Our first impression: This guy is confident and bright, knows his stuff about films and ain't an old school mentality. We're sure he has thought more about the sharks in the last two years than probably anybody. But that's Anthony D'Souza. He thinks larger than life, he thinks big and he thinks fast. He comes across as a debutant who isn't cliche. "Why do you want to interview me?" he questions, then adds, "Nobody wants to know about me. They only want to know about my film and the actors. I'll be known or not known after Blue releases".
He laughs and you are then left with no option but to join the fun. For a man who is responsible to get the biggest names together on the silver screen for the best and never before seen action scenes, D'Souza is surprisingly soft-spoken and charming, which we're sure he won't agree on. What's more? Well, his film marks the return of two Oscar winning technicians: A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty, who've worked on the score and sound of Blue. There's more. The underwater director of photography, Pete, has worked on Hollywood films like The Pirates of the Carribean.
With big names, bigger budget and the biggest canvas ever, Blue seems like a dough making juggernaut. This correspondent meets a mayhem artiste in the crowd pleasing business: Anthony D'Souza, to talk about Bollywood's first underwater action adventure, as he gets ready to wring every bit of bang out of each buck spent on making one of the biggest films Indian cinema has ever witnessed - Blue.
How risky a business it is to make a film worth sixty crore and then bank on big stars to recover it?
To be really honest, I don't know the final budget of the film. I've heard several budgets ranging from sixty crores to hundred and twenty crores. My producer is the right person to speak to on that. Secondly, no producer in the world will put in an X amount of money unless he can recover his money back. If he thinks that the film can do a business worth a hundred crores, he will invest it. Considering the way our films have done in the last few years, I'm sure they had something in mind to put the right amount of money. If there is no potential in the film, they need not be pushing it. We are still shooting a music video of the title track. That says it all.
Why go for an actor who hasn't had a very successful run in Bollywood - Zayed Khan? How important is his fame going to cost you?
Zayed has done a great job in Main Hoon Na. And then there was Dus. I liked him in that too. One, I wanted somebody who came across as a brat, some attitude when he comes on screen, someone who can ride a bike, someone who could do a scuba. Somebody who didn't care a damn about the world. I met Zayed and that's exactly how he is. You tell him, "Zayed, f*** you" and he'll reply back, "F*** you too." That's the attitude I was looking for and I got it. He is a very nice guy, very warm and very friendly.
This is the first ever time A.R. Rahman has composed for an all out action adventure film in Bollywood.
Yes he has. From day one I wanted A.R. Rahman to score for my film. But more importantly, I wanted him for the background score. In an action film, the music and the sound can make or break a film. I can shoot the best of visuals, but without a good sound quality, the visuals will fall flat. For me, Rahman is the only person, or if there are others I'm unaware of them, who understand the importance of a background score. For me, a background score is more important than the soundtrack of the film. Blue is a pure commercial entertainer. Rahman has done all kinds of film earlier so why not an action film too. It doesn't mean that there is no scope of music in an action film. Popular music is what sells and Rahman's music is popular.
Why do an additional music video and shoot the title track one more time?
In all honesty, I didn't want to this video. I think 'Fiqrana' is the best song. My producers and choreographer, Ahmed Khan loved the title track, the Blue theme. It's already been used in the film in a different situation. But they felt that it'll work well with lip sync. So I'm sitting back and watching them shoot the song.
How important for you is your overseas release and success?
Every director's first goal in life is that his film should recover the money and do well. If my film doesn't recover the money, I'm a flop director. Every person connected to the business wants the film to do well. The better the film, the more money you earn. For me, it's very important that the film should do well everywhere including overseas. Overseas is considered to be the biggest market for Bollywood films today. It keeps growing day by day. Over the years, so much has changed. They love the song and dance because it doesn't happen at their end. Some day you might have a cross over film where it'll happen both ways.
Everyone aspires to make their kind of cinema. What kind of films have you grown up watching and wanted to make?
If you take my all time favourite film, it'll be Scent Of A Woman. Now there is no way I can aspire to make such a kind of cinema because I don't think I have the maturity yet or sensibilities to make a movie as delicate as that. I've grown up watching summer blockbusters like Sholay, Deewar, Kaagaz Ke Phool, etc. Filmmaking has always been an adventure for me. It should entertain the audience. It has to be larger than life because for me it has to be money worth spent. I do enjoy watching smaller films but I don't think I can make them.
So you can make big films but no small film?
If you make a film like Dev D, your script has to be so precise. You have to focus a lot on emotions and acting. When you make a larger than life film and if something goes wrong somewhere, like you blow up a car in the background, have some other stuff happening in a good location, it takes care of lot of other stuff. I always knew that my forte in life was visuals. So why not use that as your strength rather than use stuff that I'm not good at. If I had to make a Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, I'd do a horrendous job simply because I'm not Indian by heart when it comes to filmmaking. My sensibilities are very western. I've grown up watching more of western flicks and that'll obviously come out in my films. From the clothes, to their styling, the way people behave, their relationships, etc. Thanks to the cable networks, the influx of the American way of life is influencing us day by day so we can accept all that. I'm in a right time to make a film like Blue.
Will Blue break into world cinema?
World cinema films are the ones like Amelie, Life is Beautiful, Slumdog Millionaire, etc. We call them art house cinema. Slumdog was never intended to be a commercial film. These films are accepted around the world because it has a certain soul. An action film is something that you can see quite often. Like, I can see a Broken Arrow, Die Hard, Bad Boys, etc. You don't watch such films for the acting potential nor for the script. You watch them because they look nice and it entertains you. With Blue, we want people to sit back, be entertained and walk out.
Any new breed of filmmakers you look up to and are you ready for the October 16?
My three favourites are Imtiaz Ali, Sriram Raghavan and Anurag Kashyap. I think the trio is absolutely brilliant. Today's times are such that I know the people from the industry who want others films to flop. I still don't get the reason why because when I sit with a few people from the trade, they say, "Uski picture toh pitegi". They don't understand a simple formula. The more the films work, the better for us. We can make more films, more directors will come in the business, more actors will get work. With Blue, I want more people to make larger than life kind of cinema. I just hope people open up and wish well for the entire film industry than just their own films.