One recalls him as Anil Gadar Sharma but not many know that his association with the Deol family began with Dharmendra in Hukumat. After working with Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol individually, he has managed to get the entire Deol clan together in his next film Apne. With a magnanimous film to look forward to, director Anil Sharma speaks with us in an exclusive interview.
You have been associated with the Deols since a long time.
My association with the Deol family began with my first film with Dharmendra, Hukumat which went onto become one of the biggest blockbusters of that time. Then I continued my association with him in films like Elaan-E-Jung, Farishtay and Tehelka. When you do a few films with an actor you tend to have a good relationship with him. Dharmendra is a wonderful friend and a very emotional person. With Sunny I began my association with the super-hit Gadar - Ek Prem Katha and then The Hero. With Bobby too I made Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo. So I am very close to this family and I always want to make the best of films with them.
You have managed a casting coup of sorts by getting all the three Deols together for the first time. Was this film planned as a venture to get them together or was the story such that you could have cast them together?
When I was making Gadar, Sunny wanted me to make a film with all three of them together. Even I wanted that. So we took about four years to get the right script. We got a few but we were not satisfied with them completely. One fine day we came up with this idea. I didn't want to make just an action film with the three of them. This is an emotional story about the father and his two sons. All three of them have very strong images so we needed something which does justice to their images as well as having an emotional connect at the same time. So it did take a lot of time to develop that kind of a subject. But it's worth it at the end.
Casting essentially is the USP of Apne
The cast definitely is but along with that the script plays an integral role. The emotion in the film is the USP according to me.
Boxing is the underlying theme of the film.
Every film has a motive and boxing is the motive in Apne. This film is more on the relationship of one father and his two sons. Every film speaks about how much a father does for his children but it is very rarely shown where the children do something for their parents. That is what I'm trying to say in this film.
With all the Deols coming together and boxing as the theme, can we expect a lot of action in the film?
Like I said, I didn't want to make an action film but boxing will be shown in the film and that is the action you get to watch.
Also with boxing as the theme, is the film loosely inspired from any Hollywood films on boxing like Rocky or Cinderella Man?
Why are such questions always asked? Why can't we say that this is our film? There are many big directors in our industry who take inspiration from Hollywood and foreign films. I'm a small director and want to make films the way I want to. I want to garnish my own baby and nobody else's. I want to live with my child for one year and not somebody else's. If you go through my career you will see that none of my films are plagiarized.
Why did you choose boxing as the sport when India doesn't see much of it? Even a film like Aryan based on the theme of boxing that released last year, met with a cold response.
I know that cricket and a bit of tennis are the only popular sports in India. Lots of people are making films on cricket and I thought that boxing will be more apt for the subject than any other sport. They Deols can live up to their image and show their strength as well. Also, this is a less popular sport in India and so I thought through the film I can promote the sport. The sport showcases a lot of manhood in India and that is why I feel it should be the main sport of India because the courage of Indians can be seen.
The film will see both Sunny and Bobby as boxers. What kind of physical training did the two go through for their roles?
Bobby Deol went through almost one year of hard-core physical training. Then we got Australian trainers to train them in boxing. We arranged for some Indian boxers as well who used to go to Dharmendra's house to train him. So all of them did physical workout for a year and boxing for another six months.
At the moment both Sunny and Bobby's market value is down. Will that affect your film?
Market value of a star does not affect a film. It is the film which can affect the market value of a star. When a film becomes successful, your market value becomes great. Once upon a time people said that Abhishek Bachchan doesn't have any market value. Now that he has a few hits behind him, he is one of the biggest stars. Amitabh Bachchan didn't have any market value until Zanjeer came along. A film works because of its script and story. When the film works, your market value is created. As far as the audience is concerned, everybody loves Dharmendra, Sunny and Bobby.
Shilpa Shetty plays one of the main lead heroines in your film. Do you think that her winning Big Brother will make the film more saleable?
It is good for Shilpa that she won Big Brother but salability doesn't work like that in India. It is the product which works.
Finally, there were rumours that Katrina Kaif is just doing a cameo in the film?
No, not true. She is the main heroine of the film.