After speaking to Raj Kumar Santoshi, one can be rest assured that his zany sense of humour is not restricted to the characters that he brings on screen. He may state amusing things with a dead pan expression but scratch the surface and you would realise that the man has quite a few valid points to make. One such point is around the entire mentality of filmmakers from the current generation who have a ready ‘excuse’ of leaving their brains at home when walking in for a film. In a holds-no-bar two part conversation with Joginder Tuteja, Raj Kumar Santoshi challenges this new way of presenting films before the audiences and wonders if this trend would make him corrupt as well in years to come.
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani has opened to a huge response all over. Some smart marketing and pitching worked in it’s favour?
See, we were very clear from the very beginning that this wasn’t an over the top comedy that we were offering. Also, unlike so many filmmakers out there, we were never apologetic in telling audience what our film was all about. We never urged our audiences to leave their brains at home. Why should they? Shouldn’t films allow audiences to use some parts of their brains at least? Why should that be the case? This is why I never wanted my audiences to leave their brains behind. Please bring all your organs with you in the theatre; don’t leave anything behind.
We never urged our audiences to leave their brains at home. Why should they?
But in the trend of some out and out slapstick comedies or action thrillers, makers do make declarations for audiences to leave their brains behind.
This reflects on their confidence level. Maybe they themselves aren’t confident of what they have made. Even slapstick requires some intelligence when it is being made. Have you ever heard Walt Disney stating something like ‘please leave your brains behind’ before the release of their films?
You have been in the industry for a couple of decades now and have seen changing trends. It is nice to see you bouncing back in a big way with Ajab Prem… However, how do you look at the entire filmmaking process and the economics involved today?
Frankly, I am disturbed. Today, people are making films just for 3 days. ‘Bas opening lag jaaye picture ki…’ is the kind of statement which is heard ever so often. They don’t care whether they have made a good or a bad film; all they care for is if the moolah has been recovered in the opening weekend or not. Once they are done with the film, they don’t even care about it after it’s release. They just move on. There is just no sense of ownership any more. Where has the entire passion gone? All passion seems to be reserved now towards giving a stylish look to the film and promoting it to the hilt so that box office numbers come up fast. Quality has taken a back seat and quantity is on the fore front today. By hook or by crook, it’s just the opening that seems to be mattering for most. That’s not filmmaking for sure.
Today, people are making films just for 3 days. ‘Bas opening lag jaaye picture ki…’
But money does talk at the end of the day?
What money are we talking about? Within an opening weekend of the film’s release, we see huge declarations being made. ‘This movie has made 60 crores, 80 crores, 100 crores in 3 days flat’. Kahan se number aaye ye saare? And then this entire figure occupies more than 90% of the film’s poster with the name of the film relegated somewhere at the bottom. Filmmakers feel that at the end of the day, history will remember the number, not the film. If this is the way a film should look, i.e. only a box office number, then I am afraid it is not a healthy trend.
Today, your own film Ajab Prem… is expected to project huge numbers too due to it’s massive opening…
I am glad that has happened. I made the film with the right intent and went by my instinct. I wasn’t following a formula here. Everything just fitted in perfectly for Ajab Prem…, right from getting the right producers like TIPS who have done such a fabulous job in marketing films like Race and Kismat Konnection or getting such a fantastic musical score by Pritam or having the best young actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif on board. I am ecstatic with the film’s success because I now won’t have to follow the trend of other filmmakers; I would be able to conceive a film and make it the way I want to without compromising on my core ethics.
So dabbling in varied genres would continue for Raj Kumar Santoshi?
Definitely. I have always told stories that I have felt like telling at any point of time without worrying about trends. Ghayal and Damini were action and drama flicks at the very beginning of my career. Andaz Apna Apna which is so much considered to be a cult classic decade and a half down the line, was a comedy where I shifted gears. Ghatak was an emotional action film. Pukar was an espionage thriller. Khakee had a lot of drama to it. Lajja was about women power. Halla Bol was revolutionary. Today, Ajab Prem… is a comedy. Tomorrow, I may make an entirely different film. That’s the way I have been.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of the conversation where Raj Kumar Santoshi reacts on digs taken on him by other filmmakers, delay in completion of his films, failure of Family and Halla Bol and how he is quite sure that Ranbir and Katrina are sure shot superstars just round the corner.