Are you surprised a little or were you always sure that you would be getting such a response?
When we started off the movie was not very big to start with. It was a medium budget film and we were expecting a good response but not such a big response. The country has reacted very well. There have been people calling up and saying that "Thank you for giving us such a film!" Overall we had made an honest attempt. And now the movie seems to have become a trendsetter in terms of length.
How is the response to the movie now? Has it movie sustained after an initial hoopla around it?
Ya ya, the movie is rock steady. It has sustained over days. Exhibitors across North, Mumbai, Hyderabad, London have said that the movie has held up very well. In fact I am expecting a big second week as the word of mouth has just started after the first weekend. People have started telling each other that 'Hey, we saw the movie...good entertainer...go check it out!"
This must be really heartening.
Ya, now that's a good sign that the film has made a connection with them. This is what that matters and I don't care for anything else. See our business analysis is very suspect. Some will say that "Oh, the movie did well everywhere but it didn't do too well in Assam. Dubai was fantastic but Nepal wasn't very good." To me this doesn't really matter as we as people are all so diverse. No film can work everywhere with everyone. In fact when I told Dev Kolhi [lyricist] that the movie's collections have been fantastic he told me, "Why do the collections matter to you? If seeing the film makes you happy and people around you are happy then that's what that should matter and everything else is a bonus." This is a low budget film and it will enter the profit zone pretty quickly.
What's the budget of the movie?
If you look at it today, the starcast [Nana, John] worked perfectly for the movie.
Ya ya, and as the roles they played worked perfectly for the different segments of audience. This also helped to create a lot of curiosity in the posters that what are these two guys doing together.
Even for someone like Sonali Kulkarni, it seems like a re-launch for her in mainstream Bollywood.
Ya, true. In fact when I met her at the Delhi premier, I told her that from now film industry will look at her with much more respect. I think she had taken up some wrong roles. At times she was playing glamorous roles and at times she was doing too arty roles. I think this is her niche and she can really do something well.
How about Sameera's character? Was it always supposed to take a twist in the end or was it done mainly to accommodate Priyanka Chopra?
No, Sameera's character was not changed to accommodate Priyanka. See, the original idea was that when the movie ends, one of the stories should reach its completion when it comes to a woman and this is what was planned for Nana. Whereas when it came to John, it should remain incomplete with no woman in the end. But when we saw the edited film, we realized that something was amiss. Then it so happened that at that time Priyanka was shooting for Rohan and this is where we roped her in though this was not a gimmick. But yes, Sameera was always supposed to leave John in the end.
Inspite of good reviews, there have still been few remarks that there have been excessive cinematic liberties in the movie.
See, some critics sit on that side of the fence which is quite realistic. When you look at commercial Hindi cinema from that side of the fence it would look quite far fetched. As far as I am concerned, I believe that cinema is one medium which is larger than life. The films that I have loved, I have seen them taking a lot of liberties, be it Amar Akbar Anthony, Don, Sholay, Satte Pe Satta. If you are working a dramatic medium, only a fool would sit down and say that 'Hey, this is not believable!' Drama is about taking emotion up and down and creating a spectacle which is at some places realistic and sometimes far fetched. So unless you have both in the film, you can't really excite an audience. That's the reason why this is called as a license that a film maker has or a writer has or a poet has.
For 'Taxi No. 9211' you had Rohan Sippy as a co-producer who just had a 'Bluffmaster' to his credit. Did you ever fear any interference there?
See, he and me were shooting for our films at the same time. His contribution was mainly towards the marketing of the film. Also both Ramesh and Rohan Sippy understand very simple thing about film making that you have got the man then give him the reins. There are two kinds of film makers. One, who are constantly looking at you from your shoulders and others who take you on and go with your vision. I am lucky and very happy to have worked with them.
It must be good to hear that the majority have said that this is your best effort yet that also surpasses say, 'Kachhe Dhaage'.
I am just happy for that as I made the film with the back at the wall. I had a tight budget and had to shoot the film in 42 days. Producer was not as prominent as he is today, They were just coming back into filmmaking. I knew from day one that this would could either make or break me. Today I am so glad that I made it.
In the hindsight why do you think that a movie like 'Deewar' wasn't a success?
You know the feedback I got has been that it's not that the people have seen my film and rejected it. In fact people had not even seen the film and the reason could be that at time there were number of films around war that had come, which were all very bad. People had developed an aversion to such films. Also somewhere in our pitching we were not able to convey to people that this was actually a fun film, an escape film and not a war film. The film sounded as a typical Pak bashing story to people and who at that time were shying away from such films. Fortunately it wasn't such a film as it was the first of its genre that wasn't abusing Pakistan.
So are you now taking a well deserved break after a hectic shooting schedule, pre-release and post-release days?
In fact I am not taking a break and going full steam into work. There are number of things in the pipeline as I have been working a lot on the screenplays. I have finally made a team with my writer Rajat Arora and we both get along very well. Its a great association with him and we plan to churn a lot of movies in next 3-4 years. There are very good offers coming my way and very interesting actors who want to work with me. It would be a very refreshed kind of film making for me for a change, hence no more rest for me [smiles].