By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Monday, October 16, 2006
Sanjay Gupta has never been more revved up about his plans. His production company White Feather which he partners with close friend Sanjay Dutt, has moved into a posh spacious new office. "I've never been more work-oriented...I'm doing a shit-load of things. And I'd rather not talk about it now."
After some persuasion Sanjay opens up. "We're on to really big stuff. First all of we've signed an excellent line-up of directors-Apoorva Lakhia, Hansal Mehta, Ananth Mahadevan, and then Shyam Benegal, Sudhir Mishra and Meghna Gulzar.
Shyam's Chamki Chameli (based on the musical Carmen) has a fabulous script. With a budget of Rs 9 Crores it's being re-worked with a completely new star-cast...I'm meeting and signing a whole cross-section of directors. We're living in exciting times. And I want to be part of that excitement."
Sanjay has suddenly gone massively prolific. "As a producer Yash Chopra isn't my hero, Shashi Kapoor is. He thought too much from his heart and lost money. I don't want to lose money. But I love his choice of films to produce. My Chamki Chameli will be like what Shashi did in films like Kalyug, Vijeta and Junoon. Kalyug was originally conceived with Amitabh Bachchan. Can you imagine where the film would've gone? I want to take Shyam Benegal and directors of his artistic caliber to that level where they'll have the stars and the box-office clout."
He stops for a breath. "Post-Zinda, Sanjay Dutt and I want to take White Feather to another level. We're taken a lot more seriously as a production house now. We can use our clout to get talented directors to work with big stars. Can you believe Meghna Gulzar had been trying to get through to Sanjay Dutt for four years? I'm making that possible. Meghna, or any other director who works for White Feather has to first make himself completely free of other projects before coming to me."
As for Sanjay Gupta himself, he's directing a semi-autographical film. "I'm directing a simple small film called Alibaug. It's based on a critical phase of my life. It has no big-screen stars-but the crème de la crème actors from television. A lot of this film deals with my own life."
Sanjay Dutt will make an appearance in Alibaug. "He freaked out when I told him the concept. We remembered how Kaante was supposed to be a 1.5 crore rupee film and shot in a chawl. It instead went to LA. That's what happens when Sanjay Dutt comes on board. I wanted Alibaug to remain small and real. I'm still scripting it. It was inspired by a trip I took to Alibaug recently with my niece and her friends. The peace and happiness I felt proved I had exorcised the demons within me. I reached a kind of plateau with dark films with Zinda. It reflected my state of mind. Alibaug will be much lighter. It will make audiences smile. I had to reinvent myself."
There's more. "I'm doing a series of ten short films all ten minutes each in Dus Kahaniyaan. This is a very unique very secret signature collection. I now have a pool of original stories and directors...I'll personally do 3-4 of the short films. But all of them will have stars. What separates this concept from Ramu's Darna Manaa Hai is that all the stories belong to different genres, so the stories never get boring. You know I'm right now like a bomb ready to explode. The atmosphere in our office is so conducive to creativity. We've tons of creativity coming in and out...We're meticulously planned. Every film that I'll produce has a specific crew and time frame...there'll be no overlapping. And I'm there hands-on for every project. I won't be interfering. But at the same time it won't be like my Plan where I never went on the sets." But how much would someone like Shyam Benegal allow Gupta to intervene? "Shyam is someone I'll learn from. I'll be a parasite on the sets."
Sanjay Gupta is excited about all the young talent surrounding him. "I've asked all the directors who are contributing to my short stories to write what kind of music they want. Then I've various lyricists like Neelesh Mishra who's writing the songs for Alibaug and Virag Mishra who wrote the title song for Zinda... Thank God our lyricists have moved away from the ishq-mohabbat-pyar-iqraar cliches...And the music directors...Right from A.R Rahman and Anu Malik to Himesh Reshammiya and Sandesh Shandilya."
"This is Phase One designed to end by mid-2007. There's lots more in store," promises Sanjay Gupta. "Luckily the big players in the entertainment business all seem to believe in what we're doing. Zinda was personally very satisfying for me, though I had the Kolkata distributor accusing me of making a black-and-white film. How stupid is that! We want to grow beyond such mind-sets within the industry."
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