The Address, Dubai December 30/31, 2009 Wed/Thu 1 : 14 AM
Its back to the Burj Dubai, the dancing fountain, the enormity of the ‘needle in the sky’ and the peace of silence and nothingness. The mind functions in lethargy – slower, resolved but with sensible balance. Right now the balance is tilted heavily towards sleep. Not too bad a tilt, except that the lack of it is so severe that most of the time is now spent between sheets and pillows. One visited them once in an entire day. Now, its more frequent and if I may say, more welcome.
Its Shweta’s Mother in laws Mother’s 80th birthday ! Krishna ji Raj Kapoor, wife of late Raj Kapoor, Mother to Dabboo Kapoor father to Karishma and Kareena Kapoor. Mother to Rishi Kapoor husband to Neetu Kapoor, parents to Ranbir Kapoor. Mother to Chimpu and Rima and Ritu Nanda wife to Rajan Nanda, father to Nikhil Nanda Shweta’s husband, father to Navya -Naveli and Agastya. Krishna ji Raj Kapoor sister in law to Shashi Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor father to Kanchan Kapoor married to Ketan Desai, son of Manmohan Desai. Shashi Kapoor father to Kunal Kapoor married to Ramesh Sippy’s daughter. Krishna ji Raj Kapoor sister to Premnath husband of Bina Rai who sadly recently passed away. Krishna ji Raj Kapoor daughter in law to the doyen Prithvi Raj Kapoor !!
All … all .. a prominent part of this wonderful film industry of India. All that have made invaluable contribution as artists, producers, directors to the fraternity. This large yet such a close knit family.
Krishna ji Raj Kapoor, now perhaps the oldest and the eldest member of this illustrious family, celebrates her 80th birthday and so we all decided to get together to bring it in on … yes … the 1st of January 2010 … her birthday !!
Abhishek and Aishwarya are stuck in Mumbai – they having shooting commitments which does not allow them to travel out. Aishwarya still with ‘Guzarish’ and Sanjay Leela Bhansali and ‘Robot’ with RajniKant and Shankar director and Abhishek having done almost with Ashutosh Gowarikar in Goa starts his new film with Rohan Sippy and then to TV and BINGO, the game show with Colors.
But enough of family and back to this ‘family’. Sachin Tendulkar called to personally compliment me on Paa. I was wanting for him to finish his cricket matches with Sri Lanka and then invite him over to see the film at a private screening, but he beat me to it and went across to a theatre and saw the film. Arghhh !! wanted to invite him as settled with him earlier, but …
Paa, now eventually being accepted as a hit by the trade, which is heartening to know and being touted as one of the most impactful and loved in the year !! Money made by Reliance, money made by AB Corp, appreciation for film and content and performance and another combination for Abhishek and me working successful. So now its Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Bunty aur Babli, Sarkaar 1 and 2 and Paa … not a bad record at all !!
Read an interesting piece written by friend Rajdeep Sardesai editor in chief for IBN/CNN and am putting it up for comments -
It talks most candidly about the media selling out to paid representations from politicians, from political parties, from business houses and defending at times the sales and marketing teams that assiduously pursue these activities, to being cynical and dismissive to the practice that now pervades the system. So .. hey ..!! is the media admitting that such practices are above board. And if they are, then do you think us lesser mortals in the firmament of films have liberty to follow suit .. and that it would be ..like OKAAAY !! Okay to buy a review for our films ? Or … hummmm .. buy a bad review for a rival film ?? And whether this practice is yet to start or is already prevalent ?? Becaaaauuuseee !! How does one explain 99% glowing reviews to that one or two really bad ones. I mean bad like, completely in the opposite direction. Like 4 stars in one to half a star in another !! Or like … the best film of the year in one to the ‘worst film’ in the other.
Rajdeep !! My friend !! We need to meet and talk on this. Is this for real ???
Maybe the FmXt can give in their opinion on this !!
Meanwhile did some interviews with the trade and the film press -
This from Ashwin Varde on Star Week, the new and most successful venture every week from the Magna stable, the one which brings out the Stardust -
Your new film, Paa, has surpassed all expectations. It’s standing firm at the box-office even in its second week. Is this the kind of reaction you expected?
