Siddharth Anand: The camaraderie is a facade. Nobody is a friend
The director of the top worldwide grosser of the year, Siddharth Anand comes from a family steeped in Bollywood, and yet, he says, every Friday is a fresh start
In 20 days, War entered the 300-crore club, a first for a Hrithik Roshan-starrer. It's only fair that its director Siddharth Anand is excited when he meets us at a hole-in-the-wall Khar cafe. His tongue is firmly in cheek despite nursing his wife who is down with dengue and being cared for in a hospital that's a stone's throw from the eatery. "It was expected that I became an actor. And now that I see the lifestyle stars lead, I am wondering why I didn't!"
Anand comes from a family that's long associated with Hindi cinema. His father Bittu Anand was the producer of Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Shahenshah. His grandfather Inder Raj Anand, wrote over 100 films including the cult romance, Ek Duje Ke Liye, introducing Kamal Hasan to Bollywood. Uncle Tinnu Anand is best remembered as the character actor who lit up films like Ghajini. The other uncle, Mukul Anand, directed Khuda Gawah and Agneepath, both seminal Bachchan films. "My earliest memories were of going to the Shahenshah set in Ooty and watching a hot air balloon with Mr Bachchan and Meenakshi Sheshadri take off."
The sight must have left a mark because instead of pursuing chartered accountancy as planned, Anand took up a job as an assistant director. The line to acquire a form to enrol for a CA degree, was too long. "I am not saying that it was a short cut to being director. In fact, being an assistant to the director is like being a slave. You run errands, and are made to do random tasks."
After co-writing Hum Tum, in 2005, at 25, he directed his first movie, Salaam Namaste, a take on modern-day relationships starring Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan. Since then he has made Anjaana Anjaani, Bachna Ae Haseeno and Bang Bang. Ask him what growing up around films taught him, and he says, "My father taught me that you have no friends in the business. Everything changes every Friday."
But social media is all about Bollywood camaraderie. "It's all a facade," he rebutts. "Nobody is a friend here. You can't take anything for granted. Today, you have success, tomorrow, you'll have to start working at it all over again."
Right now though, he is in the "today", on top of the food chain. Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff-starrer War, an action thriller about an Indian soldier assigned to eliminate his former mentor who has gone rogue, was a film he hoped the audience would think "nice". "But it's done so well! I think I was fearless with my first few movies, until Anjaana Anjaani. Now, I have a certain fear, a responsibility. There are people who have invested in the movie, stars who are putting in their hard work... you need for it to be a success." What about creative freedom that comes with being fearless? "I think the pressure has made me better at my work."
Tiger Shroff and Hrithik Roshan in War
Interestingly, one of this year's top grossers, was in conversation recently, because of the chemistry Roshan and Shroff's characters share. Anand laughs good naturedly, "I expected that. They [reports] have said I have made the movie as if I am in love with Hrithik. But then, we do look at him like that, both Tiger and I. You are in awe. It's like being around someone you admire, like a young director might admire another. Even in the movie, their characters, Khalid and Kabir, share a mutual admiration. So, it's all good."
He speaks like a successful man, who knows how to take everything in his stride.
But because he must work to stay relevant, Anand is already writing the screenplay for Rambo, a film based on the Sylvester Stallone original, starring Shroff again. He says, "There is a germ of a story goading me to write, and I am trying to stretch that into a screenplay."
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