Known for his penchant for dark thrillers, director Sriram Raghavan is super-excited about his fast-paced spy film Agent Vinod, starring the currently-controversial Saif Ali Khan and his lady love, Kareena Kapoor
He’s gentle and easy to talk to. Director Sriram Raghavan is a man of few words. Striking up a conversation with him is uncomplicated, especially when you break the ice and get the man talking about his passion for cinema. Sustaining the chat, however, becomes a challenge as the 48-year-old keeps it precise, simple and effective. He doesn’t indulge in the ornate details of his films, a trait very rare among filmmakers, who generally jump excitedly at every possible opportunity to brag about their cinematic creations. Sriram, in that regard, is different. The creator in him does know where to draw the line, be it with his film or his talk. He prefers to let his films do the talking. So when we settled down with him for this interview on his upcoming big release – Agent Vinod, starring Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor – we decided to keep our chatter exact without meandering on to mundane specifications that the reticent filmmaker gets bored talking about….
Agent Vinod is big
Made at close Rs 60 crore, Agent Vinod is a big film. In the times when touching that elusive Rs 100 crore mark is considered the sole indication of your success as a filmmaker, was the director in Sriram tempted to make a mass product, a big film? “Agent Vinod is a relatively bigger film if you compare it with my first two, but certainly not the biggest. I agree that everyone is eying commercial success these days and ultimately box office success brings you the next project. I would like to add that Agent Vinod is not a regular mass film, though it may appear so. It’s an intelligent film. I am sure people will like it, but that doesn’t make it massy,” he explains.
Keeping it dark
With his 2004 psychological thriller Ek Hasina Thi Sriram emerged as a director with an amazing grip on his subject and a phenomenal ability to execute his ideas on celluloid with clarity. In 2007, with his next, Johnny Gaddar, he went on on to impress critics and launched the career of Neil Nitin Mukesh. His first two films were dark thrillers and very experimental in nature. Is Sriram trying to break the mould with Agent Vinod? “Not really. I think Agent Vinod is equally dark. I hear a lot of buzz around me that Agent Vinod is an out-and-out commercial film, but even my first two films were commercial. I think Agent Vinod is a fresh concept which needed a different treatment, a different way of presentation. That’s it! It has intrigue, drama and it is equally mysterious.”
Technology is the key
From the promos it is clear that Agent Vinod is a very slick spy film packed with a lot of action sequences and snazzy special effects. Does technological advancement and execution come easy to Sriram? Or does he believe that overuse of it can hamper the natural flow of the storytelling process. “I think our films have assimilated technological advancements more rapidly than I anticipated. Today we can afford the world class technology and we can use it with an amazing expertise in our cinema. Technology has made our job more exciting and challenging than ever before.
A story untold
Agent Vinod looks like a James Bond flick, yet it’s not a 007 film. What is it all about then? “It’s a mix of many stories and I don’t want to reveal much. But certainly it’s not a James Bond replica. It has an inherent desi charm to it. It’s a slick, action-packed entertainer with interesting twists and turns. It’s the kind of film we haven’t seen in many years. It’s a story that hasn’t been told yet.”
Kareena and Saif are professionals
After making his directorial debut with Saif Ali Khan eight years ago, Sriram is working with him yet again, with the actor’s real life love Kareena Kapoor. Did she become an easy choice once it was clear that Saif was playing the lead and producing the film as well? “The fact of the matter is that Kareena is not in the film because Saif is there. I think Kareena was the apt choice for the role which only she could have essayed. And while directing Saif and Kareena I realised that the two don’t come on the sets as The Kareena and Saif Ali Khan – the real life couple. Here we have two actors who have a job to do. A job they are very passionate about and that is a very important thing. On the sets it’s all about what character you play and how well you react to the stimulation by your co-actor. Your personal equation with your co-star hardly makes a difference if you are a good actor. I enjoyed working with both.”
The mujra is integral
Kareena’s much talked about classical mujra in the film is likely to become an eye-catching PR focus. Was introducing a mujra instead of a regular item number a risky move, commercially? How did this idea come about? “Well, The mujra is not there in the film to add an element of entertainment. In fact, it is a requirement of the setting and of the narrative. There is a sequence in the film that has been largely shot in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We thought it would be inappropriate to insert an item number there. A classical dance form like mujra was what the script required. It was highly innovative to have a mujra in the film. In a way it was experimental, yet it was an integral part of the narration. Hope people will like it!”
Agent Vinod will entertain intelligently
Why should we watch Agent Vinod? “Like all filmmakers I am going to give the cliched answer. Watch Agent Vinod, for it is different!” says Sriram with a naughty chuckle and adds, “Watch the film not because you like car chases. Watch the film not because we have shot it in different locations all over the world. Watch it simply because it’s a story worth watching. It’s a story we all wanted tell for a very long time. It is a film that has every possible element that will entertain you intelligently. That’s what films are made for – to entertain, right!”