get at the O2 Arena. I'm quite looking forward to it. I think it's going to be very good.

As London is the last city where the Unforgettable Tour wraps up, I'm sure you'll be a bit more relaxed in this historical city. Any busy plans after the Tour?
Shopping (laughs).

And where about?
I shop anywhere in London. I just love London because it's a great destination to shop. Anywhere from Oxford Street to Carnaby Street, I really enjoy it.

The only two celebrities you've worked with from the Tour are the two Bachchans - Abhishek and Amitabh. What was it like working with Riteish Deshmukh, Preity Zinta and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for the first time?
All the names you've mentioned come from the same fraternity. So we know each other pretty well. It's not like we are alien to each other. We know each other and I've interacted with all of them in the past. So it's just going to be great fun to be performing with them for the first time on stage. It goes beyond becoming a job because this is one of those shows which is like a picnic for all of us actors. I'm sure we are going to have a blast.

We all know that when it comes to choreography, Shiamak Davar is the king. Any unforgettable moments you can recall from your rehearsals so far?
Well, I haven't started rehearsing. Please don't tell anybody (laughs) because I am shooting for Sunny Deols home production titled 'The Man'. I am going to start rehearsals in a matter of couple of days. Infact, I am going off to Goa and have told them to send me an assistant who can teach me the steps.

Is it true in saying that just because you won the celebrity big brother, you are more attached towards the U.K?
I definitely got more attached to the U.K after the Celebrity Big Brother. It's not wrong when people say that. I have travelled to different parts of the world but the warmth I receive in the U.K is just something else. I can't put it in words. Like I said before, I am who I am in the U.K because of the people and it's them who wanted me to win the show. I completely appreciate that. There are very few actors who go to different countries and are recognised there as well. I am blessed from that front. It's not only the Indians who recognise me in the U.K. It's the natives and the main stream people too.

Can you brief us who has designed your outfits for the Unforgettable Tour?
Manish Malhotra is designing my costumes for the show. I am really excited. He is a fabulous designer. We are in the process of designing them because there is a certain look that we have to maintain. It's an amalgam of both our thoughts and ideas. Manish is someone whose sensibilities I trust as well. If he thinks that a certain colour will look better on me and if I am not convinced with it then I still will trust him. In short, it's a good working relationship.

Besides being a bit busy with the Tour, what else is keeping you busy in your life in a metro?
As I said that I am filming for 'The Man' right now and have just finished shooting a song for Karan Johar's next film 'Dostana' and after that I start my home production in November under S2 Global Productions. I am busy with that too. We are currently in the process of scripting. Once I announce the film, maybe you guys will get to know what the film is called. We haven't yet zeroed on the name of the film.

Any parting message for all your fans who are desperate to see you perform live at the O2 Arena in London?
I just want to say that I am really looking forward to come to the U.K with The Unforgettable Tour. I can vouch for one thing - It will be unforgettable.

We can't let you go like this Shilpa. I mean, you have to let us know the songs you are going to perform on the Tour.
I can only tell you that I am going to perform on this rocking Punjabi number. I am not allowed to divulge too much details.

Don't you think Wizcraft should organise more of such World Tours and concerts every year or two just like what they do when it comes to IIFA Awards?
I think that Wizcraft is pretty sorted on that front. They are so used to doing shows in India and world wide that if they can take a contingent of hundreds of celebrities every year to a different destination and put up with all their tantrums (laughs), then I'm sure this Unforgettable Tour is like a cakewalk for them.

I don't know whether you are aware of this or not. Big Brother 2008 has just started couple of weeks ago. Would you like to give one last message for all the participants who are in the house waiting to be celebrities when they come out?
I had a great time being in there. Yes, there were some tears yet a lot of happiness too and I wish them all the best of luck. I am really not watching the series, so have no idea what's happening inside the house.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Unforgettable Tour 2008 with Preity Zinta & what to expect from the O2 Arena in London

Exclusive by Devansh Patel

We all know the hype surrounding the Bachchan's is as always colossal. And if you thought that after their bare footed walk to the Siddhivinayak, their IIFA Bangkok premiere of Sarkar Raj and their grand Yatra Tour across India all three would need that desperate break....think again! and this time around, they are not alone. Bollywood Hungama and Harrow Observer's Devansh Patel finds out the hype and the excitement surrounding the Unforgettable Tour in London and has a quick five minute chat with dimpled beauty Preity Zinta who is a part of this world wide extravaganza.

The O2 Arena is like a place from another planet when you first see it! This is a huge entertainment district which includes an indoor arena, a music club, cinema, exhibition space, bars and restaurants. All inside the former huge dome-shaped Millenium Dome, O2 Arena, popularly known as the 'Dome's Canopy' was designed for all kinds of different events and one such event is going to take place in this arena on August 24 when the Unforgettable Tour unleashes its magic for all the Bollywood lovers in and around the U.K. Britain is the heart and soul of live music and what better world class facility is Bollywood going to get than to perform in Europe's finest music venue. The £758m Dome was built as a Millennium project and opened in 2000 and has witnessed some of music industries finest talents from across the globe like Bon Jovi, Elton John, Take That, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Rolling Stones, etc. The names keep on rolling... but there is one name which will make the world of difference when it comes to concerts at the O2, The Unforgettable Tour 2008, which boasts of a star studded line up including the dancing diva of Bollywood, Madhuri Dixit, the sweet and chirpy Preity Zinta, the lovable Ritesh Deshmukh, the hummable duo Vishal & Shekhar, the ultra slim & sexy Shilpa Shetty, the new Kinng of Bollywood Akshay Kumar and for the first time on an international concert together comes the power of three - The Bachchan Trio, Abhishek, Aishwarya and Amitabh. Pheww! Can't get bigger than this!

With perfect sight-lines from every angle, crystal clear acoustics, obscenely comfy seating, wide concourses between aisles and a huge variety of snack and drink options to enjoy throughout the show, the O2 Arena is also fitted with - believe it or not - 548 toilets to avoid the excruciatingly painful and frustrating half an hour queue for the loo. Now that's a.....relief!!! From London, let's now move to Mumbai where all our Bollywood stars are busy rehearsing for their grand tour which flags off on July 18 in Toronto and ends in London on August 24. As you can already see the line up, it will not be surprising to see all your favourite celebs performing dance numbers to the tunes of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Dhoom and Dhoom 2, Bluffmaster, Guru and not to forget, Kajra Re with all the three Bachchans. Though it will be even more surprising to see the Big B perform on some of his evergreen songs from his 1980's films. I can start feeling the excitement of the crazy and the ever so loyal Bollywood fans who will be the many few to get their hands on the front row seats. But what about those who will have to sit miles away from their favourite stars? Well, they need not worry. I mean, koi toh chahiye na...seete maarne ke liye? I can visualise all the aunties draped in their designer costly chiffon sarees and glittery punjabi dresses, uncles with their Ray Ban goggles trying to see what the aunties can't, young, spiked and hip-hop boys trying to show the slimmest and the fittest babes that they are their ultimate heroes and above all, the unforgettable kids who have to cry on top of their voice to get that extra added attention. All this will be seen outside the arena but the moment all these trend setters start going inside the arena, to hell with the creased saree, the Ray Ban slips in the pocket, the boys change their viewpoint and the girls forget all about their puff and pancake routine. I know I forgot the kids. But they are the first ones to queue up just seconds before the show is about to start. Remember the number 548?

