After 15 years as an assistant director, Karan Malhotra directs his own film, Agneepath. The debutant tells us how Sanjay Dutt got fed up of prosthetics and decided to shave his head, while his wife foresaw Rishi Kapoor in the character of Rauf Lala during their wedding reception
Why are you remaking Agneepath?
Honestly, Agneepath is not a remake. The revenge-based storyline is the same but the plot is woven around a whole new world and has a completely different approach. If I wanted to do the same thing, what is the point of making a new film?
How did you get Karan Johar to back the film?
Karan was once chatting with all the assistant directors about their favourite films; and Agneepath was definitely one of the top three films in my head. I have lost count of the number of times I had seen Agneepath as a kid. Karan asked me if this film could be remade and I said, 'Why not?' I requested him to give me a chance to develop a script.
Was adapting a classic a lot of pressure on you?
Absolutely. I still get nightmares and cold feet because people have given that film an aura. Mr Bachchan's
performance has such an impact.
Have you adapted this Agneepath to ensure its commercial success?
I have not adapted it to make it more commercial; I have adapted it the way I would enjoy watching it. And maybe I am a sucker for commercial films.
Tell us about Hrithik's character?
The biggest connect for Dharma's Agneepath is that Hrithik's character (Vijay) is much younger and more approachable. It is a character you will identify with and look up to. As ordinary people with aspirations, we love to see an ordinary character do larger-than-life things in films. Vijay conquers the villains who are larger-than-life.
Did you cast Priyanka as a Maharashtrian girl after seeing her in Kaminey?
Priyanka is a great actor and I didn't have to rely on Kaminey. She plays the daughter of a prostitute who stays in a brothel and has opened a beauty parlour within the brothel. Priyanka is the happy, light element in the film.
Was it easy to convince Sanjay Dutt to go bald to play the villainous Kancha Cheena?
When Sanjay sir said 'yes' to the film, he said he would not go bald. I told him we would do prosthetic makeup. We shot a scene in that makeup and it looked good. But that makeup takes three hours to put on and an-hour-and-a-half to remove. Finally, when we started shooting in Diu, it was so hot that Sanjay sir came up with a fantastic idea: 'Let's just shave my head.' Now it's much better than the effect the prosthetics would have achieved.
How did Rishi Kapoor agree to play the negative character of Rauf Lala?
A week after My Name Is Khan released, I got married to Ekta Pathak and Rishi Kapoor came to greet us at the reception because he was a very good friend of my dad, producer Ravi Malhotra. While we were standing on the stage, my wife nudged me and whispered: 'He should play Rauf Lala'. From that day onwards, I tortured him till he said yes. He thought I was cracked to offer him a negative role.
To what extent would you go to take revenge?
If I was evil, I would be as evil as Kancha, and if I was revengeful, I would be as revengeful as Vijay. The first film is the closest to any director's heart and his heart goes into every character he creates for it.