Next month, Vishesh Films will celebrate its silver jubilee as a production house. Here’s Mahesh Bhatt in conversation with Shabdita Shrivastav on the highs and lows of his company over the last 25 years
How would you describe Vishesh Films’ journey from Kabzaa to Jannat 2?
From Kabzaa to Jannat 2, it has been a continuous inventing self. I have also directed films like Saaransh, Naam and Arth, which received a lot of recognition. We got the funds and decided to launch our company and that’s how Vishesh Films came into existence.
In the 1990s, we made Aashiqui, a path-breaking film in terms of music. This was the phase when musical content withered. The economic policies had also changed. Aashiqui was a big beginning for young people. The television segment and satellite entertainment was evolving.
The first half of the 90s were glorious years and we celebrated the golden jubilee of three films, Aashiqui, Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi and Sadak. After that, I became nasty that my career as a director has peaked. When a brand touches a high, it declines after that. The second half of the 90s was a wasteland. In 1998, I hung my love for direction.
The latter part of the 90s was a low phase in my life and it prepared me for another climb. It also humbled and grounded me. By then, the landscape of filmmaking had changed. I directed Zakhm and then decided to give up direction. It was a very difficult phase for me. I thought I would run a company, make films and work with new actors.
In the beginning of the 21st century, a new cinema emerged. That’s when we made Raaz and decided we would not work with stars but launch new actors, musicians, lyricist and others. We made 21st century films like Raaz, Murder, Gangsterand Jannat. And these films created stars like Emraan Hashmi, Dino Morea, Bipasha Basu, and directors like Mohit Suri and Kunal Deshmukh. We even got talent from Pakistan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and revolutionised music. We relied on music in our films and made the kind of films we wanted to make, which were low-cost but good, massy and entertaining.
Vishesh Films has a very high success rate but the company has a very low profile vis-a-vis other production houses.
We chose to be self-sufficient rather than giving in to the star system. Being independent gives us more turnover. And films like Murder and Jannat have proved it. I cannot enslave myself to this star system. Even though we make films on a restricted budget, I boast of being independent.
There was a time when Vishesh Films worked with a lot of A-list actors. Then you moved away from that. Why did you take this decision?
The people who you say are A-list actors had just begun their careers then. Aamir Khan had only Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi. Even Sanjay Dutt was new. We were not working with A-list actors then. Shah Rukh Khan is the only star I have worked with and that too I delivered two flops like Duplicate and Chaahat. One can never credit an actor with delivering a hit or a flop; It is solely the filmmaker.
Paresh Rawal used to be a constant in your films. Why is he absent from them now?
Paresh Rawal began his career with us. I have no illusion that what brought them to me will take them somewhere else. Two people come to each other because their destination is the same at that point. Then they move on.
Except for Emraan Hashmi, no other actor that Vishesh Films has launched has made it big.
Emraan Hashmi has not made it big because of us. It’s his hard work. I am happy with his working with Ekta Kapoor and other people. We gave Emraan great music, a great franchise like Murder and Jannat. And I think Raaz 3 will be the acme of his career. It will be a powerful film and I think he has reached the watershed mark of his career.
There was a time when Vishesh Films experimented with genres but now your films are based on dark subjects and have a sensual element.
The need of the hour is fast-paced, high-concept films. Sex, love, comedy and crime are the components of a film. The different wings of entertainment like television and broadcast are dependent on this content. And we will make these types of films. If you were to remove these elements, there would be nothing left in the film.
Since Vishesh Films is making movies with corporate houses, do you see any change in your work module?
Times have changed and we too have to change. Partners give us marketing support. It’s like a coalition government and we are happy about this tie-up/ partnership.
Vishesh Films is taking the franchise ahead with Jannat 2, Raaz 3, Aashiqui 2 and Gangster 2. Why are you doing this?
Marketing compulsions make us do what we do. It produces results and also boosts overseas business.