Whether it is the famous Wembley Arena or the O2 Arena, one thing is certain, it will only take seconds to fill it up. And while most of you must be impatiently waiting to see your favourite stars in action, here's something for you to cherish about in the mean time. Last weekend, I caught up with actress Preity Zinta who gave very little away in terms of what's going to be their game plan for the Unforgettable Tour. Though she did mention what made this particular tour better than the rest of the world wide tours she has been a part of. "The fact that there is a completely new star cast who have never been on the world concert before, that's one of the USP's. Different people from different countries are going to get a different taste of the Unforgettable Tour. Canada will have Akshay Kumar as a guest performer, Madhuri Dixit is going to tour America with us and Shilpa Shetty as we all know is a U.K favourite. Plus all the choreography is done by Shiamak Davar who will also be performing. He is par excellence in choreography. There are lots more surprises installed. You'll just have to wait and watch", revealed the zealous Zinta. Preity will also be performing with Abhishek Bachchan on the title track of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and a romantic number from the same film which goes 'Bol Na Halke Halke'. So on asking her whether I got the tracks right, she laughs and replies, "I am sorry but we are not allowed to disclose out on which numbers we are going to perform and if your guess is as good as mine, you're lucky. Yes, you can predict the songs seeing my pairing with Abhishek. But that's it. There's lot more to look out for". Looking at the home page of the Unforgettable Tour website, the thing which catches your eye are the exclusive red coloured outfits which the stars have put on, symbolising glitz and glamour. So who have designed these outfits? I asked Preity, to which she replied, "Well, many of the outfits are designed by Manish Malhotra and there are other designers too on board." With only three weeks to go before this mega tour kicks off, Zinta sounds elated. "Lot of preparation is going in for the tour as of now. We all are very excited and are rehearsing for three to four hours a day. New things are coming up everyday and so is the entry of guest stars", revealed Preity. The versatile actress has in the past been a part of a world tour couple of years ago called the Temptations Tour with Shahrukh Khan. Be it on the cricket field, big screen or on the stage, this dimpled beauty has impressed on and all, but I still have my sixth sense telling me that the Unforgettable Tour is hiding something quite dark in it's promotions and will pull the rabbit out of the hat only at the right time. What you are seeing is not what you may get. "I think whatever you get is going to be more than what you expect. I can promise you that. There is going to be a lot of everything in this show. I don't want to talk much about it because it's better you all watch and see us", said the talented performer. She further adds, "This is going to be the biggest world tour coming out of the Indian Film Industry and all credit goes to Wizcraft in the way they've put the show up. Not to forget, we too have done our part to push it to another level (laughs)". The Unforgettable Tour also has it's coincidences. The first world tour in which Preity Zinta was a part of had Aishwarya Rai. And this one reunites them. "I have seen all the three Bachchans perform before and I see them all the time as they are my friends but what's good is that the fans haven't seen them together on stage and it's going to be a one off experience for them", Preity told me. Having done about three hundred interviews on the weekend before she spoke to me, Zinta sounded a bit jaded and tired. So before she calls it a day, I fired a couple of last questions to her. I asked her to explain me why she wasn't seen much in the U.K over the past couple of years and was she excited to be coming and performing at the O2 Arena for the first time where famous internatinal celebs have given live performances. She replied, "I was there in Yorkshire IIFA's last year. It's always a pleasure to come to London to perform. Usually I've been to Wembley quite a few times but this is going to be an even bigger and a better experience. Londoners have also been very vocal about how they feel and it's always a place where you get maximum people screaming and shouting and going nuts. I am looking forward to it." So whether you're lucky to get your hands on the tickets or unlucky, one things sure - Bollywood Hungama will try and make sure to keep you updated with all the latest interviews from the star performers and much more. Watch this space! And before Preity Zinta says good bye, a piece of advice from her. "We are coming and I want everyone to be there. I promise we won't let you down because we are going to put up one hell of a great show. So be there".

Friday, 20 June 2008

Saif Ali Khan & Kunal Kohli get candid, funny, serious and laid back at the Press meet in London for their film Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic

Exclusive by Devansh Patel

"Let's name some of Saif's films - Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, Hum Tum, Parineeta, Being Cyrus, Omkara, Race, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. You pick up a photograph of his from any of these films and you cannot put it in any other film because they are such different characters." So as director Kunal Kohli starts off the Press Meet in London by lavishing praise on his actor and friend Saif Ali Khan who happens to be sitting next to him in his green jumper and blue jeans, one wonders what else was going to be so different from this media event for Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic? For starters, let me tell you that Yash Raj Films UK very rarely organise Press Conferences. I remember the last time they invited the media was for SRK's Chak De India premiere here in London. Having said that, I wasn't surprised that the drinks were on the house. What took me by surprise was that the Bentley Hotel staff served us some mouth watering starters,Makki di roti aur sarson da saag and pani puri (go gappa). Now where in a 4 star hotel in London will you be pampered so much? So while many of us from the Asian media thought that the chit chat will be all so cliched with the same old chairs and tables with glasses full of water kept for the stars and directors in case they feel the heat of the questions, we were also surprised to see two arm chairs kept on either side of Saif and Kunal Kohli where they began their very casual and an informal one to one with the media while sipping a cup of tea. And talking of surprises, the biggest one came from nobody. I mean, media weren't allowed to ask question on Kareena. What followed next was one of the best press junkets I've been to, for it was all so laid back, cool, funny and ofcourse, full of surprises.

Do you prefer working with the children than the adults?
Saif - It's hard to say really. Some adults can be difficult and some children can be too. But there is a saying that talks about working with animals and children and it's like something you can get in trouble with. The children have weird working patterns. They want to go to sleep, sometimes they have to work till four in the morning. But Kunal stuck to his thought of casting kids who wouldn't look filmi. They should be nothing rehearsed or perfect about them. They should look real, and they were. All four kids brought in a lot of positive energy to the set. Whether it was the freezing water or the early mornings, it was never a problem to work with these kids.

