The theatrical trailer of his next magnum opus, Singham, was introduced this Friday and it met with an overwhelming response. Here’s Rohit Shetty in conversation with Vajir Singh, discussing Singham and a lot more
What kind of response has the first theatrical trailer received?
Everyone likes the promo, jisko bhi dikhaya abhi tak. All the trade people, friends… everyone has liked it. Everyone is of an unanimous opinion that it looks just like an action film should. Many people are calling. I am flooded with complimentary messages and so is Ajay. So I think ek positivity jo banna chahiye woh ban gayi hai.
That’s half the battle won.
Ha, ha! Yes, you can say that.
Singham was announced four months ago and it is scheduled to release next month. Why the rush to finish the film?
Singham is an action film and it doesn’t make sense to release it during Diwali even though we have been having a Diwali release for the last three years. Delaying it also makes no sense. Second, the family film we’re planning next, Bol Bachan, will go on the floors in August. Since I had six to seven months in hand, I decided to go ahead and make an action film.
And from the business point of view, post-July 22, we get one week after which Ramzan will start and there’s no big film scheduled except Aarakshan. So we get six weeks where our film won’t clash with any other big release. So we zeroed in on July 22 as our release date.
Everyone is still amazed at how fast you completed this film. How did you manage that?
It’s not just me, my team did it. Good planning and teamwork did it. We started All The Best in May and released it in October. We all worked almost 20 hours a day for the last two months. Again, it was a challenging task. I am proud to have made a film in four months after a long time. It’s fun, actually.
Why did you call it ‘Singham’? Will it not confuse some sections of the audience?
Singham was originally made in Tamil and it was called ‘Singham’. We did think about giving it a new title but once the media started reporting on the ‘Singham remake’, we decided to stick with the name. There is a certain level of uniqueness in the film. Nahi toh kya naam rakhte ek action film ka.
We didn’t want the film to sail in two boats and confuse the audience by letting them assume it was an action comedy as comedy is my forte. We wanted to convey that it is a clear-cut action film. When people ask, “Why Singham,” it means it has generated curiosity. Then they learn that Singham ka matlab Sher hai.
Why did you decide to remake Singham?
I’ve been wanting to make an action film for a long time. I had made four comedy films back-to-back and so I wanted to make an action film. Also, I did not want people to ever think I was making an action film because comedy film nahi chali toh main action banane laga. When I saw the original version, I liked it a lot. The basic story was very earthy. It’s been ages since we’ve made an earthy action film.
You’ve earned a reputation for comedy. Do you think the audience will appreciate an action film?
(Smiles) Along with you, I will also find out on July 22. That is why we are saying it’s an action film from me. I don’t want to cheat the audience by showing them comedy shots just to get them to come and watch.
You started your career with an action film, Zameen, and it didn’t work. Is that why you decided to give action another shot?
No. I was an assistant action director and worked with Veeru-sir (Veeru Devgan). So I knew that somewhere down the line, I would want to do an action flim. I got the right script and thought this was the right time to do it.
Unlike other directors, you don’t believe in taking a break and you churn out movies one after another.
(Takes a pause) I don’t know. I enjoy working. Ek cycle sa ban gaya hai. Golmaal Returns se shuru hua tha. Phir All the Best ban gayi thi. So then we finished Golmaal and then Singham too.
How different is Singham from its Tamil version?
The basic story is the same. But there is a different story and a different layer in the screenplay, keeping the audience in Bombay and in the North in mind. The second half is completely different. If we compare the two, 75 per cent of the film is different. We have made it more subtle.
You have made two action films (Zameen and Singham), and four comedy films (Golmaal 1, 2, 3 and All The Best). Which genre do you enjoy making most?
It changes from film to film. When I get into making Bol Bachan, it will be like I am making a comedy for the first time. In a way, it was good that Singham happened. Otherwise, people would have started taking us for granted.
Are you going to work only with Ajay Devgn?
Kuch aisa nahi hai. I am open to working with everyone.
What about the Angoor remake with Shah Rukh Khan?
I met him once and I proposed the idea. UTV has already bought the remake rights. Now we are at the scripting stage. I have to go back to him (Shah Rukh Khan), and if he is interested in the film, we will take a call.
You also met Salman Khan recently.
Salman and I met once as he knows my family well. I would like to work with him but abhi kuch final hua nahi.
