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Suneel Darshan is a film maker who is widely known for his dramatic outings soaked in Indian emotions. Films like Jaanwar, Ek Rishta, Dosti, Andaaz etc. are ample examples of that. Though he may have come under the hammer by majority of critics across the country for his unabashed loyalty to everything that is Indian, in overseas his films have continued to register bumper collections. Over to the soft spoken man who would be seen in a different light coming February when his 'professional rivalry drama' Shakalaka Boom Boom hits the marquee.
Some of the recent media reports indicate that you have to your credit some of the most successful films in UK.
Yes, I have been fortunate in that regard that my films have done so well over there. I believe in keeping a low profile and not shouting from the roof tops about my success. The reports that you are talking about is the result of an analysis done by a corporate house and hence you can trust it to be in complete black and white. Even a film like Mere Jeevan Saathi which didn't work in India found its audience in UK.
But doesn't it concern you that people in your own country are not really aware about your overseas success?
It does concern though I would attribute this low awareness to me not being too media savvy. I haven't played up with truth and reality and I guess that's the reason I have not been heard too much either. See, my films are about Indian stories and Indian characters and while youngsters today are chasing American dreams in India, I try to show them something that brings with an essence of Indian heritage and culture.
Constant media bickering may have been disheartening too.
Yes, indeed and it is strange because my cinema is liked by audience but is never appreciated by the critics which does impact the final tally after all. Now look at 'Dosti - Friends Forever'. It was such a warm film but media went to an extent of calling it a film about homosexuals without even seeing it. Good that it didn't impact the audience overseas since it released there first but in India the film couldn't even take a heartening start. Right from the very first show here, the media bashing began and audience were confused as to what to expect. Hence while I was getting congratulatory calls from across the world with people sounding indeed ecstatic, response here in India was disappointing.
You must have felt really down after that.
Not down but disappointed for sure. But then a strong belief in me keeps me going. It's a belief about not aiming at just being successful but instead coming up with good films with strong portrayals and characterization. Once I succeed in this, success is bound to come, whether sooner or later.
So do you plan to incorporate the same belief in Shakalaka Boom Boom too?
Shakalaka Boom Boom is turning out to be a high profile project and though Upen was seen first in 36 China Town, as far as I am concerned, I am launching him in Shakalaka Boom Boom as if it was his debut film. Other attraction in my film is Kangana whom I found quite good, both in Gangster and Woh Lamhe. Bobby Deol's character is something that is going to make everyone stand up and take notice. He is a fantastic actor, a star who has only grown with years.
Shakalaka Boom Boom sounds like an interesting title. Is it campus fun or a bubblegum romance? What is it?
It is neither a film set in a campus nor a bubblegum romance as you mention. Instead it is about a professional rivalry and how it takes different shades. We all are aware that such a rivalry happens everywhere, whether it is family, friends or social circles. This one takes place in the world of music, an industry which is quite competitive in itself. It is a rivalry about a man who is reining this world and another who is an aspiring performer and has it in him to reach the top.
Please carry on.
The movie is set in New York and also stars Celina Jaitley in a role that would make people realize how talented she is. She plays a media person in the film and brings to fore the important role that media has to play in the entertainment industry. She is projected as a woman who is quite glamorous with very interesting shades to her. She is someone who is quite helpful, supportive, and very human at heart and yet has an element of negativity to her.
After working with Nadeem Shravan for so long, one hears you have switched over to Himesh Reshammiya in the film.
I have always believed in the fact that melody is the King and to suit the contemporary taste of today's youth, one needs to back it up with rhythm. Yes, I am working with Himesh Reshammiya for the first time because I am sure that he can give me exactly that. We know how popular he is today by looking at his record over last one year. The guy now has 33 back to back hit numbers behind him - can you beat that?
But off late he had a string of lukewarm soundtracks.....
[Interrupts quickly] Every music director has his highs or lows. He may be going through a low currently, though strictly on relative terms, but he will quickly have another high. He is not someone who is exhausted; instead he is raring to go. Look at the shows that he did abroad, they were simply phenomenal. So be sure that he would strike back and that too in a big way with Shakalaka Boom Boom.
How has the music shaped up?
You have to hear it to believe it. We have almost completed the soundtrack. Himesh has sung only one song in the album while Shaan and Kunal Ganjawala are other singers you would hear in the album.
Coming back to your film, what is the target audience you have in mind this time around?
I am targeting youth, someone who is in the age group of 15-25 years. Yes, apart from fun moments there would be drama moments aplenty that would keep you hooked on to the proceedings. I am hopeful this is going to be one film which will silence the critics once and for all. Come February 2007 when the film releases and they would certainly wake up to the fact that here is one filmmaker who in spite of being ridiculed and rejected has delivered something that would find universal acceptance and appreciation. Yes, I have not been rewarded off late but that would change with Shakalaka Boom Boom. There is going to be a lot of pulsating music, special effects, cool attitude, youth and glamour in my film. I can't tell you how excited I am about working with so many newcomers this time around.
So where does that leave the association with old warhorse Akshay Kumar with which you once had a string of successes?
It was a great association, no doubt about that. It was a very good phase that benefited us most till it lasted. But then one moves ahead with times and looks forward to what's coming your way. There is nothing wrong with that after all. And yes, who knows we may be working together in future again. This possibility if not ruled out at all and I am sure that Akshay too feels the same. I am sure that he too would like to work with me if an exciting project comes his way.
One believes so after looking at a successful Darshan-Akshay combination over the years.
True. See, his first success as a sole lead was 'Jaanwar'. This was a film that gave him a lot of respect in the industry. Here was a young man who was being rejected by so many at that point in time but for the two of us it was an emotional experience to make Jaanwar. There was a strong belief that the film would be accepted and it indeed was the case. This made us believe further that true emotions never die. Then came 'Ek Rishta' which gave him a lot of dignity as an actor. Followed soon Andaaz which remains his biggest sole hit ever even today. So that's why one sees no reason why we won't be working together again.
Suneel, one thing that always comes in mind is how did you move to dramas after beginning your career with a hardcore action film like Lootere?
But then Lootere was not just an action film! If you ask me, there was a lot of youth, passion and drama in the film. There was an undercurrent of sensuality running throughout the narrative if one closely follows the chemistry between Sunny Deol and Juhi Chawla in the film. For the first time ever Sunny was so romantic in the film. After that I made Ajay with him which was again different from the rest of my films.
What's happening on the music company you own?
Andaaz continues to be our highest selling album while 'Barsaat' too is maintaining reasonable sales. Coming up with my own music label has given me immense satisfaction and freedom. But then I do not intend to expand the music company beyond my own production which means that I am not looking forward to music titles from other production houses on my label. I don't think that's my forte and I would rather stick to film making.