A green signal to go on
Calm and unaffected to the point of stoicism, director Vikram Bhatt tells SUBHASH K. JHA that the stupendous success of his recently released "Raaz" has not changed his life in any way.
Vikram Bhatt (left) with Aamir Khan ... the success duo that produced "Ghulam".
THOUGH THE success of "Raaz" has taken the entire film industry by storm, the man behind the film remains calm, collected and cautious. Vikram Bhatt has seen too many ups and downs in his career to be swayed by the swings of fortune. What does the success of a supernatural thriller like "Raaz" mean?
It means we can make more supernatural thrillers. Now we can make films like Hollywood's "Friday The 13th", "The Others" and "The Sixth Sense". But "Raaz" was never a remake of any Hollywood thriller, though some `over-informed' sources in the press insisted it was a remake of "What Lies Beneath". We had suspense thrillers long before Hollywood. But we lost them. Thirty years ago film-maker Raj Khosla came into his own with a trilogy of suspense thrillers "Woh Kaun Thi", "Mera Saaya" and "Anita". Then the genre went under.
Is the absence of stars a virtue in "Raaz"?
It is one aspect of my film. I could've made the same film with big stars. But because there are no stars in the film I get the full credit. "Raaz" was an experiment within a genre. It worked without stars. Tips claims a lot of the credit of the success of "Raaz" goes to its music...
But there are other Tips albums in the market. Why aren't they selling as well as "Raaz"? I agree Tips promoted the music very well. But there had to be something inherently right about the music for people to go out and buy it. By the way, "Raaz" has been declared an A1 hit.
How hard did you work on the special effects?
Quite hard, considering we didn't have too much of a budget for them. I had to cut corners in a lot of places to accommodate the special effects. We had to pay an astronomical sum for every minute. So in all I could have only five minutes of special effects in the film.
Do you think cutting corners actually affects a film's box-office performance?
It didn't affect "Raaz". Nobody walks away from a good story. On the other hand badly dressed chorus dancers in a storyless film could drive audiences away. Tell me honestly, wouldn't you have preferred to make "Raaz" with two established stars?
No, the script would have gone haywire. I needed untried faces because that's what my plot is all about. With stars, expectations are pre-decided. Dino Morea's presence in the story and the length of his role couldn't be predicted because he was a newcomer.
Bipasha Basu and Dino Morea in "Raaz" the different genre with "untried faces" worked ... and how!
J.P. Dutta thinks it's easier to work with stars, since with newcomers you've got to go from A all the way to Z.
Whether they are stars or not you've got to go through the whole process. With newcomers you have to make them learn. With stars you have to make them unlearn since they come with their excess baggage. Do you think Bipasha Basu has done justice to her complex role?
I think Bipasha is fairly good in the role. In Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining", the actress got scared so believably that the audience was scared along with her. My biggest ace in "Raaz" is Bipasha's look of terror. If she hadn't been genuinely scared the film wouldn't have worked. The audience went along with her terror.
Wasn't Anil Kapoor supposed to do "Raaz"?
Yes he was. He didn't think a ghost story would work. After Anil opted out, I changed the subject quite a bit. He didn't believe in ghosts. But we're going to be working together. He called me to congratulate me after "Raaz" was released.
What does the success of "Raaz" mean to you?
At the end of the day the success of a film is no more than the green signal to make another film. True, I have other assignments on hand. But "Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage" is a delayed project. It should've been released last year. That apart I intend to maintain my average of one film every seven to nine months. I work fast and I am a workaholic. So I really don't need a break between two projects.
Do you think you'd have bigger budgets in future projects?
I've sworn to make only films I believe in. I know for sure that the same plots don't work repeatedly. The industry is just waking up to "Raaz". But he's one of India's best cinematographers ...
