A section of the Indian press claimed the Pakistanis were angry and upset about "Veer-Zaara"?
I've no clue where that came from. This was a very strange allegation. When I attended the lunch for the Pakistani delegation at Rashtrapati Bhavan I was amazed at the positive comments about "Veer-Zaara". There were 80 people at the lunch including our own leaders. I felt honoured and elated to be there. Most of the Pakistani delegates and their wives were crazy about "Veer-Zaara".
When the Pakistani president's chief of staff praised the film I asked him why Pakistan didn't release the film if he found it so praiseworthy. He said there was opposition from radical sections. But I'm confident that the doors between the two countries will open very soon.
Don't you think "Veer-Zaara" could've started the movie trade between the two countries?
There are some things in life that need to happen, but take time. Friendship between the two countries is one such thing. Whoever I've met from Pakistan loved the film. Everyone just loved Rani Mukherjee's role and performance as a Pakistani girl.
At a conference recently I met influential journalists from Pakistan. I asked them about the authenticity of news reports that Rs.50 crore (Rs.500 million) rupees worth of illegal pirated DVDs of new Indian films are sold in Pakistan during the first four weeks of release. A journalist got up and corrected me. "No, Mr Chopra. It isn't 50 crore rupees. It is 100 crores."
Not just the film industry, our government is losing so much in revenues... But this time at the lunch at Rashtrapati Bhavan I discerned a very positive attitude among Pakistani delegates. 'Neeyat bahut saaf thi' (The intentions were clean.) We've reason to be optimistic about the relations between the two countries, and for the future of Bollywood in Pakistan. Let's hope for the best.
"Veer-Zaara" seems to have become bigger outside India than within the country?
When I went with the movie to Berlin, there were people weeping in the theatres. Now we're releasing a dubbed German version of "Veer-Zaara". And why do you think "Veer-Zaara" wasn't big in India? Of course it was! It was the biggest hit of 2004. It did Rs.25 crore business overseas and a little more in India.
I guess people have made "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" the benchmark of success for Yashraj Films. That's something which cannot happen again. A film is as good or bad at the box office as it deserves to be. And "Veer-Zaara" has made me very happy.
You recently announced your retirement from awards. Does that mean you won't direct any more films?
No, I'll continue to direct films until the day I die. During the awards this year I was constantly asked how it felt to be nominated for the best director's award along with youngsters like Farhan Akhtar, Ashutosh Gowariker, Farah Khan and Kunal Kohli. They are as old as my children. I thought to myself that it's high time I stepped aside. It doesn't mean I'll give up directing films. I'd like to die with my boots on. But after "Veer-Zaara", no more awards.
I got my first award for direction 40 years ago for "Waqt". Today if I'm still active it's a great blessing. God is great. I've withdrawn from awards, but not direction. In fact I'm working on an idea.
In the meanwhile Yashraj Films continues to produce box office hits.
Yes, we're blessed. On May 27, we release our new production "Bunty Aur Babli". On May 13 "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" completes 500 weeks, unheard of in our film industry!
"Dhoom 2" with Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu and Uday Chopra will start in June. And Kunal Kohli will start with the Aamir Khan-Kajol starrer in August.
And your son Aditya?
I can't say what he'll make. But he'll start his film this year.