Tell us about Bol Bachan. Once again, will you try to finish it in one go and make it your Diwali release?
(Laughs) That starts in August and ends in November. I will release it early next year. Ra.One is releasing during Diwali and it is a big film. It makes no sense to pit one’s film against Ra.One. Bewakoofi hai. Kahin na kahin business cut jayega. Bol Bachan is a hardcore wacko film, unlike Golmaal. This is more like All The Best with more dialogue. It’s simple, sweet, family film.
Back to Singham… Why did you repeat Prakash Raj, who played villain in the original Tamil version?
The villain is a loveable character in this film. I didn’t want a stylised villain with an overcoat and girls. I wanted a seedha, normal villain. He worked in Singham (Tamil). So when we narrated the script, he loved it and said he would love to do it.
Or is it because the Hindi film industry lacks an actor who can play villain?
Yes, unlike earlier, we don’t have a villain-villain in our industry but the concept has changed now. It’s a cycle. There was a phase when only multiplex films were doing well. But then came Wanted and things changed. Then Ghajini and Dabangg did well. All the Golmaal films did well. So people were skeptical about commercial films working but it’s all come full circle. Even the multiplex crowd ka taste badal gaya hai.
Why is the actress Kajal under wraps? She is hardly visible in the trailer.
Jo mera experience hai, I am honest with my audience. I let the audience know if it’s a massy film. Never try to balance critical acclaim with awards. Always be honest. This is a hero-centric film, so we will reveal her gradually. If you reveal too many details too soon, it confuses the audience. It’s a Prakash Raj-Ajay Devgn film and that’s exactly what we wanted to convey. We will reveal her gradually.
Do you miss getting awards?
I used to feel bad but I have moved on. There are newspapers that have given one star to Golmaal Returns and some gave it three stars. So I can’t say they are all biased. When you are making a hardcore commercial film, you know it will not get too many stars. Abhi toh sabko pata hai Rohit Shetty ki film hai toh gadiyan udengi. Abhi sirf 3 star bhi mil jaye toh kaafi hai. (Laughs)
What about awards?
Abhi toh woh bhi milne lage hain.
But somewhere, you must be disheartened that despite your movies being money-spinners, you haven’t got your due.
(Pauses) My last four films have delivered a profit of over Rs 100 crore. That means I’ve been accepted by the audience and that’s what matters to me. It was so funny… In a Kites review, someone mentioned that the action sequences “looked like a Rohit Shetty film”. So people are familiar with my style. Some call them B-grade movies but at the end of the day, it is the ticket window that matters.
So I don’t care. Main besharam ho gaya hoon. You cannot please everyone. 10 mein se 4 log pasand nahi karte hain. You should be happy with what you have. Half the filmmakers in the industry are so uptight about whether their films will be liked by critics or no. I don’t worry about what people say. Why are we worried about reviews? Does every five-star movie work at the ticket window? And my movies get one or two stars but they bring a fortune. I know who is going to write what about my film and I don’t care. The funniest thing is they enjoy watching my films and the next morning, they trash them in the newspapers. I make entertaining films. If you enjoy what you’re watching, write that.
Waise bhi, I’m among the top ten directors in India. What more I can ask for?
Don’t you want to venture into production?
Not really, ek hi din mein company band ho jayegi. I can’t ask my team members to take less money or say, “This time, I will raise your money.” I can’t talk money with my people, I can only talk work. They’re like family to me. So, I can’t handle the money department (Laughs).
You have been working with different companies. What is it like?
We have different work relationships with everyone. I set my terms and conditions. Producing a film is a hassle. Direction mein itna time lagta hai. I have become like a factory. So produce kaise karunga? Who will sit with the distributors? Ashtavinayak (Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision) is like my own company, so is Ajay’s. We made Singham with Reliance and it’s been brilliant working with them too. Sab toh apni company hai. Why should I open a separate company?
Talking about money… Do you keep track of business?
I have started doing that since so much is at stake. Pehle film Rs 7-8 crore mein banti thi. Abhi kahan banti hain? Only if we bring the money back will producers and corporate houses make more and more movies. If they (producers and corporate houses) don’t make money, they won’t make movies. What will happen to us technicians? So, keeping track of business is as important as giving more than 100 per cent to the script and execution (Laughs).