Thank you for your observation on the success of PAA. As makers and those that participated in this film, there is always a sense of apprehension and anxiety before the release of your product. We went through this phase as no other. But receiving accolades of praise and excellence from one and all has been a most rewarding moment. We want our creativity to be recognised ; it is most natural. But I must be honest in admitting that I never expected it to reach the extent that it has. What has been most intriguing for me has been the voice of appreciation and its transfer almost magically to the rest of our cinema going audience. No amount of marketing and promotional strategy will ever be able to replace the will of the masses. The masses have willed this film to succeed and for some peculiar reason had willed it even before it was put up in the public domain. How else can one explain the destruction of every conceivable norm of assessment, practiced by the trade and information pundits of the Industry.
It’s perhaps the only film this year that has received so much critical as well as commercial acclaim. How do you feel about that?
When your enemy and your detractor showers praise, that is the moment of ultimate confirmation of success. It has the elements of what poetic justice is made of and believed. It is rare for critical and commercial acclaim to occur. Especially in the field of arts and entertainment. I humbly sublimate myself before those that gave us this final reckoning. But I shall have to first go down on bended knees before the people of my country for their affection and patronage. They have been and shall always be the richest award for me. Through my entire history of 40 years in this glorious profession, it is the people that have urged me on, provoked, prayed and patiently been by my side, holding my hand in supportive gesture and at times raising it along with mine in adulation. I have in my career always valued criticism above all else. It has been this aspect that has led me to repair the wrong and correct the faults and mistakes. I believe those that suggest and comment do so out of care and affection. I value that, and they shall perennially be respected. I am happy that today I have given them that decide my fate, reason to be happy on all counts. Their happiness is mine a hundred fold !!
Paa also marks the return of AB Corp – and with a bang. Was it a conscious decision to choose a subject that was out of the ordinary?
No. Abhishek and I just felt that if we were to be creatively a part of the product, then we should have a part of the rights as well. We both liked the subject and Balki’s take on its execution and decided to hold hands with Reliance on its production.
The character of Auro has been a huge hit with the adults and kids alike. For you, was it one of the most difficult characters to portray?
It is indeed quite wonderful to see Auro so closely being liked by, as you say, adults and kids alike. This is another unique quality of the film. As far as the character is concerned, I do think it was difficult in its physicality more than in its performing. The make up routine of prosthetics took 4 – 5 hours to put on with very strict discipline to be followed. No movement, no eating drinking or speaking. It also took a couple of hours to take it off. But at the end of the day the final result was astonishing and I must admit that 90% of the credit of the performance must go to those wonderful ladies and gents in the make up team, that worked tirelessly to make sure that the results were of the finest quality. The rest of the mannerisms were dictated by Balki. I merely followed what he demanded and designed. The portrayal was deliberately designed to keep me away from any recognised quality of mine that may have been seen before, so yes it was extremely challenging.
We’ve read that there was a huge amount of research involved before finalizing the look of Auro. Was it because you didn’t want to lose the authenticity? How much were you personally involved in the process?
I was always very anxious about how Balki would convert me into an progeria affected child of 13. He showed me various manuals and dvd’s of patients and children that unfortunately were suffering from this malaise. We selected a real life case and after its approval gave it to the make up team for replication. We took liberty with the height and the eyes to some extent. The eyes become larger than normal too in these patients and protrude outwards. To get that effect I would have had to undergo delicate conversions over my eyes which would have meant anaesthising it every 2 hours through painful injections. We decided against it because it was considered too risky. The height we did not dabble with because my own height was well known. It would have been too much of a pretence to reduce that. Balki did not want to make any conscious efforts to show the efforts made in the make over. That was not the story. It was not an issue based film on progeria. It was just another ordinary Hindi film story where, yes, one of the characters suffered from this ailment.
The look of Auro was unveiled only a month before the film’s release. Did you, at any time, feel that this was a huge risk? Especially since the making of the film was rather low-key…
It was a conscious decision to keep Auro’s look secret. Which is why we shot at studios with great amount of confidentiality and security. We also deliberately went to shoot in Malaysia and in the UK, in remote areas, to keep away from any kind of exposure to the media or the paparazzi. I do not know much about marketing and publicity so I cannot say whether keeping Auro away from the public for so long was risky or not. But in hindsight I think it was a wise decision to have done that.
Was this also one of your most physically demanding characters? How did you cope with it?
