Has Suneel Darshan turned to be one of the wisest producers in Bollywood who chose to lie low in the dull phase of Bollywood rather than make any random films?
I am a passionate filmmaker- the passion is visible in both the content and the conduct of my cinema. I have not been here only to enjoy its fruits but always wished to contribute, as per my ability, to the cause of cinema, its progress and survival. In the last few years, the corporatisation entered our avenues with their money-power and over-enthusiasm and in the process rocked the existing economics of filmmaking. Hence, a pause with an intention to play a longer game became inevitable.
Do you also feel that in the last three years, ever since you took a voluntary break, there were projects being made instead of films?
Oh yes! Their new mantra was all about numbers which could be either achieved or manipulated. The colossally expensive projects that were designed were essentially about star combinations and the stars actually got paid 10 to 20 times their earlier receipts. Some started demanding the whole cake rather than a slice of it! Resultantly the films flopped and some of these organizations realized their follies and regretted.
So when was it that you decided - 'Enough is enough, I would put a pause rather than follow this mad rush'?
I was committed to a time bound arrangement to make a film starring Sunny Deol in 2007-08. But the project did not move into execution of filming, as the lead actor didn't allot his committed dates. The distribution rights to the film were picked up by Gemini Studios for the highest price offered for a project featuring Sunny Deol, and both Gemini and I were disappointed to lose time and money on it. The project got stalled and left me in a lurch. I felt the need to pause, review and move thereafter.
That must have been truly disappointing...
Sunny Deol was an idol of my youth that I had elevated onto a pedestal and then it all crashed. Our differences are presently sub-judice.
You have been one of the few independent producers with a huge success rate. When most of the independent filmmakers got into alliances with corporate houses, why didn't you too follow the same?
A few days back, a leading publicity designer also put the same question to me and got me thinking. I actually chose a voluntary sabbatical thereafter to observe, analyse and replenish before striking back.
But then doesn't survival become the key? How did you manage to run your production house without any films on floor?
What I had established earlier at Shree Krishna International was a total film-shop with Production, Distribution, Export and Music marketing facilities and that kept the wheels rolling.
I guess media too has played an important role in playing a perception game when it comes to movies being made and released. Do you also feel so? And also, do you think that it is for good, bad or perhaps just the need of the situation?
When the media is playing the perception game for the entertainment industry, I guess they are just doing their job just as the perception they construct for the political lobby, the builders lobby and every possible avenue that can generate them revenues. What's important is to deliver within the parameters of responsible reporting.
Before you took a break, you were at the top of the game along with Yash Raj Films and Karan Johar when it came to overseas market. Don't you feel you have left that position far behind now due to an extended break?
Honestly, I could never compete in the overseas territory with Shahrukh Khan's stardom. Also, YRF and Karan consolidated their brands essentially with their Shahrukh Khan starrers. I was a distant country cousin, who established his brand despite working with lesser popular stars like Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol.
Talking about Akshay, you once had a healthy association with him. Do you want to go on records for what went wrong?
Nothing in this world of opportunism lasts forever. What's important is that it should be beautiful as long as it lasts. I am very satisfied with the films that I made with Akshay Kumar. They gave us both success and respectability. I wish to remember these films and associations fondly and forget the bitterness attached. I wish Akshay Kumar the best always.
Now you are launching your son. What are the plans here?
He's Shiv.... - Shiv Darshan. The lad's graduated from the New York Film Academy and Broadway Dance Centre having excelled in both the institutions.
So are we looking at a quintessential masala launch here?
Sorry but I am not ashamed at or apologetic for having made films that have catered to the largest sections of the viewers. I do not believe in art or commercial cinema - for me, there are good and bad films. The ones that are accepted and receive ovation from the audience are good films. Shiv will get a launch with one such good film.
A decade and a half back when Suneel Darshan decided to become a producer, he roped in Sunny Deol for Ajay. Post that, each of his subsequent films either featured a Deol or Akshay Kumar. However, after enjoying a near cent percent record and also gaining critical acclaim for films like Jaanwar and Ek Rishta - The Bond of Love, Suneel Darshan decided to take a break, with Shakalaka Boom Boom being his last release in 2007. Now that he has decided to come back in a big way with plans in progress for the launch of his son Shiv Darshan as a leading man, Suneel talks to this correspondent about the reasons behind his break, what went wrong with Akshay Kumar and Sunny Deol and how the entry of corporate houses rocked the economics of filmmaking.