Maybe. But I don't belong to a film mafia. None of the journalism that comes out of Bombay is free from bias. Most publishing houses have their awards and glamour events to invite stars to. We can't expect fair play from them. None of these organisations can afford to antagonise big names in showbiz. Someone like me who works with newcomers and within restricted budgets is an easy prey. Let's not forget I had a big hit in "Ghulam". But the media said Aamir Khan directed it. Even poor Ashutosh Gowariker and John Mathew Mathan had to go through the same thing after "Sarfarosh" and "Lagaan".
During "Ghulam" , I think the Aamir and Sushmita factors in your life eclipsed your image...
Perhaps. But when Bhatt Saab and Aamir got into a situation, I lost the chance to work with Aamir again. Again when there were differences between Bhatt Saab and Sanjay Dutt, my project with Sanju was automatically aborted. For similar reasons Akshay Kumar and I couldn't work together. Then there were some other stars, with whom I didn't want to work. So I guess the only star I worked with was Aamir and later Hrithik though he wasn't the "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" star when we signed him for "Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage".
According to Ram Gopal Verma many film-makers would be encouraged to work with new faces within a restricted budget after the success of "Raaz"...
That was the need of the hour in any case. There's a whole genre of cinema in Hollywood from Blair Witch Project to American Pie, which works without major stars. In Mumbai there are 30-35 leading directors and just a handful of stars. Of them Aamir Khan is only going to work in two films per year, one of them for his own company. Shah Rukh is busy with his production house. So what does one do except find new stars?Were you disappointed with the reviews of "Raaz"?
Some of them sounded like personal vendetta. Can all those thousands who have made "Raaz" a success be completely wrong? One review said, `Move over, Sanjay Gupta. Vikram Bhatt is here.' That made me feel awful. Why bring Sanjay Gupta into my film? Because I'm supposed to have ripped off "What Lies Beneath" in "Raaz"? But that film was something else completely. If we must have a Hollywood comparison then I'd say "Raaz" is more "Fatal Attraction" than "What Lies Beneath". When Bhatt Saab (Mahesh Bhatt) and I sat down to write the story, my basic premise was, `What would happen if Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" was a ghost?''.
But this label of a Hollywood ripper would end with your next release "Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage"?
Oh I'm sure they'll find some other Hollywood film that my film is inspired by. As long as I have well wishers like Dino Morea who went around saying "Raaz" is inspired by "What Lies Beneath" I'll never be short of controversies and accusations.
But your next release "Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage" is a complete original, isn't it?
Yes it is. But I'm sure the critics would dig up some film or the other, which it resembles. From the start my producer Mohan Kumar and I felt the theme had very strong dramatic potential. I have made the film in exactly the way I wanted to. There's no "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" in "Aap Mujhe ... " Hrithik and Amisha are both fabulous. Also, budget-wise it is my costliest film since "Ghulam".
Feroze Nadiadwala's "Awaara Paagal Deewana" is another first for you?
Yes, I've never done comedy before. Nor will I attempt it ever again. I don't feel comfortable with the genre. Fortunately "Awaara Paagal ... " has shaped up well.I believe one of your long-cherished dreams is about to come true ...
Yeah. I am finally going to work with Amitabh Bachchan. I remember accompanying my dad to his shoots just to catch a glimpse of Mr. Bachchan. He's the only actor I get cramps in my belly before meeting. My film with Mr. Bachchan is about a man whose teenaged son is killed in a riot and how the tragedy makes him over possessive about his daughter. Bipasha Basu plays the daughter. It is a beautiful father-daughter story with a terrible twist.
Aren't you launching Mahesh Bhatt's nephew in a film?
That's right, in a film called "Kalyug". It is about juvenile delinquency. I have cast Bhatt Saab's nephew Emran Hashmi, Dino Morea and Aftab Shivdasani as three friends who go through a gamut of vivid experiences. How has "Raaz" changed your life?
It has not. Except that it feels wonderful when someone like Arjun Rampal is so warm about my success. Sunil Shetty was leaving for the U.S. to see an ailing relative. But he called to congratulate me just before he left.
Are you getting loads of offers?
I have been getting them from three months before the release of "Raaz" from all the biggies. When the previews started, the offers multiplied. For me the script has always been the star. Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.
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