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    An interview with the Bluffmaster team: Director Rohan Sippy and Writer Shridhar Raghavan

    [Interview by Aanjo P Chawla]
    Monday, December 26, 2005
    On the making of Bluffmaster and what lies ahead for both. OK, let me admit first that while I check out every kind of Bollywood movie, I have a strong liking for thrillers and suspense-based drama and as for stories with twists in the tail I absolutely mainline on them! Which is why a TV series like Alfred Hitchcock Presents or a movie like Ittefaaq or even Gulzar sahabís sensitive Ijaazat with its stunning climax or that perfect screenplay-based The Usual Suspects, are films one is inordinately fond of.

    And if you cast your mind over the number of really good con capers released in India in the recent past and weíre talking strictly con capers here not some other genre with a con caper or two thrown in here or there -- you could count them on the fingers of one hand.

    Why? Because con capers are a very very difficult kind of film to write. Because logic is of paramount importance, and we cannot use filmy license to sweep something away per convenience just because there is a logic hole in the tapestry of the screenplay

    Which is why I consider Bluffmaster to be the best con caper in Hindi films in a long time. Look at the script, and the way it unfolds. I donít see any major place you can fault it and the credit for that goes to two individuals (apart from the fact that todayís fastest emerging superstar Abhishek Bachchan holds his own in the film) the director Rohan Sippy, who executed the superb screenplay crafted out by his writer, Sridhar Raghavan who just in case you didnít know it has also written films like Raj Kumar Santoshiís Khakee and Prakash Jhaís Apaharan along with Sriram Raghavanís Ek Haseena Thi.

    Excerpts from their conversation with Aanjo PC of Indiaglitz (IG) in Mumbai.

    Congrats on the good opening for Bluffmaster. What are the reports like?

    Rohan Sippy (RS): Very encouraging. Itís taken a very strong opening in the big centres while results from the smaller cities are yet to come in. But Iíve been told that itís got a stronger initial than Salaam Namaste so thatís heartening. The great thing is that audience word-of-mouth is very positive even the sms-es, letters, audience feedback on websites everywhere, weíve heard heartening things so weíre very positive about the film. People are enjoying it and recommending it to the others too. Thatís good!

    Great, but weíll have to wait and check out the trade figures! OK, before we go on let me ask you up front Sridhar, Is Bluffmaster an original film or did you dip into any film anywhere any remote Hollywood or whichever other film?!

    Sridhar Raghavan (SR): No, we havenít done that. Look, itís a genre film con -- so it isnít based on any other film.

    Whose idea was it to do a film like Bluffmaster?

    SR: The Sippys were very keen to do a film on this genre. At the heart of the idea that first cropped up, was this one-line thought: Two actors, one to play a maestro, the other to play a greenhorn rookie. And then the research began!

    Research?

    Rohan: Yes we started reading.

    SR: It took me around six months to read and teach myself how to become a conman myself! I went to several sites like crimes of person and others. I learnt for instance, that on the streets of Madrid and Barcelona there are scores of conmen and how they operate. In fact Riteishís character comes from there, whereas Abhishekís as the experienced maestero who only goes for the big, elaborate cons was entirely different.

    Rohan: And basis our discussions and research, Sridhar came back with an 18-20 page draft which was a good starting point. There was enough material there a whole lot of cons we thought here weíll use this con, there weíll use that one and so on.

    SR: But Rohan was very keen on an emotional aspect to the film. He wanted to give Abhishekís character something that would have the audiences empathizing with him. To show that deep down Abhishek is a man with a good heart even though by profession heís a conman and hence a criminal. I too didnít want to do a unidimensional story about a conman. I thought if say, a Frank Capra were to do something like this, how would he have done it? Or a Manmohan Desai how would he have brought in the emotional hook that not only takes the character forward but also draws the audienceís goodwill for the character along with it.

    Rohan: And so, that first draft of story outline underwent a lot of changes. In fact, if you read the first draft of the story and then the final screenplay itís very different!

    SR: That happened because we decided: it has to have a single take the story has to be about conmen, it has to have romance and it has to be likeable at every level with scope for humor, gags, romance. Shaan had some lovely con moments and Do Aur Do Paanch was a very Indian con film. And we too decided to make Bluffmaster a very Indian con film.

