Back with a big budget dream
The public did not like the limited budget "Yaadein," Subhash Ghai tells ANUJ KUMAR. So the dream merchant's latest offering, "Kisna - The warrior poet," is a Rs. 25-crore film of epic proportions.
Subhash Ghai has two fresh faces for "Kisna The Warrior Poet," Vivek Oberoi plays the lead.
THE DREAM merchant is at it again. A vast expanse interwoven with the finery of human emotions and, voila! this time he has God as the pivot. ``With `Yaadein' I tried a limited budget film revolving round a family but people didn't like it. They expect much more from Subhash Ghai. So I am back with a Rs.25-crore film of epical proportions, `Kisna - The warrior poet.'''
In a period when filmmakers are busy capturing Indo-Pakistan bonhomie, Indo-British friendship doesn't appear in sync with times. ``Yes, in fact, I wanted to make a film, `Motherland,' with Shah Rukh on the same subject but with Shah Rukh falling ill and so many films on the Indo-Pak theme being made I shelved the project. Meantime, I went to England and there I chanced to meet an English boy whose father served in India. He knew so much about Indian culture, our spiritual supremacy, divine energies and our values through his father. This inspired me to take (up) this subject.''
Fresh point of view
Ghai continues, ``Nevertheless decades have passed since the British left. Today, when we have more Indians in London than perhaps in any other city in the world, it's time we see our relationship with a fresh point of view.
``As for the subject making news sense `Kisna' is essentially about human relationships, which have a universal appeal, (the) political climate of the time acting just as a background. Plus the moment you have an international cast and technicians, it becomes an international project. I have made two cuts, one in Hindi, which runs (for) three hours and one of two hours in English. Both will be released simultaneously.''
Antonia Bernath from the U.K.
Ghai believes with India making a mark on the international stage, Bollywood is being seen in a new light and could prove to be an important tool akin to what Hollywood did in spreading Americanism.
The title `warrior-poet' sounds fascinating but is it not a contradiction in terms? ``No, at least not in India. This land has seen Krishna, who was a warrior, a philosopher who gave the `Gita' in verse, a friend, a scientist who wielded the Sudarshan chakra ... he has been our greatest hero. I believe there is a Krishna in all of us, and my story sketches one such Kisna, a village boy in the hills of North India in the 1940s. However, what really separates the story from others is that Kisna's story is narrated by a British girl.''
The girl whom Kisna saves and falls in love with, in the course of the journey back to her parents.
Ghai clears up the rumour that Kisna is a Christian character. ``It could be one of the avatars during the journey but Kisna is not a Christian.''
Talking about his cast, Ghai says, ``Initially I wanted a new face for `Kisna,' but when I went scouting for two female leads, my search ended with two fresh faces. One is Antonia Bernath from the U.K., whom I selected after auditioning some 200 girls. Then I needed one of the best dancers in the country for Kisna's wife-to-be. I explored almost every dance school in the country and finally found Isha Sharvani. I can say she will be the star of tomorrow. Her rope dance is one of the first of its kind in Indian cinema. However, in this tedious selection process, I realised I can't take another fresh face as training three newcomers would be very difficult. So I opted for a relatively new face, Vivek Oberoi, fresh from `Company' at that time. And he has fit the part perfectly well.'' That the actor is known for his attitude on the sets didn't bother Ghai. ``People behave differently with different people and in different circumstances, don't they? Vivek was at his obedient and dedicated best on my sets.''
Music, a high point
With music always being a high point of a Ghai product, this time he has roped in two greats A. R. Rahman and Ismail Darbar.
``Rahman was my original choice because it is an international project and I wanted both the festive and soulful element of Indian music. However, he was busy with the `Lord of Rings' and excused (himself saying) that he won't be able to do the whole album. So he has done the theme song and the English song.
``Then I asked Ismail to do the rest because apart from Rahman he has the knowledge and ability to fuse Western and Indian classical music. The way he has used Ustad Rashid Khan's voice in `Kahe Ujare Mori Neend' is really captivating. The music has turned out so well that you can't distinguish an Ismail song from a Rahman one.''
In tune with the times
Always in tune with the times, Ghai has of late branched out further by launching an IPO of his company Mukta Arts, opening a school, Whistling Woods, training film professionals and above all producing films with small budgets.
"Joggers Park," "Aitraaz"... is it time to think small? ``It has commercial reasons. When yours is a public company, you can't afford to take big risks all the time. I can make a film every year but with so many things to do it has not been possible. Also today either your canvas has to be bigger than home theatre or the script has to be really different.''
He feels in the multiplex bloom, low-budget cinema can thrive. ``We are giving opportunities to people like Nagesh Kukunoor and Abbas Mustan. There is no interference at the production stage. It's only at the post-production and promotion level that I give some inputs.''
However, despite all the highflying adjectives, Ghai remains one of the most spo ofed at filmmakers in recent times. Take any film from the Factory, be it "Rangeela," "Company" or the latest "Naach," somewhere all of them mock at his style of mise en scene.
What restrains him from crafting a creative answer? For once, the showman looks unsettled. ``I don't fall for false provocation. A subject should challenge my inner strength.''
Isha Sharvani, a talented dancer.
In the run up to "Kisna," Ghai keeps on adding a mythical touch by quoting from the epics, ``At times dharma seems right, at times it's karma. But there are times when uchit nyaya is decisive.''
The merchant has put in the first two; hope the box office will forget "Yaadein" before arriving at its judgment this Friday.
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