He’s fondly called ‘Mr Blockbuster’ since he’s the only director to have delivered two movies that have grossed over Rs 100 crore. And considering the hype around his next release, Bol Bachchan, the director with the Midas touch is all set to achieve a hat-trick. In a free-wheeling chat, Rohit Shetty tells Vajir Singh what makes his films click, why his upcoming offering is unique, and much, much more
Only a few weeks to go and there’s so much at stake. How does it feel?
I just want the best returns on the money invested in this project. Of course, I want the film to do well because we have worked very hard. This is evident in the quality of the film. To date, our investors have never lost their money. So I am praying that everything goes as hoped.
You have two back-to-back Rs 100-crore movies in Golmaal 3 and Singham. Are you nervous about a hat-trick with Bol Bachchan?
(Smiles) Not nervous but excited. In fact, I have not been thinking about it since we are still giving the movie the final touches. I will get nervous only on the Thursday before the film’s release. I just hope that this film goes much beyond the 100-crore mark.
Anything less might not be accepted by the trade.
This is pressure I can do without. Let’s say the film earns Rs 90 crore. It would still be a hit but people will complain that it did not hit the desired Rs 100-crore mark. We have all worked very hard and I am hoping for the best.
This time you are competing with yourself.
(Laughs) In a way, yes.
Golmaal was more comedy, less action. Singham had more action and less comedy. How about Bol Bachchan?
Golmaal 3 featured many actors and it was full of slapstick comedy. The dialogue in Bol Bachchan is funny as are the situations. The characters in Bol Bachchan are more real. Although there is a lot of grand action, the characters are very simple.
It is difficult to make a film with many characters but you always pull it off.
My stories are like that. The script calls for many characters else it gets a little stagnant. In all my films, the characters have problems and they are very earthy and the audience can relate to them. That’s why I like stories that have many characters. Stories that have heroes, hero’s friends… You know, the typical ’70s and ’80s era films.
How important is it for the audience to relate to the characters?
It is very important. If the audience can relate to the characters or their problems, it makes it easier to go with the flow of the film.
Your films also go down very well with kids. Do you keep the kiddie audience in mind while making films?
Yes. There is no vulgarity in my films. If kids want to watch my films, so will their parents and I don’t want to make anyone feel awkward. Even when the film airs on satellite TV, I don’t want people to switch channels because there are some awkward scenes. Also, kids love action. People often ask me why I blow up cars in my films. Well, kids love it! Some children even ask me what I will be blowing up this time!
In this film, it’s not just cars but buses that will blow up.
(Laughs) Yes, I have upgraded myself! The kids will love it because that’s what they do when they play games on their Playstations. I never dreamt that children would like Singham but they loved it despite the action. But I control the violence in my films. Did you notice that there was no bloodshed in Singham despite the hardcore action scenes? We edited and shot it that way. We have to keep the kids and the female audience in mind.
So you’re revealing your success mantra? Woo kids and the film will be a hit?
Actually, I didn’t realise it when I was making Golmaal but children gradually became my audience. Not just kids, I would say the ‘family audience’, especially women. It’s not just the youth but the family audience that helps a film touch Rs 100 crore.
This time, are you trying to impress the critics too?
No, not really. It is very difficult to make everyone happy. I make my films keeping my audience in mind.
It is often said that Indian critics love Hollywood masala films but that does not apply to Bollywood. Why is that?
I don’t know. Every film cannot be a Taare Zameen Par or 3 Idiots. Every film is different and you can’t watch Bol Bachchan expecting it to be like TZP. We are not catering to that audience.
They talk about why Indian cinema is not going to the Oscars and why we are not matching up to Hollywood yet they want us to make Indian cinema. They have to realise that if we have to reach the Oscars, we have to make Indian films. Like, in Iran, they make Iranian films and it’s the same with Korea. Thanks to a handful of critics and other people, we are sailing in two boats in India. Half our films look like Hollywood films and those that are ‘Indian’ are trashed.
Filmmakers are skeptical about making Indian films. That’s why the films that go from India don’t look like Indian films. That’s what I’ve been told. Like, if I buy an Iranian DVD, I want to watch an Iranian film. I don’t want to watch something that looks like an English film. I don’t know why but everybody wants us to make films like the West. We are capable of making our own films and creating our own identity.
They keep speaking about Kurosawa. But what about our directors, like Naseer Hussain and Ramesh Sippy? I’m sure they haven’t even heard of director Brij Sadanah, who has made a brilliant film Victoria No. 203. What about Manmohan Desai, Ramesh Sippy and Prakash Mehra? We have so many great directors. Just because some people have read too many books and watched too much cinema, they think they are superior. I’m sure even my driver has watched a lot of films but that doesn’t make him a critic. (Laughs)
(Laughs) It’s quite funny. I have heard this many times. The funny thing is I am planning something with Ajay (Devgn) after I am done filming with Shah Rukh Khan. I really don’t know what’s wrong if I am doing a film with SRK?
And you have also signed a film with Karan Johar.
(Laughs) No, Karan’s film will come in after I am done with Ajay’s film. So first there is SRK’s film, then Ajay’s film and then a film with Karan.
How did this happen? Your sensibilities are very different from Karan Johar’s and the movies he makes.
I know, but he told me he wanted me to do a film for Dharma Productions. It’s one of the oldest companies like Yash Raj Films. I respect Karan, both as a producer and a director, and the way he’s kept his father’s banner flying. We met and discussed issues and he wanted me to make a film just like the ones I have been making. So I said why not?
And how did the Shah Rukh Khan movie happen?
He called me and said he loved Golmaal 3. That’s’ how we started talking. He said the film made him happy after he watched it and we decided to work together. Initially, we wanted to remake Angoor but realised it was not big enough for us to work together. At the time, I had the script of Chennai Express with me and I told SRK that I didn’t want to make Angoor with him.
I thought he would throw me out of his office but I told him I had a script called Chennai Express and I wanted him to do it. He said he wanted to work with me and I could do whatever I was comfortable with. He is producing the film now.
Back to Bol Bachchan… You started your career with Zameen, which had Abhishek Bachchan and Ajay Devgn in the lead.
(Cuts in) Yes. And with Bol Bachchan, I am getting the duo back taaki, ek jo daag hai main use bhi mita doon. Abhishek is like a friend and brother, and I wanted to do a film with him. I found the right character for him in this film.
And the right title.
Yes. When I started writing the film, it had no title. I knew I wanted to work with Abhishek. So when he agreed to do the film, I zeroed in on this title. The common man will relate to his character as it’s very earthy. He has done a fabulous job. He is humble, sweet and lovable in the film.