    Rohan: By the time Sridhar came back with the second draft, we thought we had a really good scriptand then Sridhar showed the script to Boman. And after Boman had read the script, he began asking us some very important questions and in answering those questions about motivation and logic, we ended up re-writing the script.

    SR: Actually, Boman has a lovely, deadly brutally blunt quality he tells it like it is and he draws from his vast experience of theatre and drama too all his years of experience. It actually helped us define each character in great detail and root the story even more firmly in logic.

    Rohan: You know what? That scene in which Boman explains to Abhishek his philosophy of Life? When I read that scene, I thought Ďthis is the reason for making this film.í

    First it was Kuchch Na Kaho and now Bluffmaster. You seem to have a strong liking for Abhishek Bachchan

    Rohan: Thatís because heís young and heís a very good performer. In fact, heís still the youngest star actor we have and that was the key reason for which I signed him up for KNK. For Bluffmaster well, let me tell you Abhishekís role was originally to be played by Sanjay Dutt and Abhishek was to play Riteishís role. And in fact, Abhishek was the one accompanied me to Sanjay Dutt to first discuss the main role in Bluffmaster. Sanjay considers Abhishek like a younger brother and said Sure, Iíll do the film. So actually Sanjay Dutt was to do the main role but then Bunty Aur Babli happened, and Dus, and Salaam Namaste, and suddenly there was a tight squeeze on Abhishekís dates! Suddenly in May this year he told me, Rohan, Iíve got some dates from June onwards so if your scriptís ready letís roll! After that, he was to get busy with Doom 2 and another film and would be lost to us for a good year!

    SR: But fortunately, the script was ready it took me 14 months to write the final draft and Rohan had just 50-odd days to shoot the entire film.

    Rohan: Actually, it was 55 or 60.

    And how did Abhishek end up doing the role Sanjay was to do?

    Rohan: It was because of that pressure on dates! We ran to Sanjay to ask him about his dates but he wasnít available at such short notice obviously, because originally we were to have started shooting the film in January 2006! But Sanjay was a real sport he said, no problem if you have Abhishekís dates let him do my role otherwise your film will get badly delayed. And get someone else for the role of the rookie conman. And Abhishek recommended that we take Riteish for that role.

    OK. By the way, what made you decide to ask Abhishek to sing Right Here Right Now?

    Rohan: We were scoring the music for Bluffmaster and I spoke to Vishal and Shekar to compose a special song. Vishal came to the sets and we sat discussing what kind of song we wanted. He went away and then they returned with a scratch. We loved it and while we were listening to it, Abhishek half in jest suggested, Iíll sing it. And we pinned him to it! Thatís how he ended up doing the song.

    Yes, and there was tremendous expectation about the song and especially about the way you would film it.

    Rohan: Yes, we decided to bring in Farah (Khan) to choreograph the song and we used it as a bit of a bonus in the end credits.

    Yes that worked, didnít it? But speaking for myself, I was rather looking forward to how you would place it in the film.

    Rohan: In the film, we used it to take the story further by using it to symbolize what Abhishek and Priyanka have for each other

    So what next? Howís Taxi coming along? And what is it about?

    Rohan: Taxi is a story set in a 24-hour timeframe in Bombay. Itís about two persons a taxi driver played by Nana and a rich heir played by John Abraham who is rushing to contest his late fatherís will. Itís about how these two very different kind of persons come together and what happens to them on the most important day of their lives. Nana is absolutely brilliant in the film and so is John. Itís an excellent script and I am very positive about it.

    And what are you working on right now, Shridhar?

    SR: Iím doing two films for Mr Raj Kumar Santoshi Oneís London Dreams and the other is Toofan Mail. And another film with Rohan. Itís an adventure a freak-out film, and Iím still working on the script first weíll think of a title later! Hopefully in the middle of the writing the title will suggest itself the filmís a comic adventure and one with my brother Shriram (Raghavan who directed Ek Haseena Thi). Itís gonna be a huge multistarrer, an adventure film on the lines of Shaan.

    Hmmm and whoís gonna produce it? Could it be the Sippys?

    SR: Canít say right now, but weíre talking weíre talking!


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