Why this long gap between your first and second feature films?
I got married. Marriage brings its own economic responsibilities. My wife and I took a collective decision that I should consolidate my position as an ad maker. Now, when Mandira has hit big-time herself, she prodded me to start another film.
Frankly, when I look back on my first film "Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi", I feel I was slightly immature.
"Shaadi Ka Laddoo" takes the characters beyond, Ashish Chowdhary plays a guy who has it all and craves to find the right life partner. Right in front of him is this seemingly happily married man played by Sanjay Suri who, for all his supposed bliss, is claustrophobic about marriage and dissuades his friend.
So is "Shaadi Ka Laddoo" anti-marriage?
Me and anti-marriage? Look at Mandira and me! No, it's as anti-marriage as "Masti", which in its own way preaches the sanctity of marriage. Like the guys in "Masti", Sanjay too wants to test the feminine ground outside marriage. He tries to attract the eminently eligible Mandira Bedi, but only to find out if he's still a "dude". Sanjay Suri is happily married in real life. He was ideal for the part, and so were the rest of the cast. Divya Dutta, who plays Sanjay Suri's wife, is also awesome.
So is your film a sex comedy like "Masti"?
Are you kidding! My film is just the opposite of "Masti". I can't be sleazy! I personally feel our cinema is about family entertainment. "Shaadi Ka Laddoo" is designed as a family entertainer. I think my film is a family version of "Masti", cleaner and more accessible.
Where does "Shaadi Ka Laddoo" fit into that scheme of things?
My film fits into the school of Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. My most favourite comedies are "Padosan" and "Chupke Chupke". They kept the humour simple and non-sleazy.
"Shaadi Ka Laddoo" isn't a romance. When in Hindi cinema we make romantic films we follow the god of the genre, Yash Chopra. Since I couldn't do that, I steered away from romance. There are no chiffon saris in "Shaadi Ka Laddoo". I've kept my camera silent, used no crane shots, dressed characters simply and shot on real locations. Everything is pleasant and believable.
Nowadays, the audience loves to play critic. They think they know exactly what will happen next. I've played around with their expectations.
What about the casting of Ashish Chowdhry and his real-life girlfriend?
That was because Ashish kept saying things like "I don't want to kiss on screen... I don't want to do intimate scenes...".
I knew there was a hand that rocked the cradle, so I decided to put the hand into my film. But to direct a real-life couple is very tough. Ashish couldn't disconnect his real relationship with Samita Bangargi from the characters they planned. His attention got diverted.
As for Mandira and I, we had never worked together before. We couldn't disconnect as man and wife until half the shooting.
Why did you shoot the entire film in London?
The whole story is located in London. Frankly the ambience and temperature in Mumbai aren't conducive to creativity. When you shoot outside Mumbai you leave a lot of unwanted baggage behind. The whole unit gives more abroad.
I have this fabulous script by Abbas Tyrewallah that I want to direct next. That's the one giving me sleepless nights. I'm going to take a break from direction and produce a couple of films. One film will be directed by Subhash Ghai's former right- hand man Shashi Wadia. He'll make an out-and-out comedy with Paresh Rawal and Neeraj Vora to be shot in London.
My assistant Priya Ahluwalia will direct another film for me. It'll be a non-commercial children's film featuring Mandira Bedi. I feel I haven't given Mandira her due as an actress.
How do you react to her sudden success?
I'm so proud of her. This is the time of her life. I keep telling her, "I'm proud to be your wife" just as she says she's proud to be my husband. We're so compatible as a couple that our roles are interchangeable.
Yours seems to be a perfect marriage?
There's no such thing. You've to work on it. Otherwise it crashes.