'AGENT VINOD is one more terrific performance for Saif'
After EK HASINA THI and JOHNNY GADDAR, upcoming release AGENT VINOD is filmmaker Sriram Raghavan's third thriller in a row. Despite the film took long in the making, Sriram is mighty excited about this Saif-Kareena starrer and anxiously waiting to know audience's reaction. Recently we caught up with the no-nonsense and utterly humble director Sriram Raghavan, who spoke in length about his film AGENT VINOD. What took you so long to make AGENT VINOD? It took us approximately 3 years in making the film. AGENT VINOD is the most ambitious, adventurous film, shot in various countries. We wrote the script just whatever came to our heads. There's so much which went into the making of this big budgeted movie. My other movies were shot in 50-60 days. However, AGENT VINOD took long time as it's packed with hi-octane action thrills which take time to shoot.
After EK HASINA THI, what made you team up with Saif again? Actually AGENT VINOD was Saif's idea. I was planning to make something else. Saif and I had few discussions and we hit upon the idea of making a spy-thriller as Hindi film industry has not seen one good spy movie from long time. Both Saif and I like the old AGENT VINOD. So we decided to make a film with the same title however Saif wanted a fresh story. It took me almost a year to get the script in order.
'Pairing real life couple Saif-kareena was a topic of worry...'
AGENT VINOD is being widely compared with James Bond and Jason Bourne movies, what do you have to say about it? Obviously I love those movies and I have grown up watching James Bond movies. But it's unfair to compare the two as there's vast difference in budget. Ours is 50 crores venture and theirs is 1000 crores project. We really can't compete with that level. The idea was not to replicate James Bond but to create an Indian spy with whom we can relate to. He won't have all the infrastructure but he is more of a guy who uses his brains. He goes alone and ventures into places to find out things using his guts, intellect as his weapon. Saif being at the helm of affairs, were there alterations enough in the script? Generally the idea was to make a spy film. It has to be real story with lot of flamboyance, fun and style element. I would draft and narrate the script to Saif and Dino (Dinesh Vijan). If there's any confusion we would have sessions on it. But nothing like 5 gaane hone chhaiye or you have to take Kareena Kapoor. I had my own freedom to make this film.
Was it Saif's call to cast Kareena? When we were writing the script we were sure that we wanted a good actress as the character Iram is kind of complex and mysterious one. And no one but Kareena would have done justice to the role. The only worry was Saif-Kareena being real life couple might affect their chemistry in the film but thankfully our script is such that people will not think of Saif-kareena as couple while watching the film but as Vinod and Iram. It's a plot driven story where you don't realise who she is for a very long time in the movie. There is a certain mystery about her character in the movie. Even the relationship is all game. Saif is a spy so he will not reveal his identity. Similarly, we don't get to know whether Kareena's character is on the good side or not...All these things will hold the attention. It's a significant role so we offered it to a good actress like Kareena.
AGENT VINOD being out-n-out Saif's film, how is Kareena's role placed? I never have actresses just for glamour part or for name sake. We had a strong character so I definitely wanted an A class actress and Kareena is one of finest actors in B-town.
Many real life couples have not worked on-screen, you had any apprehensions about the same? Initially it was a topic of worry whether the pairing of real life couple Saif-kareena will work or not but now I am quite confident because of the strength of their respective characters. If we would have been apprehensive we would not have casted them at first place.
Music never had scope in your earlier thriller films like EK HASINA THI and JOHNNY GADDAR, so what made you have songs in AGENT VINOD? I personally do love to have music in the film. My earlier films didn't have song and dance sequences as there was no scope. However in the case of AGENT VINOD the story required songs. It was never last minute inclusion. Each song has a story happening alongside.
Your earlier films were not marketed aggressively but AGENT VINOD is being widely promoted. Do you believe in heavy duty promotions or let the film do talking? I think today marketing is too vital. Both EK HASINA THI and JOHNNY GADDAR would have benefitted a little more if they would have been marketed aggressively. What happens is when you have 3-4 crore film you don't spend 5 crores on the marketing. Where else with AGENT VINOD which is an expensive film, the marketing is justified and required for this film. Marketing is required till the first show then it's all about word of mouth which brings in audience. Word of mouth is the biggest marketing for any film.
The protagonist of your films is always shrewd, cunning and super-smart... Well it's all because of the kind of films I make. A spy has to be super smart and has to be on the toes all the time. This story demands constant alertness of the protagonist. Saif has immense faith does that make you anxious? Definitely there's bit of nervous and excitement both. Till the time we were making the film we were chilled out but now we are anxious to know audience's reaction.
'Saif's methods are very unconventional'
What do you have to say about Saif's transition as an actor from EK HASINA THI to AGENT VINOD? Saif was not that good an actor during EK HASINA THI however he grew tremendously doing varied good movies like OMKARA, BEING CYRUS, HUM TUM. Today he is fab actor and I enjoy working with him. We have lot of discussions and arguments for movies. Success can either give you freedom or trap you. I think it has given him enough freedom to explore varied roles. His methods are very unconventional.
EK HASINA THI changed the way Saif was looked upto. So where will AGENT VINOD lead him? AGENT VINOD is one more terrific performance for Saif but that will not limit his scope of doing varied roles in future. I hope AGENT VINOD will take Saif ahead. Have you signed more films or a three-film deal with Saif? I have not signed any film with Saif. Let AGENT VINOD release. If something good comes we might work together.
Saif recently said he wants to make five sequels of AGENT VINOD. So any plans for sequels? All I want to say is we should not be overconfident. We should humble and wait for people's reaction.
Are you considering other genres or you will continue with thrillers? I obviously want to explore other genres. It's just that I am partial towards thrillers. Thrillers come easily to me. Except out-n-out comedy, something I am not good at, I will to try other genres.
What next after AGENT VINOD? Just recharge myself for a month or two and catch up with some movies.