At the end I didn't want to leave India, says Monster Hunt 2 director
Raman Hui, director of China's blockbuster hit Monster Hunt talks about the sequel of the movie, India and more...
How was your experience with the Indian audiences?
Well, when I got to India I didn't know the culture well but I got to understand the people, hang out with them, work with them, laugh with them, cry with them, and at the end I didn't want to leave India. There were also things I didn't understand there, stuff I didn't get, but at the same time I totally understand why, being them, they would do things in a certain way. I think it's the same with China too. For example, one thing that's very different between Beijing and California is that when you're crossing the street in California, the pedestrians are the most important thing. You stop your car if someone's crossing the road. In Beijing it's like "Man, I have a car, I don't care who you are!"
In your career you've mostly made movies for the world audience in America, and now with Monster Hunt you made a movie primarily for the Chinese audience. I don't know if you thought it would travel around the world, but most Chinese movies don't, they're really mainly for the Chinese audience.
You're right, Monster Hunt is mostly made for the Chinese audience. There are jokes that non-Chinese people might not understand. But there are also universal jokes in it. So if you're not Chinese and you watch the movie you can still follow the story and understand it. Which is the same as American comedies, when you show them around the world there are universal jokes that everyone gets, and there are also American jokes that people might not know why they're funny. But the way animated movies work is when we send them around the world sometimes we dub them into the local language, and they might add their local jokes to the movie, and when there are American jokes that don't quite work they change them to fit the local humor. So we weren't really thinking very much about how it's going to be shown around the world, but more about how the Chinese audience would see it.
What was the final budget of the film?
The official number we had was USD 40 million. That's the cost of the production. And then on top of that we had marketing and publicity and advertising. So the way the movie business works, if you need to make back $40 million, you need to get about $120 million at the box office. So in my mind I was thinking we needed to get 900 million RMB to recover the production and marketing costs. So after we crossed 900 million I thought "Good, so we're not losing money."After that it became unreal because I thought it would stop around 1.2 billion RMB. But then it kept going, and I realized then that the audience really likes the movie.
China recently started a co-production treaty with India. Have you ever thought about doing a China-India co-production?
That would be great because I understand both India and China. If one day there's a need for a Chinese and Indian cross-culture movie I would be very interested to be involved. I was living in India when 3 Idiots (an Indian comedy that was popular in China) was released there, and I even know how to sing some of the songs in the movie.
Can you talk about Wuba's relationship with his human parents?
In this one, they come to realize that maybe setting Wuba free at the end of Monster Hunt 1 was not the right choice. If you love someone, even if there are a lot of obstacles, you should be with them.
How do you deal with the pressure of this follow-up film after Monster Hunt was such a huge success?
Well, the pressure is high because sometimes when you have something successful you're like, "Oh, can I live up to that?" And I would say that I'm very lucky because I was born in Hong Kong and went to the US when I hit my 20s. I went there in 89, and I was at Dreamworks for a long time. At that time I didn't think that I would be able to come back to Asia, to make movies for Asia because during that time the market wasn't that big. They couldn't afford to make a movie for a few years. That was the 90s. Even in the early 2000s we didn't think we would have the budget. I would say that I'm lucky; I got a chance to come back to China and do that.
Sometimes when you have the chance to do a second movie in a series you have the chance to tweak or do something differently. What things did you tweak in Monster Hunt 2?
I'm more experienced in terms of shooting, handling and understanding the shooting so I was a little more prepared. Because when I did the first movie they might ask me, "Raman, how long do you think it will take us to shoot those two pages?". I would have no idea because in my mind I would think, well, in animation, it would take three months, so to shoot this, maybe two weeks. I would give an answer like that, and they would be like "What?" (laughs). Now I know I should say one day, it should be one day. It's just two pages of simple acting dialogue. So I'm more experienced in terms of that.
Who are some directors whom you really admire?
Spielberg, Ang Lee, James Cameron...
And what about Chinese directors?
Zhang Yimou (Hero), Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine). Those are great directors. I wish that I am learning to be more like them. And also the Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan. David Fincher and David Lynch too.
Do you plan on doing a third film in this series?
We are talking about it. It could be my next project. It depends on Bill Kong, the boss.
Other than that, do you have any other projects you are working on?
I'm hoping to do another project with Tony Leung. We still don't know what yet, but we are talking about working together again. It could be anything. Ideally, I'd love to make a movie without any special effects. It takes too long. You never know.
Madhuri Dixit and Renuka Shahne recreate Lo Chali Main