Ganeshji, to begin with, you started your directorial journey in Bollywood with a non-commercial film Swami.
Very true. There was a reason behind me making Swami. That is when Swami was released in 2006, I had 3-4 big budget films (as a choreographer) releasing around the same time. And I was very sure that these films will fare really well at the Box-Office. These films included Lage Raho Munnabhai, Omkara ('Beedi Jalaiye Le'), Rang De Basanti, and Golmaal. I had planned Swami almost 5 years back, right from its screenplay, dialogues, its story, and a lot of things that were related to me and my family. I knew that I was not the only choreographer getting into filmmaking; there have been many before me. I was also aware that Swami was not a commercial film. But putting aside all this, I was really satisfied making Swami, because it was a topic that was (and will forever be) really close to my heart. To put it categorically, Swami was my tribute to my parents. The good part of this film was that the media loved the film so much that it got me so much of critical acclaim which really meant (and it still means) more than anything for me.
After a sensitive directorial debut with Swami, what made you shift gears and make a laugh riot like Money Hai Toh Honey Hai?
After having satisfied my emotional urge with Swami, one thing was for sure, that I wanted to make a commercial film. I just wanted to prove that after having made a sensitive film, I could make commercial films as well. That's the main reason why I made Money Hai Toh Honey Hai, which is a light-hearted comedy film. The film's essence lies in its comedy, which is very today and with which anyone and everyone can relate to in a jiffy.
How did the entire concept of Money Hai Toh Honey Hai come through?
I had a script ready with me, which was about six principal characters, a story of every common man who fights against odds to be successful in life. You will often see most people questioning, 'Saala... hum gareeb hai tho kya hua…style nahin maar sakte hain kya'. When I had this concept in mind, I was working with Kumar Mangat as a choreographer. I, then, approached him with the script of Money Hai Toh Honey Hai, who gave me the nod. After that, we signed Govinda, Manoj Bajpai, Celina Jaitley, Aftab Shivdasani, Hansika Motwani, and Upen Patel.
Is there any significance behind the film's whacky title Money Hai Toh Honey Hai?
You know what! The term 'honey' is generally associated with a girl. But for me, the term 'honey' is happiness. And in terms of this film's parlance, it means that if you have money, you will be happy! In today's world, in order to achieve and fulfill any dream, man requires money. In short, the common man's need and desires are depicted through my film.
The film is a multi-starrer. How easy or difficult was it working with such an ensemble cast?
As a choreographer, I have handled more than 12 stars at a time. So, in that sense, handling the big names was not at all an issue for me as all of them respect me a lot and vice versa. As for the actors of Money Hai Toh Honey Hai, I have earlier worked with Manoj Bajpai, Govinda, and Aftab. But it was a first time for me to be working with Celina and Hansika, but I must say that they were extremely hard working and damn good at their work. Our equation with each other had become so good that we literally partied every single day of our schedule in Mauritius, so much so that no one came to know when the film got over. I got full support from all my artistes.
You have choreographed Govinda who happens to be one of the finest actor-dancer in the industry today. So, how was your experience directing him this time?
Frankly speaking, I have no qualms in saying that I have really learnt a lot from Govinda, even while I was directing this film. And not just Govinda, I keep on learning something from every artiste of mine, as for me, learning is a never-ending process. The one major thing that I have learnt from Govinda is the value of time and the aspect of timing...Well; I am talking about comedy timing (laughs). As for my film, Govinda has always been punctual for shoots. That explains why we were able wrap up the film so fast. I should also say that Govinda is nothing like what he was in the past. He has changed for the good.
What made you cast a young actress like Hansika (who is nearly less than half his age) opposite Govinda?
My film does not have the cliched love angle. But let me also tell you that there is something that's really 'different' about this film, which you will realize when you see the film in entirety. That's the reason why age was not a criteria between the characters in my film. Let me also add that Hansika has been portrayed as never before. She is looking so piping hot in this film! I am sure that a lot of people would have changed their perception (about Hansika being a child actress etc...).
After Swami, was there any particular reason/s for you to repeat Manoj Bajpai in this film also?
There's no doubt that Manoj is a very fine actor. He is often stereotyped as this 'somber' actor who can do only serious roles. But after working with him in Swami my opinion changed drastically. I saw a very fine tuned comic actor in him. And Manoj can do comedy at the drop of a hat! The role that I gave Manoj in Money Hai Toh Honey Hai is very different. He plays the role of Lalabhai Bhadoriya, which is very hilarious. I challenged people's opinion about his capabilities at comedy.
Coming to the music of the film, you worked with new music directors Nitin and Sony. Which is your favourite track?
Nitin and Sony had earlier composed the background score for Swami. They are very young and talented boys, who, as they say, belong to the hip-hop generation! My writer Mozam Baig, who also happens to be the writer of Swami, has written the story of Money Hai Toh Honey Hai. We work like one close-knit family. My favourite track is the "Dhoom tanana".
It sounds really strange that despite being an ace choreographer, you haven't choreographed the songs of Money Hai Toh Honey Hai! Why?
Actually, the choreography is done by Vishnu Deva, my assistant, who has turned a full-fledged choreographer with this film. The entire film is full of 'dhammal' songs and I am very satisfied with the way the film has shaped up! And I have no regrets of not doing the choreography as directing the film kept me busy.
How was it working with Kumar Mangat as a producer?
It was indeed very positive and very encouraging.
You have choreographed umpteen songs. Of all, which has been your most memorable track?
My most memorable track as a choreographer is "Koi jaaye tho le jaaye" from the film Ghatak. Every single moment and movement of this track is evergreen in my memory!
Film sequels seem to be the flavour of the season; can one look forward to a squeal of Money Hai Toh Honey Hai?
No. There will be no sequel to Money Hai Toh Honey Hai at all!