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    Cannot handle stars with tantrums: Vidhu Vinod Chopra

    [Interview by Mayank Chhaya]
    Friday, May 13, 2005
    Writer, director, producer and the man behind films as varied as "Khamosh" and "Munnabhai M.B.B.S.", Vidhu Vinod Chopra sincerely believes he serves an "important function of bringing quality back to Indian cinema".

    And his latest "Parineeta", a remake of the Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay classic, is one example of that, says the filmmaker, who is in the midst of promoting his newest venture. The film stars Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Diya Mirza and Raima Sen.

    He is also planning his next directorial project "Yagna", shooting of which begins once he returns to India.

    That film too will star Saif Ali Khan because, as Chopra says, he is a gentleman actor. Quite like Sanjay Dutt, who was in Chopra''''''''s "Mission Kashmir" and then in the hit "Munnabhai". "I like gentleman actors... I cannot handle stars with tantrums," says the maker of films like "Parinda" and "Kareeb".

    With nine films to his credit since he began his career in 1977 with "Murder at Monkey Hill" as his diploma film at the Film Institute of India, Pune. Chopra has been considered an unconventional filmmaker within the mainstream Bollywood context.

    After directing seven films and one documentary, including "1942: A Love Story" and "An Encounter with Faces" (an Oscar nominated documentary), Chopra turned a writer and producer with "Munnabhai M.B.B.S.", one of the biggest hits of 2003.

    He says "Munnabhai" was a lot of hard work, but it paid off. "People saw it for what it was, as a film with all the right buttons". Negotiations are also on for the Hollywood version of "Munnabhai" called "Gangsta MD".

    Chopra spoke to IANS during a brief visit to New York earlier this week.

    Excerpts:

    Your latest film is based on a great Bengali classic by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. One of the constant observations one encounters while talking to Indian filmmakers is that while technologically we have advanced dramatically, in terms of written m

    Most Indian filmmakers do not work as hard on the script as say they would who would star in their film. In my company we have always paid the most attention to the script. "Parineeta" is an example of that. It took me a year-and-a-half to complete the adaptation of a classic. It was very tough to condense the novel into a two-hour film.

    While working on "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." we delayed it for a long time because we were not happy with the screenplay. In Hindi cinema we have what are called proposals, which are mainly about stars and where a movie should be shot but hardly any attention is paid to the screenplay or script.

    Why "Parineeta" and why now?

    I have been fascinated with "Parineeta" the novel since the age of 10 while growing up in Kashmir. I am making it now because I was waiting for the right team. We have Pradeep Sarkar as director and Shantanu Moitra as music composer. Both are Bengalis and bring an authentic feel to the film. The whole emphasis has been to make everything look authentic. Rather than shooting in a studio in Mumbai we shot in Kolkata for a little over 60 days. The film looks very real. The film's music is amazing. We released it a week ago and it is already topping the charts.

    What is that struck you the most about the novel by the great Bengali writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay?

    "Parineeta" is one of Saratbabu's happier works. It is a very simple and very romantic story.

    After "Munnabhai" you seem to have taken to Sanjay Dutt.

    I like gentleman actors. Sanjay Dutt is a gentleman actor. I think Saif Ali Khan is a gentleman actor. He is in "Parineeta" and I am repeating him in "Yagna". I cannot handle stars with tantrums.

    "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." must rank as one of the truly original written materials in recent times.

    Yes, "Munnabhai" was a lot of hard work and it paid off. People saw it for what it was, as a film with all the right buttons.

    There has been talk about the Hollywood version of "Munnabhai" called "Gangsta MD". What is happening on that front?

    We are in the middle of negotiations on that.

    How valid do you think is the growing perception that Indian cinema is now cracking the mainstream Western markets?

    I think we are slowly getting there. There is growing consciousness about Indian cinema.

    Kashmir has been a special part of your life. Would you like to talk about it?

    Yes, I grew up in Kashmir. That is where I am from. I am always interested in Kashmir. When an opportunity presented I made "Mission Kashmir". In the future too I would like to base a film there.

    Between being a writer, producer and director where do you see yourself most realized?

    As a director, I think. I believe I serve an important function in the Indian film industry of bringing quality back to cinema. "Parineeta" is an example of that.


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