You and Rani have worked so good together. Who's your favourite actress to work with? Is it Rani or somebody else?
Saif - I don't know how to answer that one. I've enjoyed working with Kareena Kapoor as well. I've had a lot of fun working with Preity Zinta too. My co producer for this film, Adi Chopra, thinks that I make Rani cool and he thinks she grounds me. So we both have facets in strength that the other lacks a little bit which is what makes our pair so interesting. Chemistry on screen has nothing to do with real life. I was talking to my father the other day and he was telling me that often in the past, apart from very few examples, real life lovers don't make for great screen partners because there is no expectation or tension. Rani and I did not get along well in Hum Tum but people thought we made an excellent onscreen pair. My favourite personal costar would be Kareena. But working with Rani has been the most effective on screen. While most of the time we were discussing my private life off the sets, I think she is one of the most real and down to earth people in real life and certainly one of the most talented actresses in our film industry.

You've done loads of different parts in your films and the general view point is that Omkara has been the strongest you've ever been as an actor. Do you agree with me?
Saif - Let's deal with this from the very begining. There is this cafe in Bandra near the sea side. I was doing one of the many crap films I've done in the past like a lot of the films I did for the first ten years of my career. So instead of concentrating on the lines for the shot, I was looking at the wall of the coffee shop. I saw fifteen pictures of Brad Pitt and in each picture he was looking different. And I just happened to think that it's really bad that I am looking the same in every film that I've done. As an actor, if you see, Brad Pitt has really long hair in Seven Years in Tibet, he has got no hair in Seven, etc. That thought stayed with me for long. We should approach each film like a different person and try and look and act differently. Little things challenge me. I've been a very lazy and a protective kind of guy all my life. That does not mean that my father did not give me any money while I was seventeen years old (laughs). Nobody's going to buy that because I think I have a spoilt face and on top of that I'm a nawab (laughs). The fact of the matter is that I was in a pretty self made kind of an experience. While playing Omkara, everything is put on. A limp is put on when I walk, a hair cut is put on, there is one gold tooth, a red nail and an accent. It was a performance that was learnt and created. That's easy. But it's equally difficult to do Hum Tum too which is like series of conversations. There is no drama but a mere argument between a guy and a girl for two hours. It was more burden to carry Hum Tum than Omkara because you had to be charming, looking fresh, not too loud and at the same time a bit engaging so that the people would love to watch you talk to a girl. Why would any actor want to do that? I mean it's so much easier to kill a guy entertainingly (laughs). A film like When Harry met Sally is harder to make and act in than Rambo. I'd say that without offending either Slyvester Stallone or the directors of Rambo. I hope that answers your question.

We want to cover your films but we cant write about what we have not seen. When are we going to get a proper advance press preview of TPTM?
Kunal - That's a very good question.
Saif - At Yash Raj, even we don't get to see the movie weeks in advance. (everyone laughs)
Kunal - I think that's a very valid point and I will discuss that with Avtar Panesar from Yash Raj. But it definitely cant be a month in advance like how you watch previews of Hollywood films. That's very dangerous. We all love our films and we're very scared of getting two star or one star reviews. Though personally speaking, I don't believe that reviews make a difference without offending any critics sitting here because I got two stars for Hum Tum all over and the same for Fanaa and Mujhse Dosti Karoge. For a second, I thought that I am a two star film maker. That's fine. Business of each film was varied. Mujhse Dosti Karoge worked big time in the U.K and flopped in India but Hum Tum was a big hit. It got a National Award. Fanaa was a huge success too inspite of the review. But sometimes what happens is that you tend to spread the negative vibe about a film. We Indians like to protect our films a bit. I don't think there should be any problem to try and show the film on a Wednesday or a Thursday before the release on Friday. But a couple of weeks or months in advance is really difficult. I don't see it happening with anyone from India.
Saif - I think Kunal is being a bit too kind here. I'd rather prefer critics not writing any review (laughs). On a serious note, I think you and everyone present here have the right to review our films a day or two in advance before it releases because if the review comes out two months before the film, and if it's like an impersonal or a damaging review, I don't think it makes a good marketing sense. Indian films function on different levels. But having said that, the Press is important to us.

How much of a real dad do we see you on screen and have your kids seen the film yet?
Saif - I don't know how relevant it is. I suppose if I didn't have any children, I'd go mad doing this role. People generally talk to children like they are adults. I mean, you don't talk with them like they are some animated creatures. Yes, you are kind, warm and sometimes having to explain things that are really difficult. Like if there is a God, why is there so much of suffering in the world? Why did Granny die? Where is she? But I still try to answer these questions. I think it's easy and you don't have to be a father figure to fit the role. But when Kunal offered me this role, many said that TPTM is a Marry Poppins copy and inspired. And why is it that even if we can't get inspired from a Hollywood movie? Just because it's an American movie, it's a problem, but if it was a very little on japanese take, it would've been even more exotic to copy. But anyways, here I am playing the daddy. Sharp businessman, almost like a Yash Raj equivalent of Bruce Wayne. There are many parallels between Ranbeer's character which I play and Bruce Wayne. He has also got a butler like Alfred. He is highly succesful, brilliant at what he does and hasn't got time to sort out his life. So when I am put in a situation to handle these four kids, that brings out the best in him.
Kunal - There is also a certain reason why the kids hate Saif in the film, which I can't give out. Saif too is very uncomfortable with the kids. That was something which was difficult because if you happen to see Saif with his kids, he is very warm and loving and caring like most parents are. That was a challenge for Saif because he had to be aloof from them.

Do you associate yourself with the character you play in TPTM?
Saif - Apart from a certain amount of compassion, not at all. Ranbeer Talwar is like a sharp businessman an no interest what so ever in worldly pleasures. I am far more indisciplined (laughs). If you gave me that kind of money and the lifestyle, I'd make a definite mess of it (everyone laughs). Also, I did associate myself with late Sanjeev Kumar saab. I certainly realised that I am playing a little bit older than my age in those waist coats and suits. I felt a bit like an uncle. I was worried.

Let's talk about the critical acclaim which Saif has very rarely shown on screen for Ek Hasina Thi, Being Cyrus, Dil Chahta Hai and Omkara. Do you wish to cast Saif the next time you direct him in roles completely different like the ones just mentioned or is it just going to the same Yash Raj type of roles?
Kunal - Well, he has got a lot of criticall acclaim for Hum Tum and has won the national award for it too. I find it very strange when people say the word 'typical Yash Raj kind of role' because all my four films were different from each other. You can't call Fanaa a typical Yash Raj film because it's a terrorist who falls in love. When did that happen last in a Yash Raj Film? I don't want to make Saif look or do roles like the ones you've mentioned because he has already done those before. I want to show him different each time I cast him. TPTM is a Saif you've never seen before.
Saif - The cocept of Yash Raj Films have surely changed ever since Yashji has stopped directing. Shimit Amin's Chak De India is too a Yash Raj Film. In my experience, Kunal is a very varied film maker because otherwise, many start telling the same kind of stories. Look at Hollywood also. M.Night Shyamalan would be interested in his scientific thrillers. Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese, etc will make the same genre films. Nothing new. Likewise, authors who write books will follow the same kind of theme. Kundan Shah was telling me once that directors like these make the same kind of films over and over again in many ways. Like Steven Speilbergs Jaws and Schindlers List has a lot in common. One is about a ferocious shark all alone in water and the other is about a man alone in the army. Our audiences are also quite lucky because they've got a chance to see Ek Hasina Thi on Friday, see DDLJ on a Saturday and Parineeta on a Sunday. Kunal sometimes tells me that his next film should be different and I reciprocate and tell him - Why? But he says - No. But then there's Sriram Raghavan who will make another dark thriller one day with me. So it's lucky for me. Vishal Bhardwaj won't come to me and say that I want to make Hum Tum. As an actor, we are lucky that we've got to work with all kinds of directors who explore your hidden talent.

