'I don't believe in having a signature style'
Even as all eyes were set on the India-Pakistan game yesterday, director Abhinay Deo who makes his directorial debut this Friday was concerned about his own, Game - produced by Farhan Akthar's Excel and starring Abhishek Bachchan, Kangna Ranaut, Boman Irani, Shahana Goswami and new find, ex Miss India Sarah Jane. "I want India to win of course and reach the finals. Yes, our film will miss out on shows on Saturday if that happens, but that's okay. I strongly believe that a good film will work. And I have faith in my film," he says.
The young director of course is no newcomer to the glamour world. He's been a name to reckon with in the ad world, having worked with the top most stars of the industry. That apart, he's the talented second son of veteran Marathi actors, Ramesh and Seema Deo, who one will recollect made an endearing couple in Anand. It was his Marashtrian roots, he says, that made him doubly keen to hold a press conference in Pune, though Sarah Jane who was supposed to accompany him could not make it due to a sudden vertigo attack. Affable and warm, the director took questions patiently and tactfully, alternating between Marathi and English.
It wasn't Game, however, that Abhinay was supposed to debut with. It was Aamir Khan's Delhi Belly that he directed first, but the film got delayed and meanwhile Abhinay got started on his second film. "I actually signed Game first, but Delhi Belly shooting happened soon after. The first cut was ready. But Aamir had had two other films - Dhobi Ghat and Peepli Live which he had look into, so it took time. Meanwhile, I shot Game. Earlier, both Delhi Belly and Game were supposed to release in quick succession with hardly a month's gap. But we decided, Delhi Belly is a youth-oriented film and this would not be the right time to release it. It now releases in July," says the filmmaker, who also did his architecture before venturing into the ad world.
Game, he describes as an edge-of-the-seat murder mystery, with interesting twists and turns. He agrees that whodunnits aren't exactly condusive in today times of intense social networking with smses and twitter flying around all the time. “That's true and I hope the twitter world won't spoil it for us. But more than who the killer is, the journey that leads upto this is equally interesting. There are many twists and turns, and obviously that can't be enjoyed unless you see the film,” he smiles. “As for why we don't make enough thrillers. That's because our industry thrives on second viewings. Why would you watch a film after knowing who the killer is. The penny has dropped, so what's the interest? But Game is different because the journey is as much fun.”
Talking about how the film came to him, he says, “This was a script Excel had. The writer of the film is Althea Delmas Kaushal and when I read it, I totally loved it. It's an exciting genre, something I wanted to do,” he says.
Farhan Akthar is the dialogue writer of the film, and Abhinay believes it has added greatly to the film. “Of course Farhan never interfered. He was making Don at the same time. And besides, we've been good friends and known each other well. I think Farhan writes very interesting dialogues. And he doesn't treat it as a stand-alone job. He think about the film in its entirety and captures small details, which are important.”
Detailing is something that Abhinay holds dear. “That is something that I get from my 17 years of advertising background, where you have to say your story in a 30-40 seconds. Detailing becomes a habit in such a case. This is something we miss in Hindi cinema, so that's something you'll see in Game – not just technically but also story-wise,” he says.
The challenge, again, was one which ad maker turned film directors frequently face. “In a feature film you have to maintain a graph, it's like a spinal chord that has to stay in place. In some ways, the process is like making 200 ad films and putting it together as a film. But the graph has to be built correctly. And would you believe, we shot the climax first before the rest of the film. That's a very steep arch,” he tells us.
In the past, almost every ad man turned director - R Balki, Rakeysh Mehra, or previously Pankaj Parashar – has come up with fresh, innovative treatments for their scripts. Will it be the same for Game? Abhinay candidly says he isn't making any fresh departures in terms of technique. “The film is stylised, but I wouldn't say I'm trying new things technically. That's because I don;t think the film needs it. I've always believed that one of the important qualities in a director is that he must let the script determine the technique. Moving the camera unnecesarly or adding too much colour is not my idea of technique. But you'll find some of the editing in the film interesting – the way the plot is revealed is quite unique I think,” says Abhinay.
The film introduces newcomer Sarah Jane. “We wanted someone who would come with no baggage. We auditioned for almost four months and then when we saw Sarah, we thought she was fantastic. She is extremely striking,” the director says.
Wasn't Aishwarya Rai the first choice? “She was considered. In fact at that time the film was called Crooked. It was not Sarah Jane's character. At that time, we were still undecided on the heroine's part. But the dates didn't match.”
The film's lead, Abhishek Bachchan is going through a rather rough patch in his career. Are the makers bothered about it, which is why the film is being promoted as an ensemble one? “ Not really. This is an ensemble cast and it would be wrong of us to promote it in any other way. We can't call it an Abhishek film, because that would give a wrong picture. I could have Tom Cruise in Game, and we would still promote it this way,” he says. On Abhishek's dismal form, he thinks all it takes is one film to bounce back.
While it's too early to talk about Delhi Belly, the director is clear that he doesn't want to be attached to any particular genre. “I believe I am a story-teller and don't believe in having signatures. As it is you give two years of your life to one film. If you are going to attempt a similar genre, I think there's a good chance of you getting repetitive. So I want to try everything. I want to do a romantic film. I'm penning a childrens' film as well,” says the director, whose all time favourite film is Anand, and all other Hrishikesh Mukherjee films, especially Golmaal. “Not the new one!,” he says specifically. “I don't enjoy slapstick comedies.”
Here's looking forward to all that Abhinay has in store this Friday.