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Mahesh Bhatt says that one thing that is inevitable in a director's life is a flop! - Milan Luthria

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By Joginder Tuteja, Courtesy: IndiaFM
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In 2006, if there has been any other movie apart from 'Rang De Basanti' that has found appreciation with both the mass and the class, it has been 'Taxi No. 9211'. We get into a conversation with the captain of the ship, or to put it better, the driver of this taxi - Milan Luthria - to know more about the film.

First of all Congratulations. 'Taxi no. 9211' has opened to unanimously good reviews.
The movie has been doing well everywhere. Great response, great feedback from the audiences and also from the critics.

In fact if we look at it, after 'Rang De Basanti', this year 'Taxi No. 9211' seems to be the only film that has generated so much of positive vibes all around.
True, because both the films have been completely different from any other film because of the kind of material that was selected to make the film. They are not run-of-the-mill and subject is the reason they stand out from the crowd.

So did you get a chance to interact with the audiences who went to the theatres to watch the film?
The other day I went to Regal in Colaba. [Says in a lighter vein] I met a black marketer there. He said that these days there aren't many films with which he could make profits and he said, "Thank you very much for making a film that is so popular". I also got a call from a heart specialist in Hyderabad. He said I am so happy to see such a film being made. See, the feedback has been so emotional. People have come up and said that they have been touched so much by the last 15 minutes of the movie. That was the whole idea you know, to make an entertainer that reaches to your heart without warning you. The way that you can identify with it.

Has it been a unanimous success over multiplexes as well as single screen theatres?
Yes. In fact distributors were wary as they thought that the movie was only for the multiplexes. Some from the trade also said that it was mainly from Bombay. I went with big hesitation to big single screen theatres like Regal, Novelty and Gaiety. I didn't want to be disappointed with low turnouts but you know it was shocking that all theatres were FULL. You know these were all front bencher audiences like cabbies, hawkers and vendors. And they were just lapping it up. I don't know but maybe this is because of Nana. For the masses, the basic test of the film is never comedy or action but it's always the last 30 minutes. Audiences get restless when you are telling a story. They want to leave as they need to go back and stand in a queue to catch a train. They don't want to hear a 'bhaashan'. I found that these guys were very thrilled and absorbed in narration.

When I look at in hindsight, it seems like a smart move to have people like Nana and John as they appeal to both segments of audience.
Yeah, but you know at that time when we signed them, they both were not that popular. John had given 'Karam' and 'Elaan'. Nana had not been seen for so long. Films like 'Kaal', 'Garam Masala', 'Bluffmaster' and 'Apaharan' had come much later. But that's true that in today's scenario the box office has worked in our favor as they became much popular over last few months. What could have been an ordinary film became BIG and that starcast became an on-your-face combination.

Was Sonali Kulkarni comfortable in her introduction love making scene or did it require some convincing?
[Pauses] She was off course hesitant initially as any woman would be. I was very clear that it was not an erotic scene. It was the moment from a night of the couple and I wanted it to be very real and genuine. She wanted some clothes and we gave them. Also when she voiced her discomfort I told her, "See, you are on the sets of a producer and a director who have never done anything hanky-panky with the camera work. So you have to trust us." From hereon she was absolutely fine. Also I would like to give credit to Nana. He is an absolutely professional actor. You know, these are actors who have done so much theatre and have interacted so much with their co-stars that they know how to make them comfortable. I feel this scene has turned up very well and is one of the best scenes I have ever done.

As per you which was the most crucial scene on which 'Taxi No. 9211' balanced?
There are two sequences in fact. First time, when John gets into the cab. The most difficult scenes to shoot are those when the two are in the car. The director cannot really get into the car and you have to just leave it to the actors to be on their own. I was very worried about the scene and in fact I kept postponing the shoot for 2 days and later decided that let's do it. The chemistry in the scene is very important as the audience understand a lot from that scene. The second most crucial scene is the end where Nana tells John to go for a drink. This scene was important because if it would have gone slightly here or there, it would have looked very stupid. It's a difficult moment to pull off as the two have been fighting all this while. Also, one is a cabbie and the other is a Mr. Moneybags. This moment had to be convincing and here again I was quite worried.

At the very inception or while the movie was being filmed, did you ever feel that you are making a 'risky' film?
[Says firmly] No. In fact I feel that the risk is more if you 'follow' something which is popular. If you try to imitate a working formula the risk increases. On the other hand if you try to make something different, the risk goes down like what you saw in films like 'Lagaan' or 'Dil Chahta Hai'. Now look at 'Iqbal'. I think it was the best film of last year. Before that I feel 'Maqbool' was the best film.

Especially with movies like 'Chori Chori' and 'Deewaar' that were not really commercially successful, it would have been difficult to gain an entry into a production house like that of Sippys.
No, it wasn't like that. Ramesh Sippy had seen Deewaar. There are some producers and directors who don't go by hit and flops but look at quality of work. I don't regret either 'Chori Chori' or 'Deewaar'. I am not ashamed of those films. I am first to admit that I didn't like some portions of these films. In fact I didn't like the climax of 'Kachche Dhaage' at all. But my point is that there are some people who can see the caliber of a director. 'Lamhe' was a flop film but you still can't down a director like Yash Chopra. Or if you see 'Mera Naam Joker', you can't say that Raj Kapoor doesn't know his job. Every film maker has flops and as Mahesh Bhatt says that one thing that is inevitable in a director's life is a flop! In fact Amitabh Bachchan had seen 'Chori Chori' when we started 'Deewar' and he said that it is as a fine film. For me that's the biggest achievement that I have been given such a recognition for my quality of work and not the box office success or failure. In fact I got more offers after 'Chori Chori' and 'Deewaar' when compared to 'Kachhe Dhaage'.

You have teamed up with an entirely different crew ranging from cinematographer to writer to editor.
Ya, I have changed the crew completely. I just thought that every now and then you need to do that. New people bring with them new energy and new approach. They update your own vision. Otherwise what happens is that it becomes infectious. You end up repeating yourselves and same discussions. New crew brings certain unpredictability to the film-making process, as each of them brings with him a new point of view.

Any particular films in the pipeline that you may want to highlight?
[Pauses] It's a little too early at this stage. The one film that I am committed to initially is with Ramesh Sippy. There is definitely a film with Sanjay Dutt, though we haven't decided which one it would be. Also there is another with Ajay Devgan for which things are in process but some mix-n-match is required.

Which are the genres that you would be exploring from hereon?
Well, one is a love story, one is an action-adventure, one is situational comedy and yes, they are all different.

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