Rohit Shetty has worked till 5 am the previous night but is looking as fresh as someone who has just returned from a vacay. Which is what happens when you love what you do, as much as Rohit does. The recluse has decided not to do any pre release interviews. But when he speaks, it’s no holds barred. He doesn’t shy away from admitting his last film didn’t work. He has analysed the reasons why it failed, better than the audience or the critics. This man knows the pulse of his audience and that’s why he has delivered more 100 crore films than any other director. Read on for excerpts from our chat....
Horror comedy is the flavour of the season, how was your experience of making one?
Actually we planned it seven years ago, after Golmaal 3. After Golmaal 3, when we were making Singham, we decided that if we make another Golmaal, it will be a horror comedy and we cracked the story then. But it didn’t reach to a level I wanted. Then we got busy with Bol Bachchan, Chennai Express etc. During Singham Returns we started again three years ago and then we cracked the script.
Have you ever had a ghostly experience?
(Laughs) Every morning I see the mirror I do have one, otherwise, no.
Golmaal is one of the biggest franchises today. Did you imagine that, while making the first?
No. Honestly, when I made my first Golmaal, it was for survival. Comedies were doing really well and I thought at least it will be an average to a good film. Even when we were making it we knew where it would land, and my career will be safe.
At what point did you plan the sequel?
I think after three to four months. I was making something else… Hera Pheri and Munna Bhai had done sequels by then and sequels were just starting off. Yunus (writer) came up with some story and I thought can be made into a sequel and that is how it happened.
For GA, you’ve changed the entire crew from cameraman to production designer. Why?
Actually most of them have been working with me. Like my art director was an assistant art director earlier… The whole look of this film is different. We hardly shot in Goa. We just went to Goa because of ‘I want to go to Goa.’ It was not there in the script of the film. It is a hill station based film. I wanted a total different look for this Golmaal.
Why is that?
Because I think we are done with that kind of a look and I thought let’s not just cash in on the title or the franchise of Golmaal. We have to give the audience something new. This is the costliest film I have made. Costlier than Chennai Express and Singham Returns. If you see the film, the grandness and scale and how we have shot, CGI, you will realise that. Not costlier than Dilwale for sure. The budget of Golmaal Again is almost double of Golmaal 3. I wanted to do that so that the audience gets that kind of an experience, like a comic book experience. We shot the film in five months but the whole planning went on for a year. It’s the first time, it’s happened this way.
So you’ve plunged into Golmaal immediately after Dilwale, which received a lukewarm response at the box office. What were the lessons you learnt?
We know where we went wrong in Dilwale. My mother said, ‘Teri nazar utar gayi’ and I told her, ‘bohot mehengi nazar utri’(Laughs).
You said that you know where you went wrong…
From my first film till Dilwale, we never changed our script. If I narrate the original script, you will fall down laughing and it was a typical Rohit Shetty film. But after Kajol came on board, and because Shah Rukh and Kajol coming together is so big, we started catering to that audience. And then the whole 40 minutes of the chunk, which was not there in the original script was added. It is my fault. Nobody told me to do that, to be very honest.
Golmaal 3 was supposed to be the only release this Diwali but now Secret Superstar has also joined in.Does it spoil the party?
Every Diwali, in future, will have two releases. I am happy that the films belong to two different genres; if the genres were the same, it would have been difficult for us and them. We once had a similar Diwali with Golmaal Returns and Fashion and both films did well.
Secret Superstar was considered a niche film. Now, Aamir is going all out to promote it as his film. Does that bother you?
No, not really. It is only about business. Theirs is going to be a critically-acclaimed film and this is going to be an entertainer. Business-wise, what will happen, neither of us knows. But where the media is concerned, and where critical acclaim is concerned, it’s all going to go to Secret Superstar.
Are you worried about critical acclaim?
No. I do not have the recipe for that and I’m not worried about that part. So that’s sorted in my head.
Golmaal is tracking at a phenomenal figure of Rs 28 crore on the first day, are those expectations scary?
During Dilwale, I was scared because I had gone off track, away from the script and away from my audience and catering to Shah Rukh-Kajol audience. This time, I do not know how big it will be and whether it will be a blockbuster, but the audience will come out satisfied, that’s for sure.
In this Golmaal, you took a long time to decide who the actress would be. Why? Were you waiting for Bebo?
I never said why Bebo was not in the film. Or we would have revealed the story. But now, it is in the trailer so I can tell you that we needed an age difference between Ajay and the lead actress. When you see the film, you will know why we didn’t take Bebo.
The surprise factor of this film is Tabu.What made you think she would do comedy well?
