You had a hit with Ranbir Kapoor in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. So why did you cast Shahid Kapoor and not Ranbir in Phata Poster Nikla Hero?
The audience has already seen Ranbir delivering an entertaining performance in Ajab Prem … and now it’s Shahid’s turn to do so. Shahid is a very fine actor whose talent hasn’t yet been fully discovered. Phata Poster … is a commercial entertainer, and I am definite Shahid will connect with a larger audience. I am very sure this film will be the turning point in his career.
It has taken you four long years to come up with your next after Ajab Prem … What caused the long hiatus?
It’s not like you wake up one fine day, decide to do something and everything falls in place just like that. Every step in filmmaking takes its time unless you get lucky. Firoz’s (Nadiadwala) project, Power, took away two-and-half years of my life -- I tried my best to put the film together, but couldn’t get the combined dates of Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt.
Is Phata Poster … a copy of another film?
No, it’s not. It’s an original script. I have an original style of filmmaking. I have not lifted anything from South or anywhere else. The comedy is not tactless; also the action is not gruesome.
Do you think you have evolved as a director?
Nowadays, I get very angry when I pick up the newspaper and see what is happening around us. I’d say my cinema has become more aware of our surroundings. The battles cover more ground now than they did in my earlier films.
Your films received critical acclaim but for several years they did not do well commercially. Did that phase bother you?
Except for Halla Bol and Family, my films have done well. Khakee did well but there was a long gap thereafter. It’s okay. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. I don’t want to chase success or money because I seek creative satisfaction. People tell me that I have been called the most versatile director.
Ajab Prem … brought you back into the limelight. Did it make you rethink success?
Yes, people have taken notice of me again. In this industry, people only go by success; talent has no meaning. If a film succeeds, you are a talented person. If it doesn’t, you’re not talented. For me, success means the freedom to do more interesting films, to do films I believe in. Ajab Prem was purely a director’s film — it didn’t have stars like the Khans or Akshay Kumar; Ranbir was comparatively new and he worked very hard. After we edited the film and watched the trial, I knew it would work with the youngsters. The film had a lot of innocence.
What happened to your production house?
I made three films, Ghatak, China Gate and Lajja. There was too much tension in handling the movies, so I gave up and concentrated on direction. But now, I will revive that production banner.
Will it be with the sequel to Andaz Apna Apna?
Why will I attempt a sequel to the cult comedy? Had I wanted to cash in on the long-lasting popularity of Andaz Apna Apna, I’d have done so years ago. I am not working on the sequel; I don’t even have an idea for a sequel.
So after Ajab Prem … and Phata Poster … will it be another entertainer for you next?
I made Ghayal when by and large it was musicals that were being churned out. Then I had made Damini which showed that justice delayed is justice denied. Andaz Apna Apna too did not follow any trend. And Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani was an out-and-out comedy film. I have always followed my heart, my instincts and my conscience while making movies.