Nikhil Advani: We thought Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions would be the pioneers of animation films…

The Delhi Safari director is happy that his film has been unanimously liked by the audience and the critics. He has already started work on his next: D-Day

Nikhil Advani’s Delhi Safari is one of the rare animation films to come out from Bollywood that is not based on mythology. The film has been in the making for about six years and the director seems pleased with the outcome. Advani started off his filmi career assisting filmmakers like Kundan Shah, Sudhir Mishra and Karan Johar and is now on the verge of mentoring new filmmakers himself. We caught up with him recently …

What prompted you to make an animation film?

Well, somebody has to push the envelope. We cannot keep on doing the same thing over and over again. When I was offered the job to make an animation film, I immediately took it up. I wrote Delhi Safari about six years ago on a long flight from Los Angeles, in 14 hours. Before that I had written a film about a South Bombay dog who finds himself in Dharavi. Then I was told that Yash Raj Films was making Roadside Romeo, which had a similar story.

We were counting on YRF and Dharma Productions to be the pioneers of animation films, but unfortunately their films (Roadside Romeo and Koochie Koochie Hota Hai respectively) didn’t work. I am glad that people are liking Delhi Safari and that it will be counted among the good films of the year, like Kahaani, Vicky Donor, etc. It has been a good year for cinema.

Is it easier to make an animation film than one that involves star egos?

Delhi Safari has been in the making for the past six years or so. Making an animation film involves a lot of hard work and investment. I am grateful to the producers for keeping the faith in the project and seeing it through. While I making DS, I completed making Chandni Chowk To China and Patiala House. At times I used to feel that I am meting out stepchild treatment to DS. But I would definitely like to make another animation film. Also, Delhi Safari had star voices (Govinda, Urmila Matondkar, Suniel Shetty, Boman Irani and Akshaye Khanna), so I had to deal with the baggage that comes with it.

We noticed a pattern in KHNH and DS – you build up an emotional scene and then throw in a joke. Is it a signature style?

Well, that is true. That is my attitude towards life and death. I don’t take anything too seriously. Just the other day a colleague walked in saying an old man died. I think post death the old man will only be in a better place than he was before. What is the need to feel sorry for him? Charlie Chaplin, for instance…

Given a choice, would you rather not have released Delhi Safari on the same weekend as Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year?

Well, that decision is taken by the producers and I completely trust their decision. I am more than happy that though my film is an animation one, it has got a major release. It may be half of what a regular feature film gets, but it is huge for the animation genre.

While watching Delhi Safari we could sense that the director of Kal Ho Na Ho has made this; the same cannot be said about Salaam-E-Ishq, Chandni Chowk To China and Patiala House

When I made Salaam-E-Ishq I was young and indulgent, which is visible in the film. Post that I was making star vehicles, which wasn’t really me. Having said that, I would like to say that if Prabhudeva directed Chandni Chowk To China today, it would be a huge hit. Patiala House plays very often on television and gets high TRPs too. Perhaps my PR wasn’t working for me back then. It didn’t help that Akshay (Kumar) had a string of flops to his credit.

Does it bother you that many people still think that Kal Ho Na Ho has been directed by Karan Johar?

I have assisted Karan (Johar) and the influence is bound to show. We all need some kind of influences, no? But I am sure that after watching D-Day nobody will say that it is a Karan Johar film. (Pauses) They might say that it is a Sudhir Mishra film, as I have assisted him as well. (Laughs)

You take about two years to make a film; very few directors have such privilege…

I agree that I take time to make my films. I don’t believe in the deadline based school of filmmaking. I don’t know when D-Day will release. I am here to make films, not meet deadlines. I do have the privilege of working at my own pace and I am grateful for it. I did that in the past, but not any more.

What is your take on the ‘Rs 100 crore film’ club?

I don’t understand numbers. I believe if we are making films only for Rs 100 cr, just for the magic number of 100 crore, then we are not doing justice – we should sit at the cash counter and sell something else. I think films should be made for encouraging art and doing something better. We all need to do our bit. I am not saying that we should not be making Rs 100 crores; it’s very good, best of luck to the films that are making Rs 100cr. Because of those films, we are getting money to make our smaller films and films that we feel are important.

Among your contemporaries, is there any filmmaker whom you admire?

Tigmanshu Dhulia.

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