Your film is a success but why do you seem so put off by the reviews and the ratings?
I won’t say that I am put off per se but the fact cannot be denied that more often than not the critics do not make much sense to me. Now look at my last release KKKH. It was always meant to be a se comedy! Did I ever try to hide that fact? Never. It was always meant for the campus crowds and youth in the age group of 17-30. Any families that walked in were an added bonus. But critics seemed to have a problem with the film. My answer to them even then was - "Don’t watch the film if you have any problem with it. If you are averse to sex, then well it’s your choice!"
You may attribute it to the fact that even audience has grown up.
That’s absolutely true and this is why if my audience rejects the film I would be perfectly fine with that. Because that means that I have to pull up my socks. This is the reason why I have no problems with my audience but yes I certainly feel that the critics need to grow up. They need to accept the fact that the world around them is changing and they need to adapt to the change too!
Post the success of ASMM, do you feel that you have been vindicated?
100% vindicated! When KKKH released and got scathing reviews I was pretty disturbed but its success toned down the hurt. This time around I was cool even though the reviews were mixed because yet again audience lapped up the product. I get amused by the very thought of what critics would have in store for me when I make my next film!
You seem to be truly upset about the critics.
That’s because if you ask me, no one cares for the critics. It is so easy for them to pick one single dialogue or scene, rip it apart and label the film as sleazy or vulgar. But shall I tell you something? Since time immemorial, we have done things undercover. Hence I know that behind the scenes, even these critics would be laughing at these so called non-veg jokes. Things change when they pick up pen and start writing a review. But the same so-called critics cannot afford to touch big film makers even when they make trashy products. Why? Because then there are severe repercussions to face. This is the reason why it is easy to catch a small fish like me.
But then a movie like ASMM which is backed by Subhash Ghai could hardly be termed as small?
Arrey baba, but Subhashji was mainly in the capacity of a producer here, Also criticism doesn’t really impact a film maker of his stature. He is BIG and has risen above such small things over the decades.
Coming back to the movie, there seemed to be a different strategy in place for promoting ASMM.
Yes, it indeed was. If you look closely we never tried to highlight ASMM as one of those hero-heroine romance stories. This is why even the posters just didn’t have Ritiesh or Koena but an entire starcast. We didn’t want to give a wrong impression to the audience. Add to that the music video of some catchy numbers by Pritam and we were assured that the film would catch eye balls of many. This was a different film with different kinds of characters with each of them having different mannerisms. ASMM was designed as a humor film and the idea was to keep its length short.
Any particular reason behind that?
Yes. See KKKH was 2 hrs. 40 mins and even though the film was a success, distributors and exhibitioners felt that if only the film was around 2 hrs., they could have squeezed in an extra show and earner more revenue. This is why it was a conscious decision to keep ASMM short and hence the film’s running length is just 2 hrs 10 mins.
There seem to be number of spoofy moments with references to other films.
[Laughs] But believe me, never once did we have in mind to making fun of anyone there. If you notice Ritiesh’s introduction scene, the song ‘Wo Kisna Hai’ from ‘Kisna’ played in the background because a) his name was Kishan in the film and b) this is one number that I feel never got its due and hence deserved to be played again. Ditto for Rajpal Yadav’s ‘Sarkar’ act since I loved ‘Sarkar’ as a film. For us, his act was a tribute to the film and if you notice closely, Rajpal merely expresses his desire to "be" Sarkar! He doesn’t imitate Big B because not doing so was something that we were very clear from the very onset. We wanted to project it as a love from a man rather than try to demean a personality like Amitabh Bachchan.
Was Riteish a game for a woman’s act?
When narrated, the part did excite Riteish a lot. Our only concern was how would be look? Sometimes you would have noticed that when a man is asked to look like a female, the sight is quite gross. Whereas what we wanted was not just our character to be good looking but even sexy. Now that was a double challenge in hand. We tried as many as 4 different looks but ultimately decided against using prosthetic make-up. We decided to let Ritiesh be Ritiesh, add on some make up and shave him well. The deciding moment came when my driver had a first look at him on the sets and asked me if the film had roped in a 4th heroine. That was it!
What all went into making the woman part of Riteish stand out?
If you have noticed, Ritiesh wears ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ costumes in his woman act. We decided against using short skirts since girls in a ‘basti’ don’t war such clothing. Also Ritiesh was against waxing his legs. What we focused more was getting the performance right, and this was something about which we were very confident. His acceptance as a woman was a key to the film’s success and for that we had to be sure that the body language was all right. It had to balanced with no overacting involved.
Not just Riteish but even Chunky got in a lot of laughs during the film.
Oh baba, you had to see the effort my actors had put in. Even in dubbing, Chunky was so interested in giving more than his best. He was interested in doing something different and for that he wanted to apply himself to the fullest. As a tall Nepali-Afghan, he was so much of fun on screen. Andy why just him? Each of the characters were so well defined that even the theater actors who played Kaancha and Cheena, the two lieutenants of Chunky, were marvelous.
One thing that has always been puzzling is; why did the film release so late in spite of the publicity kick start way back in August?
Yes, you are right. The film was ready months back but just after the promotion kick started, Subhashji decided to postpone the film. His point was that since the period of ‘shraddh’ was nearby, distributors were not too keen to release the film then. Another reason was that he himself was not too happy with the marketing of the film and hence wanted a few more weeks before unleashing the film. He suggested releasing the film after the Diwali rush was through and then pick up a time frame when there would be clear 2 weeks of uninterrupted run. A wise decision indeed since the collections say it all. So there you go!