What more can we expect from you?
Saif - There was a time when I actually knew that. I was doing such bad work four years ago that I was really frustrated. Somethings got to change. I didn't come in this industry as a super-hated or a cult figure overnight. Yes, it has happened to many and it's one of the ways to enter the industry. Mine is a very unique case. I've just learnt how to cope up and survive in the last five to six years with hitting a reasonable amount of success. There is a lack of fear in me which I like. I'd like to be a big star and earn crores of ruppees and then go and do a film like Being Cyrus. Someone would then question - What the hell? and I'd then answer - Well, that's what I wanted to do this summer because it's just a movie at the end of the day and why should it matter. I don't want to be a slave at the box office. You often get confused just like how I am now (laughs). Right now I again feel like going back because Omkara and Being Cyrus didn't run so much at the box office. I don't think it's a great idea to be too clever in your choices also. But it will be a balance. One day I'm in Melbourne with my hair spiked and dancing in my shorts with Preity Zinta, the next month 'm on this huge set with my hair shaved off going rustic and then I'm in Mahabaleshwar and it's awful because we could have been in New York making a feel goog entertainer, but No. We are in a thrid rate hotel drinking some crap whiskey at two in the morning. But that's the way I see my life. It's good. But you know what I mean?

What was your most favourite magical moment while filming this magical film? and did you play any pranks on or off the set?
Saif - You know, I've got such short term memory. I can hardly remember anything. Yes, I do remember turning up for work on the sets. I think I've become quite boring now-a-days. Somebody just told me that it's the often asked question like did you play any pranks on the sets and I think I should start now so that I have an interesting answer to this question (everyone laughs). It makes it sound awful if I say that there wasn't anything outstanding while filming. The only thing I was up to was to annoy Rani. I know what you mean, I should've asked Iqbal, the small kid who plays the sardar to poison someones coffee or something (laughs).
Kunal - For me, the most magical moment will be for the film to open up with house full boards and faring well by doing good business at the box office (laughs).

You just mentioned that you've done not so great acting when you started off your career in acting. Now you look great and have excelled. Given a choice, whom would you choose as a director or producer who would project you the best now?
Saif - Yeah,, Kunal's definitely up there. He is good because Hum Tum was a big success for me personally. Omkara was a performance in its own league. Even if he wasn't sitting next to me, I'd take his name. Also Sriram Raghavan because it's a completely different school. I enjoyed Ek Hasina Thi a lot. Kunal and I may have a lot in common like talking about the same subject, drinking the same drink, eating the same kind of food, but when you take it to another level like what happened to me with Pradeep Sarkar who directed me in Parineeta. He wanted to work with me again but didn't work out. I was really amazed.

All four films you've produced are with Yash Raj - TPTM being your first production jointly produced by both. But have you thought of producing your fifth film as a solo producer?
Kunal - I hope Adi Chopra is not hearing this (laughs). No. I haven't thought of it yet. But I really cannot think of producing any of my films without Yash Raj Films because of the rapport and understanding I've shared with them since my first film. Not to forget, all our films have done decent business and some even more. And it's not about investing money individually. I can do that but why make a solo production when you've got a family backing you? Yash Raj is family for me.

Friday, 13 June 2008

What happened when Abhishek Bachchan called me up after Sarkar Raj's release? Read the full story!!

It was one of those rare sunny afternoon in London. The wind whipped my hair with the ferocity. Speaking of jet lags, my head ached with the dull throb of the morning after; my mouth pasty; my body stiff. All this and it was a day when Abhishek Bachchan had to call me up on Ram Gopal Varma's request for a special interview post Sarkar Raj. I wait impatiently for a call from Mumbai. It was 3pm to be precise and my mobile rings. "Hi, can I speak to Mr Patel please?". I answer, "Yes, speaking." The young husky voice replied back, "Hi, How are you? This is Abhishek Bachchan, Ramu just gave me your number and asked me to speak with you. But can I call you in half an hour as I'm just going in for a shot?" Without further ado and running out of words, I answered, "Alright. that's fine." The devil on my right shoulder began whispering - If Abhishek doesn't call you in half an hour, he will not call today, just go home and do not wait for his call - and he went on and on like that. The angel on my other shoulder didn't say much, but what he did say, spoke volumes. Abhishek...Abhishek...Abhishek. I smelled the coffee for one last time, packed my bag and stared at my watch in amusement. It was 5.30pm, time to leave the office. So as I pushed open the door, the devil once again reminded me - Didn't I say, he won't call. Within couple of minutes I boarded the train back home and then the unthinkable happens. My phone beeps, the text message reads - Can I call up now? - It was Abhishek Bachchan. And just as the screechy doors of the metropolitan line train were about to shut, I rushed out in time and replied back to A.B.Junior saying - Yes. In less than thirty seconds the display screen on my phone reads - Abhishek Bachchan calling. The moment I've been waiting for since a month arrives. I looked, paused, looked again and answered my phone. Then the fun began and some serious conversation took place, all on the noisy railway platform in Uxbridge.

The film is really doing well in the U.K. Is it right in saying that the Bachchan's have unanimously taken the power in the overseas with Sarkar Raj?
Well, I don't know if that could be a statement but yes, the film is doing well and we're very excited about that. I think from the genre of film that it is, it's almost path breaking that the film should be recording the kind of collections that it has, which is very encouraging and means that the audiences in the U.K are willing to watch this kind of cinema as well.

It all started from Refugee, then after a long wait came Yuva, Guru, Sarkar and now Sarkar Raj. All the films I've mentioned have got you critical acclaim. But does that mean, the more grim, intense and ferocious side of you is shown, the better you have performed and excelled?
That's actually for you'll to decide but I'd also like to believe that movies like Bunty Aur Babli and Bluffmaster also went on to become successful which were lighter in nature than the films you just mentioned. I think at the end of the day it's the film and its characters which appeal to you and not any one particular genre.

Both Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag and Sarkar Raj have proved that how unpredictable Ramu can get as a director. Is that a good sign for an actor like you who has worked with him before and who might work with him again?
Ofcourse yes. You know my greatest attraction to him as a director is that he is unpredictable and that he is forever trying to do something different and he throws a lot of challenges at his actors and as an actor you really enjoy being challenged. He is always accused of attempting the same kind of cinema which I disagree with. I think it's very exciting because at the end of the day the fate of the film at the box office is not in our hands. The only thing we can do is make films which we believe in.

