Hit machine

An invincible track record like Rohit Shetty’s has had movie-makers re-discover their style of filmmaking to match up to his hit formula, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

Rohit Shetty
Rohit Shetty

There are so many people across the spectrum of all professions, and especially in entertainment and the arts, who begin at an early age and acquire so much knowledge over their inborn talent that they become giants. Rohit Shetty, who began his career at 16, way back in 1991, is one such man.

Focused from the beginning, Rohit was clear that he had to be in films like his parents. His father was the iconic stunt coordinator-cum-actor Shetty, and his mother Ratna, a popular stuntwoman of those times. “That’s how they met!”smiles Shetty. “Naturally, I did not think of any other career option. And after I completed school, I went to work on the sets, getting an education in cinema. I had only two options as a career: to be someone like my dad, or to direct films.”

Rohit began to work under Kuku Kohli in Phool Aur Kaante, befriending newbie hero Ajay Devgn to form a lifelong friendship. Today, everything that
Rohit Shetty does turns gold. He has directed 13 films, of which only one film, Sunday (way back in 2008), was a complete disaster. His debut film Zameen (2003)
did not do well then, but remains cult now on television.

Fun ride

Rohit’s first success was the crime caper Golmaal—Fun Unlimited in 2006. Arguably, the film remains the biggest franchise Hindi cinema has ever seen!
“When I made it, I did not even dream of a sequel!” laughs Rohit. “Today, it has had Golmaal Returns, Golmaal 3 and Golmaal Again!” Needless to chuckle, each
instalment has been more successful than the earlier one, and Rohit has decided that he will make part five only when he gets a great idea and can work out a
superb script.

But then success stories like Golmaal do not happen every day, for they connect across the country, across all age groups and become like addictions. Last May, therefore, Rohit went in for Golmaal Junior, an animation series on television, with kids named after the main characters and having their traits! “The journey of Golmaal till now shows that it has now become the audience’s own household brand, and we just deliver it to them!” he chuckles. “And the advantage of animation is that the kids and all others can watch it daily. Golmaal is now for all. It is now a responsibility, and there is a subconscious attempt to keep kids in mind.” That Rohit and his work are both loved by kids (the real ones, apart from those of all ages!) has also been clear from the love that he has got from them for Singham and Simmba as well. “At the time of Singham, I never knew that kids would love my film, and despite that, I never thought that Simmba too would be loved by them!” he grins. “It was when many parents began to tell me this that I realised it.” At the release event of Junior Golmaal, we saw how great Rohit’s personal tuning was with the kids who had thronged the function. We ask him about his early experience with Little Singham. “Oh, that offer came from Reliance, when they began their animation division. I thought of an idea, and we shot the rough edit, they loved it, and I thought that kids too will. It was not a real world, but then even we adults like to go into such zones!”

Obviously, Little Singham’s success led to Junior Golmaal, but Rohit believes in taking things slow. He is also planning a web animation series, and later might experiment with big-screen animation. “All mediums have grown slowly — television, web and even animation,” he explains. “The country is growing, our reach is growing, and the number of channels are growing. Today, it is not just about Tom & Jerry or my favourite animation hero Tintin, because many Indian characters, even apart from my series are popular.”

When Little Singham happened, his son was excited. Says the proud father, “He told me, Issko bacche dekhenge (kids will watch this)!’ and I told him, ‘Oh, so now you are not a kid, you are big!’ He loves my films obviously and likes to do his own action with his toy cars! He is 13 now.”

Cop universe

How does Rohit manage a film a year — he released two in 2008, but had a gap of two years after Dilwale? “If everyone is clear about things and is on the
same page, it isn’t difficult!” he replies. “After Dilwale, I was setting up my own production house. So, instead of one year, it took two.”

And now, Rohit is set to do something pioneering again: he will create his own cop universe. We saw a promo of sorts in Simmba (with Ranveer Singh in the title role), where Ajay Devgn as Singham came in as a special appearance, and in the climax, we witnessed the new cop to come, Sooryavanshi. Buzz is that Sooryavanshi (featuring Akshay Kumar) will feature both Singham and Simmba in cameos, and more films along that track are planned.

“I don’t walk to talk big,” he says. “We cannot hope to compete with Hollywood films like Avengers. I am opening up something in my own way. I will also have a female cop very soon, and she will be a part of the universe.” Admitting that this role will be portrayed by an actor from the current lot, he refuses to divulge anything more.

“Even if I mention a couple of names that top my wish-list, I can see the headlines next day!” he chuckles again.”I am not keeping a secret from you. I find keeping secrets boring. The day a story works out and I sign her, you will know!”

For Rohit, work is something to be enjoyed and looked forward to every single day. “I have been working since 1991, making films since 2002, and I am happy. I wake up, go to work, I come back so tired I can sleep in five minutes. I will not tamper with this work ethic,” he smiles. And this work-ethic was formed from his early years. “My father died when
I was eight. My mother is so strong even today, and is a solid support. People talk about women power now, but for 45 years, I have had this powerful woman in my
life along with another strong lady, my sister. Then there is Ajay Devgn — and I am very lucky to have all three in my life! — they have all inculcated the culture in me
to work hard, and to be honest at it.” A well-known area that Rohit has mastered thanks to his image as well as affable nature is being a TV host, and his ace here are the four seasons of Fear Factor — Khatron Ke Khiladi that he has completed. How different is that?

“Oh, it’s totally different!” he replies. “The show’s technical team deserves all the credit. A lot of planning goes into choreographing the stunts — at least three to six months before the show goes on air. We first have to scout for apt locations, plan the stunts and so on. I just come in much later and look at the stunts and maybe do minor changes. Unlike in my films, the stunts here are real. And they have to be performed irrespective of the climate.”

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