His previous directorial effort "Dil Vil Pyar Vyar" was a washout.
"'Dil Vil Pyar Vyar' was India's first retro-musical. No one had shot three different love stories in three different colours."
Clearly Anant's USP in "Dil Maange More" that released Dec 31 is leading man Shahid who, after an attempt to do a darker dimension in "Fida", returns to his "Ishq Vishq" beginnings.
Observes Anant, "At this point in his career Shahid should try not to break away from his youthful romantic image. Darker films don't suit him now. If he wants to do 'Baazigar' or 'Darr', Shahid will have to wait another five years. He needs to consolidate his lover-boy's image."
How Shahid came into "Dil Maange More" is another story.
"Earlier I was supposed to do the same project with Tusshar Kapoor in the lead. At that time his 'Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai' had just been released. We needed a face that could project a character that hadn't been exposed to the ways of the world.
"Unfortunately Tusshar's subsequent films didn't do well. And my producers panicked. Just then I met Shahid and sounded him out on the project. With due respects to Tusshar's talents, I now feel no one could've fitted the bill better than Shahid. I needed the Aamir Khan of 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak'. And I got it. The character had to be shown going through three phases of love."
Anant can't stop raving about his leading man. "I don't think there's anyone in his age bracket. The closest someone comes to Shahid is Hrithik Roshan. The rest of our heroes would've looked a little too mature for the role."
Interestingly Sharmila Tagore's daughter Soha Ali Khan is being launched in "Dil Mange More".
Enthuses Anant, "When I approached her I wasn't sure she'd want to do a three-heroine film as her Hindi debut. But the way she responded to the narration I instantly knew she had a script sense. It was almost like a seasoned actress responding to a play narration. She reacted so correctly to all the emotions.
"Soha saw 'Dil Maange More' as a fun film and agreed immediately. The other two girls, Tulip Joshi and Ayesha Takia, took longer to agree. I think they were apprehensive about being pitted against one another. So many girls said no because there was more than one leading lady in the film. After seeing the film none of the girls feels cheated."
Anant clarifies that Shahid doesn't play a Casanova courting three girls.
"It's a different love equation. It's a very irreverent kind of love story. It's actually like a mathematical equation. We actually try to figure out who would be the right kind of girl for our hero. It's a little different, though still within acceptable norms of entertainment. I'm hoping to cash in on the difference.
"Mine is the last film this year, and it'd be nice if it does well. The year my 'Dil Vil Pyar Vyar' released was one of the worst years for Hindi cinema. Now things are slightly better."
The soft-spoken director agrees "Dil Maange More" is what he would've done even if he didn't have to worry about the commercial performance of a film.
"Though commercial, it still falls within the ambit of my sensibilities. I can't do anything crass. I've made the film exactly the way I wanted. To my relief no one who has seen 'Dil Maange More' says it's experimental."
At a preview, Soha's mother Sharmila Tagore commented that the humour has been treated realistically.
"That's some compliment. To be realistic and yet humorous is tough. Though three girls and a boy strikes you as screwball idea, my film makes it look like a tenable idea."
Anant Mahadevan plans another film with Shahid for HMV.
"It's a marital comedy. But my next film is a suspense film called 'Aksar' produced by Shyam Bajaj. It's about a mind game being played among a husband, wife and a fashion photographer. I'm looking at various actors... It's very strange but no actor has dates for the next six months. So one never gets the correct cast. Either the right face is busy or he doesn't sell. I was lucky with Shahid."