It was not a sudden plan. I worked with Tabu 25 years ago in a film called Haqeeqat where I was an assistant director. We know each other from those days and she has seen my growth. Then for last five-seven years, whenever we met, Tabu used to say, ‘I want to do a commercial film and I am going to do it with you.’ When we were writing Golmaal, I called her. We narrated the script to her and she loved it.
You’re a director and producer and host of a reality show; what doyou enjoy the most?
It is direction. Hosting is fine. I enjoy hosting if it is my genre. Other than that, I get bored. But directing, obviously.
You do not take much of a break between movies. After Golmaal Again, you get on to your next film with Ranveer Singh. The title is My Name is Lakhan?
No, we haven’t finalised the title yet. We’re still working on the final draft. I will be getting time in between because my dates are in May as per now. So I still have time. I will go for a holiday.
You, a workaholic, are going on a holiday!
Yes, I always go. It is just that I do not inform the media so they aren’t at the airport to click pictures.
Are you on Instagram? You can put your holiday pictures.
No, I am happy like this only.
What are your plans for Diwali?
I will be at home.
When are you not at home?
(Smiles) I will be home with family. The film releases the next day. So I’ll be sleeping in the morning and do not want to get up and take the stress. Jo ho gaya, ho gaya.
You have always been very chilled before release.
I do get nervous; it is human nature. I’m pretty chilled out. Jo ho gaya woh ho gaya, main kya badal dunga.
What do you think of the ban on crackers by SC in Delhi? Do you think this should be in Mumbai?
I do not like crackers. I guess it goes with age. I think we have to find a way where kids can enjoy and there’s no pollution. Maybe some Indian company should come up with an idea. If they do, I will take a copyright.
Do you have an all time favourite ghost comedy?
No. There are a lot of black and white films that are not exactly ghost-related but you feel there’s a ghost. There was a movie of Mehmood and RD Burman, Bhoot Bangla. It is quite an interesting film. I feel like a commercial multi-starrer horror film works. For that matter, even Bhool Bhulaiyya works.
Critics haven’t ever been appreciative of the Golmaal franchise. Did that bother you initially?
Initially, it did. But now everybody has come to terms with it. So it is fine now. We are all in a good space. We have mutual respect for each other.
As a director, are you ever tempted to step out of your comfort zone and do a romantic film?
Dilwale, all said and done, reached out to a level. It is still the highest grosser of Shah Rukh overseas, which had great music and won an award for it, too. I get scared. If I do (make an experimental movie), then I will make a very small film. Tomorrow, if it doesn’t work, then what?
There is a popular belief among younger actors that the audience doesn’t want to see mass entertainers anymore, but the numbers speak a different story. Why do you think there is a disconnect?
Social media. There needs to be a lot of homework. Like the BARK has come. If you see the ratings of what films are doing well, things will change. It’s just that people are saying commercial films are not doing well, but for the last one-and-a-half years; we didn’t have a commercial release. Name one hardcore commercial film other than Judwaa 2? It is just a phase which comes and goes; reading the history of cinema is also important. I have always said that. When Manmohan Desai was making Amar Akbar Anthony, Basu Chatterjee was making Rajnigandha and Chit Chor and Amol Palekar was also a star and Amitabh Bachchan was also a star. Then came Farooq Shaikh and then Om Puri with Ardhasatya. Commercial films co-existed and were not looked down upon.
That is happening even now. For every Shah Rukh Khan, there is an Irrfan Khan...
It has always been there and will always be there. Newton with Rajkummar Rao is also doing well as is Judwaa 2 with Varun. Social media is scary. It is better to keep the phone away and live like a tiger. A star should behave like a star, then everything will be fine.
Do you agree that commercial cinema does not get the respect it deserves?
Yes, 110 per cent.
Who do you blame for that?
I don’t know... Commercial films are not easy to make. A lot of hard work goes into it. It is all about perception. I think the only way to change the perception is if we stop saying the film made Rs 200 crore and start saying 10 crore people or 10 lakh people saw this film, then things will change. It is not about Rs 200 crore, it’s about how many people saw it. That is the kind of cinema people want to see. Ultimately, you are making a film for the audience. If you are not, then it is fine.
It is such a shame that Hindi cinema looks down upon pan-India films when the South is making Baahubali. The south is doing so well. Films from Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are doing well because they are catering to an Indian audience. Here, we are confused about what to do. Pan-India film is the way ahead. It’s not that it will not do well. Look at Judwaa 2.
Speaking of sequels...What about Singham 3?
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We will be making it but I do not have the right script right now. We know what space to go in, though.