This correspondent catches up with the young man, who has been going through a very good phase in his career, especially post Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, which has turned out to be his biggest grosser till date and is still running at a few centres.
Let me begin with a cliched question. With Crook, you are coming up with your annual Bhatt starrer. Really, you seem to be pretty content signing most of your films with them.
Come on, how can you say that? I think people should have stopped asking me this question a year back when I started work on Once Upon A Time In Mumbai. Now, my next film Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji is with Madhur Bhandarkar. I would also be working in the next films of Milan (Luthria) and Dibakar (Banerjee). I guess this is a good number of movies outside Vishesh Films.
Errr...that's true actually. Having said that, Mohit (Suri) and you definitely are a team, aren't you? After all your partnership that started off with Zeher has continued with Kalyug, Gangster, Awarapan, Raaz - The Mystery Continues and now Crook.
Well yes, our sensibilities are pretty much matching. We have given hits together but it is important that we don't become complacent or get carried away. Even though he is a family member, we respect each other as creative professionals. Even for Crook: It"s Good To Be Bad, I had to make myself 100% sure on whether I really wanted to do it. I was sure that if the film would have only been about racism, I wouldn't have done it.
But then eventually that is being used as a selling point, isn't it?
No, it isn't. Are you seeing us taking out any kind of flag march or protests around the issue? Do you see us getting into any kind of debates in any of the forums? Till date, we have never claimed that with this film is going to find a solution to a social problem like this. All we are doing is telling a story in an entertaining manner.
Still, knowing the reputation of coming up with hard hitting films, Vishesh Films would again be accused of using a global issue for their benefit...
(Interrupts) There would be people all the time, who would have something to say. Log to kuch naa kuch kehne hi waale hain; aap kuch bhi kaam kar lo. As I said, all we are doing is picking up an issue and sharing a point of view. Neither are we changing the society nor aspiring to.
You also mentioned that the story is being told in an entertaining manner. Really, when the subject of discussion is something as severe as racism, how does the entertainment quotient set in?
Well, for any story to work with a larger mass of audience, there has to be a human aspect to it as well. (Mahesh) Bhatt saab likes doing it that way, and rightly so. Even in Jannat, when the issue being raised was around match fixing, the focal element was a strong love story and morality of this character. Same holds good in Crook where the choice is between good and bad. It is about looking within yourself rather than only the external forces at play.
However, you seem to be spreading the message of 'it's good to be bad'. Looks like you are continuing to play characters that are anti-heroes for sure, if not the villain. You did the same in Once Upon A Time In Mumbai as well.
In fact, I had reservations about doing a film like Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, hich was about underworld. There have been films made in the past that have set benchmark in this genre. Pick up Company, Satya or Vaastav - these are all cult movies. I didn't want to do a crime film that was any lesser than these. Milan (Luthria) had to do some convincing before I nodded in agreement.
You must be pleased with the results today...
Picture chal jaaye toh hindsight mein toh sab achcha lagta hai. But imagine the time when I had to take a judgemental call. The film was a risk because despite an interesting storyline, it was very-very different from anything else that is being made today. There is always a scare factor that people would step into the film with some preconceived notion and then not be entirely happy with what is offered to them.
In this context, were you far more confident about Crook from the very beginning?
My instinct says that audience will really connect to the film and the character. I could sense that at the time when I had signed the film and it also works for me today when it is ready for release. I know for sure that Crook is a winner.
There are a bunch of grown up men (Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Hrithik Roshan) fighting it out for a place at the top. Then there are the current set of boys (Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, John Abraham, Imran Khan, Neil Nitin Mukesh), who are getting their credentials in place to be Generation Next superstars. And then there is Emraan Hashmi, who has been enjoying his own loyal audience over the last seven years.