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 days....you'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.