What would you like to say or convey to some of the critics who've blatantly abused Sarkar Raj the film on a much personal level than a professional one? Isn't this taking it too far?
I believe that everybody has the right to say whatever they want - right or wrong - I've always held critics in very high esteem because as far as an actor is concerned, they give you a ready reference as to what the audience might be feeling. If they don't agree with you or they don't agree with the film, I don't see that's any reason to get personal. But I respect what they say and if I think that the points they've made are valid, I'll definitely incorporate that the next time around. It doesn't really affect me to be very honest that at the end of the day, one critic can make or break a film.

Your death in the film has come as a surprise to many. Was death inevitable?
I don't think so. I just think that initially when we worked on the script of Sarkar, Shankar Nagre was going to reign throughout the film but about a month or two into the scripting, Ramu came up with this brilliant idea that Shankar Nagre's character would achieve a different level of respectability in the audiences eyes if he dies for the cause he believed in. Not to say that we made him into a martyr but we all felt that it would give him a certain amount of lift in terms of his character if we took this route. And at the end of the day, all that is left is Subhash Nagre and Chikoo.

As I've written in my review that Ramu has left so much space by the end of the film that he might be able to start work on the Sarkar Trilogy. On a personal level, what do you think?
Yeah. I think it'll be interesting. Ramu is a very exciting director and he will do justice to the thrid part too. As you said that Ramu has left it open ended and any time he wants to reprise the film, the most exciting part would be to see dad play Subhash Nagre again with the same sheer intensity as he did in both the earlier outings. I really think he was outstanding in Sarkar and in Sarkar Raj he was just awesome. He has managed to outdo the performance he has done in Sarkar and I genuinely feel that this was one of his best performances ever. I'd be more than happy for a fan of this series and of the franchise to see it carry on with Sarkar Trilogy.

The Bachchans are getting busier day by day. The IIFA's, then Sarkar Raj, then the Sarkar Raj road rally followed up by your Unforgettable Tour. Busy people are happy people, as they say. What say?
(laughs). Well, the Sarkar Raj rally is happening within India. We've already been to Gurgaon and Delhi. We will be going in a couple of days to other cities within India to promote the film and mostly interact with the audiences and the fans. We had a wonderful experience in Gurgaon with the local media and our fans. It was an overwhelming experience to see that kind of love and outpouring of the kind of people that came. It's a unique idea and we're looking forward to it. And then mid July, we embark on the Unforgettable World Tour which actually ends up at the end of August in London. That'll be a lot of fun. And we are happy. That answers your second part of the question.

Today completes one week of the films release in the U.K and Sarkar Raj has already grossed more than quarter of a million pounds here. It also marks Ramu's highest ever collections in the U.K too. Any comments?
I am happy for Ramu and the entire team of Sarkar Raj. But it's not only U.K, the collections in certain parts of India are huge too. America's collection is equally good like in the U.K, if not, may be slightly more because it is a larger market. But at the end of the day what counts is that the thriller genre is getting accepted in the U.K, which traditionally, never used to work. U.K audiences tend to favour the more Yash Raj brand of cinema which is a family entertainer with a lot of song and dance and culture. Very honestly, we the team of Sarkar Raj never expected the film to do much in the overseas market because of these statistics. The figures you've given me comes as a pleasant surprise that it's doing exceeding business in the U.K.

Sarkar and Sarkar Raj once again proved that the Hindi films aren't just about song and dance routine. Do you think more and more films should be made keeping in mind the success of such films?
Most definitely. When Sarkar was first made, it was a songless films. So was Black, for that matter, and they both went on to be very successful films. It just proved that the audience is willing to see films without songs and now Sarkar Raj has proved it again. And that's three in a row for dad too. We can sing to it (laughs).

Sarkar Raj is filled with sepia tones, black and grey shades and haunting background score. The film has continued from where it ended. Don't you think Ramu should've experimented a bit this time around?
I definitely feel that Sarkar Raj picks up and continues its style that Ramu had implied during Sarkar and this was something that needed to be constant in the film which is the way in which you tell the story and the technique used to convey the story. I hope when the trilogy is made, it still doesn't shift its focus.

Working together with the family for the first time would've been a great experience for you. But does it also bring in enough power in your performance when you see your dad and wife opposite you in the same frame?
Yes. Once the camera rolls, you're a professional and that is exactly how you should be. As actors, we can't allow our inter-personal relations to come in the way of our acting. But the minute Ramu said - Cut it - we were family again and it was great fun. Both dad and Aishwarya are actors with whom I've worked in the past and have enjoyed working with, and before Aishwarya and me were together, as a couple, we've done many films. Infact, she is one co-artist I've done maximum films with. So when you are facing Indian Film Industrys finest, you need to have the power to face them.

What did you learn from Sarkar Raj which you did not from Sarkar?
There is so much to take away from a film that it becomes that much more an important an a memorable experience. I took away a lot from the film. First and foremost is that RGV ki Aag released during the making of Sarkar Raj and I really saw Ramu go through this entire journey of emotions after his film failed, which we all know, and I really learnt the strengths of character that Ram Gopal Varma as a director has. You need to know that this was the same man who got lambasted for making such a film. But I really felt that the media and many others really went after him unfairly. I applaud Ramu for the way he handled that situation and the strength with which and the conviction with which he continued to believe in Sarkar Raj and didn't panic and still made the film which he set out to make. It speaks volumes for Ramu as a director and as a person.

From your natural acting in Sarkar we will now see you possess some super-natural powers in Drona.
This is a tag that the media has put on because they have nothing else to write over here by calling it a film with super batural powers. But it's not a super hero film, contrary to popular belief, it is a modern day fantasy in which I play a king. There is a lot of magic in the film but that doesn't make it super natural. I wouldn't compare it to Krishh too. I am really excited about Drona because I've never attempted something like this before. Infact, something like Drona has never been made in the history of Indian cinema. So we all are working very hard on it and looking forward for it.

Any message you'd like to convey to people who haven't yet watched Sarkar Raj?
Obviously the first message will be - Please go watch it (laughs). Sarkar Raj is a brilliant film in all aspects and credit goes to Ram Gopal Varma. Secondly, fantastic performances from dad and Aishwarya and if you're my fan... do I have to say anythign further? (laughs)

Whom would you pick to play Chikoo in the Sarkar Raj trilogy?
It'll be nice to see Hrithik Roshan play the role of Chikoo and more interesting will be the Ram Gopal Varma combination with Hrithik. That'll be an exciting watch.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Rani Mukerji's exclusive interview for Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic

When you look like Rani Mukerji, producers are going to fall over themselves offering you the "big" roles — as the romantic interest of the real star of the film. What's more, when the actress in is Rani herself, you just cannot think twice. But Kunal Kohli did. For the very first time onscreen, you will see Rani Mukerji not being able to love her co-star Saif Ali Khan in Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. In an exclusive interview for Bollywood Hungama, Mukerji confesses that it's a testament to her acting skills that she carried off the role with such aplomb, as Devansh Patel finds out more.

