As a director who is your inspiration? Who were your idols?
It is generally any good piece of work that inspires. A great painting, or a wonderful music composition or even a touching human act in real life. Anything can inspire. No filmmaker inspired me to become one but quite a few have a very strong influence on the kind of director I want to become. Starting with Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor to Mukul Anand, Mahesh Bhatt and Mani Ratnam. From Sergio Leonne, Coppola and Scorsese to Michael Bay, John Woo and Spike Lee. It is a fairly wide spectrum.
How has been your journey right from being known as the Video music director with the midas touch, to being a director, dialogue writer, and now as a producer?
I started with TV. ‘Bagpiper sitaron ka karva’ to ‘Yule Love stories’ for ZEE, ‘Shikast’ for InMumbai to finally ‘Sea Hawks’ on DD Metro. Sea Hawks was definitely a turning point. After that Magnasound gave me my first music video - Sonu Niga's ‘Tu’. And then I did not even get the time to count how many videos I directed. Music Video Moughal to King of Music Videos. I don't know what all I was called. Honestly it had become really embarrassing the number of times my name used to appear on the TV everyday, So one day I said a six letter word to all the music companies…..ENOUGH !!!
Then started movies. The ultimate dream. First movie was a hit, the second wasn't, third was a hit and the fourth wasn't. Fifth is under production and the sixth on paper. Seventh is being written and the eighth being ideated. I am happy. I am content as a director. Then there are ideas that I would like to be made. By me or by other directors. Some are mine and some are not. I am putting the pieces together to make sure that those movies are made too. Yes there are some tools that have been put in place to do so. A Production House, a Completion Bonding and a Banking and Pre-sale infrastructure. Everything that it takes to make sure that the movie is "made and seen". And I agree with you that by the sound of it all it appears that I have also turned a Producer.
You are being identified as a technical wizard in the mould of Mukul Anand. Did your engineering background helps you in this?
Mukul has always been an inspiration. If anybody puts me in the same mould as his, I feel extremely privileged, honored and flattered. But honestly it is a learning process and will continue to be one. Yes being an engineer does help on technique, but very broadly on two counts. One…As an engineer your brain is formatted to think systematically. TWO… you are not scared/apprehensive of new technology. Because as an engineer it was your job to create new technology everyday.
Your forte seems to be action thrillers, but you started with TUM BIN, a love story. How the sudden change of track?
This is the most asked question in my career thus far. I started with film based shows and soft love stories; then went on to do an extremely dark story called Shikast. Then a very DUS like show called Sea Hawks. Then close to a hundred music videos and then TUM BIN. Well I don't know my forte myself. Right now it is the process of exploring what I am good at. Just exploring while I am being paid for it too.
Did you expect the mind boggling success of DUS, and is CASH in the same genre too? Also with sequels being the trend these days, heard that you plan to make a sequel too with GYARAH, how far is it true? And who is the addition to the cast?
It is a very strange feeling when you know your movie is going to be a hit and you are also praying that it became one. I mean a bizarre combination of conviction and the lack of it. Finally God and the audience intervened and ‘Dus’ was declared a success. I thank both for it. Yes Gyarah has been playing on my mind. Not because of the trend of sequels, but because it is a great business idea plus I have a story too.
What is cash about? And what’s your expectation from CASH?
Cash is a comic book thriller. It is "unrealistically real and realistically unreal". It is fun. It is spectacular. It is a real popcorn movie. My expectation from the movie is that it is as such a huge hit that I don't have to work after this.
You seem to like multistarrers. How do you manage it?
Surprisingly my first movie was without a single star. Not because I didn't get one, but because I never approached any. And today I have released one with four stars, am shooting one with four and planning one with six. Yes I agree I do seem to like multistarrers. It was never planned. It just happened. Such is life I guess. How do I manage it?
I don't know yet. I just work hard and harder and the hardest and then if it goes wrong everyone knows that it was not my fault. It was God's design. And you don't meddle with that.
Why did you change from having an engineering background to the glamour industry?
Ab to yaad bhi nahi. Just that I was not enjoying what I was doing as an engineer. So I just quit and life drove me here.
One heard that you plan to cast Sunny Deol as a serial killer. Is the project on?
Yes I did narrate something like that to him. A serial killer and a cop. And I offered him the killer. Surprisingly he got very excited about it. But then we did not take it further because we started working on another movie AIRPORT. It is a huge one so there is no mind-space to think of another one. But definitely in future!
How did you think of getting into production? We have also heard that you have 2 production houses. You are also partnering with Percept film for 6 projects. Please elaborate on the business model.
I am a part of two Production Houses. ASP WHITE which is run by me and my brother Anupam. And SEVEN ENTERTAINMENT which is owned by me and my friend Anish. ASP WHITE has a six movie deal with Percept Picture Company and K Sera Sera. It is an arrangement where K Sera Sera and PPC will provide ASP WHITE with the financial and Infrastructural Support, while ASP WHITE will be responsible to create the right projects with the right teams. The philosophy behind all these movies is driven by the joint conviction of all the three associates and are not driven by any traditional elements of marketing.
The trend of mini-corporates, now does it help the director in you since you don't have to worry about finance and focus more on the creative aspect?
This is a very subjective approach. As a producer I meet a lot of directors. Old and new. They all have their different ways of thinking. None of them is right or wrong. Some want to feel fully responsible for all the money spent and some don't want to see beyond the film. It is for the producer to decide which philosophy he wants to subscribe to. And it is for the producer to see the film through the way it was visualized by the director.
Will your production house focus on action thrillers or will it experiment with other genres too?
The philosophy of both my production houses is
i) choose a story
ii) choose a director
iii) choose the right cast
There are no other considerations.
How do you juggle your time being a film maker, producer, dialogue writer etc.?
Yes It does take a lot of time and effort. And there is also an effort to continue to be a good father. I am dividing myself into several segments. I guess in due course of time I will know which were the areas where I succeeded. It is too early to judge now. Right now there is too much on my plate and one thing that is clearly suffering is my sleep. Nights when I get five hours is festival time.
What is the difference in working with the freshers and the starry lot?
"Starry lot" sounds slightly sarcastic. They are stars. And they lead their lives in a certain manner and they demand it to be continuously like that. It is not what they demand; it is how they demand is what makes the difference between a good star and a "starry sort". Similarly freshers are also of two kinds. Easy ones and the difficult ones. I have dealt with both the kinds in both the categories. So eventually it boils down to the individual. Fresher or star? Doesn't matter
Where did you hone your skills as a director…any formal training ?
Do I have any skills as a director? I don't know yet. I have never read anything about it in a Portuguese newspaper or a Chilean or even a Brazilian. I am still honing my skills. Once I have successfully done so I will be more equipped to answer this.
What are your future plans as a producer, dialogue writer, director?
SIX WORDS and this will never change: MAKE GOOD MOVIES AND HAVE FUN