The make up routine was tedious ; it tested one’s patience and tolerance. But when you came to realize what the end result was going to do to your performance, you bore it with a smile … Er … Not when it was being put on !!
The kind of reaction you’ve got for Paa reminds us of Black. How would you compare the two experiences?
‘Black’ and ‘Paa’can only be compared by that extra ‘a’ in one. Nothing more. They are two different films entirely. Yes we dealt with a physically challenged kid in one and then the protagonist’s own suffering with Alzheimer’s. In the other I was the one afflicted, but the nature and story was dissimilar. But yes they both required a working which was out of the ordinary.
Do you feel the commercial success of Auro will inspire even the younger actors to experiment with characters that may not be glamorous but strong in substance?
I couldn’t possibly be suggesting to the younger actors what they should be doing with their creative choices. That would be too audacious.
Tell us about your most memorable moments during the shooting of Paa – things that will remain with you forever…
The entire experience from the first narration of the script to the final mix and release, has been full of memorable moments. The exhilaration when the make up was first put on right to the recording of the back ground score by the genius of llaiyaraja, has been momentous. The expressions of my in film school team kids when they first saw me to the utter surprise of Aamir and Sunjay Dutt when they visited me on set have all been etched in my thoughts. But the shoot of the climax as Auro prepares to bind his parents would remain close to me.
In Paa, Abhishek has come up with one of his finest performances to date. And so has Vidya. But do you feel everything else in the film has taken a backseat because Auro’s success has been so overwhelming?
I am delighted that you compliment Abhishek and Vidya, for they have truly given off their best. Restraint in front of the camera is a quality that I would put extremely high in value when assessing a performance. Abhishek’s natural restraint as Amol in the film is marvellous, but to say that it was overlooked or back seated would be an unfair comment. No artist shall be able to rise or establish himself in any situation in film if his counterparts are not of equal calibre. If Auro is being noticed it is because Amol and Vidya were efficient and capable counter parts. Without them Auro would have been a failure. As he would have without the support of Paresh and Arundhati. And let us not also fail to mention the contribution of music and background scores that enhance our performances and how beautifully Ilaiyaraja designed it for the film. Another aspect that often gets overlooked is the job of the editor. One false cut or an enhanced stay could mutilate your work for time immemorial. What of the DOP, PC Sreeram and the visual beauty that he paints through his lenses and the final audio mix of Tapas in putting all the necessary ingredients together for that one final copy. All of them collectively go to make a successful film.
There were reports that R. Balki was so passionate about this film that he even refused to make any monetary remuneration as his directorial fees. Is that true?
For Balki remuneration was never an issue and he never asked for it during the making of the film. But we have paid him after the release.
Paa also started on a successful note with one of the grandest premieres the industry has witnessed in the longest time. Were you expecting this kind of a turnout?
I am honoured to have had members of my fraternity present in such large numbers at the Premier. We are and have always been a close knit family. On events such as these the presence of the family is most heartening. Not expecting family to be there would have been unjust on my part. I am touched and obliged by their gesture. And I have missed those that could not make it due to other previous commitments.
Tell us about the most interesting response you got from someone from the film fraternity…
O ! Dear !! That would require a lot more space than this interview can accommodate. But they have all been so gracious and kind. I would not be able to justify their individual response, if I did not put out the responses of the others as well. Maybe at a later date I may think it prudent to put all of it on my Blog.
We had heard that even Aishwarya played a crucial role when it came to the marketing and promotional strategies of the film. Is that correct?
Aishwarya is family and family matters involve all of us. PAA is family and her inputs along with all the others are routine activity. To say that she conducted a designated role as a marketing and promotional expert would be incorrect. In matters such as this the entire family pools in their resources and inputs and yes some of her suggestions were adhered to.
The only criticism Paa received was with regard to the way the media was portrayed in the film. Do you agree with the views that the track was out of place?
…… and the only questions that have been raised on this criticism have come from the media … Ha ha ! Which really is the greatest irony, because that is exactly what the sequence in the film was all about – that the media thinks themselves to be above any and every criticism ; that they have every right to question, but deny the right from others to ask them for answers !! No the track was not out of place. It was the one justifiable moment in the track of Amol Arte to show his righteous quality, in the face of the impression that he was a weak and inconsiderate partner to Vidya. He demonstrated his political skill, in achieving what he did, not just to impress his Father who felt his son was incompetent, but also judiciously used the same elements in changing the course of his own seemingly questionable act. It was perfect screenplay.