What fairy or angel stories influenced you when you were growing up?
That's a good question, a little different from what the others are asking me (laughs). I've seen Mary Poppins and I loved it because we used to sing one of the very famous songs from that film in my singing class which I can't recall now. That's one film. And ofcourse, Sound of Music, though she wasn't an angel in the film but that was one movie I really liked watching as a kid and even now.

You are not only a movie star but a character actress as well. I mean, how hard do you have to work to create the characters you have portrayed in films such as Black, Bunty Aur Babli, Hum Tum and now Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic?
It takes a little bit of your focus to get into the skin of any character. I think I just have to be a bit more observant of the people and watch them in different walks of life and draw inspiration from it. In Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, this angel is a lot Indianized and unfortunately I could not get inspired for my role because I haven't seen a real life angel but I've just given my own touch to it.

The film has got fantasy, it's got reality, kids, Saif Ali Khan and yourself. So what's new in the film that tags it 'unusual'?
What is unusual is that I am playing an angel and I don't think that the Indian cinema, in the last 50 years, has made a film like TPTM. We have had films like Mr India, Koi Mil Gaya and Krishh. But we really haven't seen any women doing anything with super-natural powers before. So this is one film which is a perfect blend between fantasy and real life, and that is TPTM's USP. What's more is that I am not allowed to love in the film. That makes it a bit unusual too, isn't it?

We don't usually see angels perform stunts. But did you come across any cliff-hanging expereince in TPTM?
There aren't any such stunts as you mentioned but it's just me cycling down the rainbow to get to the Earth and sitting on different planets trying to create lunar and solar eclipse, so she basically does these things because she is a brat angel who loves to play pranks like throws stars on other angels and harrases them and floats on the swimming pool when she is made to fall down in the pool, etc. These are some of the many things she does in the film.

From being a brat, lets move on to some emotions. We've seen how well you can portray emotions in films. Then what challenged you as an actress for a role like this one which has no emotions?
I think that was something that really made me do this film in the first place because it was my first film in which I will not be seen crying and for me that's wonderful because I have played so many characters who cry in each and every film. Infact, Kunal Kohli has saved a lot of glycerine in this film (laughs).

You're 12 years old in the Hindi Film Industry and now that you've become so choosy, do you find that you've become too old for certain roles or too young for other roles?
I don't think anybody can be too old or too young for any role. It just depends on what kind of role you want to do and you have to be intelligent enough to choose roles which you feel that the audiences would like to see you in. Bearing in mind mu height, I can't play a teenage girl of 16 in any film. That will push it a bit too far. But having said that, in movie making, there is nothing impossible that the actors can or can't do. It depends on how fit you are and how good you look. Personally, I'd like to do roles that I enjoy playing and I feel something worthwhile to do in it rather than decide I'm too old or too young for it.

A film like TPTM will surely end something like - '...and happily ever after'. Do you think it's just a myth or can Bollywood change the happy endings in such films?
Kids are so optimistic by nature and they are so positive that I think, any film with kids in them should have a happy ending because these kids are the future of our country who will bring a change in our society, for good, I hope. Plus, there is so much violence out there in the real world that it's wise to show good side in kids and end the film on a happy note.

Is there any frustration after you've done the film and seen it and it all works fine, but you know you could have done something else to make it work better?
I think that happens with every actor. I don't think that's only with me. All the good actors are always complaining about their work not being good and that they could've done better. But film making is all about that moment where you take the shot and where the shot is canned and you have to be as spontanious and as good as you can be at that point of time. Then they can spend their entire lifetime thinking that Oh, I could have been better. The fact is, when a shot is canned, you have to be focused and have all your energies in that particular shot because it's gone into celluloid forever.

What was it like joining a cast and crew that had already worked together?
It just makes it simpler and much easier. This is Saif's second film with Kunal but my third film with both of them. So I have a great working relationship with them and a great rapport. When you are working with like minded people, it just becomes easier to work.

Out of all the Kunal Kohli films you've done, what would you consider your most memorable one?
Hum Tum because I got my first Best actress award for that film which makes it all the more special.

Any aspects of your character you identify with while playing the angel, besides being a brat?
(Laughs) Yes, I do by bringing in a lot of happiness in peoples life and always smiling.

When you talk about any angel, you create in your mind a special wardrobe for them which any director would. But has the designer made your look very simple or is it something extra special we'll be seeing in the film?
When she is in heaven, she is dressed up like the other angels but when she comes on Earth, she has a different wardrobe and that is one look that she has in the entire film. We could have experimented with many things but as we did not specifically know and have not seen any angel in real life, we had to go by the fairy tale books, paintings and costumes worn by other actors who have portrayed the role of angels before. The costumes aren't that special but the acting is.

How does it feel not being able to love your co-star in TPTM?
I think it's very interesting because I've already played a lot of romantic roles and love romancing on screen. This was one welcome change in my character. And as you know I'm very hungry and excited to play different roles, this was also one of them which I really enjoyed playing.

With so many stars turning bloggers, when do we see you join the elite club?
When I really find the time to do that. Right now, I'm too busy and loaded with work.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The first ever review of SARKAR RAJ by Devansh Patel from London

Exclusive by Devansh Patel - Sarkar Raj is One of those sublimely rare movies in which every element–casting, acting, directing, script, cinematography, score–comes together.

It is an incredibly rare occurrence for a sequel to be as good as or better than the original. Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar Raj not only lives up to its predecessor's (Sarkar's) reputation but equals and, in some respects, exceeds it, as Devansh Patel from the Observer series newspapers, London, bring you the first ever review of the film

The first film, Sarkar, concluded as Shankar Nagre (Abhishek Bachchan) evened up the score in the attempted murder of his father by killing his own brother Vishnu (Kay Kay Menon) and his fellow masterminds Rashid, Selva Mani, Vishram Bhagat and the Swamiji. In this wonderful follow up, Shankar begins working in earnest to fulfill his role as the new Sarkar. But the question is - Will he be successful? The movie starts off with this big question in everyones mind as the film title begins to roll.

