Excerpts from the hour-long interview
The first week collections for ``Mohabbatein'' were excellent but according to media and trade reports, the film may not turn out to be a super hit.
I am keeping my fingers crossed. The overseas response for the film was unprecedented and collections within the country have been excellent. I agree that the film did not enthuse the critics. There were complaints about its length. But ``Mohabbatein'' is a different kind of family film. It features two top ranking stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan and introduces a host of newcomers. You see, the critic voices his opinion but a film is made or unmade by the millions of viewers. I often wonder why critics and the audiences seldom have the same views about a film.
In the film industry, it is not advisable to release two mega films in the same week. But your film and ``Mission Kashmir'' were released this Deepavali.
You are correct. When two big films are released simultaneously, they cut into each others collection. But I had announced last year itself that ``Mohabbatein'' would be released on Deepavali day, 2000. That is the time for peak collections. But then ``Mission Kashmir'' also got released at the same time.
Was it a definite strategy to flood the market with nearly 500 prints of the film?
Not 500 but 413. That too all over the world. Both overseas and local distributors wanted more prints in view of the festival season. There were also fears of video piracy. If more prints are released in more theatres, there would be less of video piracy.
Why did you decide to distribute ``Mohabbatein'' in some territories?
I am the distributor for Mumbai, Delhi, and overseas. That is the part of the growth of a film maker. He can take on production, direction, distributorship and even exhibition of his film. I don't know anything except film making but I can diversify within this area.
Sections of the media have projected ``Mohabbatein'' and ``Mission Kashmir'' as the ultimate clash between its heroes, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan. Is this the right approach?
I don't think so. Such projection is nothing but media sensationalism. Hrithik is like a son, we have seen him grow up in our presence. Shah Rukh has worked in six of our films. I firmly believe that a film does not run on the strength of its stars. It has to be a good film, with a good story. Stars can ensure an initial run but cannot sustain it.
``Mohabbatein'' had some initial advantages because ``Mission Kashmir'' suffered from the `Kashmir' syndrome. There is so much about the violence in Kashmir in the media, television and so on.
I do not want to comment on ``Mission Kashmir''. Mine is a simple, romantic film with strong emotional currents. Let us see how the audiences react to the film.
No one talks of `lakhs' in film production these days. It is now `crores'. Where is all this leading to?
It is a sad state of affairs. My last film, ``Dil To Pagal Hai'' was made three years ago. Since then, the costs have gone up two to three times. It is not only with regard to payment to top stars, but also to everyone else associated with a film. The raw materials cost more. Film making has become prohibitive and difficult. But there are more avenues for revenue like the booming overseas markets. Not all films make it, though. We have done remarkably well in this area.
Your record in film making makes it clear you are an incurable romantic. Why?
Why not? I believe that love, human feelings and emotions are ideal topics for films. Of course, I have also made films like ``Deewar''. Action films have become meaningless in a country where there is so much violence and corruption. Romantic films come as a breath of fresh air.
The central theme of ``Mohabbatein'' is rather strange. You have the `gurukul' chief, Amitabh, who is totally against love. Pitted against him is the music teacher, Shah Rukh, who is all for love. We send our children to school or `gurukul' to study, acquire knowledge. Where did love come into all this?
(Smiles): You have not understood the main theme of the film. It is not about the `gurukul' but it is the personal story of Shah Rukh and his tragic love affair. The `gurukul' is only incidental. It could have been an office or a factory. The music teacher (Shah Rukh) urges the students to study and learn music but not ignore feelings of love. I do not see anything unusual in Amitabh not recognising Shah Rukh as his daughter's lover. It is part of cinematic licence which is explained when the music teacher tells the head of the `gurukul', ``You turned me out without even seeing me or talking to me.'' This adds to the highly-charged emotions in the film. I have reports that some men who watched the film, wept.
Where is love in this country? Every day we have reports of young men or women killed because they dared to fall in love and marry outside their caste or community. In most cases, young men and women do not have the freedom to love and marry persons of their choice.
That situation is changing. Parents no longer have the sole control of fixing the marriages of their sons and daughters. From the time of ``Dhool ka Phool'' released in the 1960s, I have come to believe that romantic films can help change society. During the past six years, the biggest hits have been romantic films. If, as you say, our society rejected love, how do we explain this phenomenon?
I did not agree with the way love and tradition were portrayed in your earlier film, ``Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.'' The dictatorial father closes down his business in London and uproots his family because his daughter had fallen in love and was not in favour of a traditional, arranged marriage. In this ``khandan ki izzat vs pyar mohabbat'' scenario, love ( the hero) takes a beating. Why didn't the couple elope and get married?
This film was a big hit the world over because it upheld Indian traditions. The hero would marry the heroine only with the consent and blessings of her parents. For the NRIs who had to face situations like the one in the film, ``Dilwale...'' was a cult film. The father, no doubt, is adamant and egoistic. However, he slowly changes and agrees that love is superior to ``khandan ki izzat.'' The film portrayed that true love can conquer all hurdles including parental intransigence.