Auro’s monkey dance has become a rage. It’s also become one of your signature moves now. Did you anticipate this?
No never. It was just an innocuous little thing designed by the choreographer Bosco-Caesar on set. I made my own thing of it and shared it with the kids in the film and now it has become somewhat of a signature move.
For AB Corp, this is a new beginning. What’s your vision for the company in times to come?
A new beginning for AB Corp happened when we paid off all our debts and came out of the red many years ago. We decided then that we shall remain a small lean operation. We shall continue with the same philosophy. There are many aspects of the business that we are not qualified for and so in such cases we shall hold hands with other partners and share equity.
And another one with the trade – Kumar Mohan and Complete Cinema -
Questions for Mr. Amitabh Bachhan
1. Do you think Paa is the best work of your long and remarkable acting career since you have assumed an altogether different persona for this film?
It will always be difficult for me to admit what has been my best. It would force me to rate myself – an act I find quite unnecessary in the life of an actor, well at least mine anyway. I would rather be a part of the creativity that my profession demands and then leave it to the audience to judge it. They shall always be the best at this. The different persona was challenging and one that I am certain every actor would want to be a part of. I found it exciting for me to be put in the situation that Balki put me in. He did not give me my face or my voice or my normal habits and he made it work. I would give Balki the credit for this.
2. What really prompted you to do this film?
The story, the idea of playing someone that was 53 years younger than my own real age, Abhishek as a colleague and Abhishek’s decision to not just produce the film, but to make it in a very controlled budget of 15 cr !
3. At your age people tend to take it easy and prefer not to take up physically challenging and difficult assignments. What keeps you going?
I think the idea of taking it easy and bringing preferences in the way we want to lead our lives, will depend on individual thinking. I feel I wish to continue working. So if my body is responding well, my face is acceptable to the stories that producers bring for me, and there are a few people that wish to see me act, I do not see reason to stop. When all the above fail, I guess I shall be forced to do so. But till it does not happen I would wish to carry on.
4. Some people feel that instead of you, Balki should have casted a kid in this role. Why do you think he chose you for this film?
Ask him !
5. Prior to Paa, films from AB Corp have not been commercially very successful. Yet you decided to go for an experimental subject like this. This is rare. Generally producers are cautious after the commercial debacle of their films and play it safe. What made you take up another risky subject?
It was never a risky subject and no director or producer thinks the subject he or she has chosen is ever going to be risky. There are certain convictions in the pursuit of creativity. Balki and I were certain of what we were making. Balki was certain of its success, I was not ; but then I am temperamentally ever the pessimist. I am happy that what Balki thought proved correct.
6. Recently a Hollywood film titled Avatar has been released that has been highly appreciated by the film community for its technical excellence. It is expected to do well in India as well. Another film 2012 has already grossed more than 80 crores in India, which is even better than the collection of some of the recently released big banner multi-star-cast Indian films. What do you say to these developments?
In 1995 when I formed the first corporate entity, ABCL we were made the butt of all the possible jokes that the industry could level at us. I had also said a year before ABCL was formed that the United States of America had started addressing our film industry as ‘India – the New Frontier’. I had predicted that within the next 5 years after 1995 the Americans would walk in to India and start swamping our business with their expensive content and that with the large funds at their command would be in a position to overtake if not attempt to diminish our product. The idea of starting corporatization was to get all of us to ‘put our house in order’, before the Americans came in. I had given the example of how they had successfully managed to do just that in almost eliminating the individual industries of the UK, France, Germany and other important film making nations of the world. No one listened and no one bothered to care. Today you are alarmed by their successes and wonder what I wish to say on these developments. What can I say to what I have already said 15 years ago ? We will not be able to compete with them as far as resources are concerned. Culturally we are different from them and so their social content films will not bear much, but with the kind of mix that they are producing they have made heavy in roads . They are still about 3% of the market, but they will grow with each year. They conduct themselves with massive research and planning. Unless we bring in better administration, accountability, controls both creative and governmental, marketing and publicity skills we shall soon be losing a very vibrant and unique market to the outsider. A most lamentable occurance.
