`Story potential has to be tapped'
All the nine Hindi films of director Rajkumar Santoshi have made a mark at the national level. Now a Tamil movie for Sivaji Productions is on the cards, he tells S. R. ASHOK KUMAR.
Rajkumar Santoshi has learnt the art of storytelling from his guru Govind Nihalani. Pic. by K. V. Srinivasan.
EACH OF the nine films directed by Rajkumar Santoshi is different. An understudy of Govind Nihalani, he announced his arrival even with his debut film, "Ghayal" with Sunny Deol and Meenakshi Seshadri in the lead.
His second film, "Damini," got Sunny Deol the national award for best actor.
His "Pukar" fetched Anil Kapoor the same award and Ajay Devgan, hero of ``The Legend of Bhagat Singh," was the next lucky man.
His only comedy so far is "Andaz Apna Apna" with Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Raveena Tandon and Karisma Kapoor. Recently in Chennai, the veteran director spoke at length on various issues. Excerpts from the interview:
What is it that you have learnt from your guru, Govind Nihalani?
Whatever I know about filmmaking I have learned from him. Especially the art of storytelling.
Now, certain directors are called art while others are dubbed commercial. How would you describe yourself?
First, I wouldn't divide cinema into art and commercial. For me there is only one category and it is `interesting' cinema. A film that holds one's attention. A film that entertains and at the same time leaves one thinking. Giving the viewers value for their money.
A few years ago we found Tamil films such as "Alai Paayuthae" made into Hindi ("Saathiya".) But now your "Khakee" is being made into Tamil as "Police." Is Hindi cinema stronger in story content?
I think there is a dearth of good stories. But there is potential, in untapped writers, interesting books and novels. It is easy to pick up stories from here and there. Nobody wants to work hard, think original. Find an interesting storyline, adapt it to suit the local atmosphere and it is ready. However, there is no harm in narrating a good story again in a different language.
Talking of stories, what do you think of "Chandra Mukhi," the new Rajini film?
I haven't heard it in full but from what I learnt through director Vasu and Sivaji's son Ram Kumar, I think the film will be an exciting one. It would be a landmark film for Rajnikanth also. His fans are going to love it. I am glad that Sivaji Productions is doing a film after a long gap.
Any particular reason for teaming up with Amitabh Bachchan? His film "Ranveer," which you are supposed to direct, has been dropped. Why?
"Ranveer" is not dropped. We are still not satisfied with the script. Neither Amitabh nor myself are in a hurry. The final product must be good. Perhaps we'll start in the middle of next year. I have a high regard for Amitabh and he also knows it. I would like to give my best for his production.
Have you done anything for a social cause?
Well, presenting a wholesome entertainment film is itself a social service. A healthy comedy or a suspense thriller that can keep the audience mind away from their problems is also a good service.
South is said to be disciplined and punctual. What prevents Hindi filmmakers from finishing a film on time and releasing it quickly?
I think we are also moving in the right direction now. I finished "The Legend of Bhagat Singh," including the post-production work, in four months. We started the film on January 20 and released it on June 7. And with such a huge star cast, "Khakee" was started on March 6 and finished in October. People have understood that time is money. They work to a plan and tight schedule.
Any plans to go international?
At present I am quite busy here. I have a few projects to finish. But the idea is not ruled out. Around the end of 2005 or in the beginning of 2006 I will have something on the international scene.
Will Amitabh Bachchan figure in that?
Sure. Amitabh Bachchan's presence will be a major asset.
What is your next production and how is it progressing?
I am working on the subject. Keshubai, who has produced "Khakee," is the producer. I have almost finished the script. Shooting may start next month.
In the context of "The Legend of Bhagat Singh," is anybody in the family connected with the freedom movement?
No. But my concern for the country and society is reflected in all my films "Damini," "Ghayal," "Ghatak" or even "Khaakee." The making of "The Legend of Bhagat Singh" was an enriching experience. I read a book on Bhagat Singh and felt I had to do a film, just to make people aware of his role in the freedom struggle. It has been the most satisfying film for me till date.
Those who have starred in your films have won national awards. Now when are you going to win one for yourself?
I don't think of awards when I am working on a film. Such things are not planned.
What, do you think, is very important to become a good director?
Basically he/she should be observant. And have compassion and empathy. Sensitivity and the ability to understand life in the right perspective help one to emerge as a good director.
Name some of the directors whom you like...
There are several. Starting with Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, Vijay Anand, Mehboob Khan, my guru Govind Nihalani, and in the South I am a great admirer of Sridhar, Bhim Singh, Bharathiraaja and Mani Ratnam.
Who are the actors whom you wish to direct?
I have directed most of them. I wanted to direct Amitabh Bachchan, because I admired him a lot. That dream was fulfilled with "Khakee." It is a regret that I never had the opportunity to direct the thespian Sivaji Ganesan. I learnt a lot from him. Whatever I know about acting I owe it to this legend. His films are like a library. I go back to them whenever I have doubts about a scene.
Another actor I am looking forward to work with is Shah Rukh Khan.
Will you do a film in Tamil or Telugu?
I am keen to do a Tamil film. In fact, the opportunity has come now and I am going to do a film for Sivaji Productions. I think we will start the shooting the middle of next year. I love Tamil cinema. I am also an ardent fan of MGR.
What has happened to "Prithviraj Samyuktha" with Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai?
The production cost is very high. As the economics do not work out, there is no point in going on. Once the financial aspect of the film becomes clear we will start work.
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