In conversation with Team Box Office India, debutant producer Nikhil Dwivedi talks about Veere Di Wedding, his passion for cinema and the kind of films he wants to make
How was it to be surrounded by so many women while making Veere Di Wedding?
Like it always is, intimidating and frightening. But, like I said recently, I have a lot of practice; I am married. Toh kya hota hai, jab shaadi ho jaati hai toh aap seekh lete ho ki ladkiyon ke saamne zyada zubaan nahin kholte. Main bus chupchaap tha aur kaam ho gaya.
How did you come on board for the film?
I think Rhea (Kapoor) had the script. She wanted to make this film. She ran the script by me. She was looking for producers to back it up. Once I read the script, I knew I wanted to make this film.
Considering that this is your first production, what was the experience like?
The entire credit for the filmmaking has to go to Rhea. It is out-and-out her baby. Then Ekta Kapoor came in with all her muscle for the release, distribution and marketing. Without her, that wouldn’t have been possible. I was there for the food!
Now that you are a producer, do you look at a film set differently than when you were an actor?
Not really. I always saw a film as a film. Even as an actor, when I read scripts, I first try to visualise the film as an audience. Would I like to watch this film in the theatre? So, as an audience if I want to watch a film, then I want to act in the film or produce it.
How was the transition, from acting in a film to producing and managing a film?
Cinema has always been a passion. And because it is a passion, the entire process of filmmaking has always excited me. As an actor, my films weren’t doing very well. I always had these independent producers who wanted to make films with me and the large banners weren’t coming to me. But, these independent producers were not very experienced, so I invariably ended up doubling as a producer on my films. In my last film, I was also working on the heroine’s dates. So, woh karte karte seekh gaya main film production. Then I thought that I can do this. Filmmaking excites me so much that I felt I could turn producer and I did.
The film went through some delays initially…
That delay happened because Kareena (Kapoor Khan) was expecting. Everyone in the film was pretty certain that it had to be Kareena and no one else. So, we decided to wait it out.
When the film and the cast were announced, there was a lot of anticipation around the film, especially with big names like Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, and big banners coming together. When a film is delayed, do you think it impacts the film in any way?
I would rather have some anticipation than not have it. People say don’t raise expectations so much but why not? I would rather have expectations than people not registering that there is a film like this. There is anticipation of Kareena and Sonam coming together for the first time. Then there is the anticipation of Kareena coming back to the big screen after bit of a break. I think the film will be worth all this.
What do you think about the film now that you have seen the final result?
It is a good film and I think all the credit goes to Shashanka Ghosh. Again, I would like to take Rhea’s name. They were the actual filmmakers. Ekta and I have played the role of a studio more than being filmmakers. So, this is really Shashanka and Rhea’s baby.
Veere Di Wedding is being promoted as ‘not a chick flick’. Can you tell us more about that?
It is not (a chick flick) and this line was coined by Rhea. I think it is very apt. Aap kabhi nahin bolte hain ki Pyaar Ka Punchnama ladkon ki picture hai. Toh phir ladkiyan jis picture mein predominant hoti hain, woh ladkiyon ki picture kyon ho jaati hai? Film toh film hai, chahe ladkon ki ho, ladkiyon ki ho, jaanwaron ki ho, we don’t say it is an animal film. It is a film, that’s all.
Have you tried to break a few stereotypes with this film?
We have tried to break every stereotype. Watch the film and you will know.
In the last two years or so, small-budget films and independent productions have been doing very well. Do you think that audiences are evolving? Movies like Hindi Medium, Qarib Qarib Singlle, Bareilly Ki Barfi and others have been well received. What is your take on this?
Small films have had a space since 1935. They have all done well. Basu Chatterji ki saari filmein choti hoti theen. Un mein Amol Palekar, Rakesh Roshan saab hote the. Un mein Amitabh Bachchan aur Dharmendra nahin hote the. Par bahut chalti thi. Hrishda ki saari filmein choti theen. Unka content bahut bada hota tha. Aaj bhi kuch badla nahin hai. Any film that does not have a big star because he commands a certain fee or a film with a budget of 100 to 200 crore due to it having a big star is considered as a small film. So, typically, a high star fee or a big budget makes a big film. But at the end of the day, if the content is big, the film will run. And this has been happening for a long time, whether it was Do Beegha Zameen starring Balraj Sahni which released during the time of Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar’s films or Om Puri’s Ardh Satya which came at a time when Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra’s movies were considered badi filmein or be it Satya which released in 1998.
