The entire film is to be shot in Hollywood, Los Angeles. "It'll also star 12-15 leading actors from Hollywood in various parts. It's a candyfloss, 'safe' film. We had to bring in an extra gloss in the backdrop. That's why Hollywood. When I produced Mujhse Shaadi Karogi it was the first beach film in Bollywood. After that, we had dozens of beach films in Hindi. Likewise, my Jaan-e-Mann was the first romantic-comedy with visual effects. While making full-on commercial films we need to change the backdrop." Sajid agrees shooting Kambhakth Ishq in Hollywood won't be an easy task. "It will be expensive, yes. We'll have 40-50 crew members flying to LA. We're thinking of chartering a flight from Mumbai. It'll be more economical. Or maybe we should just buy a jet," he jokes. This is Sajid's most ambitious film to date with a budget of Rs. 60 crores. Kareena Kapoor plays a brand model.
Why a new director for such a lavish film? "Sabir Khan has grown up in front of me. He assisted in my production Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. He's very hardworking. And if you're suggesting that I should've first let Sabir make a smaller film then let me say, I don't make small films. I've dreamt 70mm dreams from before that format was invented." Sajid has been signing many new directors. "After a lot of introspection, my company has decided that we need to continue making commercial films but with a little deviation. That's where my three new directors Sabir Khan, Siddharth Anand and Imtiaz Ali come in. They have the discipline of commercial cinema and the ability to take cinema further. Siddharth's film (which will probably star Saif Ali Khan and Ranbir Kapoor) isn't the routine candy floss film. We start at the end of 2008. Siddharth wants to do something different. So do I.. It's a film set against Mumbai. It isn't a dark film. But not frothy either."
Imtiaz Ali will first direct a film for Saif's production house. "After that in March-April 2009, Imtiaz will make a film for me. I think his forte is romance. We'll go by that. Though I'd like to take a little risk with the successful directors." Pushing the envelope isn't seen as a healthy trend in some quarters of Bollywood, if we go by the opposition to Ashutosh Gowarikar"s Jodhaa Akbar. "No," Sajid protests. "I think Jodhaa Akbar was commercially viable from the start. Not a single critic questioned Ashutosh for making the film. The promos weren't that good. But in 5-6 places in the film we stood up and clapped." Siddharth will direct for Sajid this year and Imtiaz Ali comes in next year. How does Sajid pick his directors? "I don't look at the directors' success graph. In 2006, I gave a break to Shirish Kunder (in Jaan-e-Mann) when he was a film editor. In 2008, I took on Sajid Khan who had no background in movies. In fact, he was a stand-up comedian and a critic. To put a commercial 45-crore project on his shoulders needed some guts and vision. Though Jaan-e-Mann didn't do well I'm proud of it. My biggest blunder was to release it alongside another big commercial film Don. It was one of the biggest blunders of my career. I failed with my release strategy. I take full responsibility. Lagaan and Gadar - Ek Prem Katha had done well on the same Friday. But two films with over a 1000 prints each was wrong. The economics were wrong. Eventually, many people saw Jaan-e-Mann on satellite television and loved it."
Why isn't Kunder making his second film with Sajid? "He needs to start his own production house. Maybe he feels producers become a hurdle because they bring in a business factor. I don't know why bringing the topic of commerce into cinema is considered cheesy. The minute you talk commerce to a filmmaker he falls back on creativity," Sajid says with uncharacteristic sarcasm. He then grows retrospective. "This is my 54th year in the industry. I must've inherited the filmy genes from my father. I do feel alone. I wish I had a sibling or a partner. My son is just a child. Yes, I've a first-cousin Feroz Nadiadwala who's also a very successful producer. I did work with him for two years. But we chose to work separately."
Why not direct his own film? "I do a lot of homework on all the scripts that I produce. But I'm too sensitive and shy to instruct a hundred people on the set. I won't be able to shoot with an actor I don't like. I'm an escapist in real life. Maybe I can direct a good escapist entertainer."
ranbir kapoor, jaaneman, imtiaz ali, siddharth anand, shirish kunder, mujhse shaadi karogi, sabir khan, ashutosh gowariker, kareena kapoor, saif ali khan