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John Abraham would give his right hand to work with me: Mahesh Bhatt

MUMBAI, Chaya Unnikrishnan: Indefatigable in his quest for new talent, Mahesh Bhatt continues to give the industry fresh faces both on screen and behind the camera. His latest offering Khamoshiyan has relative newcomers Ali Fazal, Sapna Pabbi and TV actor Gurmeet Choudhary making his film debut. The film is directed by yet another debutant Karan Darra. Here, he talks about his upcoming film, the need to work with newcomers, cinema of today and what is missing. Excerpts…

Your film has got an ‘A’ certificate. Are you okay with it?
Actually, I am very happy that we have finally come of age. There was a time when films were given ‘A’ certificate, and mutilated. I used to feel very bad about how disrespectful we are as a nation to adults who we feel are not capable of seeing the kind of content we make in Hindi cinema. In this age of Internet and the worldwide web, the content that individuals can access is far more shocking and mind-boggling compared to what we can put on screen. In such an age, our cinema is far behind. We have a censor code and we can only go so far, and not beyond the prescribed limit. I appreciate the efforts by CBFC keeping in time with changing values. In the last 10 years, more changes have taken place than 3000 years ago.

Won’t the certificate affect the selling of the satellite rights?
No, because there is a separate toned down version for television, just like the way aircrafts have a modified version because all age groups are there. Images and sounds which may not be ideal for universal consumption are deleted and made suitable for wholesome consumption.

Tell us about the casting of the film?
The credit goes to Karan Darra. He saw Sapna Pabbi in 24 when he was recuperating from Dengue in Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital. He liked her and wanted to cast her. Even Ali (Fazal) was his idea in fact he insisted that we cast him. The youthful look of the film is because of him. Gurmeet (Choudhary) was recommended by Mukesh Bhatt’s wife, who is an avid TV viewer.

Khamoshiyaan is an erotic thriller…
I would like to believe it is the reinvention of the same idiom that we discovered in the 21st century with Raaz. However, instead of a man in the centre with two women, here there’s a woman with two men. It’s a triangular drama with some sprinkling of the supernatural. Somebody aptly described the film as supernatural and love story movie side-by-side, a difficult feat for a writer-director to achieve. The film is essentially the story of an author who goes in search of his next book, stumbles upon a woman with complications and a paranormal relationship.

What is it about newcomers that attract you?
I prefer to work with newcomers because of their zeal and enthusiasm. We talk about new people and yet work with the old ones. We need to be brave and dare to work with fresher talent. Otherwise, your quest for safety and security makes you repetitive. And you are like a frog stuck in a little cesspool.

You rarely work even with the ones you have introduced and are established…
That’s because all the time I am looking for new people and my commitment to them is absolute. Old people come back to work with us but we don’t lean on them. That can have a crippling impact. You launch a new person, and he/she becomes a star because of the overwhelming support and it
can become a dicey situation for your own psychological and economic safety. That’s where your own fire to find people starts diminishing.

You must be proud of the people you have introduced…
Yes. Everyone from Anupam Kher, Nadeem Shravan, Mohit Suri, Vikram Bhatt, Anurag Basu, Bipasha Basu, Pooja Bhatt, the list is endless. Besides, there are innumerable technicians like Saeed Qadri, singers Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam. But they become stars because of what they have inherently. My company helps them flower.

Do the actors you have introduced, express a desire to work with you again?
Yes, John (Abraham) keeps sending me messages that he would give his right hand to work with me after Jism. Ajay (Devgn) and I did an exceptional film Zakhm and he also messages me. That is their way of expressing affection, but it doesn’t mean I should land up at their doorstep the next day and say,’Let’s do a film!’.

Music has been a hallmark of your films…
I learnt this from my boss Raj Khosla. An Indian film with great music has more chances of sailing home to safety. I feel this is a lesson we learnt very early in the 90s with Aashiqui. Ever since then, we have been adhering to this formula, though it’s very difficult. Now, music comes from various sources instead of one person. It’s a collective view of a song. Music is a good precursor for a film. For instance, there is awareness of Khamoshiyan. It is going to open well and with the kind of mathematics we have, it will romp home by the weekend.

Your take on the new generation of actors?
They have a superior understanding and are more cinema- literate. Performances are exceptional. They are head and shoulders above the previous generations. But it takes time to groom people and nudge them to their own potential.

Will we ever see you directing a film again?
No, I am doing this job with great excitement. It is comforting and fulfilling to create destinies rather than films because films have a shelf life. Human lives touch other human lives. I am taking a balcony view and playing a far more challenging job than merely directing.

Among the newbies, see anyone with the passion that you had?
I don’t think you should humiliate the present generation by the yardstick of yesterday. We were the by-products of that time. There are young filmmakers who are very passionate and creating their own idioms. I look forward to Mohit Suri’s Hamaari Adhuri Kahaani.

Your thoughts about the subjects being made today, considering you made films that were ahead of their time?
I don’t see that kind of human drama exploring the heart in all its complexities in the times we live in. There is an urgent need to return to that and I am glad I have done that with Hamaari Adhuri Kahaani, which I have written.