We think this phenomenon of small films doing well is new but it is not. Like we say heroine-oriented films are doing well now but we have had Mother India with Nargisji, Rekha-starrer Khoobsurat and Hema Malini’s Seeta Aur Geeta. We didn’t have so many large banners. Look at Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. It was produced by VIkram Mehrotra. I would like to believe he was an independent producer. He backed a film whose leading man was not a big star at the time. Kundan Shah was directing the film. It was his first film in ten years, after his debut Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Picture bik nahin rahi thi. But then Darr and Baazigar came aur picture bik gayi.
As a producer, would you want to invest in projects that may not have a big star?
Absolutely. In that sense, Veere Di Wedding is not a big film. It has four girls and no big hero. So, I have already done that. I have said earlier too that my ideal as a producer is Shashi Kapoor. I would like to follow him, make the kind of films that he produced. I would also like to do mega-budget films with huge stars, but mainly I would like to back scripts.
Many producers are venturing into the regional space. Do you also want to do that?
Regional cinema is suddenly thriving again. I feel that the genre and space that Hindi cinema was catering to earlier is now being done by regional films. Hindi cinema has moved from masses to classes and multiplex audiences. But, regional cinema has always been huge on content, so it is heartening to know that good content is the order of the day again. We should take cues from that for our films as well.
Coming back to Veere Di Wedding, how creatively were you involved in the project?
I backed the script. My contribution in it is the fact that I believed in them. That is by no means a lesser contribution, because there will always be a group of people creatively involved but you will always need someone backing them and believing in them. I did that. Creatively, you will have to give all the credit to Shashanka Ghosh and Rhea Kapoor.
There was a buzz about the clash of the film with Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. But everyone involved with both films are very positive about it. What is your take on that?
Dekhiye, ek hi ghar ki picturein hain. Clash se koi problem ho rahi hoti toh yeh hota hi nahin. People must understand that there must have been a certain thought process. This is a very calculative mood and we are very positive and happy about it. There is no issue at all. And if the films are good, the audience will love both. If they are bad, they will not choose either.
Aap ek Friday ko do filmein release kar dijiye, agar dono achchi hai toh dono hit hogin. History has proved this. Like I said, this is all trade. In a way, we all have become large corporate houses and there is a lot of money involved. We are not going to have a knee-jerk reaction. It has all been well thought out, well calculated, the number of screens worked out, audience numbers worked out. We are not worried at all.
Given a choice, is there any specific kind of script that you would want to work with?
There is no specific genre that I want to work with. I like a love story as much as I like an action film. I am not going to choose a script based on anything else. If I like the story and I like to watch the story, I will back it if I can.
Shashanka Ghosh has stayed away from the limelight. Any specific reason why? How has the collaboration been with him?
He is just a shy person, that’s all. We have tried to draw him out but he is not comfortable. I tag him on my posts about the movie and he is, like, why me? People may think we are deliberately trying to keep him away but it is not that. He is just shy. That is why I tag him on my social media posts. But ,he is a fantastic and passionate director.
Now that you have turned producer, how diligently do you look at box office numbers? And any plans to turn director?
I don’t think I am inclined towards direction. About box office numbers, I do look at them. Not that I was not looking at the numbers earlier. As an actor, if my films didn’t do well, it was because I wasn’t selling too many tickets. The sale of tickets is extremely important. This is not art, this is commerce. There is money riding on a film. There is economics involved. I look at it as much as I am not losing money. I am not chasing the tag of 100 crore or 200 crore. As a producer, I would not like to lose money.
What are your expectations in terms of numbers for Veere Di Wedding?
I don’t predict numbers. No one predicts numbers. I have tried doing it with the films that I was acting in and I learnt the hard way that one should never do it. All I can say is that it is a fun film and they are going to love it. It is a revolutionary film.