Two days after the tepid response to the latest Salman starrer Main Aurr Mrs Khanna, its shell-shocked debutant director Prem Soni was bracing himself to be written off as one-film wannabe-wonder.
Salman Khan restored Prem's trust in his abilities when on Sunday night at a private family gathering, he embraced the shaken director and announced, "No matter what people say about Khanna, you are doing our next film."
Relieved beyond belief, Prem Soni is now a bigger Salman fan than ever before. "The way Main Aurr Mrs Khanna has been received, I thought no one would want to touch me with a bargepole. So many announcements go down the drain if the first film doesn't work."
Relieved, Soni is still bewildered by the savage response to his maiden effort. "It was almost as if we made the worst film on this earth. I could smell the resentment against the film. There was definitely an attempt to write it off on the day of release."
Salman who had just delivered a grand hit in Wanted showed his full faith in Main Aurr Mrs Khanna.
Says the director, "He completely believed in my film and his character. But since he was already so visible for Wanted, we decided to go easy on the publicity for Mrs Khanna. We were wrong. This was a different Salman and a different film. Not that aggressive promotion helps. But aggressive anti-publicity surely damaged my film."
Whatever the response to the film at home, Main Aurr Mrs Khanna has been warmly received in Australia where the film is set and where a number of prominent Hindi films have been lately shot.
Says Prem Soni, "Melbourne is not just a location in my film. It's one of the characters in the plot. Has anyone commented on how hard we worked on getting the locations right? Main Aurr Mrs Khanna is the first Indian film to be shot on an international airport. When I wrote my script a major part of drama was situated on an international airport."
Salman, Sohail and Soni were very clear on the fact that they wanted to shoot on an international airport. "We didn't want to erect a set depicting an airport. A set looks like a set no matter how authentic. I made contact with the authorities at several airports. We had the choice of shooting on the airport in three cities Geneva, New York and Melbourne. We chose Melbourne because after much discussion they offered us the best deal."
And shooting on the bustling international airport in Melbourne was allowed absolutely free of cost. "Can you imagine? All we were told was to shoot in the nights when the air traffic was less dense. We paid nothing and we got complete and free access to shoot in the most restricted areas on the airport. We shot in an area past the immigration, so any of us could take an unauthorized flight to any part of the world. But all of us Kareena, Salman, Sohail, Yash Tonk, Nauheed Cyrusi and Bappi Lahiri, were very careful of our responsibility. We had been given a huge privilege and a diplomatic immunity. It wasn't just us. It was India's reputation at stake."
Sighs Soni, "Has anyone noticed that Main Aurr Mrs Khanna is the only film to be shot on an airport since Steven Spielberg's The Terminal? It's so easy and so much fun to be clever at a film's expense."
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