You've been extremely reclusive.
Even now I'm very nervous of the press. But somewhere I've realised it's important to connect with the audience, let them know what you're making. I'm trying to reach out.
What do you think went wrong with your last film "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon"?
I'd say a lot of things. But the first thing that my father said when he saw it was, 'Your theme was that Kareena (Kapoor) would love Hrithik (Roshan) till the end of time. Then how did she agree to get engaged to Abhishek (Bachchan)?'
I was talking of pyar ki oonchayaiyaan, rishto ki gehraayiyan and my characters weren't living up to that idea. Actually, my protagonists in all my other films have lived up to certain ideals.
Audiences thought you were going against your cinema in "Main Prem" and Hrithik was acting like your favourite Salman Khan.
That's true. I take full responsibility. I tried to give a certain feel and flavour to my characters. The equation worked with Abhishek's character. But something went drastically wrong with Hrithik's... Salman played my hero Prem in my first film "Maine Pyar Kiya". When I first sketched the character, Salman was very much a part of it. When you start off together you are bound to grow close.
Will you work with him again?
Of course! But it has to be a film and a role that allows both of us to go beyond what've already done. The best thing about Salman is, he isn't afraid to experiment on screen. After "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon" I was going through a period of creative uncertainty. I had ideas for five films with Salman. When I narrated them to him he liked some of them. But all the ideas were in gestation.
"Vivah" was one idea that had concretized in my mind. It kept coming back to haunt me. It had to be made first. And my father is very excited about it. I trust his judgment completely. "Maine Pyar Kiya", "Hum Aapke Hain Koun" and "Hum Saath Saath Hain" were subjects chosen by my father, "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon" was chosen by me.
Now you know why trust my father's judgement. I went up to him and told him about the ideas for my next film. He straightaway selected "Vivah".
You've gone back to the old Rajshri favorite Ravindra Jain to do the music for your new film "Vivah".
I truly believe melody is timeless, the older the better. There're so many tunes that I've heard my father and grandfather sing to me. Raviji brings that old nostalgic feeling in me. Instinctively I knew he was right for "Vivah".
Again there'll be lots of songs even in "Vivah", though maybe not that many dances. We're a very musical people. We can express those feelings through songs that we cannot otherwise.
Do you think you can recapture the flavor of "Hum Aapke Hain Koun"?
No one can do that, not even me. Every project dictates its own vision. In "Vivah" I intend to look at the sanctity of marital bonding. At 40, I can look at the man-woman relationship with some detachment.
Unlike my earlier films, "Vivah" isn't about the festivities and celebrations connected with a marriage. It's about the definitions and dynamics of a marriage. Once that engagement ring is exchanged you suddenly become so important to someone else.
Today I feel youngsters are losing touch with the whole beauty and relevance of a relationship. My film starts with an engagement and ends with a marriage.
What made you choose Shahid Kapur and Amrita Rao?
From the writer's viewpoint, "Vivah" is my toughest film. There's nothing beyond the chemistry between the boy from Delhi and the girl from Mathura to peg the plot on. The film is only about the gradual growth in the couple's relationship. I was very impressed by Shahid and Amrita's performances in all their films - yes, I've seen them all. I buy a ticket and watch all the good films in the theatres. I feel it's very important to keep a check on trends.
How will you connect "Vivah" to younger viewers?
I am going by my instincts. The courtship ritual is something we've all gone through. I'm not targeting the film at any specific audience. Today, audiences are educated and aware. They're willing to give any genre a chance as long as the sincerity and sensibility of the filmmaker shine through. The minute you try to do something that's for the man in Patna or Pune, you're being dishonest. I can't ask my assistants if I'm going right with a shot or a film. Finally, I've to take a decision.
Appreciation from the audience is very important. Our last three films taught me the importance of budget - we spent way too much money in "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon" and also the importance of the Rajshri dictum - pyar ki oochaaniyan rishton ki gehraayiyan... These qualities were missing in our recent films. We went wrong in choosing the subjects.
Do you think it's tough to go beyond "Hum Aapke Hain Koun"?
Every one of my four films has a part of my life going into it. Some parts connect with the audience, others don't. I can't remake "Hum Aapke Hain Koun" because that part of my life is over. Ek film khatm karte hain aur ab kya banaaye? It's never thought out. It just happens. I've always gone by instinct.
Your banner is making regional films?
Our Oriya film has done well. We have just released a Bengali film directed by Prabhat Roy. Next year we'll be making a Bhojpuri film. Personally I'll focus on "Vivah". We hope to release it next Diwali.
Where do you fit in today's cinema?
After "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon", a dude with a bali in his ear came to my office and told me he hated my movie. I asked him to sit down and explain. He told me only films that are high on morality would work under my banner. He enumerated all the films from my grandfather's time. He thought we should always make films that conveyed high principals, which the entire family could watch together.
Do you feel like a misfit when you see a film like "Murder"?
I can't make "Murder", but I liked the film. I could see the sincerity of the filmmaker. When Mallika (Sherawat) goes late to pick up her son from school, I connected completely with the film. Bhatt saab's (Mahesh Bhatt) thought every marriage is performed around the fire, but a true test of a successful marriage is one that goes through fire-rings in my ears even now. But you're right, I can't make a crass film. It's so funny. But a filmmaker's attitude depends on the kind of cinema he makes.
What other films have you enjoyed recently?
My favorite film is "Veer-Zaara". Then of course "Black" is sensational. "Bunty Aur Babli" and "Page 3" - I couldn't connect with it - I don't think I could make films like those. I can't bear to sit through the complexities of life in "Page 3".
Tabu keeps telling me to watch Madhur Bhandarkar's "Chandni Bar". But I can't bear it. I couldn't watch the little boy in the first half of "Koi...Mil Gaya" suffer so much. I feel as a filmmaker it's my duty to give audiences hope. Even today when I sit through a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film I feel so happy.
What does your banner look like beyond you?
I've two sons. The elder, who's 15, wants to be a filmmaker. The younger, who's 12, is bored with the sets.