Abbas, your second directorial venture Jhootha Hi Sahi is finally seeing the light of the day after facing many hiccups along the way. How are you feeling now- Anxious, Excited or Relieved?
I don't know how to react to your statement that Jhootha Hi Sahi is finally seeing the light of the day. Yes...it has been a challenging journey but I won't say we've been in the making for a long time. We started shooting during summer of 2009 in London, we then had some shooting and patchwork left in India, and this summer (2010) we again had to go to London to shoot a song and some other portions. We then began work on our post-production, special effects, music etc and though initially I felt I could keep it ready for release in July this year (since Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na [JTYJN] was released in July) that didn't work out. Post that we had always set Oct 15 as the release date, but unfortunately we still have work left on our background music and hence are now releasing the film a week later on Oct 22. The film has been part of our lives for the last 2 years so of course now that it's nearing release, there is immense excitement, stress, nervousness, anxiety all rolled into one.
You said somewhere that Jhootha Hi Sahi is the second part in the trilogy that you are planning to make revolving around love, friendship at different stages of life. Could you elaborate a bit more on that?
It's more like a soul trilogy than anything connected dramatically. Basically there are 3 phases of romance that I can think of. The first film I made JTYJN was about first love, while making Jhootha Hi Sahi, I realised somewhere that this is about true love and finding that one soul mate with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Post that there is just one instalment left which obviously deals with love after marriage and the conflicts therein. Once I make that film, then I would have finished telling three stories of love at different stages.
How did the concept of love happening over a phone call via a hotline number actually germinate?
If I recollect correctly, Pakhi and I were having a party at out place when we suddenly got a call from a wrong number which was not your usual wrong number but a bit weird. While we initially just shrugged that thought, much later we thought of what are the different kinds of wrong numbers that you could receive a call from. It was from here that the whole idea of getting your number mixed up with a suicide helpline number came to Pakhi and she started developing it further.
John Abraham's track record when it comes to solo hero films (barring a Jism) has not been very good. Weren't you apprehensive of this fact while considering him for the main lead?
John was always the first choice for the main lead in Jhootha Hi Sahi. I don't really worry too much about these other factors when somebody is perfect for the part. As an actor, this role has been a challenge for him, to shy away from his more popular image of a stud on a bike and to play what I would call the endearing boy-next-door. He has done a fabulous job and moreover this is his first solo romantic film which is quite odd considering his huge popularity among the fairer sex. So I think this will be a good opportunity for all his fans to see him in an out and out romantic film.
You've also portrayed John in a completely new geeky look. Whose idea was it to give him this kind of a makeover?
We didn't consciously set out to give him a makeover or anything like that. We were just staying true to the character and his character is one of a bookseller who as a child used to be this plump, nervous kid who was always shy around girls. Even after he grows up, he doesn't realise that he is actually a pretty decent looking guy and still continues to be a bit awkward in the company of females. Based on the character sketch, we decided to give his character the look of a geeky boy next door. John has really worked hard to look the part and the results are there for all to see.
Your wife Pakhi was the casting director on JTYJN, here she has not only written the story but is also the lead actress. How did she come on board as an actress?
Pakhi wrote the script of Jhootha Hi Sahi and when the script was ready, she gave a narration to me, John and Madhu Mantena (my producer). While narrating the script, she actually enacted every single character for us the way she saw it. That is what got Madhu and John thinking about casting her for the female lead. I knew that Pakhi can act considering she has done some films in the past but I never brought it up because I didn't want people to point fingers and say that I chose her just because she is my wife. However, both John and Madhu strongly felt that she is really perfect for the part and the rest as they say is history.
The film's title has gone through a lot of changes. First it was called 1-800 Love, then Call Me Dil and now finally Jhootha Hi Sahi. What's the reason for this?
1-800 Love was always a working title and we were sure that we couldn't retain it as the final title because it would alienate too many people. We kept throwing various options and the closest we came to liking something was Call Me Dil. But even that didn't get a unanimous approval from the entire team and we finally locked on Jhootha Hi Sahi- a title which everyone agreed upon.
After working with A.R.Rahman in JTYJN, you are back together for the music of Jhootha Hi Sahi. However, this time around it looks like you've had to do a lot of running around considering Rahman's busy schedule. The delay in the background score has even resulted in the release date being pushed. Your comments...
I had already worked with A.R.Rahman and everyone knows that Rahman has a completely different working style. He is someone who is really driven by his heart and his inspiration. He really has to feel it at the time to get the right music. When you work with Rahman you do know that it may involve some degree of waiting but you also know that it'll be worth it. As far as the delay in background score is concerned, it's something unfortunate as there was a technical snag in Rahman's world tour concert because of which some of his concerts had to be pushed ahead and the dates ended up clashing. However, by the grace of God, thankfully the delay has not been much and an extra week only gives us that much more time to promote our film in the best possible way.
The music of JTYJN was a huge hit and the first song to be aired; 'Kabhi Kabhi Aditi' became a rage. However, coming to the music of Jhootha Hi Sahi, a lot of people feel that the music is not up to Rahman's standards. Moreover some people feel that the true gems like 'Call Me Dil', 'Do Nishaaniyaan' and 'Hello Hello' should have been promoted first instead of 'Cry Cry' or 'Maiyya Yashoda'.
One tries to first release the promo of the song that best describes the flavour of the film. 'Cry Cry' has been done in such an unusual way without a choreographer featuring two people dressed very casually and just interacting with each other. We thought it best described the flavour of the film and the world the two characters come from. 'Maiyya Yashoda' we felt is a punchy energetic song that would be loved by the people. However, as you rightly mentioned, people have taken more to the soulful songs like 'Call Me Dil', 'Do Nishaniyaan', and 'Hello Hello' etc. Even though life repeatedly teaches us that there is no such thing as safe, we do try to play it safe and that's how we went about too. However, now the promos of 'Call Me Dil' are already on air and have been getting a very good response. I am pretty confident that people will remember the music of Jhootha Hi Sahi long after the film has come and gone.
Recently, there was also a story about Warner Bros. planning to take legal action against the makers of Jhootha Hi Sahi as they felt that the film bears a lot of similarity to their popular sitcom FRIENDS. What do you have to say about that?
I don't have anything to say about that. There was no legal notice issued by them at all. They did bring up the topic but I guess realised that it's rather silly on their part to make such allegations without even having seen the film.
But didn't they request for a screening of the film?
Yes they did and we laughed the request out. We haven't heard from them since (smiles).
For your debut film JTYJN, you had the backing of a solid name and marketing genius like Aamir Khan. This time around is the burden of expectations more on your shoulder?
There is no denying the fact that Aamir was fantastic as a producer. What he did to market JTYJN was a dream come true and even with Peepli Live he has once again proved that he is a marketing genius. So obviously I do miss his presence. But the fact of the matter is that you can't always have an Aamir Khan backing your film. At the end of the day, the film should be good enough to draw in the crowds and I hope that people feel good about Jhootha Hi Sahi when they watch it.
Finally the buzz is that you have already started work on your next film titled Jaane Kya Tune Kahi starring Imran Khan, Genelia and John Abraham. Is it true?
No... that is not true at all. Jaane Kya Tune Kahi is a film that I want to make at some point but definitely not something that I am actively planning as of now. Right now, all I am thinking about is the release of Jhootha Hi Sahi. As for the cast which you mentioned, I am so happy that the media has saved me the trouble of casting. If they could also get me contracts and commitments from the said actors, I'd be more than delighted.