Thursday, June 7, 2007

Interview: R Balki

Sweet scent of success

Cheeni Kum director R. Balki is thrilled about his film’s success but refuses to take any credit for its edgy theme, says Sandhya Iyer

You released your film along with Shootout At Lokhandwala, which got a far better opening than Cheeni Kum. On hindsight, do you wish you had not clashed with a much-hyped multistarrer?

Not at all. I always knew that Cheeni Kum was a word-of-mouth film. It wasn’t the typical sort of film and I knew it wouldn’t garner a huge opening. In its second week, Cheeni Kum is really huge. It’s done well everywhere in India, and even at places like UK and US, the business is phenomenal.

So, what is the ‘trade tag’ you’re expecting? A hit?

(laughs) They say it’s bigger than a hit…as in a big hit.

Amitabh was especially gung ho about Cheeni Kum and wanted Shootout…to be postponed. That must have made you feel happy?

Oh, but in Shootout…, he just had a guest appearance. He’s playing a lawyer or something. Cheeni Kum is HIS film.

While the first half of the film is very edgy, people have complained that the second half gets too formulaic?

I feel my whole film is formulaic. It’s a simple story…boy meets girl, they fall in love and have to contend with opposition. I don’t see anything edgy in my film. I’ve made a pucca Bollywood entertainer. Just because it’s chatty and witty in the first half doesn’t mean it’s an edgy film.

I found the pre climax sequences completely over-the-top! You mean you aren’t getting feedback to that effect?

I’m getting all sorts of reactions. Some love the second half even better than the first. I’m being asked why I had the motorcycle sequence or why was that whole satyagraha drama necessary. All I will say is that I wanted to bring all facets of love into Amitabh’s character. Just because he is 64 doesn’t mean he cannot exhibit these traits. I’ve tried to bring in everything –jealousy, anger, tension and a protective streak. It’s his way of displaying machogiri ---- shouting and getting help when Tabu is surrounding by eve teasers. I know some people have found it gimmicky but that’s my style!

What about the whole angle about a terminally ill child? Critics feel that sub plot stands out like a sore thumb in an otherwise light hearted film.

Amitabh’s character is so controlled in the film that I felt there has to be a point when he breaks down. And that happens when he loses someone so pure and innocent. I don’t see this as mixing genres. I feel a writer should go with the flow and that’s exactly what I’ve done. If he starts applying rules, then the magic is lost.
I wrote Cheeni Kum at one single go. I write what I feel is entertaining and assume audiences will enjoy it too. That’s all. I don’t think a film should be analyzed and introspected too much. I never do it. There is no great design behind Cheeni Kum.

You’re determined to make light of the fact that Cheeni Kum is indeed edgy in many ways. If you believe that life imitates art, don’t you think that such unconventional themes can be a liberating influence on society?

If that happens, that will be wonderful. But personally, I don’t see age as an issue at all in love. I mean both Amitabh and Tabu are single so what’s the big deal if they get together. But yes, I agree with you that every film should leave a dream behind for its viewer.

It looks like there’s nothing you’d want to change about the film?

I’m still very close to the film to judge it objectively. But I’m sure in two years time –or maybe in two weeks, I’ll start to think that I’ve made a crappy film. That happens all the time with me when I make commercials. While I’m at it, I imagine I’m making a masterpiece but when it appears on television, I find myself unable to watch it and quickly switch channels. This is a pattern with me, so it’s very possible that I’ll find a lot to hate in Cheeni Kum in the time to come.

It’s upsetting that you totally deleted Shreya Ghoshal’s version of the title song.

Hey, but that was decided right from the beginning. I did use the mukhda but as I said, I decided upon a certain pace for the film and didn’t want to tamper with it.

But the first half was anyway slow.

There was no space for it. I did what I felt was right for the film.

I believe your next is Pa with Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan.

Yes, that’s right. I’m working on the script and it will go floors by next year. I haven’t decided upon the heroine. I’m writing the script keeping a particular actress in mind but I’d rather not talk about it at this point.

Abhishek Bachchan is top actor today, so that will be a bonus, won’t it?

To my mind, there is no one bigger than Amitabh.