7. Why is that we have not been able to make films like Avatar?
Give me 1500 cr rupees and I will also make a film like that !
8. Paa has the entire Bachhan family’s representation in the film except Aishwarya Bachhan. Should we take it that all A.B. Corp films would have someone or the other from your family in them?
No not necessarily. But if there is talent within the family that can fill up a space in the product why not. Did not Guru Dutt work in his own productions, Raj Kapoor and many members of his family in RKFilms, Dev Anand in Navketan, Dharmendra in his own, Jeetendra in his, Anil Kapoor in Boney’s production company, Hrithik in his father’s company, Shahrukh in Red Chillies, Uday Chopra in YRF , Aamir in his own production.. the examples are endless and there for all to see.
9. Recently, there was news that Abhishek and you insist on your dialogues being written in Devnagari instead of the Roman script, which has become the trend these days thanks to growing Anglicisation of the film industry. Your comments, please.
I know how to read and write Hindi in the way it has been taught to me and the way it is meant to be written. And why just Hindi, every language in our vast and diverse country should be written and read in the form it was created and given birth to.
10. Though we incessantly talk about double-digit growth of the Indian film industry in business seminars and conclaves, the fact remains that the entire annual box office collection of our films is far less than that of the worldwide collection of a single Hollywood blockbuster like Avatar, or a Harry Potter film. We have a really tiny share of the world market. Your comments, please.
We have constraints of language. English is the most widely and most prominent spoken language in the world. Then comes Spainish and other languages. Our films will always have to live within this handicap. But I believe the gap is narrowing. Today there is a huge market world wide on our films. Mid East, UK, USA, Europe, South America, Canada, African nations, Russia, Far East almost the entire universe is getting acquainted with our cinema. We are making progress gradually but surely. But what seems to be the greatest problem is that the accountability on the revenues of our films is abysmal. I believe that in today’s conditions the one that is responsible for creating the content is getting the least earning. This defies all laws of business. If piracy, proper and honest accountability were to take place, our films have the capacity of giving returns that would much higher than what is projected today.
11. You have been close to Shri Anil Ambani. His group company Reliance Big Pictures also distributed Paa worldwide. They have also invested big in Spielberg’s DreamWorks and have put in money in the development funds of well-known Hollywood stars. We don’t see such initiative coming from India’s corporate producers domestically. What stops them from investing in Indian talent and develop world-class film scripts and projects here in India?
Mr Ambani and his companies have the resources to be able to do what they are doing. In a way it is creditable that there will be some American companies at least that shall be dependent on Indian companies. Other corporates not doing that is a matter of who has the resources to indulge. But I think with greater awareness towards India, we are getting there. Rome was not built in a day.
12. At some point of time we have heard that Reliance Big Pictures has agreed to provide A.B. Corp developing funding and but due to some policy change it did not happen. Your comments, please.
There was never any talk of providing developing funds. What was agreed upon was what you saw in Paa. They bring the finances and whatever other skills they have – distribution, exhibition, marketing. We bring in the creative. And we share the property. Paa has had a slightly different negotiation – we keep the copyright in perpetuity.
13. What is the future plan of A.B. Corp? Please tell us about the projects you have been working on. Tell us about your upcoming films as an actor.
There are no plans at the moment, but we shall be continuing to look for good property. Right now we want to savour the success of Paa. As an actor there is RANN next of Ram Gopal Varma, then TEEN PATTI of Leena Yadav and Ambika Hinduja an dthen UTV’s Johnny Mastana.
14. The Film Awards season will soon be starting. Are you looking forward to it with great expectations? Who do you think will be your closest competitors for all the best actor awards waiting to be given away?
I never look to winning awards with any kind of expectations. If they come I shall gladly accept them. If they do not I shall applaud the one that gets them. For me my award has already come – the love and affection with which the people of my country enjoyed PAA.
15. We are sure you have been asked this question a million times before and after the release of Paa. Yet we feel like asking it in the hope of a different and interesting response. How did it feel like playing a reel life son to your real life son?
Just another role in film. Nothing more nothing less.
ENJOY ….. !!!
It is just past midnight here in Dubai and the next time its midnight an entire year would have gone by …
My love and …. what can I say that has not already been said a million times .. but still needs to be said …
… and more …!!