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Marketing is all that matters: Nagesh Kukunoor

Director Nagesh Kukunoor is ready with his next release, Mod, a tender love story. This is his first attempt at this genre and he tells MiD Day why he just had to make a love story
 
The old fashioned guy in Nagesh Kukunoor is still trying to make peace with the fact that aggressive marketing largely decides the fate of a film today.



But he also concedes that star credits really make a film even as he maintains that Salman Khan's Dabanng is his recent favourite along with Udaan, a film that he could have made.      

Why do you talk to the media only when your film releases?
It's not that I don't talk to you guys. I'm not accessible, that's true. I keep changing my numbers periodically. There was a time when you could do press just when your movie opened. Those days are gone. Now if the movie is releasing in October, you have to start talking about it in January/February, which I haven't and am learning. For certain things, you don't have the will. There's a certain element of technicality involved, which I suck at. It's very tiring. I don't know how people can be constantly in the limelight. I have started tweeting though.
 
Do you use Twitter only to promote your film?
I talk about other things also, but no clich �s and mundane stuff that most people tweet about. Like I was at the GIMA (Global Indian Music  Awards) recently and was truly moved by Shankar Mahadevan's performance. So I tweeted four times that evening: 'Shankar is singing and I'm in heaven.' I literally meant that. There are things that I'm passionate about but I'm not really sure if the world needs to know everything. Some people are really good at creating personas and the persona is not them. They do it effortlessly and believe in it. I have trouble writing words. I can't put stuff that I don't believe in. 
 
Mod is based on a Taiwanese film called Keeping Watch. How much have you contributed to the story?
The theme and the soul of the film is the same. It's about this small town girl who repairs watches for a living, a quirky, odd guy shows up at her doorstep to get his watch repaired and a relationship builds up between them. We delve into the guy's past. This is the central line of the film. I put it in an Indian environment. Besides, the back story of Rannvijay's character is
completely different. 
 
You always write your own script. Why didn't you do it this time?
Sometimes when you pick up an article or a book, you go, 'Wow, that'll make a great film. In the same way, when you watch a film, there's something about it that you like.

Isn't Ayesha's character slightly surreal?
I live in Andheri. There's an area called Char Bangla (sic) market. There's a woman who repairs watches. There's a whole back story to why she repairs watches. As long as the whole background for the character and the milieu makes sense, you can sell it. It's only when there's a ridiculous leap of faith, you're like, 'Oh, c'mon.' Even then, if it's well done, you can sell it.

Why a love story?
I have always said that I'll do a film in every genre. This is part of the process. I never felt I had a love story good enough to tell till I saw this Taiwanese film. Once you believe in a story, you go all out.  I hope there's no one kind of film I make. A love story, technically, in a larger sense, is like a drama. So Mod will fall in the same bracket as Dor

What kind of films do you watch?
All kinds. Right now I'm in the horror mode. I watched Audition, ranked as the top ten horror film of all times. That's a genre I will delve into besides a full blown action film and sci fi films.
 
Your last few films didn't do well. Why?
You tell me. When a film works, many fall into the trap of making the same kind of film again. I don't play that game. I always change tracks even if a film works. So there's no lesson to be learnt as you can never guess what the audience likes or dislikes. Aashayein is the best film according to me out of the 12 films I have written. But it didn't work. A movie goes through so many contortions before it's made; an editor can spin a script around on his head. In art you can't draw data points. It's so highly subjective, there's no conclusion to be drawn from a success or a failure. We just go with our instincts. Why is one take better than the other? Who knows? The only thing that I have learnt is that in today's world, marketing is all that matters.

It just gives you a decent opening week.
That's enough. Then your math is done. Movie's made money, distributor has made money.

Star power also helps.
Yes. But you still spend R 30 to 40 crore marketing a star heavy film. You pound people in the faces through TV, Radio, print. SRK is spending R 44 crore on Ra.One promotions. He should spend one crore. Technically he's the biggest. He should just announce, 'Meri film aa rahi hai,' and be done with it. 
 
Are you averse to your heroines being dolled up?
It's not that. It has to make sense with the character. I have a few scripts where I need to catch them very glam. Ayesha in Tasveer 8/10, in fact, had full make up. But people like Ayesha look absolutely gorgeous without any make-up, the way my eye catches her through my camera. But if it's a fast, urban character who needs to project a certain corporate look, I will give her make-up. I'm going to make her look sexy with cleavage, short clothes, the whole nine yards.

When will you return to screen?
Maybe in the next film. I always bail out at the end because I feel it will interfere with my direction. Otherwise I do something like Aashayein, which required me to shoot for a day. 
 
What are you writing currently?
I have written a graphic novel. It's a sci fi set in India. My friend, an artist in Houston, is doing the art work. It will take a few years for it to release. I'm a huge comic fan and am heavily influenced by them. I stopped in between till 300 and Watchmen brought it back to me.

Will you make it into a film?
It's too big budget. Once I finish  the graphic novel, I will shop for producers.

Have you read any Indian graphic novel?
I will. When I work on a project, I don't pick up anything in the same milieu for fear of borrowing something. I'm petrified of it. When my producer Elahe Heptullah read the script of 3 Deewarein, she said it was exactly like Shawshank Redemption. I was horrified. If a film shatters my mind and blows me away, I don't watch it again. But this film was so deep in my psyche that the opening scene of 3 Deewarein written seven years later was identical. I, of course, changed it.

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