His films have always stood the test of time. Now, as Priyadarshan comes up with his latest release ‘Rangrezz’, rajiv vijayakar talks to the filmmaker about his idea of pure entertainment.
He is 87 films old. In 30 years, Padma Shri awardee Priyadarshan has made that many films in three Southern languages (Tamil, Telugu and his mother tongue Malayalam) as well as Hindi, with a success record of four in five. Fifty-six-year-old Soman Priyadarshan Nair, who graduated with a Master’s degree in Psychology and made his debut with the 1984 Malayalam comedy Poochakkoru Mookkuthi, has made movies in all genres, from the Tamil National Award-winning Kanchivaram to the patriotic Malayalam Kala Pani (dubbed in Hindi as Sazaa-E-Kala Pani), and the film that forever changed comedy (for the better) in Hindi, Hera Pheri (2000).
His hits in Malayalam also include Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu, Thalavattam, Vellanakalude Nadu, Chithram, Vandanam, Kilukkam, Abhimanyu, Mithunam, Thenmavin Kombath, while his Hindi repertoire has Virasat, Hungama, Garam Masala, Bhool Bhulaiya and Malamaal Weekly.
About love & friendship
His latest Rangrezz, which he has directed for Vashu Bhagnani, is his 25th Hindi film since he started out with the 1992 Muskurahat. It is a remake of a film made down South by another director, something that Priyadarshan has often done.
Asked why the film was so titled (Rangrezz means a dyer), the filmmaker smiles and says that the viewer will understand its significance on watching the film. “My film explores that volatile period in the life of the youth between the completion of college and getting a job. It is the remake of Nadodigal, a Tamil film remade already in the other three Southern languages,” says the director. “I have of course changed a lot of things — the original film, set in a village, was over three hours long. This one is set in Mumbai and has a run time of just over two hours. Thus it is tailored for today’s Hindi cinema audiences and 40 per cent of the script is re-written,” he explains.
The director terms Rangrezz as one of his best Hindi films. “Hindi films thrive on entertainers rather than meaningful movies, unlike Malayalam movies. But this film is both a masala movie and a realistic film. I will be proud of it regardless of how it does at the box-office.”
This subject did not call for big stars and that is the reason Jackky Bhagnani and Priya Anand are his choices. “That has its advantages too. I wanted to shoot most of the film in Mumbai’s rains, which I love, and both Jackky and Priya were willing to wait for the rain while shooting.” Cinematographer Santosh Sivan, his old associate, is back with him on this movie after a break of almost 15 years.
About the message in the film, the director remarks, “I want to say that one should not blindly fall in love, because love is all about understanding each other. I am disturbed that nowadays there are long queues in courts for divorce. People jump into marriage, often elope, and then everything goes awry! Rangrezz is also a story of the emotional ties between four friends.”
The director recalls helping a friend elope in his young days. “They ended up getting divorced within two months of marriage, after a live-in that lasted eight years!” he says. On friendship, he has a very clear take — that no one bonds as well as old friends from school and college. “When we meet, we forget that we are all doing different things now. There is no jealousy or attitude, though we may be poor, rich, famous or otherwise,” he explains.
He refuses to equate that kind of relationship with stars like Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal and others with whom he is close in the industry. “We share a great professional rapport, but I would be foolish to see the depth, which I have with my old buddies, in my bonding with them. In films, we are always available for each other,” he declares.
Art of remaking
Almost all his Hindi films have been remakes of his own or others’ films. Why is that? “Frankly, I love remaking the subjects without the budgetary constraints of my Malayalam films. My Manichitrathazhu was made on a shoestring budget, but its Hindi remake, Bhool Bhulaiya, was a big-budget film produced by T-Series. However, I cannot remake every film. Kanchivaram, which won the National Award, cannot possibly be remade either in Malayalam or Hindi because of the ethos of the movie.”
What about his poor track record in Hindi after Bhool Bhulaiya? “However, I have never understood the formula for success!” he says candidly. “The danger lies when you say, ‘I know what works’ after your film is a hit. There are so many elements that are responsible for success. Sometimes, making a film without a star is a mistake, on other occasions, making one with a top name can be faulty judgement too. Take Billu, one of my favourite films. I am told that it flopped because people were disappointed that Shah Rukh Khan had only a cameo. I agree with Ram Gopal Varma and Mani Ratnam about making films that one wants to — why blame yourself if you compromise and make mistakes as per others’ opinions?”
Nevertheless, the director says that there are examples of films that did not work initially but became favourites later. “My Doli Sajaake Rakhna and Mere Baap Pahele Aap are as frequently seen on television, even though Bhool Bhulaiya was technically my last Hindi hit. When people congratulate me for these films, I realise that they never saw the films earlier for whatever reason. That’s where, in these days of business done over a few days or weeks, you need a banner like Yash Raj Films that has the power to push a film as well as sustain it for the audience to grow fond of it.”
The director is comfortable with his fan following but does not take himself too seriously — probably the one reason why he has lasted so long with so much success. “I am no genius like many people say I am,” he smiles, adding, “I have a lot of limitations, especially after so many films. There are so many filmmakers who are better than me. I have been very lucky. But I have a problem with people who assess filmmakers on the basis of just hits or flops. Do they even know how many flops Steven Spielberg has given? Why look at things from such a narrow prism?” he wants to know.
The director is now doing a small cameo in an arty film directed by Blessy. “I play a film director. So you cannot say that I am making my acting debut. And it was tough facing the camera,” he admits.
Also coming up is an untitled film in Malayalam starring his old friend Mohanlal, and a thriller with Emraan Hashmi. “I like to watch all kinds of cinema, so I make all kinds of films,” he guffaws.