It's Subhash Nagre's (Amitabh Bachchan's) 60th birthday where he is seen greeting the public by a short speech which goes something like this - "Har baap yeh umeed mein jeeta hain ki ek din apne bete se uski haar ho. Ab tak maine jo kuch bhi kiya, mere bete ne woh do saal mein kar dikhaya". Sarkar's life is still the same. His most trusted associate Chander (Ravi Kale) is responsible for the security of Sarkar and the day to day proceedings, from Sarkar's black lungi to his tilak to his body-guards, everything is in the same order and nothing has really changed apart from Shankar's clever way of handling the business. But when everything seems to be going fine in a Bollywood film, we know that there are bound to be some baddies hiding behind the bush. So one fine day, Hassan Qazi (Govind Namdeo) and deputy Chief Minister Kanga (Shayaji Shinde) briefly talk about their new plan to get rid of Sarkar and his regime by trying to set up a meeting with a London based business tycoon Anita (Aishwarya Rai) and her father Mike (Victor Banerjee). Both the father and the daughter want to set up a power plant in Maharashtra's Thakarwadi village, which happens to be the same village where Sarkar studied all the tricks of the trade from his guru Rao Saab (Dilip Prabhavalkar) but Hassan Qazi urges them to meet Sarkar because it is his decision which will have the final say whether or not the power plant will be set up. Anita now comes with Hassan Qazi to Mumbai to meet Sarkar only to find out that he isn't happy with her power plant idea as it will ruin the 40,000 houses of the villagers. But Shankar has other plans. He convinces Sarkar by saying Nazdiki nuksaan dekhne se pehle...door ka fayda dekhna chahiye. But the green signal hasn't been given yet because Sarkar believes that he still needs to talk to Rao Saab, his mentor, and take his final call. The verdict was out and both Anita and Shankar get busy in setting up their dream project in Thakarwadi. But wait...the road is not all clear. Come Sanjay Somji (Rajesh Shringapure), the grandson of Rao saab. Short tempered and the one who does not support western influences stands as a wall in front of those who want to build the power plant. He starts provoking the villagers against Shankar and Sarkar. Though Shankar still thinks that it is because of his ignorance that Somji is taking such harsh measures. So while talking to Somji over the phone, Shankar's car explodes. Who dies? Well, it's for you to find out. The 'cannot take no for an answer' Shankar is gutted by the lack of security and soon fires his 20 year old vafadaar Chander and appoints Bala as his new head of security. The question to be asked here is, why does Shankar fire Chander knowing that who planted the bomb in his car. Again...for you to find out. In between all this mishap, the next Indian Idol, Kantilal Vora, not Vohra, (Upyendra Limaye) comes in the picture to set up the same power plant in Gujarat. Then, Somji gets kidnapped, Shankar is out of the project as Kantilal Vora steps in, Chander unites with Shankar again, a surprise killer called Negi enters the scene to kill.....ha ha ...not gonna tell you...the Press conference, Sarkar in hospital because of heart attack, and before we know that Anita and Shankar fall in love...Yes! you heard...something happens!

By the end of all this, you must be ignoring this review and wanting to book your tickets to see this well executed film. Ram Gopal Varma handles a lot of the sequels material very well. As in the earlier film, he reveals himself as a master of mood, atmosphere, and period. And his exposition is inventive and subtle. The film requires the intelligent participation of the viewer; as the Nagres attempts to discover who betrayed them just like in their previous encounters with the baddies. Varma handles the transitions adroitly, keeping the pace consistent enough to limit any sense of jarring or disorientation. Having said that, he has left so much space by the end of the film giving it yet another chance to make the Sarkar trilogy. Mr Varma, you are sure back with a vengeance!

Performances take off from where they left in Sarkar. Abhishek delivers his best after Yuva and Guru and is very good at suggesting the furies and passions that lie just beneath his character's controlled exterior. He gives us a Shankar who took over the family proceedings with the intention of making it "legitimate" in couple of years, but who is drawn more and more deeply into a byzantine web of deceit and betrayal, all papered over with code words like respect, honor, and gratitude. New entrant Anita played by Aishwarya Rai does come in handy and even though she hasn't been used to the extent what RGV should've, she delivers each scene with panache, like her scene with Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek in the hospital. But not to forget, it is her character which will always question you - 'What next?'
Tanisha as Shankar's wife fills in the blanks while the other character actors like Chander, Kanga, Vora, Somji, Rao saab and Qazi are used very effectively giving each one of them an equal oppurtunity to showcase their individual talent. What's even more interesting is that RGV has used them in as we say - 'bits n pieces' trying to fix in the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and that grabs your attention. But having said that, I personally and dearly miss the company of Selva Mani, Rashid and Swmaiji. If only they could return as 'Bhoots' in the Sarkar Trilogy. But let me come to the point here. Have I missed someone ? Yes, I have and it's not's Sarkar. As the saying goes, there can only be one king in the jungle. That's Amitabh Bachchan. For a man who has constantly stuck to one belief 'Mujhe jo sahi lagta hai, main karta hoon' he hardly puts a foot wrong. His hard hitting dialogues reminds you of his roles in Agneepath and Khuda Gawah. Subhash Nagre aka Sarkar's performance is packed with more classic lines than any movie deserves to have and kudos goes to the dialogue writers.
Visually, many of Sarkar Raj scenes have a more gloomy appearance this time around which was vital to the sequel. Especially during the latter portions of the film, the Nagres' are shown in severely underexposed settings, appearing as a silhouette. The crisp editing by Amit Parmar / Nipun Gupta, the haunting background score by Amar Mohile and Director of Photography Amit Roy seems to be the finest in the business. They deserve much more than just awards.

As the beginning of Sarkar Raj echoes the opening of the Nagre family, so too does the end and because of the manner in which circumstances are handled and considering the people involved, the impact here is more forceful. The film has accomplished its poisonous, inevitable designs as RGV punctuates Sarkar Raj with a gut-twisting exclamation point.

Combined, Sarkar and Sarkar Raj represent the apex of Indian movie-making. Sarkar Raj is not so much about crime lords as it is about prices paid in the currency of the soul for decisions made and avoided. It is that quality which establishes this saga as timeless. A rare sequel that surpasses its classic source.

Rating - ****

Monday, 2 June 2008

Exclusive Kunal Kohli interview for Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic

In most peoples eyes Kunal Kohli's film Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic is his fourth film as a director but for the ones who are not aware, it also marks the start of his third career, from being a t.v presenter and a film director he now turns producer, but to him it's a continuation of what he's been doing all along: storytelling. Trying to cope up with his post production and a battery-running-down mobile , Bollywood Hungama's Devansh Patel manages to finish this candid interview just in time with Kunal Kohli where he talks about his next big release, his new found fondness with his blog and a special mesage for his U.K audiences.
With the recent debacle of YRF's Tashan, do you think it's time they desperately needed Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic?
The audience is very mature. They know that this is not Yash Raj's next after Tashan, this is Yash Raj's and Kunal Kohli's next after Fanaa. They are different films by different people with completely different audience.

Why was the tilte Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic incorporated so late?
I was looking for a title that said a little more, that spoke about the film but could also be the catch phrase about life because I would like to believe that my film says things that have impact and relevance in our day to day life. I think that's what's important and that's why I went for this title. Yes, it did take me some time but I'm happy with it. When something is going wrong in someone's life, I'd like someone to say, I need Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. The title not only describes the film but also our lives.

