The rousing reception accorded to Agneepath places its debutant direction at the top of the heap. Subhash K Jha chats up with the stunned director Karan Malhotra.
Has Mr. Bachchan seen your Agneepath?
So far he hasn't. But I am hoping he would very soon. He has been travelling.
Does the overwhelming response to your film put an added responsibility on your shoulder?
Yes, it certainly makes me feel I've to deliver an even bigger film the next time. I am doing my next film for Karan Johar's Dharma Productions, that's for sure.
What made you think of doing a remake of Agneepath which when released in 1990 was not a successful film?
Very honestly, the merit of a film cannot be judged by its collections. When I decided to do my own take on Agneepath a lot of people questioned my decision. But it was a film very close to my heart.
Was it a kind of pledge to yourself that when you turn director it'd have to be Agneepath first?
Nothing like that. It so happened that one day we were all sitting with Karan Johar in his office at Dharma Productions discussing our favourite films. I mentioned Agneepath as one of my 3 top films of all times. Karan asked me if I thought Agneepath could be remade. I said yes. Within a couple days of that conversation I shifted into Karan Johar's office and requested him to let me write a new version of Agneepath. He was kind enough to let me do what I wanted. I am so glad that the faith he placed in me by trusting me with a film produced by his father, was not misplaced
You mentioned 3 favourite films. Which are the other two favourite films of yours?
Basu Chatterjee's Ek Ruka Hua Faisla and Raj Kumar Santoshi's Damini. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla is my all-time favourite film. It was even better than the English-language version of the film.
So would you be doing a remake of Ek Ruka Hua Faisla?
At some point in my career, yes. Not right away though.
How did you decide on the changes to be made in the original Agneepath?
I knew the things that I loved about the original Agneepath. I tried to keep those things intact as much as possible. The basic revenge story interested me. There are so many ways of telling a revenge story. I didn't consciously sit down to make changes in the original vendetta format. I kept the basic structure and went with the flow of it. And then I wrote in the things I thought I'd enjoy watching in Agneepath. What we see in my Agneepath is how I saw the story. The basic change I'd say is the character played by Rishi Kapoor. That wasn't there in the original.
Were you apprehensive that the changes would not go down well with the purists?
All the apprehensions vanished when I wrote the script. Once I finished, Karan Johar approved and the cast fell into place. All the actors I got were my first choices. After that, I followed my heart and script. I stopped thinking of the comparisons with the original.
Weren't you nervous that family audiences would stay away because of the violence in your film?
I was hoping they would get the context of the violence. Once the audience saw the characters within their context the violence ceased to be offensive.
There is so much anger in Agneepath. Does it reflect your state of mind?
Well, I am not bitter about the world. But I am certainly short-tempered. My actors would vouch for that. I am trying to master my temper.
Are you taking a break before you make your next film?
Not really. I've been working for a good 15-16 years. I was an assistant director before Agneepath. During all this time, the only break I took was for my honeymoon. My wife Ekta is my support system. I was very lucky to have her as my associate in Agneepath. She is working on her own script for now.
What are your future aspirations?
Like every new director I want to make a film with Mr. Bachchan. It would be a dream come true. Without doubt it would be the high point of my career. I am also a big fan of Mr. Pankaj Kapoor and Mr. Naseeruddin Shah.
Those two don't fit into the Agneepath mould.
That doesn't matter. The film Ek Ruka Hua Faisla was not a mainstream film and yet it was so gripping and entertaining. Why do a lot of people perceive only comedies to be entertaining? If I've an opportunity to work with Pankaj-ji or Naseer Saab, I'd grab it. And anyway I don't have to restrict myself to the mainstream mould.
Niche films don't get an audience.
But at least directors get a chance to make different kinds of films. Earlier there was no room for any innovation. At least there are producers who are willing to invest in such films now.