A. Absolutely not. I get nervous before making a movie, not after. I keep thinking, before I make a film, how it will look, what people will say, will it be better than my previous works, etc. All these thoughts make me nervous. However, the satisfaction I get after completing a film is immense. I do not get too excited with the success of a film, nor do I get too disappointed with its failure.
Q. Did the script demand fresh faces, or was there something else on your mind?
A. I have worked with stars in all my films till date. After 'Black', where I worked with Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee, I wondered to myself, "Now what?" I thought I could either make an offbeat film, or return to mainstream stuff. The appreciation I had received after 'Black' could be sustained only if I got new actors for my next. I challenged myself – I had to make something that was different from all the movies I have directed so far, and so I took the first step towards 'Saawariya'. The two of them – Ranvir and Sonam – were my assistant directors. However, when they came to work for me, I knew that they were here to act, not do anything else. I had also taken screen tests of both. Working with newcomers makes me feel young all over again.
Q. You had already gauged the talent of the two leads. When you first began work with them, what was your experience?
A. As far as I am concerned, both did not know how to act. I asked them to enact or impersonate their favourite hero and heroine. After the training in acting, I made them train in dancing. They have the talent, but I taught them how to use it. They were willing to learn – they did whatever I asked them to. This carried on for one and a half years, and then we started shooting. They were quite prepared by the end of that period. I used to get angry whenever they made a mistake, and the media has presented this anger in a different light. If I flew off the handle, it was understandable. I had spent one and a half years on them, so I had every right to be a perfectionist. If I ignore their faults because they are young, then they will make more mistakes as they get older. Both spent four years with me, and I did not them to think that they wasted their time and their career.
Q. What are your expectations from Ranvir and Sonam?
A. I would have never signed them on, if I did not see some talent in them. Both are going to go a long way – they are good looking and focused, talented, and willing to learn. It is very important to have intelligence these days, and these two have loads of it. They are not like other star kids – both of them are not arrogant because of their background. They do not want their parents to be embarrassed because of them, but to be proud of them. That is what makes both Ranvir and Sonam special.
A. Isn't it a risk taking experienced ones as well? Talent is the only thing that a person brings with him. Experience comes with time, of course. If I had taken an experienced actor, or composer, or singer, I would not have been able to get enough time with them. These newcomers gave me two years of their time. Not only them, even older singers like Kunal and Shreya were there during the time of composing the music. The effort of those two years brought life into the music and songs of 'Saawariya'. This movie is my dream, and everybody has helped me live it.
Q. Is there a reason why you gave Moti Sharma a chance with the music, instead of your favourite, Ismail Darbar?
A. I have worked with Moti in 'Devdas' and 'Black' earlier. Since there were new actors and new singers, I saw no harm in getting a new composer. I wanted fresh music, with passion and integrity. Ismail and I are very close, almost brothers, and that is why he would not take my work seriously, postponing things, etc. I did not want that to happen to this movie. When a person moves away from his work towards the world of glamour, I believe something starts missing from his work, something that used to make him stand apart at one point.
Q. New actors and huge expectations. You are a one-man show.
A. That is not true. The actors and singers may be new, but they have proved themselves. Ranvir and Sonam were born with stardom – I just taught them how to act. A big star and a good actor are two different things. My responsibility was to make them good actors. This is the first Indian film, where the entire movie has been shot in a set. Omung has made the whole set so beautifully. He took this responsibility very seriously. The music had to be better than the music in 'Khamoshi' and 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam', and that was Moti's responsibility. Rishi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor have had their share of stardom, and it became the responsibility of their children to be better than their fathers. We were under a lot of pressure to be better in everything, and we all dealt with that pressure positively.
Q. Like Kamal Amrohi, you too are a perfectionist. Or so it is believed.
A. I don't know. I believe each human being is a perfectionist in his or her own way. I still faint when I watch 'Pakeezah'. Each shot has Kamal Amrohi's passion and arrogance, as well as his self-confidence. I can make something like that only after I have made five films or so. My ability to tolerate, my patience – these are my biggest virtues. I can tolerate you till I convince you. I cannot compromise on my movies, because a movie is for keeps, it is immortal. I don't want to see my own work, 50 years later, and feel that I was not honest with it.
