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Q. You take quite some time to make a film. Why?
A. That is not true. 'Elizabeth – The Golden Age' was shot in 70 days flat. The first Elizabeth was shot in 65 days. 'Four Feathers' took 90 days. Did you know that I took only 44 days to make 'Masoom'? I do not take too much time. Actually, if one makes a schedule, and sticks to it, a movie can be made within a reasonable span of time. In fact, I get impatient when things are delayed. If you have the passion for films, then make them quickly, and get over them.
Q. Have you ever had a problem with the portrayal of characters by the stars that you work with in your larger-than-life movies?
A. I have never worked with stars, so I have not had problems. Stars acquire this image after 15-20 films, and they find hard to let go of it. During the shoot of 'Masoom', Naseerudin Shah and Shabana Azmi were not stars, neither were Anil Kapoor and Sridevi in 'Mr India'. My incomplete film, 'Joshilaay', did not have stars. We found Cate Blanchette for 'Elizabeth. She may be a star now, but she is the only one, who can play the role in the sequel.
Q. Tell us about Paani.
A. 'Paani' is the story of a city divided into two parts. One is on a higher level, and the other on a lower level. Lack of space has resulted in flyovers, and the higher city dwells on the flyover. The higher city accounts for 15 per cent of the population, the rich ones. The remaining 85 per cent live in the lower area, where they are cut off from open air and the sunlight. Due to global warming, the rivers have dried up. The rich citizens have access to all the water, and they measure out drops to give the poorer ones. A man can starve for a week, but he cannot go without water for more than a day. This is the story of how water can become expensive. And it is relevant to today's time, too. A litre of water costs us between Rs 15 and Rs 20. The story of the film is about the time when people protest against this injustice.
Q. After 'Masoom', and 'Mr India', do you plan to make any more movies for children?
A. I have written a story for children, 'Mantra'. I am looking for a director for this movie, since I have too much work, and I cannot direct all the films. I want to share the workload.
Q. Any director from Bollywood with whom you want to work?
A. I can't think of a director, but I can tell you some of the films I really liked. These include 'Rang De Basanti', 'Munnabhai MBBS', 'Gangster', 'Dil Chahta Hain', 'Jab We Met', and 'Om Shanti Om'. I am impressed with these directors.
Q. Rumour has it that you are planning an animation film as well?
A. I am making an animation film on a cockroach, called 'Very Aesthetic Cockroach'. It is the story of a cunning yet endearing cockroach, named Vicky. He has friends all over the world – in Greece, Spain, Russia, etc. He has found out that cockroaches can survive the holocaust, and is quite kicked about it. Then he wonders why humans rule the Earth, when it rightfully belongs to the cockroaches.
Q. Tell us about your comic book company.
A. I wanted to spread Indian culture abroad, and that is how I began writing some stories. First, I wrote 'Bombay Dreams', which was quite successful. Then I got together with some friends and decided to launch this company. Comic books have always been successful in Europe and North America. I have now opened a company in Bangalore as well, with 300 young illustrators and 20 writers. Books published here are read worldwide. Some comic books are also adapted as films, video games and animation films. I have delegated the work to various people, so I am a little out of it. I go there sometimes, write a story or two, lecture them, and come away.