What made you cast Saif and Rani in this film? Or did you decide to cast them on the basis of the success of Hum Tum?
I did not look at only the success of Hum Tum for casting them, They both suited the characters very well and whenever both of them have done roles out of what they have done before, that is when they have excelled in their careers. When Rani does a Hum Tum, KANK, Black or Chalte Chalte, and when Saif does Dil Chahta Hai, Parineeta, Omkara, Race, etc. He has played different characters and have excelled in that. So when you throw a challenge to such actors of performing something that they've not perfomred before, they give you something special and that's what both Saif and Rani have given me in this film.

The songs of TPTM aren't picking up as they should have, might be because of IPL. But having said that, do you think it will pick up after the release of the film?
Unfortunately, I get a very honest feedback from people. I think who ever has heard the music have really loved it. Three songs have really connected well with the audience, Pyaar Ke Liye, Nihaal Ho Gayi and Lazy Lamhe, and I think that the IPL played a huge part because the entire focus of the entertainment industry was on the IPL. Now that it's over, let's see what happens. I remember that when Fanaa released, the songs did not pick up instantly but eventually it became a musical hit. Fortunately for me, both Fanaa and Hum Tum did musically well. So the expectations are very high from the Prasoon Joshi - Kunal Kohli team. Even if you see Taare Zameen Par, Prasoon Joshi lyrics do take a bit of time to grow and before you know it, it's in your system. I'm very confident that Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic's music will also take it's time to grow. Even the ringtones of TPTM aren't out at the moment. That too makes a difference.

In your previous venture with Saif-Rani in Hum Tum, you had a music video by UK's Juggy D, Veronica and Rishi Rich who gave you an instant hit number 'Mere Dil Vich'. Didn't you think of re-uniting with the band for TPTM?
This film does not require such kind of a marketing strategy. Every film has a different way of marketing. Hum Tum was one of the first films to have a music video and a song which wasn't included in the film. That created a bit of a cult thing and post Hum Tum, every film started having music videos to promote their movie. What I needed more in TPTM was a song like 'Pyaar Ke Liye' which would be my theme song for the film and will be promoted more. I don't believe that what worked before will work this time.

How difficult was it to cast the four kids in the film? And did your story require a Sikh boy or was it done in good humor?
It was very difficult. We screen tested about 300 kids and the problem I had was that because the film was set in Delhi, I needed the kids to have a strong North Indian accent. So we found all four of them in Delhi after auditions. I'm glad that you mentioned the Sikh connection in this film because the boy who plays the role of a Sardarji is actually a Punjabi boy. When you see the film you'll know why one of them is a Sikh and the others are not. He looks so natural that everybody on the sets thought that he was a Sikh boy.

Do you think that the overseas certification system for your particular film which I assume that it would be a PG or a 12 certificate, will help you tremendously as far as profits are concerned?
I never make a film keeping distribution in mind. If a PG certification makes a distributor feel that he has won the battle, good for them, but I don't like to give my films a particular genre and that's the reason I have never made films of a different genre. Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Hum Tum, Fanaa and TPTM are all different genre films, different settings, different worlds, etc. But as a director / producer, I'd definitely want my film to do well commercially which I think anybody would, afterall, that's our bread and butter.

You've recently turned blogger. So now even the common man can have access to you and can interview you. What say?
(laughs). I think it's not bad for the media. Before blogs came out, I used to write articles in the newspapers and magazines like The Times of India and India Today. And before plunging into films, I used to be a film journalist. So, I've always liked writing and commenting on things other than films also. If you read my last blog, it was about the blast that happened and it was not about promoting my film. I am thrilled that I have turned a blogger and can stay in touch with my audience. I don't have a fan base though because I am not an actor. I get very interesting comments - serious, funny, suggestive and accurate sometimes. Through my blog, I've learnt that there is a collective strength that the audience has and one must respect that. I like reading other peoples blogs too like Mr Bachchan's and Aamir's blog.

After having worked with Saif-Rani for the second time, what growth have you seen in both post Hum Tum?
Tremendous growth, and it's very difficult to measure it. In TPTM both have surpassed their previous performances. They have matured as actors. Hum Tum was a sort of a turning point in my career and Saifs too. I wouldn't say Rani's because she was established through films like Saathiya and Chalte Chalte before Hum Tum. But it was a turning point for Rani in one way - She got her first award as a best actress for Hum Tum. I'd say that our fortunes turned with Hum Tum. And all three of us got more success. In TPTM, we had more respect for each other as our craft was more polished now.

Any happy or sad moment you can recall while filming TPTM?
There was a certain bond and closeness that developed between the entire unit. That's something you strive for as a film maker. That just happened in this film. When we had the last day of shooting with the kids, and when they finished their shot and the announcement was made that that it was the film wrap for the kids, one of the kids started crying. He went around hugging everybody on the sets. It was like a vaccum on the sets when the kids left. The ones who were thrown into the film unit and had no idea of what the crew were like, suddenly get close to everybody. The entire set had teary eyes when that boy started crying. It was such an emotinal moment and I wouldn't call it sad, but happy.

You've judged so many reality shows on the television, don't you think that there is bundle of talent which the film makers are missing out on and there's much more to tap into than just the star kids?
Of course yes. If you see all the four kids in my film, they are all new comers with new talent and something for us to learn. That's what's important and we have to keep on discovering new talent in our country and it is there around us all the time. Whether it's the IPL who have discovered new talent in the country or us film makers, it's important for us to find and harness that talent. Even Imran and Harman who are being launched are not star kids. So what's good is that it immediately throws up two new actors. What's brilliant about cinema today is that in a film like Taare Zameen Par, a huge star like Aamir Khan comes in during interval and the film is a blockbuster hit with one child in the film.

So, are you enjoying your new found role as a producer?
Yes I am. You can call it my first film as a producer / director. I am dear to all my films and not because I'm a producer that I am dear to TPTM, but yes, being your first film as a producer means a lot to you because you have a lot to look into. There's a certain sense of ownership you get when you're the producer of a film which gives you a responsibility too. You also want everybody to be happy working in a Kunal Lohli production. I fortunately had this experience of doing that even in my previous films although I wasn't a producer of the film but was incharge on the sets because there was no Adi Chopra nor Yashji as they were never on the sets. So I've had this experience from Hum Tum onwards.

Any words of magic you want to cast upon your audience in the overseas?
I think, they've cast a lot of magic on me because although Mujhse Dosti Karoge wasn't a hit in India, it was a huge hit abroad. I've got a very good track record in the overseas market and I've scored three out of three unlike in India where I've scored two out of three. So I hope they continue to give me their love and support and I'll make sure that I don't let them down. What would be interesting is that we can start marketing our films through our Indian audience to a non-subcontinent audiences. We need to grow our audience base and if any Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani or Bangladeshi friends take along their non-Asian friends to watch their films, it's a good way to market not only our films but also our culture.