A. I am never satisfied. Every night, when I reach home, I reprimand myself that I did not get this scene right, and I could have done better with that scene. This carries on to the next day, when I go to the set and work with double intensity. I have always been like this. I only do what I want to. I also keep tabs on how much each one in my team is doing, knowing that all of them cannot be like me. I remember Moti was quite flustered once. He threatened to leave rig
Q. How different is the Sanjay who directed 'Khamoshi' from the one who directed 'Saawariya'?
A. The Sanjay who made 'Khamoshi' was rejected by the audience and critics, while the Sanjay who made 'Saawariya' has a following. There was no audience for 'Khamoshi', now 'Saawariya' is awaited with zeal. I felt weak then, I feel bold and stronger now. I am more polished now. The one thing in common between the two Sanjays is the willingness to work hard towards a goal. I am still the simple, sensitive Sanjay that I was then.
Q. Salman Khan says that your films always go over-budget. Do you worry about money?
A. Like I said, I do not want to compromise on my movies. I believe in living for the moment. I do not want to think, fifty years hence, that I cheated on my vision because of money. Not just money, even the time, set, location, music and dance – I do not want to repent on any of these aspects. I want every detail in my movies to be imprinted in the minds of the audience.
Q. Is it true that 'Saawariya' is not pure entertainment, but that there is a social message attached?
A. 'Saawariya' is a very beautiful love story. I have treated it quite differently from my other films. The film is only two hours and six minutes long. After 'Black', the response was so good that my enthusiasm increased. 'Page 3', 'Iqbal', and 'Gangster' released the same year, and none of these movies were conventional mainstream movies. The audience loved them anyway. This convinced me that the Indian audience is ready to watch something new, something different. I am confident that the audience will love 'Saawariya'.
Q. Was it a good move to let Salman Khan and Rani Mukherjee share screen space with Ranvir and Sonam?
A. Salman and Rani are part of the story. Their support is necessary. If I had taken lesser actors, then it would have fallen flat on its face. What they have brought to the movie is incredible. They not only supported Ranvir and Sonam, they taught them as well. The kids were not allowed to worry because these two fine actors were there. They showered a lot of affection on the newcomers.
Q. Is it true that the story is based on Dostoevsky's short story, 'White Nights'?
A. Yes, it is. I read the story after I made the film 'Black'. I read many more stories, but they lacked that potential in them to make a good movie. This story had a lot of passion, movement and situations. The characters touch your heart. And yet, it is a simple story. The protagonist can be a Hindi movie hero. I made the story a movie which would imbibe any kind of music. It is a story of pure love, the stuff that Hindi movies are made of. It was a challenge for me to capture the Indianness of the story and to make it a commercial film.
A. I have recorded them on a CD and I listen to them every night, wondering why I have not used them in the movie. If I had my way, I would insert one song in every scene. Maybe I will use these songs in my next movie. Like the song, "Thoda Badmash' – I had recorded it during my 'Devdas' days, but I used it in this movie. Anyway, it is not necessary that each song that is recorded has to be used in the movie. I give more importance to the songs that make for good visuals, and are fun to shoot. Nasir Hussain not only gave us great visuals for good songs, but also had a good time shooting for them.
Q. We catch a glimpse of the RK Banner in your movie.
A. I am blessed to have Raj Kapoor's name mentioned in my film. No one could have imagined that I, one of his biggest fans, would launch the fourth generation star grandson of the man who launched many stars. That is why I have christened my lead Ranvir Raj. This is my way of paying tribute to a great filmmaker.
Q. Your movie will release on the same day as 'Om Shanti Om'. Apprehensive?
A. I don't believe in collision and comparison. Shah Rukh and Farah have made a movie that is entirely different from the one I have made. The two movies are not comparable. Farah and I are different from each other as filmmakers. Both Shah Rukh and Farah are my friends. And I do not compete with friends. Of course, I hope 'Om Shanti Om' runs, but I hope 'Saawariya' runs better. Creativity should call for healthy competition, where one can better his work.
- Rajnee Gupta (SAMPURN)